Thursday 2nd December 2010

One of the problems, if I can say it, with living on a yacht is that all the places we visit are on the coast. I guess that's a pretty obvious statement but often we'll arrive somewhere and spend a little while sailing along the coast, stopping in at various anchorages but never really seeing the interior of the island. We try to make a point of balancing up coastal sight seeing with a few trips inland when we can. Sometimes the impression you get of an island from the coast turns out to be totally different from that which you see once you travel inland. Las Palmas was one such place.

We hired a car for the day and decided to explore inland over the mountainous centre which we'd been told was breathtaking. The day started off a little dreary, but our spirits were high because we'd been told that the countryside was spectacular and we were all glad for the excuse to be away from the boat for a day. We set off early in a small hired car and wound our way up the mountain side until we disappeared into the soft fluffy cloud base that had been steadily descending on us. The temperature dropped off dramatically as we went into the clouds and the one or two “photographic stops” were performed very quickly. While it was an overcast day when we left, we were only dressed in shorts and T-shirts as the weather had always been warm and we had no reason to expect it would be any different today; we forgot about the extreme change in altitude.

Valiantly we pressed on and drove up the ever steepening and winding road, until suddenly we popped out above the clouds and were rewarded with an amazing view of the mountain side which descended into a fringe of white cloud; it looked just like someone had carefully nestled a mountain onto a bed of soft cotton wool. It was spectacular.

Near the top of the mountain we parked the car and went for a short walk where we saw the remains of a large well that was sunk high up the mountain. The well was approximately 8m wide and probably 15m deep. It was constructed sometime in the 17th century and was used by the town folk in winter to store the snow from the mountain. They packed the snow down into the well and insulated it with layers of straw so that in summer they would have access to the ice and the water. It was a hugely labour intensive operation, but proved the ingenuity of the local people.

Back in the car once more we headed further over the mountain. We stopped at a lookout that offered spectacular views of abstract looking rock formations and bought a couple of cups of the worst coffee ever known to mankind. The tepid, sour excuse for a cup of coffee was sold from a dilapidated caravan parked in a corner of the car park. We should have known better! It seems that anywhere in the world that you chose to buy a cup of coffee from a road side caravan, you'll be disappointed. The view from the lookout however was nothing short of incredible. From our vantage point we could look across the island and see all the way to the snow capped mountains of Tenerife.

We made our way over and down the mountain to the south western corner of the island, to Puerto de Mogan, where our friends Jim and Michelle from “Wind Machine” were waiting for a weather window for the crossing to St Martin. We caught up with them and enjoyed a couple of hours in good company, chatting and relaxing. As it was getting later we decided to stay for dinner and ate out at a small but good marina side eatery before making our way home.

We'd been warned to be wary of the local buses that ply the narrow and windy mountain side roads that connect Puerto de Mogan to the main freeway which would give us a quicker and easier coastal road back to our marina. As I was

Wednesday 8th December 2010

My hands ache, my fingers are cut, my back is throbbing and I need some love and attention. I guess this is what it feels like before you set off on a 2700NM sail! If Noah had thought for a second that a sailing trip was going to take this much blood sweat and tears, I think he might have elected to perish with the heathens. I think this is called “Crossing Preparation”. While some people here in the marina are sitting back, reading books and polishing the deck and wondering if they will drink the red wine or the white wine with dinner, we've been busy fitting trampoline nets, buying small stainless steel screws from obscure shops on the other side of the island, chasing customs for packages that have inexplicably been lost and trying to invent solutions to problems with one tenth the budget that they should get. All in all, it's just another day in “Crossing Preparation” - no wonder I lie in bed on a morning, wondering if I shouldn't just stay there, invisible to all and ignorant to the demands of our pre-crossing yacht.

Sometimes the dream of “Sailing around the world” sounds so much more romantic than it actually shapes up to be. I've heard a few people comment “Sailing around the world” really just means “Repairing your boat in exotic locations”. Some days I think the guy who said that was closer to the truth.

Our plan was to leave the Canary Islands about a week ago, and we're still here, completing jobs. The man overboard pole that we'd been making was fitted with the big float and thrown into the water for a first test. It failed miserably. Sad to say, while it floated, it floated flat on the water – I guess that's one more job I need to do. I guess I'll need to slide the float up a little higher and add some more weights on the bottom.

Friday 10th December 2010

It seems that Fedex ships on behalf of Royal Mail's ParcelForce and has no understanding of ParcelForce's 3 day guarantee to the Canary Islands. A lady from Fedex rang me to advise that the package was in Madrid customs and would be sent out on the Saturday afternoon flight, and would be in Gran Canaria customs Monday. Great! Only two days after we leave! Some feeble excuse of not having my telephone number and delays because of snow in France. For some reason the lady seemed surprised that I thought this delivery time was unacceptable and couldn't see why this was an issue for me even though I was leaving Saturday and needed the life jackets for my children. After three fairly substantial telephone conversations, she was slowly coming around to my way of thinking and offered that if I didn't collect them, perhaps I would like to engage Fedex to send them on to the Caribbean for when I get there! Even though the plane didn't leave for another two hours, apparently it was still too late to get the package on-board – Aarrgghh! At this point she offered that if I would like to appoint a customs clearing agent in Madrid, perhaps he could clear the package through customs, collect the package on my behalf and then arrange a quicker method of freight to suit my needs – how ridiculous. Can you even begin to imagine the cost of that! After much discussion and coherecion, she went off to talk to someone and then called me back with another plan. There was a later flight that night that for some reason was carrying something different from the normal freight, but she offered that she could slip my package into the pallet, however my jackets wouldn't appear on the manifest. This meant it would be arriving late Friday night and provided customs didn't check the inventory alongside the manifest, the receiving agent would be instructed to take my package from the pallet and send it out to me Friday. Technically they were smuggling my package into the country! I was told there was a 90% chance that customs would just look at the manifest and sign it off, however if they chose to compare the manifest with the actual goods then they'd see the discrepancy and my package would be confiscated by customs never to be seen again. I decided to take the chance and told her to go for it. Hey, now I can add smuggling to my growing list of skills. Perhaps its a good thing I'm leaving the country.

We met with some of the other departing yachties at the Sailor's Bar for a couple of drinks and a farewell dinner where we ordered a couple of sea food paellas; a speciality in Spain. The meal was fantastic. The chef was pretty proud of his work too, as he invited us all into his kitchen to show us the paella being cooked.

After dinner we went to visit “Celtic Spray” since Ian was throwing a “departure party” and we knew this might be our last chance to say goodbye to many of our Med friends. While it was great going out to dinner and spending time chilling with friends, I just couldn't help wishing I could have stayed on the boat to finish some more jobs off. Departure is getting very close and I still have many things to do. I'm annoyed because I've been spending probably 2-3 hours a day chasing up the silly lifejackets; time that I really can't afford right now.

Saturday 11th December 2010 (Day 0)

We woke up to a myriad of last minute jobs that we busied ourselves completing. Those that weren't essential and that we couldn't complete were moved aboard to be done on the crossing. The dingy was raised on the davits and secured and all the heavy items were stowed as far aft as possible. “Connect4” is right down on her waterline with all the food, water and fuel on-board. All the important jobs were done, including getting the kids life jackets, which arrived late in the day. Talk about joy of crossing THAT job off the list! The bonus of smuggling in the life jackets was that I skipped out on paying customs duty on the goods and didn't have to fork out another EUR50.00 for a customs agent to clear them into the country. Right now, the way I'm feeling I'm so grateful for any small bonuses.

Tiger” were going to leave with us around 2pm, however since we didn't actually leave until nearer to 5:30pm we were a few hours behind them. “Wind Machine” who are also sailing to St Maartin left from Puerdo de Mogan, which is on the SW corner of the coast.

Leaving friends is always a little sad, but it's such a part of cruising life that you have no choice but to deal with it. I'm not saying it ever gets any easier to say goodbye to friends we've made, knowing we may never see them again, but just that everyone has a different way of saying goodbye and we all deal with it in our own way. I've also learned that Cheryl and I handle goodbyes in totally different ways – perhaps it's a guy/girl thing, or perhaps it's just Cheryl and I, either way, we're totally different. We went over to say goodbye to “West by North” and a couple of other boats. While Cheryl and Val got all teary in their farewells, Gerry and I stood around the helm and chatted about boat jobs done and plans for routes – I think Gerry and I both prefer to just chat and make it a casual goodbye rather than get all teary. Somehow I couldn't imagine Gerry and I hugging, wet in our eyes, getting all teared up over a goodbye.

Finally, with all the goodbyes said and done, we were all on-board casting off the lines. There's something that always feels good about leaving. When both engines are started and we've dropped the last of the mooring lines; when all the fenders are stowed and we're motoring out I get a contented feeling in my belly and everything feels right in the world. Regardless of whether I'm helming us out, or I'm standing on the deck coiling ropes, nothing in the world beats the feeling of leaving on a beautiful sunny day, bound for a new destination. I love the feeling of adventure, to see the land shrinking behind as we set our sights on somewhere over the horizon. There's just something about the adventure of heading off to somewhere new and exciting.

As we left, Gerry & Val from “West by North” played some music over their megaphone for us and waved us off, giving us the royal farewell. Saying goodbye is always tough, since we may never see them again – but it's one of those things; it just goes with the territory. If you're a cruising sailor then you're going to have to meet people and say goodbye to people. Though knowing it doesn't make it any the easier. Over the time we've known Gerry and Val we've come to love them very dearly and we hope to stay in touch. Who knows, we might even cross paths with them again, somewhere, sometime.

As we sailed down the coast of Gran Canaria it felt good to be out. I felt we'd been in Gran Canaria way too long and the anticipation of the big crossing has been nagging at me – it's definitely time to leave.

Monday 13th December 2010 (Day 2)

It's now 10pm and I'm settling in for the first watch of the night. Our watch system is pretty casual and we're still deciding what times and routines we like. Of late we've been working on a 3-4 hour first watch each, then shortening the second watch to around 2-3 hours. Last night Cheryl was a bit more tired, so I let her sleep a little longer. When I finally went to bed, she let me sleep through and didn't wake me at 6:30am as I'd asked, but rather let me sleep on. As a consequence, I had a lot more energy today, so I've got the first watch – a bit of a routine change, but it's all good!

Despite the fact that we motored for most of the day, today has been a great day. The seas have been smooth and comfortable and the sun warm under a beautiful blue sky. Sometimes you look around at the big blue and just feel privileged to be right here, right now. Some people get worried about a big ocean crossing and dislike being so far from land; perhaps we will to at some stage, but right now all of us are feeling really happy to be out here and we're loving the tranquillity. We're still plodding along the African coast towards the Cape Verdes, but we don't plan to stop in there unless we need to take on fuel. The winds for the next few days are forecast to be light and variable as a new high moves in, so if we burn too much fuel we may need to stop there to refuel, but if we can avoid the Verdes then we will. I guess we'll see when we get closer.

The highlight of today was a never before seen, completely impromptu, performance put on exclusively for the crew of “Connect4” by a pod of approximately 150 dolphins - Spectacular! Nick, whose generally the most easily distracted when it comes to school work and concentration, was the first to look up from his school books and spot a couple of dolphins along side. The call

Dolphins off the port side” went out, but as we all scrambled up on deck the scene was one of total amazement - the waters were teeming with dolphins and our boat was surrounded for as far as we could see! (Check out the dolphins jumping in the photo sequence right)

There were dolphins everywhere, swimming, turning, jumping and splashing. To say we saw them “jumping” is actually quite a huge understatement because what they were actually doing was leaping out of the water, two, three, four at a time, at least 2-3 meters in height before twisting like an acrobat then diving head first back into the water. We watched, mesmerised, totally in awe at what we were witnessing. Wherever we looked there were dolphins, jumping and playing. Some dolphins were falling into the water on their backs, making a huge splash as they landed while others turned upside down in the water and beat their tails on the surface. What a blessing it was for us to see these dolphins playing and enjoying themselves in such a carefree way. No matter how many dolphins we see, we never tire of seeing these beautiful creatures enjoying every moment. Perhaps a lesson for us.

Once the dolphins left it was back to work for me. Our pedestal style dining table in the saloon needed repair as some of the screws had fallen out and the table top was a getting very wobbly. Yesterday someone leaned a little too hard on it and some of the loose screws pulled out completely with a jangling sound as they landed on the timber floor and rolled about. With such nice calm conditions, Nick and I unscrewed the table and set about filling the elongated holes with epoxy. Sigh - It seems that even when you're offshore, things break.

The saloon looks huge without a dining table in it.

Tuesday 14th December 2010 (Day 3)

Perhaps my moaning about fixing the dining table wasn't such a good idea. Today the head (toilet) stopped working. Basically it stopped flushing, and no guesses as to when it stopped flushing! Perhaps it's a rhetorical question to be asking why the toilet stops flushing only when its full of poo, because we don't normally flush an empty toilet! There's no good time to have to pull the head to bits, but there's never a worse time than on passage – however, with no choice the responsibility fell squarely on my head – it had to be done. The is probably the worst job there ever was; honestly this is a job I've been dreading from the very first time I read of people having to make “head” repairs while under way. Hesitantly, feeling waves of nausea starting to gather in the back of my throat, I gathered a huge wad of toilet paper and carefully scooped out the soft “brown floaters” and deposited them along with the wet toilet paper into the bin.

I then set about the arduous, smelly and not so pleasant task of dismantling the pump mechanism. There are two things that are really unpleasant about this task. Number 1 is that when you unscrew the top of the pump mechanism, all the water runs out … that's all the yellow water that's in the bowl! Having loosened the last screw, I quickly scampered out of the cubicle just as a spout of water cascaded out and down over the floor, neatly stepping aside of the remaining small brown balls scurried out and across the floor. With the top off the pump assembly, unpleasant task Number 2 awaits. The is possibly worse than unpleasant task Number 1 in that the pump plunger assembly tends to pick up poo around the seal as it gets squished out through the tube. I carefully pulled the pump apart, making sure that I didn't spray myself with any excrement in the process. This is one job that really does suck!!! Out of all the jobs that I dislike on the boat, this one is by far the lowest and grossest.

Having pulled out the pump without retching my stomach contents, I carefully took the pump out and into the cockpit where I could inspect it and clean it out. I pulled out a spare pump assembly from under the cockpit sole and between the two managed to make a complete unit that worked. I carefully reassembled the new and improved unit and tested it to make sure I wouldn't need a repeat performance, then hurried off for a shower!

What a day!

Wednesday 15th December 2010 (Day 4)

The thing about sailing is that you never quite know what the day will hold. Sure you wake up with an expectancy of what your day will hold, but never truly know what will be involved or required of you. Today was a such day, a day when my worst fears rise to the surface, a day when I wished I was closer to land. The last few days sailing had been pretty good and we've not had any problems, however as night fell, Chelsea started complaining of a sore tummy. We figured that it was just something she ate, so sent her to the toilet and then told her to rest in bed. An hour later she was up with tears in her eyes saying the pain wasn't going away. Two hours later and she's writhing on the bed, screaming out in pain, every time a spasm hits her. We're approximately 300NM from Senegal and about the same from the Cape Verdes, so which ever way we cut it, we're 3 days from medical help, and based on the location of the pain, in the back of my mind I'm thinking appendicitis which is probably the worst thing that can happen on a yacht offshore. I consulted the maps and our only landfall within 100NM is Mauritania, and I'm not sure of the welcome we'd get there, or of what their medical facilities would be. Perhaps getting admitted to hospital there would be worse than appendicitis!

We were considering our options and were relaying Chelsea's condition to a friend on another yacht back in the Canary Islands when the New Zealand yacht “Beyond” called us. They are crossing the Atlantic and are approximately 1500NM ahead of us. John, their third crew member, heard us talking and offered us a consult as it turned out he's a Doctor. He assisted us with performing an analysis on her and suggested that we start her on a course of antibiotics and pain relief.

After some fairly strong pain relief and a warm bottle to cuddle, Chelsea finally slipped into a sleep, much to our relief. For me though, I still have the worrying concern of what to do with her. There's no way I can cross the Atlantic, facing another 15 days at sea without knowing what is wrong with her. If I could get to land now I'd do it but we're three to four days out from the nearest landfall. Since we can't get her to land immediately we've decided to monitor her condition and make a course for the Cape Verdes.

Thursday 16th December 2010 (Day 5)

Chelsea is still having really bad abdominal pains and I must confess that I'm pretty worried. The pain relief I'm giving, considering it's strength, isn't controlling the pain like I'd hoped it would. She's still writhing in severe a lot of pain 3-4 times a day, and when she's not in tears or crying out, she's lying in bed feeling sore and spent. We've decided to make the best speed to the Cape Verdes that we can, so we're motor sailing; burning precious fuel but travelling quicker. We probably don't have enough fuel to motor all the way at a high speed, so I'm going to be doing my best to balance most fuel efficient speed for the motors vs best speed and wind. At this stage we're trying to stay around 5 knots average which will get us there in three days. Three days, when I have to watch my girl crying in pain is way too long and it breaks my heart, but there's no alternative at this stage. We're all praying and doing the best we can to sail as fast as we can.

Besides Chelsea's condition, life aboard is pretty good. The seasickness is past and we've all got more energy and are enjoying the days at sea. Some mornings both Cheryl and I are pretty tired, however with Ginnie's help looking after the kids and cooking for us, it gives us some relief and the chance to catch up on sleep lost from the overnight watches.

Sunday 19th December 2010

We arrived in Mindelo, on the island of Sao Vicente in the Cape Verdes, around 1pm and anchored in the bay out the front.

Chelsea, although looking slightly better, is still unwell and in a lot of pain. The pain seems to come and go at various times of the day, so she'll get up and move around for a little while, but then we'll find her curled up somewhere in tears a couple of hours later. We went to an emergency medical centre this afternoon and after examining her they put her on a drug that appears to relax the smooth muscles of the stomach, which should help with pain relief. It was awkward as the Doctor couldn't speak English, but we've been booked in for a blood test Monday night and an ultrasound Tuesday night.

Medical help in third world countries is always a big unknown and I really wasn't sure what we'd get when it came to Cape Verde medical facilities. The emergency medical centre we went to was in an upper class part of town and looked like a private practice. Even though the Doctor didn't speak and English, another man that worked in the clinic acted as a translator for us and helped us with proceedings. Overall I was very impressed with the qualifications and the level of treatment we received, but I still want to know what is wrong with Chelsea before we leave. There's no way I'm prepared to risk a crossing if there's any chance of this recurring!

Tuesday 21th December 2010

Yesterday Chelsea had a blood sample done and sent off to be analysed. I was watching closely to make sure that the Doctor was following good clinical hygiene practices and wasn't using anything second hand or dirty. As it turned out, despite the fact he didn't speak English, he was very good and did a fantastic job of taking blood as gently as he could. I sat with Chelsea and explained to her what was going to happen as he prepared to take the blood sample. When the Doctor took out the needle and syringe Chelsea looked at the size of them and we could see her resolve faltering – for such a small arm, it did look like a large needle. Chelsea was trying to be brave, but it was obvious that she was hesitant about the large needle and syringe. The Doctor realised this also and with a smile he put the needle away and took out the tiniest butterfly I've ever seen. He gently inserted this into Chelsea's arm and used the syringe to slowly withdraw the blood he needed. What a gentle Doctor this man was.

The ultrasound went well and they were very thorough, checking the size and shape of all her abdominal organs. The final prognosis was that there was no inflammation of any organs, something we were very relieved about. The blood test came back all clear, so they believe her condition is caused by a simple stomach bug and they've put her on some antibiotics to help clear it up. They also wrote me an additional script for the medicines that I used on Chelsea en route so that my on-board pharmacy isn't depleted.

We went back to the boat, tired but relieved that Chelsea hasn't got appendicitis or anything else that might require us to get surgery performed in this country.

Wednesday 22nd December 2010

We went for a walk around town today, since we'd not seen much of Mindelo. We saw a host of ladies selling fresh fruit, vegetables and fish along the roadside. It was nice to get off the boat for a little while and experience some of the local culture.

While there was always one or two people wanting to convince us to part with our hard earned dollars by way of offering us cheap jewellery, a guide or something else, we found overall the people weren't too pushy and were fairly respectful of us. All in all it was a nice escape from the jobs list for a while and it got us ashore.

Thursday 23th December 2010

Today is a low point in my life aboard. Sometimes sailing is such fun, but at other times it feels like everything you do takes five times as long and costs twice as much as you expect. We woke up early this morning and brought the boat into the marina so that “Connect4” would be safe while we caught the ferry over to the island of Santo Antao, which we'd heard was very Jurassic Park like and definitely worth seeing. I'd tried to buy some ferry tickets yesterday, but the office was shut. I asked around and was told we could purchase ferry tickets before the 8:00am departure on the morning of travel, however by the time Ginnie got to the ferry terminal this morning, there was already a queue and when she got to the counter she was told the ferry was full. That shot that plan in the foot.

Despondently, we walked back towards the boat. On the way back we had a little family discussion regarding the trip to Santo Antao. While we all wanted to be gone and to celebrate Christmas under way, we also decided that the trip to Santo Antao was something we'd all really like to do since we've not really seen much of Cape Verdes and it's highly likely we'll never be back here again – lets face it, it's not exactly a tourist destination. Bearing all this in mind, we decided that we'd do the trip tomorrow and then stay here for Christmas, heading out for the crossing on Boxing Day. This would take some of the pressure off our time. Having decided this, Cheryl went back to book the ferry tickets.

It's good to have decided this, however I still feel flat. It feels like everytime we have a job to do, or something to sort out, it always costs twice what it should and takes way more time than it ever should to achieve a task that rarely gets completed to the standard expected. Our fridges are another such task. Over the last few weeks, the left hand fridge chiller plate had slowly been loosing its ability to cool off, so I've been thinking of arranging to get the compressor re-gassed. I had a note with the marina to arrange a refrigeration man to look at it, and since we aren't going anywhere today, I advised the marina that today would be a good opportunity. They told me the refrigeration man was coming at 11:00am this morning, so they would send him to our boat when he arrived. Since we had a little time up our sleeve, we went out and looked around the small town for an hour or so, then hurried back to the marina to meet the refrigeration man. 11:30am came and went and there's still no sign of the guy, so I walked up to the office to wait for him. Reception checked and told me he was almost here. I waited another 10 minutes, then enquired again. This time I was told he was out the front of the marina and would be in soon. 20 minutes later I had the office call him and they said he was still 10 minutes away. Frustrated I asked them to send him to my boat as soon as he arrived. It's now 3:00pm and he's just turned up at the office after trip number 4 to chase him up – the only problem is that he says he has no gas, so can't do it until tomorrow. Tomorrow “Manyana” as they say here is a typical excuse to get out of something. Everything you ask for here is “Manyana” meaning “Tomorrow”. I made a fuss and told the guy “No Manyana! - Now!” I told him we were gone tomorrow, so it had to be today as promised. Reluctantly they agreed to see me in ½ hour and promised they would come with some more gas.

Half an hour later, they turned up with a bottle of R134a gas and inspected the fridges for leaks. It turned out that there was a small slow leak around the refill valve on the left fridge and that fridge was nearly out of gas. They quoted me EUR100.00 to refill the fridge, which I thought was an outrageous price, however they had a captive audience as I needed the fridge working for the crossing. Figuring perhaps I could amortise the price if I got them to look at two fridges, I asked if he would check the second fridge also. He agreed that since he was already here, even though he obviously normally charges each fridge as a separate job, he would re-gas the second fridge for only EUR50.00 since it's Christmas. What a chum!! Reluctantly I agreed that if the second fridge needed it, then I'd get him to do them both. Well … It took him all of 5 minutes to refill the first fridge and then he connected to the second fridge and commented that it was a little low, but not too badly off. I argued that there was no way I was paying EUR50.00 for a “top-up” and I'd rather wait until I get to the Caribbean rather than pay for it now. Once again, since it was “Christmas”, he agreed to top it up for the pricely sum on only EUR20.00. This guy walked off with EUR120.00 for less than half an hour's work! That's a top income in Australia, let alone in a third world country where the average income per week is probably half that! Yeah … Merry Christmas to you too!!! I know it had to be done, but it still hurt!

Friday 24th December 2010

Santo Antao here we come. We woke up early and raced to the ferry in preparation for our slightly delayed trip to the north island. When we were trying to get tickets to the island yesterday, we found out that there was a smaller local ferry that was a bit cheaper than the commercial ferry, so decided to give this one a try. The ferry was older and certainly was the “locals” ferry – we were hard pressed to see any other white people on the boat. Everywhere we looked, people were piling onboard, filling up every spare ounce of space with Christmas presents and food for Christmas feasts. Since Capo Verde was settled by the Portuguese they are very European in their Christmas celebrations and the main Christmas festivities occur on Christmas Eve. It was cool to see so many people, dressed in their best clothes, holding arm fulls of presents, bottles of wine and Christmas food. Once we pulled out, we were a little surprised that we were given small plastic bags to throw up in. Most unusual. It was around this time that we discovered that Capo Verdians really dislike the water and have little stomach for it. No sooner we'd dropped lines and left the bay, than people started throwing up! They'd sit there, silently retching into their small plastic bag, then neatly tie a knot in the top of the bag and throw it overboard. Mental note to self – if we see any small plastic bags floating by “Connect4” on departure, leave them! By the time we were half way across the channel, people everywhere were throwing up and looking green. Nearby there were two small children, lying prostrate on the floor, both green and moaning quietly with every movement of the boat. One of them was so exhausted by his sorry condition that he was just lying there in a pool of his own vomit without the energy to even lift his head. You have to feel sorry for them. Being one of the only white people on-board, one of the ferry workers kept coming back to us, checking we were ok and wondering why we weren't feeling sea sick. On one such visit he was quite a little surprised to see us sitting there, munching on some muesli bars from our backpack. While he didn't speak any English he smiled to us and patted his tummy as he pointed to the children, obviously confirming that we had tough stomach. Seriously, it wasn't that rough.

We arrived at Santo Antao and were met by a barrage of taxi drivers all eager to engage our employ for a trip around the island. We negotiated with a number of them before settling on one with a nice twin cab ute for the day. Here in the Verdes, most passengers don't ride inside the vehicle, but rather sit in the back section on two long bench seats that run front to back down each side.

Santo Antao is an incredibly steep island that looks for all intents and purposes like something out of Jurassic Park. We headed from the bay through the town but then took an unannounced detour to the driver's house, where his wife brought out a bag of lunch and a drink for him. I guess if he gets hired for the day, then he gets a pack lunch, and if not he eats at home. We headed back through town again, then up the steep winding roads towards the centre of the island.

When we set off Cheryl was concerned that our taxi didn't have a soft roof covering over the back as some others did and that we might get too hot and sunburnt. As it turned out, once we got out of town and started winding our way through the narrow switchbacks up the mountain the temperature dropped off very quickly and too soon we were all huddled in the back, shivering as we made our way up into the clouds that hung ever present over the island's tallest peaks, concealing them from our view and hiding what would have been a stunningly spectacular view of the islands and along the coast. At times the cloud would part a little and we'd see a spectacular landscape unfold before our eyes.

As we wound our way around and over the mountain, we went through many small villages that were set into the side of the mountain. These houses were all very primitive and looking at the people and their dwellings I can only guess that life must be very hard and very simple for them. This doesn't mean they weren't happy people though; as many times they would stop to wave from the doorway of their houses, perhaps getting as much entertainment from looking at the silly “white gringos” freezing themselves in the back of the ute as we were from seeing them.

Every village we drove through, and there were many, the children, their dirty but cheerful faces full of a mixture of excitement and shyness, stopped to wave and sometimes called out to us as we whizzed by them, smiling and waving back from our vantage point in the back of our little ute.

Once we were over the top of the mountain peak and started descending, we dropped below the cloud base and were rewarded with amazing views of the vast and jagged relief of the terrain. The northern side of the island is a vast playground of gigantic gorges hewn deeply and violently through the rock. Sitting in the back of the ute, as we raced across the high narrow passes was a little harrowing considering there was only a small wall between us and a few thousand feet into the bottom of the gorge below.

The island, as most in this region, is volcanic; but this doesn't diminish for one minute the magnificence of the rugged landscape. As we drove by different parts of the mountain we can clearly see the different layers of volcanic activity that have deposited their deadly ash and lava on the countryside making it what we see today.

We drove to the town of Porto Nova on the north coast and had a walk around the shops and streets before heading off to a little sea side restaurant for lunch.

All of the fourteen islands of Cape Verde archipelago are volcanic in origin, however only Ilha do Fogo has a volcano that is still active, having last erupted in 1995-1996. These islands have always been poor, not least due to the lack of rainfall, deforestation and prolonged droughts over the last two centuries. Even so, they are primarily agricultural, growing bananas, oranges, maze, sweet potatoes and sugar cane. Most of the islands exist because of foreign aid, which comes in the form of subsidised foods such as flour, help with education or assistance with projects such as wind turbines, new airports or new harbours.

It's interesting that many EU countries appear to have adopted an island. Luxembourg has a particular interest in Santo Antȃo and assisted with building a new hospital in the north; Germany was largely responsible for the airport in Ilha Brava; the USA supports Santiago, the site of its own embassy; France and Italy aid Sȃo Nicolau and on the list goes.

Much like many of the other Atlantic islands discovered by the fleets of Prince Henry the Navigator, the Cape Verde islands were already rumoured to exist before the arrival of the first Portuguese in the mid 15th century. There is evidence that the Romans and the Carthaginians were aware of their existence, while Arab sea farers may have visited in the 12th century. Nobody seems to know the exact year of the official discovery of the islands but it's likely to be somewhere between 1451 and 1461. The islands were uninhabited until around 1462 when the first permanent settlers arrived and settled in Ilha do Maio and Ilha de Sȃo Tiago (now Santiago). There aren't many references to the islands over the next century though by 1541 the capital city of Ribeira Grande, on Santiago, was sufficiently wealthy to attract the attention of attacking pirates. The period following King Philip II of Spain's invasion of mainland Portugal 1581 brought even greater troubles, with an attack in 1583 by forces supporting the Prior of Crato, claimant to the Portuguese throne. Neither was the city spared by English and Dutch privateers, the traditional enemies of Spain. Sir Francis Drake pillaged it in 1585, in 1592 a Dutch fleet attempted a smaller attack and in 1712 following an attack by the French the site was abandoned in favour of the more easily dependable hilltop position on which Cidede de Praia stands.

As well as providing a base for Portuguese merchants trading with the African continent, many slaves were imported to work in the sugar plantations or to be resold further afield. Sadly, agriculture was never really successful, even back then. When Charles Darwin visited Porto da Praia in the “Beagle” in January 1832 he remarked on 'the novel aspect of an utterly sterile land'. This could still be said true for many of the islands. Initially the islands received regular rainfall until the mid 18th century.

In 1747 came the first of a series of droughts, exacerbated by the felling of trees for agriculture and overgrazing by goats. Repeated droughts over the next two hundred years killed approximately 100,000 people, with almost no assistance from Portugal.

In the late 19th century the islands became a regular port of call for American whaling ships from New Bedford, and were know as a source of skilled crew who would work for almost nothing. With the abolition of slavery in 1876 the Cape Verde islands declined even more, however it had a short reprieve when it grew in significance as a bunkering station for steam ships en route to the South Atlantic or Pacific and as a centre of submarine cable laying operations, with links to the African continent and the Americas. However the opening of the Suez and Panama canals, the demise of the coal burning ships and later the introduction of radio communications spelt the end of this short lived period of prosperity.

For several centuries the islands were administered as a colony from mainland Portugal together with Portuguese Guinea, an arrangement that was terminated in 1878. After they split they remained as a colony until 1951 when their status was changed to that of an overseas province. Full Portuguese citizenship was extended to all islanders in 1961, but in spite of this, local desire for independence grew. Guerrilla warfare began on the mainland in the early 1960's headed by the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde and was lead by a guy called Amilcar Cabral, son of a Cape Verdean father and Guinean mother. In 1973 Cabral was assasinated and the rift increased. When a new Portuguese government was installed after a relatively peaceful revolution in 1974 independence was greanted to Guinea-Bissau. However Cape Verde chose to maintain a seperate identity, finally achieving independence from Portugal on July 5th 1975 as the Republic of Cape Verde.

After lunch, with full tummies, we climbed back into the ute and set off once again, this time heading north around the top of the island. The roads here were better than the cobble stone ones over the mountain so we made faster time even if it wasn't as characteristic as the former roads.

On the rugged northern corner of the island, we stopped near an old abandoned light house. Chelsea, Nick and I walked the weather worn path to the light house and admired the breath takingly rugged coastline that this light house once guarded. The light house, although no longer in operation and several years abandoned, was still complete and we managed to get through the door and climb the spiral stairway up the centre to the viewing platform on top. Crawling cautiously through the hatch, we made our way tentatively around the rusty platform, feeling our footing to ensure that the worn and broken platform would hold our weight. Standing on the top of the light house, looking out to sea, the history of the place as reaches out to tug at you; the romance of a bygone era where light house keepers tended the station, watching for ships passing. Now all that remains are the ghosts of an age long diminished and relegated to history, save for a few light houses like this one.

We made our way down the light house and back to the taxi, glad to be out of the chill of the cliff face.

Saturday 25th December 2010

Christmas onboard “Connect4” was excellent. The children awoke early to see the dining table almost covered in presents, arranged neatly around our tiny little Christmas tree which took pride of place in the centre. Even though the Christmas tree wasn't quite like the one we have at home, and we weren't surrounded by family eagerly giving out hugs and exchanging presents, we made the most of where we were. As we opened presents we were all amazed that each and every one of us received a practical gift of a water proof watch – how good was that. Now we'll all know what time it is.

Christmas lunch was amazing. We enjoyed a feast of perfectly cooked roast turkey, then sat around relaxing and remembering the real reason for Christmas. It was a good Christmas, but a different one. Back home in Australia, we always have a family gathering, with sisters, in laws, relatives and all the associated kids descending on one house or the other for Christmas lunch. We would all open presents and then enjoy a lunch together, before relaxing in the park with a game of boulles or something similar. This year, while we really enjoyed our Christmas lunch, we really missed home.

Sunday 26th December 2010 (Day 0)

Today, after detours and delays we finally departed on the longest leg of our adventure yet, Capo Verdes to St Martin in the Caribbean, a distance of approximately 2200NM. If we can maintain an average speed of 5 knots, then we'll be there in around 18 days. If we can maintain an average speed of 6 knots, then we'll be there in around 15 days. If we average 3 knots (dear Lord, please no), as a few of our friends have who left late November did, then we'll be there in around 30 days. We're hoping we'll be travelling the slightly speedier route rather than the slower.

Once again, with fuel and water tanks full and “Connect4” weighed down to her waterline we dropped the mooring lines and slowly motored out of our berth in the marina as a crowd of gathering people on the pontoon were waving … and pointing at the water behind us. I turned and looked at the water behind “Connect4” and saw a mooring line snaking out towards us. Noooo … I'd picked up another mooring line around the propeller! Just as I reached to put the port engine in neutral it stalled, the squeal of the ignition buzzer reminding me that the rope was now tightly tangled around the propeller, so tightly tangled that it stopped the engine! With only one working engine, I hastily tried to back up against the prevailing wind and get back into the berth without hitting any boats next to me. Held tightly by the mooring rope around the port propeller I was moving like a goat with it's hind leg tethered. With some quick issuing of commands we managed to get a spare rope out of the rope locker and tied off around the port bow cleat. This rope was thrown to the yacht berthed next to us, which was then tied off to his bow cleat. From here we threw two stern lines back to the people waiting on the pontoon and they helped pull us back to our berth. Half an hour later, after I dove on the propeller and cut the offending rope away, we were off! Off on our longest journey yet.

Once outside of the waters of Cape Verde, we brought down our courtesy flag and packed it away with our growing collection of courtesy flags. For me, when the courtesy flag comes down and we're sailing in international waters, it feels as if we've got our independence back again; it feels like we're somehow free to come and go as we wish; it feels exciting and strangely exhilarating.

Monday 27th December 2010 (Day 1)

Today we caught our first fish for the journey. A Mahi Mahi, just the right size for a generous meal for five of us. Not too big and not too small this fellow made an excellent meal so that we were all pleasantly filled without having to waste any of him.

Wednesday 29th December 2010 (Day 3)

We had a great sail day yesterday covering a total of 150NM in 24 hours which gives us an average speed of 6.25 knots. What a day! Now if only we could hold that for the remainder of the trip. Today has lighter winds and we're sailing slower, but at least we're still sailing.

We've been noticing a new phenomenon lately that I've not seen before. Flying Fish! Sometimes in the day we'll see little blue flying fish racing through the air, away from our approaching boat. Some mornings it's not uncommon to see one or two dead on the decks and we have to scrape their crusty bodies off the deck and throw them unceremoniously back into the water. I've never seen them before, but they're cute to watch as they “fly” away from our boat, often bouncing off the crests of adjacent waves like some wayward stone skimmed across a pond only to plop back into the water again sometimes up to 50m away. Occasionally we get a flying fish that lands on the deck near the cockpit and I can hear him flapping and bouncing as he tries to get back into the water. If you go to help one of these little creatures back into the water, you're rewarded with a generous coating of large, slimy, smelly fish scales. The smell of which is quite overpowering and takes several washes to remove. Michelle on “Wind Machine” reported that a flying fish came into the cockpit of their yacht the other night and hit her during her night watch. Apparently it gave her quite a fright. I can only imagine the shock of being aroused from your own private thoughts at 3am when you think you have the world to yourself by a flying fish in the chest! However, I believe that I can do one better. Last night while I was off watch and sleeping, I had a flying fish come in through my open hatch, rebound off the bed quilt and then flap around on the floor in my cabin! I was dead to the world, enjoying my morsel of respite and tranquillity, when all of a sudden there's a commotion on the floor. My cabin adjoins the galley and at first I thought it was something in the galley that had fallen off a shelf and was rolling around on the floor, however after listening to it flapping around, there was no doubt that it was something alive. About this time I noticed a bright light from the cockpit flickering around on the deck. Figuring Cheryl was looking for the same thing I was, I popped open the cabin hatch, stuck my head out and in my half asleep world called out to Cheryl something like “It's in the galley!” Cheryl who was standing precariously on the helm seat, with her head out through the bimini nearly toppled off the stool with fright at the sound of my voice breaking through her world at 2am and the sight of my face peering out of the hatch.

Breakfast “Connect4” style. Since we've been at sea, we've been living like kings. Beautiful fresh air, a nice sea motion and plenty of time to enjoy a family meal together. These are the moments of togetherness we love

Thursday 30th December 2010 (Day 4)

I'm not afraid of the Atlantic ocean anymore! I guess that as father, husband and ships captain it's been weighing on my mind, just a subtle nagging concern, that I'm ultimately responsible for the welfare of my vessel and all my crew onboard. Not withstanding the legal responsibilities of ships captain, but if it were a bunch of my mates, sailors perhaps who knew the risks, making a passage somewhere then it might be different. The bottom line though is that this is my family, my wife, my children and I'm taking them with me. Throughout the journey, I guess ever since we left Turkey, it's been in the back of my mind that this big crossing has been coming up and we'll be on our own. Up until this point there's always been land within a couple of days at most from where we are, so if things should go astray we'd always have the option of making for the nearest landfall, or if worst really came to worst, help would only be a short distance away. Out here in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, we're on our own and help isn't so readily available. As a husband and father, I'm taking responsibility for my family, to lead them and to protect them. This was my dream after all and they came along with me – am I really being responsible? Am I foolish to put their lives at risk like this? Perhaps we should have stayed home where we're safe, should I have been happy to work the 9-5 and just enjoy a two week holiday like most “normal” people? You know people look at us and say “you're so lucky to get this opportunity”, or “you'll never look back on this chance of a lifetime” or “this will be so life changing for you and your family”. It's already a wonderful adventure, but having never done a large ocean crossing, and not knowing what it will be like, forgive me if I'm just a little nervous for the welfare of my family. People have died out here!

I received an email from my father the other day, radioed to us via friends on another yacht who have sail-mail capabilities. I got the usual greetings and updates from home but then at the end of the email my Dad said “read Psalm 91”. I dug around for my Bible, then looked up Psalm 91. Here it is:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High

Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him will I trust.”

Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence.

He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of destruction that lays waste at noonday.

A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.

Only with your eyes shall you look and see the reward of the wicked.

Because you have made the Lord who is my refuge, even the Most High your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.

For He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.

In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.

You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.

Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.

He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will deliver him and honour him.

With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation.

The Atlantic Ocean is no more scary than sailing anywhere else. It demands respect and a prudent person does everything he can to prepare himself and his boat for a crossing like this. The ocean demands respect, but not fear. In some regards, sailing a long distance like this, away from land, is easier than sailing around the Mediterranean. The winds are generally more consistent and predictable without effects of land and less traffic certainly makes watches easier and more relaxed. If one vessel a day turns up on our AIS it's a catalyst for excitement, even if we don't actually see it. I'm not afraid of the Atlantic ocean anymore!

Friday 31st December 2010 (Day 5)

This is it. This is the end of 2010. New Year's Eve is here and we're coming to a close of the year I've dubbed “2010 – A Sea Odyssey”. We've achieved so much this year and seen so much. We've changed so much and we've all grown. As the sun set, we all sat on deck and watched the last sunset of 2010, wondering what adventure this coming year will bring.

For those of you who have been reading and enjoying our logs and following our adventure, I want to thank you for taking the time to stay in touch and for your support. I wish you all the best for 2011 and hope that for you 2010 has been a year of realising your dreams and enjoying life.