Friday, December 30, 2011

Cape Verde Islands

After the first day of adjusting, 'picking up the pieces' and cleaning, we moved into the marina, which is a simple marina, but very expensive. For our boat, it is almost 30 Euros, more than we've paid for any marina in a long, long time. We went in for one night, so we can get the broken shroud repaired, and we weren't sure what it was going to cost.

The staff was great, we took the broken pieces into the shop and they had an estimate right away, 160 Euros, and we were glad to pay it. They had it repaired the next day and so we only ended up one night in the marina and moved to another bay next to the marina where it is really calm and protected.

So, this week is us talking ourselves back into us being brave enough for "The Crossing" and tackling a lot of last minitue shopping, filling propane tanks. and loose ends.

A twist is that our main laptop crashed and we have been scouring the town trying to find someone who can repair it. A type of a 'needle in a haystack' mission. We have a joke that as soon as we fix one problem on our boat another one pops up, and so fixing things sometimes is a risk as we're not sure what will break next.

I've mentioned before that cruising is simply boat maintenance in exotic locations and it is absolutely true! This afternoon, Levi and I were admiring the huge mountains surrounding the town as we had to dissasemble our toilet and clean every nook and cranny in the pump from.......stuff. I'm tellin' you, this life is NOT a vacation, it's mostly hard work, but it has been an incredible experience for our family, and we wouldn't trade it for anything!

Passage from H E double hockey sticks.

Wow, that was a long 5 days!

It started out OK as we finally left the river and headed out into the Atlantic ocean past Banjul, the capital. Once we were clear of the land, we were hit with a nasty swell from the starboard bow (front right corner) Most catamarans don't handle a side swell very well and for Mehari, coming over the corner is just miserable inside.

We've found that the quickest way to get over seasickness is to lay down. It seems like your body adjusts more quickly to the motion, Rachel and the little girls went to bed early, and that left Maggie, Levi and I taking turns for the night watches, and trying to keep supper down!

Soon after dark, around 7:30, Emma informed me that they were getting water coming into their bed from the windows above them. Sure enough the bed was already soaked and some sea water was finding it's way into the room. There was no way to look or repair it underway as it was dark and very rolly seas, so Emma moved to the couch and it ended up the girls slept in the living room the rest of the passage. By the next morning, it was soaked, mattresses, blankets, everything! Pretty miserable, and we were all feeling really sick. "Only" 5 out of the eight of us ended up throwing up ;) and it was all we could do to get the wet bedding outside to air out. Cleaning would have to wait.

Rachel was feeling too sick to cook, and we all were feeling too sick to eat. So for two days, we only drank water and did a LOT of laying around.

We found out later that there was some sort of high pressure system pushing an unusually large swell south from Europe, I think it had more to do with the angle of coming north from Gambia. Actually, I don't really care, I just don't want to go through a passage like that again! That's all we know!

Anyway, also on day one, we managed to break a shroud (a stainless steel cable) inside one of our front sails. This made our mast off balance, and we didn't want to push it and risk breaking our mast, a huge disaster. So we weighed the options of going back to Gambia, where repair would have been unlikely if not impossible, or heading back to Dakar, Senegal, repair a possibility, or to push on to Cape Verde where repair was certain, even though it was still 4 days away. We opted for going to Cape Verde, and tool it a bit slower, with only our jib sail out front, not using our main because we were afraid it would be 'pulling' back on the mast. Levi and I rigged up some lines to stabilize the mast, because as we were going over the waves, you could look up and see the mast flexing. Not a comforting feeling! If we started slowing, we would alternate the motors and keep a steady pace.

We arrived in Cape Verdes late Thursday night, after 10, and anchoring never felt better! The bay is large and while it wasn't the calmest anchorage.......,after our week, we were all asleep in about 4 seconds.

We have a tradition of making a big breakfast the morning after a passage and this was no exception: omelette's, toast, hash browns, and Levi even made chocolate chip pancakes, then we set about picking up the pieces, literally. The cabin, cockpit, and the rooms in the boat were destroyed, and we all pitched in, got some music crankin' and in a few hours, felt like we were getting a handle on it. Levi and I took 5 loads of laundry (for starters) to the laundry-mat, and picked up some fruit and milk. more doom, the next post will hopefully be how great Mindelo is......

See you soon!

~ Hems

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Gambia - Back from the River

Well, we made it 'back' to much as Banjul, the capital of The Gambia can be considered civilization, but much more modern than the middle of the jungle on the river.

We stopped at James Island, which is towarde the front of the river, and it is famous for being the spot where Kunta Kinte from Root's was taken as a slave to America. It has some old fort walls and it was really sad to imagine slaves waiting there, full of fear in leaving their homeland, off to a totally stange place and life.

From there, we went and anchored up a small stream near another "famous", but more modern place, Lamin Lodge. It is run by a German man named Peter who came in 1982 and has established a few lodges up the river. He is well known throughout the river and he has lots of local friends he has met and helped over the years. He was super nice and patient with us and, although people are constantly wanting his attention for something or another, took the time and sat with Levi and Lily and I and talked us through the river trip and the area, and as an old sailor, was full of cool stories from his decades of experience. One of those cool folks you get to meet in far off places, who make the place seem even mopre epic. We had a great dinner at the lodge, Chicken Yassa, and extremely cold beer, which after some hot dry days on the river, was very welcome!

We spent a day in the capital, Banjul, finding some provisions, milk, bread, fruit and the essentials, and had a great lunch at the French Alliance International, a product from the French government. They are located around the world and promote French language and all things French. They had a great cafe, super cheap local food, and we found out that there was a band playing that night starting at 9 pm.

Evern though we were pretty beat, we walked the 2 miles back into town and found a bus to take us to the concert. It didn't start right at 9, but not until after 10.....and we didn't get back to the boats until 2 am! It was lots of fun, hanging out with our friends on "Begonia", Sebastian and Carla, and their crew member, Juliano from Brazil. The music was awesome and even though it made the next day extra was well worth it!

So, after another day of cleaning the boat and swimming in the river, we are ready to head toward the Cape Verde Islands. They are 500 miles away, and a pretty popular spot for sailors to stop on their way across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. The most Western part of Africa and along with the Azore Islands, located in their own time zone.

See you in the Capo Verds!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Gambia, Day 5

Hello from what feels like the middle of nowhere!
We're still afloat! Drifting down the river. We've had a busy few days making our way upriver, and exploring along the way. It's been really amazing and we're all really glad we made the extra effort to come here. It certainly makes the Malaria meds and bug nets worth it :)
We've stopped at several villages, which was an amazing experience for all of us, especially the kids who were swarmed with local kids. A bit overwhelming! They don't get many visitors, especially white ones with 6 kids, and here I thought we didn't blend in in Europe! Here it's almost a small mob!
We also managed to get stuck on an unmarked mud bank in the middle of the river, sat for a bit scratching our heads, and ended up using our dinghy to get us un-stuck. No worse for the wear :)
Yesterday as we were going through an area of the river where the water was really calm, we finally spotted some hippos on the edge of the river, making their way across!! It as incredible.....we shut off the engines, and coasted, as they were surfacing all around our boat, and poking their heads out, wiggling their ears! The kids had fun watching and waiting on where they would surface next. We learned they are the 2nd largest land mammal, to elephants, and can hold their breath underwater for up to 15 minutes!
Today we went through the Gambia River National Park, which is where they are doing a rehabilitation program for several different types of monkeys. We were heading through there with our boat, and when the 'rangers' see you they come over, and 'escort' you though the park. The whole park consists of 6 islands, and there are monkeys on 3 of them. We saw a few scampering around in the trees, and we did the best we could to catch some photos.
We've reached the "end" or at least as far as we're going up the river, and are making our way back towards the Atlantic Ocean. We are roughly 130 miles up the river and the landscape has changed several times. Now we're in rice fields on both sides of the river, but we've seen thick jungles, loads of mangroves, and sparse palm lined banks.
The afternoons get super hot and humid, being on the river, and this afternoon, we took turns taking 'showers' (consiting of a bucket poured over us in our bathing suits) on the front deck with the fresh river water, and it felt great! Well needed after several days of sweating!
We don't have internet to post photos, but we'll get some up as soon as we can.
See you soon!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rollin' on the river

We're in the Gambia river!
After a couple of days of sailing down the coast of Africa in Senegal, we are officially on the river, about 18 miles in next to James Island. It's famous as the place where Alex Haley's: 'Roots' came from in Africa.
We have another 100 miles to go before we're in the fresh water section, which is where we are supposed to be able to see the crocodiles, monkeys, and hippos, so we're excited for that!
Today we had a dolphin pod escorting us most of the day to here, and it was dead calm on the river, just ripples from the dolphins jumping and splashing around us.
There are lots of cool places to explore on the shores, so we're trying to decide how we're going to choose or fit it all in!
Talk to you soon,