We spent a couple of nights in Palmeira on Ilha do Sal. It had a very different feel to the Canaries we had come from. We were definitely in Africa now ! Although one of only three ports of entry in the Cape Verdes it was just a large village. The surrounding land was arid and totally unproductive as far as we could see. The economy of the island had once been based on salt extraction, hence the name, but it was hard to see how the locals were making their living now.
With only 4 days after arrival before Ellee was due to fly out, we set off at midday on the 8th for Praia on the main island of Santiago. It's a trip of around a hundred and twenty miles, and we sailed the anchor out in a nice NE breeze. After the wind on our last day into Palmeira we were hopeful that the trade winds had now established and we'd have an easy passage under sail, with the wind on the port quarter. But we were soon to discover that nothing much had changed from the short lived winds of the previous fortnight and by sunset the wind had died and we were under motor once more. At least this time we knew we had the fuel to motor all the way if necessary. We motored on through the night and were well down the east coast of Santiago, the next morning, when the breeze returned and allowed us to sail the last hour into Praia.
We anchored up in the bay near the fishing harbour and there we stayed for the next 5 days, saying goodbye to Ellee and Jack and hello to Finn and Joe. Whilst we were there we also met an interesting man from Estonia. He'd driven over from Senegal in a Toyota landcruiser mounted on a couple of aluminium pontoons. HIs plan was to cross to Natal in Brazil !!! (see ), but was having a bit of trouble with buoyancy as he was floating a bit down by the stern.

Joe flew into Praia around midnight and we were weighing anchor 12 hours later. Noley and Immi were flying to meet us, arriving in Barbados on Jan 1st. We were expecting the crossing to take 18 days give or take a couple. 18 would see us arrive at the same time as them.
The breeze was stiff, the forecast gave NE F6 reducing to F5 over the first 3 days, then nothing less than a F4 for the coming week, so with 2 reefs in the main and the No.2 jib we sailed out of the harbour. This was a big moment for us and the adrenelin was pumping and, seeming to recognize the significance of our departure, a dozen dockworkers unloading a ship stopped work, waved and gave us a great cheer.
For the first couple of hours we were sailing west, along the south coast of the island, plenty of wind from behind and sheltered from the worst of the swell. As we started to leave the island behind we had to gain some ground to the north to avoid the island of Fogo, about 50M to the west, so our course changed from W to WNW. With the wind and a large swell curving around down the west of Santiago, we now had both wind and swell ahead of the beam, a wet combination. Every few minutes we'd take heavy spray over the cockpit and were soon soaked through. I hadn't reckoned on needing oilies a lot and mistakenly thought that my 10 yr old ones would be enough.But progress was good and we were happy.
We had Fogo on the port beam by 2200 and were able to bear away which made life a bit more comfortable, although we were still getting regular soakings. As we settled down for our first night, Holly Mae was straining away like a galloping horse, and down below, with heavy rolling in the swell, sleep was hard to come by. Those off-watch lay in their bunks listening to the sound of the wind in the rigging and the water rushing past the hull, getting whatever rest they could. Interestingly we became quite good at estimating boat speed by gauging the sounds of the water. Being on watch was mostly a matter of checking the compass from time to time and making sure that the Monitor (self-steering gear) was doing it's job, and keeping watch for other shipping. Very occasionally the mointor needed adjusting or the sails trimming, but mostly we just sat there watching the stars.

In the strong conditions that we had, steering by hand would have been very tiring. The Monitor was a luxury that very quickly became regarded as a necessity so it came as a bit of a jolt when it's control line snapped in the night. Holly Mae's helm is heavy at the best of times and this control line had been taking the full weight of the tiller continously in conditions that would exhaust a helmsman in an hour. Visions of hand steering for 18 days were not attractive, but I had to remind myself that I'd planned the trip in the days before I'd had self-steering. It would be exhausting, but possible. Finn was on watch at the time so he took over the helm.
After contemplating the rest of the passage without our silent helmsman, I put on a head-torch, clipped on a lifeline and leaned over the transom to see if anything could be done. The line is a very strong and low stretch type called Spectra, and although I didn't have any spare, the lines in use were overlong and by pulling them through and tying another stopper knot we were back in business. Whew ! What a relief, but I wasn't sure how long it would last.

Our progress was quick, if not comfortable, and by noon we had covered 156M in our first 24 hrs. Conditions remained much the same throughout the second day and night with a marginally better 161M for the noon to noon period. No ships, no other yachts, but we spotted a satellite in the evening which spoiled the chance of having our first day without sign of man.
The following morning Annie Mae baked some bread for the first time. Her bread was to become a culinary highlight of the trip............ a real treat ! The day was sunny and we had less of the dust which had filled the air since Santiago. Dust from the Sahara which comes after the Harmattan, sustained easterly winds. Spirits were high and we were getting used to the conditions. Eating well and getting into the rhythmns of watch keeping, and to top that we had our first 'man-free-day'. No ships, no yachts, no planes, no satellites, no plastic bottles, no planks, nothing. We were on our own and it felt good.

In the night of the 3rd morning, in gusty conditions, the Monitor line broke again. The repair had lasted 2 days. I could make another repair............... another 2 days, perhaps ? How many times could I re-tie it ? I joined it with a knot in the middle this time. Later that day we had our first squall. Dark clouds coming up from behind brought heavy rain and increased wind. The scene was quite dramatic. The rain so heavy that it flattened out the surface of the sea and although the wind was stronger we were still comfortable with our 2 reefs in the main. We steered by hand during the squall to take the pressure off the Monitor and it was all over in 30 or 40 minutes.But I was concerned about keeping the Monitor going all the way.
The nights were beautiful with a full moon rising in the east behind us, passing overhead and leading us the way westwards before sunrise. The constellation of Orion was following a similar path.................... one of the pleasure of sailing along due west in low latitudes (we were at about 15 degrees north). The seas were getting a little smaller and therefore more comfortable now and we were still cracking on at quite a clip. Day 3, 155M. Day 4, 155M. Day 5, 152M. We changed up to the No.1 jib when we showed signs of slowing a little. On day 6 the wind was lighter, and on our course, there was not enough pressure from the wind in the sails to stop us rolling. Because of her rig design, Holly Mae does not like sailing dead downwind. 20 degrees off is good if the wind is strong, but when the wind eased off and the swell was still running we had to point up (change course closer to the wind) to stop the boom slamming and make life a little more comfortable for the crew. We shook out a reef but had a night of frustrating and variable winds. The next day we shook out the other reef and after 6 days on the starboard tack we gybed to see if life would be better on the port tack, but that evening the wind went light again and the boom started slamming. I remembered the broken rope grommet on the previous leg and couldn't sit back and watch the heavy weight of the 24ft boom create all that shock loading, so we sheeted everything in hard and started the motor. After three and a half hours there was enough wind to cut the motor, and in fact, apart from battery charging, that was the only time we needed the motor for the crossing.

We completed 1000 miles on the morning of our 7th day. Not bad going. We saw a butterfly that day. 1000 miles from land ! Had it been a stowaway ? Also the monitor line broke again, but by now I had found my anchor buoy line was the same size. Much cheaper quality line, but it worked and I had enough to re-knot and replace it several times, so I felt more confident of keeping it going. That afternoon, despite slower progress (only 130M that day), we reached the half way mark. We had canapes, and cigars washed down with a bottle of wine to celebrate !!! Half way in a week................. could we make it in two ? For the first time this seemed a possible target. This was good news...................... not only because we'd be there before Noley and Immi, but also for our food and water supplies.

Annie Mae had overseen the stocking up of food and was keeping tabs on what we ate. We had bought loads of tins in the Canaries, and topped up again in the Cape Verdes after we had some idea of how much we were eating. We were pleased to find a great fresh produce market in Praia as well and had plenty of fresh fruit and veg for the first week. We ate really well, although we weren't having much luck with the fishing. From then on it was mostly tinned and dried food, but we had far more than we would ever eat. For water I had read that 2.5 litres a day was the recommended amount we needed. 10 litre /day between us for 20 days is 200 litres add to that a 100% safety margin in case of delays................ becalmed or worse, and that comes to 400 litres. Our tanks held somewhere around 300 litres and we carried about another 100 litres in bottles. So this was the required amount with a healthy safety margin. To conserve these precious supplies we were washing with baby wipes. I had turned off the water to the basin in the heads, and we were adding seawater to our cooking. With a bit of trial and error we found that 25% seawater in foods that absorbed a lot of water was fine and we could use more where absorption was less.

Our quick progress was reducing the amount of water we would need and after the first week I reinstated the water to the basin. It was a luxury to be able to wash the salt of our faces. Everything was so salty. The first few days of drenched clothes had inevitably found it's way down below, all our clothes, our towels and bedding were totally salty. It was bearable because it was warm, but when the air was damp, the saltiness made everything very clammy down below.

After Jacks success with fishing on the way down to the Cape Verdes, Joe and Finn were eager to catch there own. They'll tell you that they were very successful at catching some very impressive fish. It was just landing them which caused the problem. The rod was seriously bent a few times with the weight of fish. Finn saw something "massive" leaping on the line, but sadly the weight of the gear was no match for the fish. We had lines snapped, wire trace biten through and lures lost until eventually we didn't have enough gear left to fish and the only tuna we had came out of a tin can !

A couple of days of lighter winds had forced us to point up, to 30 degrees off our course for comfort and to stop the boom slamming. Our distances covered were down to 116 and 130 for those days. (All distances are measured as a reduction of miles to our destination rather than the usual miles sailed). The nights were very rolly and uncomfortable ! On 24th Dec the wind picked up again to a good F6 and allowed us to lay our course direct for Barbados, but as the morning went on it became plane that with full main and No1 jib, we were overcanvassed. After the two days of lighter winds I was reluctant to reef at first. Finn also, was always after more sail not less. It's always a difficult decision. I'm sure it's true that you should reef when you first start thinking about it, but maybe the stronger wind won't last.................. ? In the end I was worried about the extra strain being put on the monitor so we reefed. It was hard work, but went without incident. I think I would like to have roller reefing on the main, so that it all happens around the base of the mast and not with someone untying reef points at the end of the boom in a large swell.

The next day being Christmas day Annie Mae baked some more beautiful bread for breakfast which we had with scrambled eggs, orange juice and coffee. Then we opened some presents which Immi had sent for us all and Finn and I treated ourselves to a soap-down shower on the heaving deck. Christmas lunch was washed down with a bottle of wine, but Christmas dinner as planned never really happened. We'd all eaten well at lunchtime, and with the increased wind, came a livelier motion and we were only doing things that had to be done. We all agreed that dinner wasn't one of those things. We were reeling off the miles and that was the most important thing.

By midnight after Christmas day there were less than 400 miles to go. We set ourselves a target of 150 M a day to arrive on 28th. At midday we saw our first ship since leaving the Cape Verdes. It was steaming east and passed just 6m M north of us. The wind started to ease in the afternoon and so now that we had a target we were quick to shake out the reef. That evening we had the topsail up again. It was an overcast night with no moon and no stars. Very dark. The next morning another ship passed just 2M away. This increased activity was an indication that we were closing in on civilisation again.

By 1600 hrs we had 150 M to go. Under a day ? We were going well now and had the end in sight. One of my occupations on any sail is to track down the source of all those annoying noises and quieten them if possible. That night as I was taking to my dark, rolly, and clammy bunk, the noise from the gaff saddle became almost unbearable. No matter how much tallow I put on the leather it always creaks and groans away. "Come on, Dad", said Joe, "it's no worse than usual. Don't let it get to you." To me it seemed louder than usual so I went out on deck to see what could be done. I tried a vang on the boom, but that didn't work. I gave up and went back to bed. When Finn was on watch, he gybed and the noise stopped. I went to sleep. The next day we gybed again and there was the noise again. In the daylight I could see that the gaff saddle had almost slipped off the mast. The line holding the parrell beads had almost worn through, the saddle had twisted and was complaining in the only way it knew how. Down came the topsail, and down came the main. We replaced the line and hoisted the main. All was quiet. Well quietish.

Land Ahoy ! It was 10 o'clock when we first caught sight of land. Another hot and sunny day as we closed the land, surrounded by flying fish by the dozen. We approached from the SE corner, sailed around the south of the island and up to the anchorage at Carlisle Bay on the SW. The sea was a beautiful turquoise,and the beach a dazzling white from where we dropped the sails and anchored at 15.30 amidst a couple of dozen other cruising boats. Exhausted though we were, there were cold beers waiting for us ashore, so we launched Cub. Joe swam ashore, in the beautiful warm water, the rest of us rowed spotting the prehistoric looking turtles, to the beach. The sense of achievement was immense..................... but it was a huge relief to arrive. After the beers, some food (shark and chips) washed down with a couple more beers and then there was some delayed exhaustion to deal with, by succumbing to 12 hours of the deepest sleep I can remember.