The Cape Verde archipelago of ten islands is over 800nm south of the Canary Islands and 350nm from the west coast of Africa. It’s not too much of a detour from the trade winds to the Caribbean. Mindelo is our only stop in Cape Verde giving us just enough time to rest a few days, do some laundry, fill our propane tank, and provision with fresh groceries for our next passage.
Our first stop is to clear in with Immigration and the Maritime Police. The Immigration Office is located just outside the main entrance to the port. At 9am, it was busy with yachties so we waited 30 minutes for our turn, chatting to a German crew while we waited. Typical for many island nations is paperwork to complete upon arrival. After completing our details on the Immigration form, then presenting our vaccination certificates and passports for stamping, we were directed to the Maritime Police around the corner of the same building. Same information, but a different form completed and our boat registration handed over to the officials. This isn’t usual as we normally keep hold of our boat registration and have never had to release it.
To get ashore, the Sport Fishing Club charges one Euro to land your dinghy, but free if you buy a beer. Same at the marina, but it’s four Euros to land the dinghy for the day. The marina is generally more convenient.
Outside the marina, entrepreneurial fellows are eager to help you with a taxi ride or anything else you may need. Each day Umberto or Joseph offered their services, each keen to assist visiting sailors and make some coin. They’ll no doubt have their hands full when the many ARC Rally yachts arrive in a few days.
Next, internet. A small tourist booth in the Parque Nhô Roque across the road from the marina suggested we walk one block over and try the Fragate Central supermarket to buy a SIM card. The large blue building was easy to find, but the CV Movil booth inside the store had run out of SIM cards, so we were redirected two streets north to the CV Telecom building. Before long we had 9Gb of data to use during our stay for around €15.
Next, groceries. After six nights at sea, we bought some fresh bread and treats from the Fragate Central supermarket, then returned to the Floating Bar at the marina for lunch. Grocery prices are in line with Europe, except for special items which are quite expensive. Opposite the Enacol plant is the Mercado de Vegetais. There’s a good selection of fresh veggies and fruit, and some meat. Closer to the marina is the Mercado Municipal.
Further along the main road along the waterfront is the Fish Market for those that can’t actually catch any fish (me!). At most supermarkets I found frozen chicken pieces and fresh cuts of pork from the butcher at the back of the Fragate Supermarket. The Floating Bar at the marina has a good selection of food and drinks; the WiFi is a little slow as sailors all sit with their iPads and smart gadgets catching up on news with loved ones, streaming, or downloading apps.
Next, propane. Propane cylinders are virtually impossible to fill in the UK and Europe. Back in March we installed extra solar panels, increasing our input to 775W. It’s no exaggeration to say how the extra energy has extended the life of our gas. Previously a 9kg bottle of propane would usually last between 2-3 months. Before leaving the UK, we replaced two cylinders with two new 7.5kg Safefill bottles and we’ve been using gas from one bottle since May – almost six months! To get the most out of solar energy, I cook with an induction hot plate when we have plenty of energy, and have cooked on our Cobb many times over summer while at anchor. Having cylinders filled in Mindelo at the Enacol building south of the marina is an easy walk and a ten minute wait. No problems.
Finally, laundry. There’s a handful of places that can do laundry (Umberto’s mum can do it too). Two blocks east of Enacol, is the Lavomatic laundry that opens from 8am every day. It’s self service, but the friendly staff will manage your laundry so you don’t have to wait, giving you time to buy veggies from the Mercado de Vegetais across the road.
Paying for any of the items above – SIM card, groceries, laundry – can be made in Euros and change will be given in local Escudos. I brought enough Euros with me so had no need to use credit cards while here, but I did notice they weren’t accepted at many places. There’s a bank outside the marina where local currency can be withdrawn.
The heavily laden fuel vessel ‘Enamar’ cuts a route from the eastern bank, north of the wreck, and across to the ships thirsty for fuel. Our first night here had the skipper shaking his fists at us to move north. Once a spot opened up in the anchorage, we moved well out of its way and anchored closer to the marina.
The annual ARC Rally are on their way south from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. In a few days, the Mindelo Marina and anchorage will be over-flowing with boats as they descend upon this small city. The marina evicted many yachts to make room for those arriving, so boats are squeezing into the already-tight anchorage. Raised voices, shaking fists, and potential boating disasters good enough to view on YouTube’s ‘Sailor’s Fails’, as boats scramble for their piece of wet real estate. Some insist on having anchor floats to identify where their anchor is. But in my opinion, these floats cause more problems than not by taking up precious anchoring space. One boat preparing to anchor, motored alongside us, dropped his anchor and float at our beam, so that when the wind shifted our boat drifted over his float which has a big red ‘don’t anchor here’ logo. Rather than re-anchor, his buddy dived down and kindly removed the offending float before it tangled around our prop, or was mysteriously detached overnight. Meanwhile, one boat over also with a float above his anchor managed to attract a 39 footer in it’s tenticle. The crew took some time to free the offending float from the boat’s propeller before offending another boat by anchoring too close. The anchorage is tight with unknown debris on the bottom, so a little common sense and general cruising courtesy can go a long way.
During our stay, we had a pleasant drop of rain overnight – we hadn’t expected the rain so it was a good reason to scrub the deck the next morning to finish the job and remove months of filth and dust. We haven’t been to a marina in months; in fact Lisbon was the last marina we’ve stayed at.
The Mindelo people we met were friendly and a ‘Bom Dia’ and ‘Obrigada’ is welcomed with a smile. Tourism is a growing industry in the Cape Verde islands and although Mindelo isn’t the star attraction for many tourists, for sailors it has the facilities we need to continue us our passage. As one of the most stable countries in Africa, economically and politically, our brief stopover was a restful break and we stocked the fridge with meat and veggies.
Tonight, we’re catching up for a beer with an Aussie guy we first met in Monserrat in 2016, and no doubt share some interesting stories. In a day or so this place will be swarming with sailors from the rally, so we will clear out on Friday to leave Saturday and get a jump on the rally boats. By the time you read this, we shall be many miles from Mindelo, well on our way on a 2100nm passage across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.
At least we should be! Follow our GPS track here.