Porto Grande, Cape Verde
Saga Pearl II blog - Captains' blogs
24th February, 2019
Two days at sea passed smoothly as we headed south-west to the Cape Verde archipelago. Conditions were perfect; a following wind and gentle swell helped us edge ever closer to the equator, and with that temperatures sat happily in the mid-20’s keeping everyone happy out on deck.
Inside the ship, the usual non-stop entertainment programme offered by our team led by Cruise Composer Jemma was fully embraced, with everything from cultural lectures to professional dance lessons filling the daytime hours. The library spaciously accommodates around 50 gently snoozing passengers at any given time, although if awoken and asked, they will always claim that they were reading. Library occupancy peaks at around 70 passengers in mid-afternoon, where many enjoy “digesting” their delicious lunch cooked by Executive chef John McCerery and his fantastic team.
On Sunday morning in the early hours the westerly (or Sotavento, meaning leeward in local lingo) islands came into view, and we found ourselves rounding Porto Grande’s harbour breakwater by sunrise. Our Pilot embarked at about the same time, arriving on the Bridge just in time to announce that the pier we had been allocated, (the one we were almost on top of) had no longer been allocated to us. Instead we would head to the other pier, the ones that the mooring men were on, he reasoned, which was fine by me because mooring men play a somewhat essential part of tying us up.
This place is an interesting one indeed. For a start, Cape Verde means ‘Green Cape’ and these islands are anything but green. Mostly brown, dry and barren - but with pristine beaches - they import 4/5ths of their food required to maintain human life. A small group of tropical islands colonised by the Portuguese sometime back in the 15th Century, they gained independence in the 1970’s but have retained a strong Latin flavour.
Today folk disappeared off on adventurous 4WD tours, slightly more gentile scenic themed trips and cultural tours, too. The weather was simply perfect – a cloudless sky and in the high 20’s. I decided that it was a good opportunity to take bicycle out and explore along with the Cruise Composer, Jemma. Unfortunately, a minor oversight in the planning stage was the condition of these roads – if you can call them roads. Mostly dirt tracks with perilous potholes similar in nature to those of Stevenage’s suburbs, the conditions were far from ideal for road biking! Firstly, Jemma’s seat hold gave way and she slumped immediately 10 inches lower, to a child’s riding height on her bicycle, her knees almost as high as her head.
Naturally, I immediately roared with laughter however my demise was to commence very shortly afterwards as a particularly vicious bump somehow caused catastrophic failure of my gear system, rendering only 1 functional gear out of an original possible 21. Even more unfortunately, this gear happened to be in the very low region, which meant my legs had to spin at about 1200RPM (a washing machine on full spin / Road-Runner in full Wily Coyote escape mode) in order to maintain a walking speed. It was Jemma’s turn to laugh!
The final nail in the coffin for our supposedly pleasant cycle came only moments later when, on a particularly dusty track as I turned to admire the scenery, my bicycle fell into a large hole and there was a loud crack as my seat post support fractured and left the seat in a very awkward ‘up-facing’ position. Having to return in a constant standing position, hovering precariously inches over a vertical post, left me very nervous indeed - as it would most gentlemen.
However from this point onwards, our Sao Vicente experience improved tenfold, as we passed a pristine beach and pleasant looking cafe perched upon it. Sweat-ridden, we stopped of course, and admired the menu full of local seafood delights. Cape Verde has some of the best fishing grounds in the world. A superb lunch of tuna & swordfish carpaccio, followed by juicy tuna steak, was then enjoyed – washed down by a bottle of ice cold ‘Super-Bok’ beer. A swim in the fresh azure sea followed, before a tentative, but fortunately short, cycle back to the ship.
With everyone safely back on board by 18:00, we departed our re-allocated jetty by backing out and then rounding the island before setting courses east-south-eastward towards the African continent and the Gambia. Let’s see what adventures that place brings in a few days’ time…
Captain Kim Tanner
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