Islands of sun and rain

Closed eyes. Touch of silky sand. Mind sinks in music of the mighty Atlantic ocean.


Open eyes.  Endless golden beach. Waves attack it, fiercely, desperately. Rocky range on the edge of the land. Brown slopes are covered with the voile of green bushes. They gave these islands their name – Islands of Green Cape, Cabo Verde.


One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Idyllic piece of Earth – Playa Grande on the island Sao Vincente. Rocks and ocean coexist in wild harmony here. Sand climbs steep slopes but gives up on the first 10 meters. Rocks invaded the coast but were stopped, polished and rubbed by powerful tide.


In this fantasy place the first time in my life I tried surfing. Wave was pretty messy, frequent and uncertain in direction. Anyway, I decided to go.
On the shore Chris briefly read me a course of basics. First we were laying on the board and pretended we are swimming towards the wave, puddling madly. Then near the board we made a jump. It was nice before I entered water.

“Green” surfer : )

After several fruitless attempts to hold the board under my body, I learned how to duck-dive, let the wave pass me. But after I turned in direction of the shore fun ended. That jump, brilliantly performed on the sand, didn’t happen. So I rolled, and swallowed salt water, and rolled again. Still I feel that the first experience wasn’t that bad.

Sunset in the bay of Mindelo

Mindelo is a biggest city on a small island of Sao Vincente. And the only city in Cape Verde that has a marina. The bay is big and shelter: there’s enough space for marina, mooring and boats anchoring. Still on the anchorage better to stay alerted: thefts are rare in Mindelo but can happen. Praia – the capital of Cape Verde that is situated on Sao Tiago – is more famous for its crime. Our friend Admir told us the story how two young guys stole a boat and sailed to Brazil. Significant that guys were europeans… But that’s a story, reality is that Praia is not the safest place to stay in Cape Verde. This is what we were told.


Mindelo is small and lively town. Houses in the center are painted in bright colors – incredible colors: deep blue, grass green, lemon yellow, glamor pink. Some houses combine in their appearance several colors in pretty weird combinations. Looks like no one here cares about city plan and free to choose any color of the rainbow. I asked myself which one I would paint my walls to. Still thinking.
– Which one would you pick up? – I asked Chris.
–  I like white. And blue – like Vagabond hull.


On local square we connected free Wi-Fi – and signal was perfect. On the corner I found a boutique that sold amazing red shoes. There was a price – 6500 escudos.
– Cuanto custo? En euros, – my curiosity was in excitement.
– SIxty five, – was the answer.
– Ok… Nice shoes, – I left the shop.

A week ago I ran out of money. You always feel that this moment is somewhere in hazy future. So when it happens, it’s always completely unexpected.
So I look for a job – in Russia distantly, or in Brazil. On a boat, in journalism or tourism. Whatever.


I go along the street, pass beautiful square, where local venders sell their simple goods, turn around the corner and stop in front of a huge green tree. I listen – this giant sings to me in thousand of voices. These’re sparrows, who in bunches hang on every branch. Under a thick shelter of leaves they loudly praise sun and rain of Cape Verde.

Anchorage of Mindelo

I just passed a hundred meters but already shabby houses surround me. Behind narrow doors – dirty pubs. Men, smoking outside, look drunk and ready for street fight. Some old people sit on the staircase. Street dogs, hungry and miserable, wander around, searching for food. Girls return from the market, carrying on their heads heavy plastic bowls (local variant of a busket). The secret of this useful exercise is in a round small hat that they wear and on which they “install” the busket. Still I’m sure it’s not that easy as it looks like.
Through this mess I get to the local market on Placa Estrela. Here Admir, local policemen and now my friend, picks me up.  His education impresses: he fluently speaks French, Engllish, Arabic, local Portuguese and Creoli and other 7 local languages. He is professional musician but works as a policemen for 11 years.
With my private guard side by side I feel safe to stare around, on women, drunk men, vegetable venders, wander around rows that sell clothes, mobile phones, African art. Admir knows every second person here and stops to greet them. I smile happily, repeat endlessly “Bon dia”  and feel myself almost a part of local community.

Suburbs are not so cheerful. Houses are old, dirty, very often badly damaged. Locals chat on a street and stare curiously on our car. Pupils, returning from their school studies, wave to us and laugh. There’s not much to see here.

A small town on the western coast of Sao Vincente

Street dogs here too. There are so many of them on Sao Vincente but they look very peaceful. They do not even fight for food between each other. People here coexist nicely with these poor creatures. They can’t help but do not mind to live side by side with them.


Outside Mindelo houses shrink and remind me more than a box than a house. And how would you call a cube 8×3 meters? Still, life here goes in its slow and peaceful order: children are playing, chicken and goats wandering around, sheets are drying on a rope.

Rains in Cabo Verde are rare. But heavy!

Before arrival to Cabo Verdes I read in the internet that this is dry country,which population has problems with water supplies.  The islands greeted us with 3 days of heavy rains…

Regard for bad weather – rainbow!

Even now the top of the Mount Verde is covered with thunderstorm cloud. It is just 600 m high. Can’t be compared to 2000 m peaks of Sao Antao or volcano of Fogo. But it reminds me Table Mountain much. That I also didn’t climb due to bad weather by the way.

Mount Verde

Today we leave beautiful  Cabo Verde and head for our last crossing to Brazil. But I hope once I will reach these hospitable shores again.

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Diary of the crossing Canaries – Cape Verde

Crossing from Canaries islands to Cape Verde will take us 6 days. But the hardest time is not  days. We count nights, and there’re seven of them in front of us.

Night one

Cinderella’s fairy tale is over. It was left in Mediterranean sea, where dolphins escort yachts, nights are full of shooting stars and water is turquoise and warm. We’re in Atlantic ocean that is far less kind and nice.
There’re just two of us now, Cristiano and me. That means – shifts 4/4 hours. How to explain to the organism that now it is awaken for four long hours, after which it needs to fall asleep fast, not to waste a minute from only four hours of sleep that follow. And then to stay awaken again – no matter if it is day or night.
The first day of crossing prepared an unpleasant surprise for me. There was nothing unusual about weather but I started to feel sea-sick. Not a frequent state of health for me. In precious three months of sailing the only time I felt bad was at ‘afterparty’ day. But at this case I needn’t go to the sea to feel terrible.
Breakfast was abandoned. Luckily that wasn’t my watch so I went to struggle with my own treacherous nature to bed. My shifts are from 10pm to 2am, from 6am to 10am and from 2pm to 6pm. By the way, the system of 4/4/4 was first applied by James Cook. In case you didn’t know : )
During the first six hours we went to the south along Gran Canaria. Island’s massive is not a shelter for us, but opposite – Chris was expecting strong wind near the middle of the eastern coast of Gran Canaria.
Soon we turned. The next 7 nights our course – 220, plus-minus.
Weather is dull and and moderately windy – about 10 knots.
The first night is cold and humid. Chilly wind infused my thin summer clothes (Paris and hitch-hiking trip made me leave at home some wind-proof and warm things). And humidity – it’s everywhere on board, while in sea. In air, carpets, on the table and in socks, and in bed too. You breath it, walk in it, sleep in it. Only in sea I really feel that 90 percent of me is water.
I stuffed a deckbag with things, necessary for average Russian amateur sailor, crossing the Atlantic.

Survival pack “a la Russe”:

500 grams of nuts, bar of milk chocolate;

phrase book on Brazilian Portuguese, textbook on Spanish, collection of travel stories of Paul Therraux;

i-Pod with French and Portuguese study audiocourses;

headlight (for reading and looking forward); blanket, “loaned” from AirBerlin the last year in trip to Southern Africa.

Night Two

After Crisa’s shift from 2am to 6 am we have tea and cake on a deck. I ask him when, in his opinion, organizm is able to adapt new schedule. He answer that to him it usually happens on the 3d day. All right, it’s coming, can’t wait for this moment.
The second night is surprisingly warm! Despite the fact wind is from the north-east. Its gasps, varying in direction and strength, keep me awaiting for the moment, when the genoa (headsail as we call it among the Brazilian-Russian crew) will ‘turn flip-flop’ (self-made sailing English term).

The sky is covered with thick layer of grey clouds. The sun and the moon are lucky to get from behind just for few hours. Well, Canaries while our stay were not sunny too: we haven’t seen the sun for several days. Autumn has come to the northern Atlantic. I try to imagine what’s now in Saint-Petersburg…

Night Three

Night shift is a hard time: to stay awaken for 4 hours, but even harder to wake up. This night is not an exception. I almost hadn’t slept between the last two shifts. Despite tireness, mood is still all right.

We go 227, wind is not that strong on my shift from 10pm to 2am. I’m listening to Portuguese audiocourse. “Eu intendo Portiguese, e eu falo Portuguese”. Today I made four lessons, 30 minuted each. And French – I have started French course. I dearly miss Paris and my friends there…

At morning shift 6am-10am I tack and set genoa. Now we go more to the left – 217. I started to count time till arrival:  +4 nights are in front of us.

Night Four

It’s one color overboard. The sky and ocean look one piece – enomous black curtain. No horizon, no “in front” and “behind”. No moon and stars – only sparkles of plankton mysteriously shine for a brief moment in a wave, split by “Vagabond”.
It’s warm, almost pleasantly warm. Particularly, because there’s no wind. We go with a main sail – 207. GPS says it’s 70 hours till Cape Verde…
I feel random drops on my skin. Scarce tears of Atlantic.
I’m tired. Almost didn’t sleep the whole day. I’m weird creature: my body waits till the moment it is exhausted, then – happy two hours of oblivion, that follows refusal to take a nap again. Kind of self-torture.

For day the forecast promised strong wind, so we decided to try only genoa that is easier and faster to operate. We didn’t loose in speed, but the boat started to swing horribly, making my damn sleep impossible. I felt myself inside the Russian doll “nevalyashka”: you push her, and she always wakes up – making a dozen of right-left nods before. In 2 hours I crawled to the deck and asked Cris to set the mainsail back. Quick exercise in underwear – at least one hour of sleep.

Night Five

This day was hot, even sunny. Finally, it’s possible to stay a shift in minuskirt and top. Warm clothes go under my back. I slept a bit on both sets of my rest hours – from 2am to 6 am and before the lunch. It’s amazing! Only here really understand importance of sleep.

I do not feel perfect still but uncomparebly better if to remember the last night.
Chris cooks delicious lunches – my only normal meal a day. I suppose if he wouldn’t feed me, I would die from starvation. Generally, I don’t have appetite. That’s strange, because usually waving makes me extremely hungry, and food I consume is counted in kilos then. Looks like my tireness is bigger than my appetite.

Diet “Sailing a la russe”:

nuts, oranges, random fresh vegetables and water with lemon juice.

Now there’s  no wind at all, and sails are making “flip-flop”. Ocean is calm, and we go with the engine. Stars are dim. very few are able to struggle their light through thick clouds.
I touch the water with a torch. It literally starts to shine – this is plankton gratefully responsing on a beam of light.
While sailing at night, I recall my past. First time in 10 years without fear I’m back to my Golden age – my childhood. I couldn’t accept for many years that it’s over, my little fairy tale. So one day 10 years ago pushed all my remembrances to the dark cellar and screwed the door. Now they are free again. I remember everything so well as if it was yesterday. It’s cut in my memory and stay there forever unchanging. Every house, every tree and hole in fences – unique map of the amazing world, one-of-a kind story.
GPS shows 60 hours before arrival.

Night Six

Still little wind. GPS supposes we arrive at night from Saturday to Sunday. Damn, that means we need to slow down. We don’t want to enter the unknown harbour before the sunrise.
I dream about marina shower : ) And sleep of course. The last three attempts to fall asleep (3 times for four hours) were rather unsuccessful.
This sleep problem makes me talk to Crisa about searching the third crew member. Who’s in Cape Verde for the next week and ready for Atlantic-Brazilian adventure? Drop me a message : )
At night I rewatched “Truman show”. We’re all in someone’s show. Why not to try to open your eyes and imagination and start writing script by ourselves sometimes? Even if on the first glance someone else’s look more convenient and safe. Big world is worth exploring.
I see a lonely creature – fly fish. I hear  splash and point her with a torch. For the last days we haven’t met a soul. This is it, so-called “solitude together”.

Night Seven

This is really thrilling: no wind, no moon. Darkness. Splashes behind. There’re still some waves – its gousts appear randomly from nowhere. From time to time I see a glare of plankton as if there’s thunderstorm under the water – brief sparkle that dissapears in the darkness sooner than I’m able to praise its beauty in my mind.
Lonely light far away on starboard. And quiet, ominously quiet.
I’m waiting. In  Russia we have an expression: “Quiet before storm”. Law of contrasts that keeps the life running.
We make 2-3 knots (5 km/h) – speed of a walking man. Sails flop restfully. But I don’t want to ruin this sinister atmosphere with rude sound of engine. I’m waiting…

In 2 hours some wind has come. Skies have been cleared, and stars are seen now. One – extremely bright one – spotlights from the height as if someone examines me with a torch.  I send him a wink.
I’m charmed by the beauty of the small canstellation, which stars crowded close together. It’s right above me.

There’s no Big bear seen behind the clouds near the horizon. And Orion is not here yet, it shows up closer to the morning. My father used to tell me about stars, when I was a child.
I see a shooting star – magnificent present from Atlantic ocean. It crosses 1/4 of the sky in its last bright and free flight. Thank you, I have something to wish!

Far -far away I see the glare above the horizon.

This is land. This is Cape Verde.

Morning Eight

We go between Ihla de San Antao and Ihla de Sao Vincente. Silhoettes of the mountains wake up tired imagination. Their volcanic nature is apparent: that unique mixture of poor and splendid that charmes me so much. Waves crushes on solid black rocks that are separated by beaches of yellow sand.
We enter the harbor of Mindelo, where the only marina of Cape Verde is situated. We pass the port. Its rusty boats and dirty cranes do not look dull but picturesque, backed by beautiful scenery of mountains.
We have arrived to Cape Verde – Islands of Green Cape.

Las Cats – Gran Canaria

They should have call it “Las Buildings”, – dropped Crisa while arriving to Las Palmas.
Really, it didn’t look like the capital of famous resort islands. Blocks of flats along the coast and some “significant” pieces of somewhat called “modern architecture”.
As I wrote before, we stopped in the marina Las Palmas that’s now a record-holder as the cheapest price in the whole Crisa’s trip around-the-world (if to stay a week – 7 euros per day).  We made spare parts in industrial zone of La Isleta – ugly district of plants, services, autodealer’s boutiques. But this is not why I will remember Las Palmas.
I love to run. For me running is not just a physical excercise but perception of the world. And way to talk to myself. Hear my heart beating, feeling muscles moving under the skin, I skip fake thoughts, dust of everyday routine. And then I start to listen to the voice inside, one that knows answers to almost all questions.
For the first time of my more than 4 months’ journey I was “back to track” again. Endless quay of Las Palmas looked perfect for that.
It was already full of runners. I climbed narrow high edge of the promenade that goes above the wavecrush stones. While running on it I could feel the fresh breeze from Atlantic. It helped to forget about the busy road along the coastline, and keep away from me the smell of dead crabs on stones down near water.
I ran till the sculpture that, probably, simbolizes the yacht – a kind of tribute to free dwellers of seas. There I sat watching ships raiding near Gran Canaria.
On the wavecrash line a small bird was searching for food. She was so close to water that waves rolled over her feet, covering them till knees. Waves, fiercly trying to climb the shore, were 5 times bigger than a feathery hunter. But the bird didn’t fly away. Just feeling that the wave is big enough to capture her, she jumped to the higher stone – and in a moment went back. What a small creature and what a great courage she posseses!
– Don’t judge on appearence, told I to myself.
Before visiting Las Palmas I was sure that Rome is a city of cats. But the ancient Italian capital can’t be compared in that with the capital of Spanish islands! Cats are everywhere here, sitting on beances and resting in shadow of parked cars. Playing with their kittens on the promenade and hunting in coastal stones. Sleeping under bar tables and sunbathing on benches.
City that hosts so many wise creatures can’t be just a set of buildings. It has soul. Free spirit.

Second chance

«A writer for instance talks about India which I have seen, and gushes about dancing girls, tiger hunts, fakirs, betel nuts, serpents: the Glamour of the Mysterious East. But what does it amount to? Nothing. Instead of visualizing India I merely get a bad toothache from all these Eastern delights. Now, there’s the other way, as or instance, the fellow who writes: ‘Before turning in, I put out my wet boots to dry and in the morning I found that a thick forest had grown on them (“Fungi, Madam”, he explained)…’ and at once India becomes alive for me. The rest is shop”.

I want to apologize for my blog being so touristic: common see sights, brief hazy notes about atmosphere.  I do not try my best to give you smell, smile and taste – feeling of places I visit, and I’m sorry for that. Neither hectic schedule of my journey, nor bad internet connections or my laziness can be an excuse. Tho I do not pretend to call these brief notes a kind of literature. I just hope they are not too boring.

Nevertheless, I will continue.

I believe that everything that happens to us is necessary to happen for some reason. As Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky wrote, “If stars are lit, that’s means, someone needs it”. Yes, a kind of fatalism. Still, life proves that sometimes the worst thing can be premise for the best one.

The last evening in Lanzarote we made a short test-drive to check autopilot. Chris spent a couple of days, fixing the capricious device.  And – hooray! – the yacht obediently makes 180 degrees to the right. I celebrate the victory of (the mind + golden hands) over circumstances with a naked dive from a board.

The next morning we leave to Cape Verde. But don’t have a chance to get far…

We heard it before, sailing along the Spanish coast – knock that the rudder made. The rudder is one of essential parts of the boat: loose a rudder – loose the control. Chris tried to fix it by himself, and we reached Morocco without worries.

But here it is again… The tubes, through which the rudder infuses the hull, get loose with the time, and now they need to be changed. The whole Atlantic lays in front of us. And thought of unfixed rudder doesn’t make us feel more convenient. So Chris turns the yacht to the west: we go to Las Palmas  – the capital of Canaries.

The sea rocks: waves grow, wind gasps. Not fun at all. The air is cold and numb. Going south to relaxed Brazil – could never imagine that it will be colder and colder. Damn Atlantic.

We’re going round the island Puertoventura and awaiting the moment, when we will leave its shelter.  There the wind will, probably, become stronger: in straights between islands it accelerates like in a tube. That doesn’t happen after we pass the corner tho. But happens before and after it: Chris “was lucky” to catch 30-knot gasps from north. Where are you, calm and hospitable Las Palmas?

Before the sunrise I see the light) Numerous dots – it’s a coast of Gran Canaria. Soon the sky gets lighter, but I can’t see the sun. Clouds lost me a chance to admire the beauty of its the first beams.

And – ta-dam!  – we’re in safety of marina. I feel exhausted after 24 hours without sleep. Sometimes I have this problem – can’t sleep in a bumpy sea. But for crossing Canaries – Cape Verde I come prepared:  in local shop I bought herbal tea with Melissa, Mint and Valeriana. Valeriana smells strongly – hope the effect on my sleep will be equal.

We stay here for 8 days. Marina – Muelle Deportivo – is all right – and even more all right ‘coz they charge the less the longer you stay. For example, being here for 8 days we pay about 7 euros per day. It’s nothing! But to get here was a story.

ARC – Atlantic Rally Cup – is coming, and most of places in marina are booked. But we pointed out the urgency of stop (unfixed rudder), and they allowed us to stay near the ‘reception’ peer for a day. So – here we are for already eight…

Now rudder is fixed, and we’re ready to go to Cabo Verde.

Before we made a drive around the island, along the coastal road GC-1. Trivial statement, but Canaries are beautiful!!! Trust me. We made a way to Maspalomas – I’ve heard this name before and suggested that it was connected with surfing. So we took boards and went to Playa del Ingles. Unfortunately, Chris pointed that waves are not great. Well, will wait for another chance to start my surfing education.

Back we went through another road, GC-60, in direction of Fataga and San Bartolome. We went up to the mountains. Between rocks that reminded me Grand Canyon we made numerous twists and turns. Stopped in picturesque Mirador to give a last glance to the sea – and went further, higher and higher. Mountains of Canaries are low, all between 1000-1500 meters. But how free we breath there! We passed several towns-oasis – palm parks with water pools that were surrounded by white neat houses. In calm evening children played on streets, and senior citizens discussed rumors sitting in chairs outdoors (nice tradition of Southern countries). Tourists love these routs, so in every town you will find “table and shelter”.

At the end, tired of waving through mountainous roads, we rushed to the coast. On a narrow path we followed 4х4, and a small caravan tailed us. The road wasn’t easy, and the first jeep wasn’t in a hurry.  Those at the back of a line started to beep impatiently. These were definitely locals that make this way from time to time. They outraced us in rage and went ahead.

We were back on board late after dark. The whole trip, the whole stay was worth it.

See you in Cabo Verde!

Today we leave amazing Lanzarote and start our way to Cape Verde!

Approximately 8-10 days in sea. We’re going to stop in Praia, Ilha Sao Tiago. According to http://www.noonsite.com, this island has a bad reputation because of numerous thefts.But I’m excited about this country much.

Not far from the bay Cidade Velha is situated – the village included into Cultural heritage list of UNESCO.

See you soon, my friends))

Embrace of a volcano

In my journeys I like to take photos. They do not pretend to be exclusive, and I do not pretend to be a Photographer tho.

With the time I’ve been pleased to discover that some of natural views… can’t be fixed by camera. It’s excessive to mention that nature can never be “copied” by technologies: it’s always a moment, stuck in eternity, while life is always changing, and transforming, and moving forward.

This is what I felt in Timanfaya National park on Lanzarote, Canaries.

Lava fields cover one quarter of the island. Numerous volcanos tower above the gloomy landscape. They formed in 18-19th centuries and from the last explosion in 1824 keep silence.

Now Mountains of Fire (how Timanfaya is also called) is a territory of the national park. Visitors are welcome there but only by touristic bus (8 euros) or by camel caravan. I’ve made a 40-minutes ride around.

It was experience one of a kind, and even tourists, trying to fell out of windows in obsession to make a photo, couldn’t spoil my impressions.

This inhospitable land look lifeless on the first glance. And it’s true, not so many creatures can survive in endless fields of black sponge stones. But if to have a more thorough look… between rocks that are covered with thick layer of linens green bushes make their way to sun beams.  Rabbits and shrews, lizards and gekkons inhabit narrow passes between stones.

This inhospitable land possesses unexpected charm and beauty. Dark slopes reflect the sun, host the shadows of clouds – and change their color. This painting is not bright and racy but noble, full of hints.

This earth still preserves power of volcano: the local restaurant “El Diablo” cooks its dishes on the natural heat, placing them above a deep bell.

Neither on exhibition, nor in card shops we couldn’t find decent photos of Timanfaya, that would be able to transmit a certain percent of its beauty. That couldn’t make me sad – my memory will preserve these landscapes better than any paper.

We made a tour around Lanzarote. Suddenly a place that I expected nothing from turned to be one of the most stunning impressions of the journey.

Arrecife - near our lovely anchorage. Castillo San Gabriel.

The journey started in Arrecife. The anchorage there was really great, with lovely neighbors from all over the world – couple who live on board for 15-30 years.

Anchorage in Arrecife

28°57.2051 N, 013°42.5172 W

Another point that made my heart sing is a view on the Isla Graciosa – Mirador del Rio. This small island lays to the north-west of Lanzarote. It’s a national park but it has a marina, burdened with formalities like registration tho.

Mirador del Rio

Unfortunately, Canaries are so touristic that every lovely view is charged. To climb the top of the mountain in Mirador del Rio cost 4.5 euros. We’re budget travelers so simply climbed a fence. We didn’t get all the splendid view but it’s biggest part for sure : )

Marina of Isla Graciosa

After leaving Arrecife – the capital of Lanzarote we passed endless fields… of cactus. Guessing about use of this plants, our suggestions didn’t go further than alcohol.

Aloe Vera museum let us into the secret: cactus is used perfumes, cosmetics, medicine, liquids and many other useful things.

We were almost to visit Jardin de Cactus – a park, where flowerbeds can be undoubtfully called “cactusbeds”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for free again… I suppose, this place would be more interesting for families than to vagabond travelers like us.

Jardin de Cactus from outside

Another coast – western – another stunning. From main salt mines of Lanzarote – Salinas del Janubio – through amazing underwater caves Los Hervidros – to volcano ash beaches of El Golfo.

Salinos del Janubio
Caves of Los Hervideros
El Golfo on the western coast of Lanzarote

Lanzarote has some surfing spots. We checked one on the northern coast, several steps from Orzola. Cris approved it as a spot for those who just start. Another spot is on Playa de Famara, also on the northern side of the island.

Wierd sculpture park of an unknown "artist"... reminded me of "outdoor" houses that I built being a child : )