The last time I wrote a log it was Christmas Day and we’d just crossed 4500 miles of the Southern Atlantic Ocean. I wasn’t in a festive mood and our new surroundings did little to lift my spirits. Praia is the most populous city in the Cape Verdes, situated at the southern tip of Santiago; a long, dry, brown, dusty island which upon first glance held none of the succulent promises of memorable landfalls in the past. Ports are never a bastion of cleanliness and livery, but Praia was an ugly reminder of how human disregard for the planet is sometimes on full display. We landed at the fish market, where two drunk and filthy men in tattered clothing offered to look after the dinghy, which I accepted. Two of our trash bags were taken and promptly ripped open and dumped across the street neatly “hidden” behind a large rock, among great piles of other refuse, just a few meters from the ocean. The guidebooks recommended maintaining a diligent watch and keeping the boat locked down tight, so we didn’t go far that first day.
When we returned to the dinghy everything in it was gone. A brand new anchor and chain, lock cables, water bottle. But the two guys who were “looking after” the boat demanded they still be paid. An interesting “discussion” ensued, which I lost.
By the next day Discovery was enveloped in a thick film of dirt and sand. Tradewinds that roar across the Sahara Desert, which stretches across the countries of Mauritania, Western Sahara, Libya, Niger, Mali, Morocco, Senegal, Algeria… sweep up and hold aloft a blanket of dirt that reaches hundreds of miles out to sea. The Cape Verdes lie in the path of this hazy swath which resembles the locust swarms we’d seen in Madagascar- thick and inescapable.
But as soon as we left port on that first trip before the fall of the New Year another place and country began to take shape. Crystal-clear waters alive with large pelagic fish. Empty clean beach and point breaks. Colorful villages with cobblestone streets and smiling people who seem to have few cares in the world.
It’s now two months later and those initial perceptions and reactions are thankfully a distant memory. Like most things in life, uninformed rash judgements are no more accurate than declaring the earth is flat. Like a fine wine that takes time to mature so has our appreciation and love for this country, it’s people, and its reliable pleasures, which visit regularly. Of course I am speaking about wind and waves.
Unfortunately our companion Trouble is forever dwelling in our midst, ready to strike at the most inconvenient time. Two hours before the start of our second trip I got in a taxi to visit the incoming clients to inform them the trip would have to be cancelled. Our first cancellation of the expedition. Our generator was down and we’d need at least 10 days to make the needed repairs (turns out we’d need a month). I was covered in oil and dirt, sweating profusely, my knuckles and knees bloody and grotesque after working for hours in the cramped generator compartment which was now only a gaping hole. On the way to the guests’ hotel I made one final effort to find a portable generator I could run on deck (previous attempts had come up empty), struggling to communicate my need to the taxi driver using a mix of Spanish, English and very poor Portuguese, which was all he spoke. Sometime later we had an obnoxiously loud belching gasoline engine running on our port bow, a tolerated nuisance that would get us by. Our track record would remain in tact. Another disaster averted.
We’re now three islands up the chain in Sal. We’ve been here for a month, rarely moving more than a few miles a day. There is a famous break here called Ponta Preta that surfers, windsurfers, and kitesurfers the world over come to ride on big swells. I was worried before our arrival in Sal that it would be too crowded and too touristy. But as always Discovery grants us access to the gems that most people who travel here never see. So when Ponta does get crowded we simply disappear over the horizon and catch waves that are every bit as good, and get them all to ourselves.
We’ve been here long enough now to know all the best places to score the freshest goods so our chef Bobby can continuously blow us away. In fact there are three things I can guarantee every person will say at least several times while on board. 1) “Bobby will you marry me?” (keep in mind almost all of our guests are guys). 2) “That’s the best meal I’ve ever had in my life.” 3) Bobby can you come live with me?”. Between gastro delights we surf, we kite. We surf, we kite. We surf, we kite. It’s a simple existence that seems to me somehow selfish and deserved at the same time. Time passes. Time stands still. Time moves so fast it seems reckless and as frightening as a mammoth hollow wave crashing down when you’re caught inside. We have no control nor influence over any of it.
On our last trip, which ended yesterday guests Rob Born, very pregnant wife Kelly, pro rider Kristin Boese, and two new Canadian guests Craig Pryor and Eric Van Steen scored some of the best conditions of the expedition so far. The guys kited every single day and I heard “best day of my life” on at least half of them. Rob and I surfed some of the biggest waves- and longest rides I’ve ever had with a total of zero other people in the water for three straight days.
Discovery sat in one place for almost all of the trip. There was no reason to move. We had what every adrenaline junky needs. Food (fuel), Wind (play), Waves (fear), Sleep (recovery). And of course what makes a log possible in the first place- photos (Jody), who returns to Discovery after nearly 4 months of slaving over a computer at home in Seattle. I hope you agree, it’s good to have her back.
“The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn’t simple.” –Doris Janzen Longacre