Atlantic Island Voyage: Cape Verde Islands - Sal 1998

13 December 1998

Joel's Log, December 13, 1998
Sal, Cabo Verde

Hello Everybodeee!!! Welcome abored (sic) the Tammy Norie. I realize that it's been awhile since you've heard from us. We've been too occupied lately defining our new roles on the boat to give ya'll an update. Thanks to all of your good input we know that one of us is a turkey, one of us is a dodo and one of us is a slacker but there's some debate as to who's what. Hmmm...

This island, Sal, is quite a place. I've honestly never seen anything like it. If ever there was a landscape that I could paint, this is it. Just a flat line with a three spiky hills, a few patches of scruffy acacia trees and surround it with ocean. Bob Ross eat your heart out. The people are very cool everyone makes eye-contact and greets you. My first few steps ashore, I was taking it all in, I admit I must have had a guarded expression on my face, feeling a little like a sore thumb- But I passed a small group of little boys, the nearest one to me and I locked eyes, I think he was mirroring my expression- Sort of furrowed brow curiosity, an ambiguous face. But after we passed he reached back and touched my arm very lightly, I turned around and he gave me a goofy grin and a thumbs up. I laughed, and gave him thumbs up back. It was such a neat thing for him to do, and amazingly perceptive of the little guy. I relaxed so much after that. I think that this is an inherently good place, despite its bleakness...

 Sal landscape

Sal landscape

Yeah. We're in the Cape Verdes. What does that mean to you? To us it means, Africa and lots of it. 350 miles off the coast of Senegal, the islands had been a Portuguese Colony since the mid- Fifteenth century, they peacefully won their independence in 1975. But Portugal hasn't exactly been a financial superpower in a really long time and these islands seem to have been left to more or less fend for themselves. And they seem to have done a fair job of it from what I saw. They are completely different from anywhere that I've ever been. I'm sure the U.N. classifies them as a 'Developing Country', as in people are really poor- Please understand that this is only my impression of things from what we've seen thus-far, which amounts to two of the ten islands and the second-largest city in the group, I've heard no numbers, or done any research, basically, I'm just spouting- (WHALE!) All of the houses are cinder-block and many of them have pigs, chickens, goats- you name it milling around their doorstep.

 Tchiede and Tidan with Joel and Shifra with a bottle of grog aboard Tammy Norie

Tchiede and Tidan with Joel and Shifra with a bottle of grog aboard Tammy Norie

The streets and roads are cobblestone, and everybody's wearing last year's styles. The island of Sal our first stop was really dry, one of my friends there said that it hadn't rained in two years- I have no idea what they did for water before they opened the de-salination plant. The island is basically just a desert of red dust and rocks- the wind is constant and blowing hard enough that all the stunted acacia trees that have managed to survive are all bent to the Southwest, it seemed to me like the whole island was being relentlessly blown into the sea. That's the other thing- the wind has a name- it's called the Harmattan. It blows from mainland Africa and is filled with fine red dust, that fills the air and plasters everything it hits- It's more passive than a sandstorm- the air feels heavy but you can't actually feel the dust on your skin- but you can see it on everything- the boat is covered with it. Anyway I must say that the people of Sal were welcoming and friendly- Very rarely would I make eye contact with someone who didn't say Hello- or Hola or the equivalent- And I met some really good guys there who were my age they spoke English well enough that we could communicate fairly well, and Rum, the universal translator is only 30 cents a glass here, so conversation flowed. Anyway I was really impressed by how content these guys were, they had their family and friends, their health, most of them had jobs- and I think they realized that was really all they needed and were thankful for it. None of the dispossessed confusion that seems to affect a lot of people my age at home, receiving mixed messages about their responsibilities and roles in life from our over materialistic and pseudo- spiritual culture. Ah but enough of that.... Here we are on our way from Santiago(beautiful harbor, nice beach, sweet fishing boats painted Rasta-style) to the island of Fogo. And how appropriate for me to be making this entry as the name Ilha do Fogo means- Island of Fire- in Portuguese (remember my last entry??). How they keep it lit surrounded by all this water remains to be seen- because even though our chart tells us that it's only 3 miles away, thanks to the Harmattan (cough!), we have yet to see it. Supposedly there's an active Volcano on the island somewhere that last eructated in 1995- We hope to go check it out, cause we're that hard-core. We've also heard that people who go all the way to the top of the cone have to sort of hop, prance and dance in place because the ground's so hot- So wish us luck- Hopefully we'll live to tell about it. And if you hear about any explosions in the Eastern Atlantic any-time soon, remember this- we didn't touch nothing.

Talk to ya later- Joel

P.S. To the second-graders- We just saw a pair of whales, a big one and a little one, the little one was playing and leaping out of the water! We think they may have been Sperm whales.