Welcome to Porto No-Go

When we woke up this morning, the Braemar was just about anchored at Porto Novo, Santo Antão, one of the islands that make up the archipelago of Cape Verde. The wind was strong and the water looked very choppy.

We’d got up early as we were due to go on a half-day excursion this morning and, once we’d had our breakfast, we returned to our cabin to get sorted out with camera, phone, cagoules etc. whatever we thought we might need during the trip. We were just about to make our way to our assembly point in the Neptune Lounge when the voice of Captain Bent Ivar Gangdal boomed over the tannoy. In a nutshell, he was informing us that, due to the very high winds and choppy seas, they were unable to launch the tender boats safely and, as passenger safety is of paramount importance, they could not now offer a tender service which meant, effectively, we wouldn’t be able to go ashore. The Captain was therefore cancelling our visit to Porto Novo, which had now become Porto No-Go. 😦

Instead the Braemar would weigh anchor and make her way to Mindelo, São Vincente a little earlier than planned (we had been due to sail there at 8.00pm tonight anyway). We could see the island of São Vincente across a near-distant stretch of ocean, as it was only seven nautical mile away.

We therefore spent the next hour and a half or so just chilling on the ship, and looking at the mountainous scenery that makes up the Cape Verde islands. There are 10 islands altogether, but only nine are inhabited. Cape Verde used to be a Portuguese overseas territory, but they gained their independence from Portugal in 1975 and have been the Republic of Cape Verde ever since.

Once we docked in Mindelo and were given clearance to disembark, we were able to spend the day at leisure. We left the Braemar and set off on foot to explore.

The Cape Verde islands are still developing as far as tourism is concerned, so if you expected to find gleaming hotels, restaurants, bars and other amusements you’d be disappointed, because none of these things are in evidence, especially not on a grand scale. As we left the dock and walked into town, we saw tired, slightly run-down buildings consisting of a few shops, a bank, post office, one or two small unassuming hotels and a couple of bars. There were lots of boats, in varying states of repair, and some local fishermen were selling their catches by the roadside. Numerous stray dogs wandered about, seemingly unaware of the traffic, and they caused some heart-stopping moments when they ran out into the busy road.

We passed a large fish market which was doing a roaring trade, and walked along until we reached a market square. There were many brightly coloured stalls selling everything from hand-crafted goods such as wooden carvings and beaded jewellery, clothes, textiles and holiday ‘tat’ intended to tempt the visitors into buying.

The currency here is the Cape Verde Escudo, a nod to the country’s Portuguese past, but the Euro is also widely accepted. That’s just as well, because we only had Euros, although we’d spotted an ATM on our way to the market.

We therefore bought half a dozen rather grubby and dog-eared postcards from one of the stalls, then went in search of a bar or café to write them out.

We found a little open-air bar in the market square and ordered a couple of bottles of “Strella” the local beer. There were several cats roaming around, but they looked quite well fed so we think they belonged to the bar owner. They were certainly at home snoozing in the sun under the customers’ tables. I love cats so I was quite happy when one of them came over and curled up at my feet, and was soon joined by a couple of its mates (or maybe siblings).

We enjoyed the cold beer and wrote out our postcards. Meanwhile, the bar was doing a brisk trade with other passengers from the Braemar having the same idea as us and partaking of a beer. While there was quite a lively breeze, the tropical sun on our backs was very hot, so we didn’t want to stay out too long and risk a nasty sunburn.

Once we’d finished our beers, we went in search of the post office, but when we got there the queue was massive, so we just decided to post our cards on the ship. We therefore took a slow stroll along the sea front, looking at the many boats, large and small, among which the gleaming white paint of the Braemar, with her red funnel and distinctive Fred Olsen logo, took the centre focus.

In fact, there were two ships sporting the FOCL logo, as one of the Braemar’s sister ships, the Black Watch had also docked alongside us. We were on the Black Watch on our last cruise six months ago when we went to the Baltic, so it was nice to see her again. 🙂

Back on board we went to the Palms Café for some lunch and ate it outside on the attractive cascading rears decks. The sun beating down was very hot and we had a good view of the dramatic jagged peaks that surrounded us. On our port side we were also able to look across and down to the Black Watch and view the passengers moving about on her decks.

After enjoying a cold, refreshing cocktail, we returned to our cabin and sat out on our balcony watching the world go by. I did a bit of kumihimo braiding and read my Kindle book. I am reading The Gamblers by John Pearson; it is a fascinating account about the ‘Claremont set’ which includes the infamous Lord Lucan.

Tonight was a tropical themed night where the plan was a barbecue on the aft decks followed by a deck party with the entertainment coming from the Braemar Orchestra and an upbeat female singer. As is usual, we tend to get into the spirit of the thing so I donned a brightly coloured maxi dress as well as a multi-coloured wig I bought in Rio last year. Trevor put on his tropical shirt and a Bob Marley dreadlocks wig and so we were set for the occasion.

As expected, both of us received a lot of comments about our get-up; on the whole however the Braemar passengers looked very colourful as we went down to the Palms Café to enjoy the barbecue.

We had to collect our food outside the Lido Bar where we could either eat it al fresco or in the Palms. It was, however, a little windy so we decided to eat inside, and we hoped the wind wouldn’t spoil the deck party which was scheduled for 9.00pm.

We enjoyed a selection of meats and salad with a glass of the (free!) rosé wine, then we went along to the Neptune Lounge to procure a good seat for tonight’s show, which was entitled “The Heat Is On”, performed by the Braemar Show Company.

On our way to the lounge we greeted one or two people we knew, but you could tell by the vacant way they replied that they didn’t instantly recognise us in our tropical-themed wigs. 🙂

We managed to get front row seats (no mean feat!) and found we had George and Barbara Bethel sitting behind us. The performance, as ever, was excellent, really upbeat and cheerful, and we enjoyed it a lot.

In the meantime, around 8.00pm, the Black Watch had vacated her berth on her way to Recifé, Brazil, and the Braemar prepared to nip into her slot. However, it meant that the Braemar had to turn round so the relatively sheltered aft decks were no longer on the lee side of the port and were now exposed to the full force of the brisk wind.

When we went along to the aft decks to join the deck party, this meant, rather disappointingly, that the deck party only had about half a dozen people in attendance as it was just too cold. I felt sorry for the band who were valiantly playing to practically-empty decks.

As there was no entertainment in the Coral Club tonight (as the band was outside for the deck party) we couldn’t go there; in fact we wondered why the entertainments people just didn’t bring the band back into the Coral Club where they would at least have had an audience to play to!

We therefore finished the evening by going along to the Morning Light pub and listening to Pat Shannon whilst enjoying a few more drinks. George and Barbara came in and joined us, and it was after midnight before we returned to cabin 7050 and settled down for the night.

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