Cruising Friends

The cruising community is a bit like a village, except that it keeps moving. In the old days we used to flow past each other, almost literally as ships which pass in the night. Now, the modern marvel of the internet keeps us in touch with one another.

This page is dedicated to our cruising friends. More specifically, it is devoted to those of our friends who have their own websites and to those folks who are currently shorebased and running businesses which might be of interest to other yotties.

The list is alphabetical by boat name, but those who have swallowed the hook are relegated to a separate list at the end.

No longer cruising:

Shorebased friends:

Sailors in Clogs

As everyone who knows them will agree, you don’t need to keep watch for this lot: you can hear them coming from miles away!

Senne, Ton, Petra, Marjolein, and Marijn

Ton and Petra hail from Holland and are sailing their home-built steel yacht, Aquamarijn, around the world. With them are their wonderful kids: 12 year old Marijn, 10 year old Senne, and 9 year old Marjolein. Yes, there are actually only three of them – but when it comes to noise, one (particular) Aquamarijn kid equals half a dozen of the ordinary kind. (Naming no names, hey, Senne? Oops…!)

Ton and Petra used to drive a tugboat before they discovered sailing, and they spent much of their early married life hanging out in insalubrious parts of West Africa and in the oilier parts of the Caribbean. Having gained some sort of super-sized qualification in tugging and towing, Ton has found that he can cover the family’s cruising costs by making occasional trips to far flung places where his experience and signature are worth big bucks. Cruising folk employ a variety of means to earn their crust – but this must surely be unique!

I lied about the clogs. And anyway, it turns out that they’re actually called klumpen….

Seriously folks, if you come across this little lot count yourselves lucky, because they are some of the nicest, happiest, most likeable people on the entire planet.

Man Go Sailing

Blue Juice

Ed and Sam are a couple of superstar yotties who generally sail for the likes of Chay Blyth and Robin Knox Johnson, but who have decided to take some time out, aboard the Contessa Blue Juice, and see how the rest of us live.

When not pottering about in his own boat or crossing the ocean backwards in one of those big, flash, racing machines, Ed runs his own sea school called Mango Sailing.

Given his level of experience, his enthusiasm, and his charm there could hardly be a better sailing instructor than Ed – but before you rush off to join him, be warned: nobody has ever made us laugh as hard or as long as this guy, and susceptible individuals could easily die of mirth during the inevitable post-cruise pub crawl.

Escape on Cape

Dave and Sarah first got in touch with us aeons ago, when this website was in its infancy, and then – all of a sudden – they were there, before our very eyes, anchoring their boat near ours! Lots of other yotties and would-be or soon-to-be cruising folk drop us a line, but this is the first time that we’ve actually met up with any of our vast fan base…

Bethany (2nd from L) and Bryn (2nd from R) with the rest of the wharf rats, aboard Mollymawk

Travelling with their parents aboard Cape are Bethany and Bryn, and these two were quickly adopted into the Las Palmas Wharf Rats Society (of which Roxanne and the Dutch kids are founder members). In the morning the harbour is peaceful and quiet as the gang remain aboard their various vessels – playing their guitars and making origami frogs, or studying Ancient Greek and algebra, according to the whims of their wise and wonderful parents – but after lunch all hell breaks loose as the Rats go on the rampage. At the last count there were eleven kids in the gang. They come from five different countries and their ages range from five to going-on 14.

We’re going to miss them when we move on, but we’ll always know where they are.

Dave and Sarah and Bethany and Bryn are also the first people on the Friends page who fly the same flag as us – but they shouldn’t be flying it, cos they’re actually Welsh; they ought to be flying a lovely red dragon.

Christalino

Christalino and Saoirse racing Mollymawk in Paranagua
Christalino and Saoirse racing Mollymawk in Paranagua

In Paranagua we met up with a Brazilian family who have only recently taken to the water. Vagner and Fabi and their small son, Otto, are the proud owners of a home-built sloop; and proud they have every reason to be for Christalino is something far above the usual DIY project. The hull is cold-moulded – which is far from being the easiest way for a home-builder to go – and the interior is constructed to a standard far higher than most production yachts.

Fabi, Wagner, and Otto, with a bunch of crazy cruising yotties
Fabi, Wagner, and Otto, with a bunch of crazy cruising yotties

Christalino also boasts an inventory which is seldom seen aboard boats of this size even in the charter yacht industry: Fabi and Vagner have a fridge AND a freezer, hot and cold running water, a washing machine, and electric flushing on the loo!

To be honest cruising yotties don’t actually NEED any of this. Aboard Mollymawk we don’t even have a bathroom, and – with the exception of the catamarans – I think that there is not one other yacht featured on this page which has a fridge or a washing machine, still less a fancy loo. However, for folks who are accustomed to living in luxury these mod-cons make the transition from shore to ship more gentle.

When we met Vagner and Fabi and Otto they were still hanging out in their home port and had not yet made the break from owning a car… but there was talk of heading for the Caribbean. We hope that they throw themselves into that idea and go for it, because we believe that this happy and very friendly family will have a thoroughly wonderful time as part of the global cruising community.

Cocoloco

The Poco CocoLocos

James and Federica don’t have a website – yet – so they shouldn’t really be here, on this page. However, I couldn’t resist posting a pic of the poco Cocolocos, Nina and Kimmy.

James hails from the land of the Big Grey Cloud and Fede is Italian – so she rules the roost. Their boat is a big posh one, but they can still remember what is was like to be bumming around and rummaging through the marina dustbins…

Aged only 5 years old and going-on-three, Nina and Kim are already completely bilingual. Makes y’ sick, dunnit? (Give your child a gift that will last her a lifetime: marry a foreigner.)

Alaska John

John Williams is one of a kind. He’s that rare specimen of humanity who makes his plans and then doggedly goes ahead and fulfills them to the letter, surrmounting whatever odds might be placed in his path like a bulldozer coming up against a tree. In a different time and place, and with a different set of goals, he might have been the first person to trek to the north pole or the one to climb Everest; except that John would have done it for fun, rathter than in order to be the first, and he would have shunned any publicity; indeed, he wouldn’t even have bothered telling anyone that he was going.

Far out Faraway-John

John seems to be of about 1950 vintage and he was born and raised in a hot dry valley in Calafornia. Having done well at school he won a place at a university in San Francisco and here – inevitably – he became acquainted with the ocean. He was immediately inspired by the idea of sailing over its vast open expanse and decided to build himself a boat. Thenceforth the young man spent his days studying weapons technology (of all things!) and helping to design heat-seeking missiles, and his evenings and weekends lofting and framing and planking; and dreaming.

Knowing nothing of boats John managed, nevertheless, to buy the plans for one of the most ocean-worthy vessels available to the cruising sailor: a long-keeled Colin Archer whose lines and rig were revamped and re-drawn by xxxx Gardner.

Nowadays yacht designers choose a length and a shape and then set out to see how much accommodation they can squeeze into the mould, but in ye olde times less thought was given to bunks and the galley and more to such matters as strength and sea-kindliness. Thus John’s 38-footer is massively strong and has the sort of interior that one finds in a boat ten foot shorter. The saloon is cosy, the two-burner stove is jammed up alongside a cramped chart table, the V-berth in the fo’c’sle is also the chain locker, and the skipper’s bunk is more like a coffin than a bed.

With dreams of distant lands and seas John named his boat Faraway – and far away is where he has travelled. In the course of 40 years the two of them have girdled the world four times and visited Patagonia six times, have survived numerous gales and storms and four typhoons (off Japan), and have cruised the high latitudes at either end of the world in both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans.

Really, some one ought to give the man a medal… but he’s not much interested in that sort of thing. Instead, his head is full of thoughts about his next cruise, which will be to Antarctica.

John has long since abandoned his career in weaponry, and with it he also gave up the easy life of a Bay sailor. Faraway‘s home port is now an island off the coast of Alaska. Here, when he is not gallivanting about the oceans, our hero operates his own saw mill.

The Mollymawks have been invited to spend a winter iced up in Faraway-John’s favourite nook, off his log cabin… so now we have somewhere to head for after we’ve finished in Patagonia.

A Man of Good Hobbits

Galadriel, with Daniel and Beate and a friend of the family, seeting sail for the West Indies

By now you’ll have noticed something about our friends. If they have one thing in common it’s a lack of frills. Yachting is popularly perceived as a rich man’s pursuit, but it certainly doesn’t have to be, and most of our close associates are just like ourselves: ocean-going tramps, penny-pinching to get by and doing things for ourselves. Daniel and Beate are no exception to this rule; they live and travel aboard a small and ancient Amel called Galadriel. Their sails are old and patched; their sprayhood, like ours, was home-made (but they did a better job than us); they don’t motor, cos (apart from anything else) motoring costs money; and rumour has it that they have a daily allowance of only three pages of loo paper per person.

Galadriel was once the abode and chariot of Daniels’s dad, who spent a couple of decades kicking around the Caribbean, and with her the new skipper seems to have acquired more than just his old man’s fishing tackle; he also seems to have inherited the sort of skill and seamanship which generally comes only from long experience.

We first encountered Galadriel three years ago in Corralejo (Fuerteventura), and we could see at a glance, as we anchored nearby, that her crew belong to the old school. To tell you the truth, that boat reminded us of us, when we were young…..

Then Daniel and Beate appeared, darting out from the inner harbour in a tiny cockleshell dinghy. Her mast was made from bamboo and her rudder was an oar. her captain was reclining across the boat, with his large and calloused bare foot protruding over the leeward gunwhale and his head, topped off with a rasta’s beret, resting on the other.

The dinghy’s name was Frodo, and she, too, belonged to Daniel’s dad.

Our most recent encounter with these happy-go-lucky Swiss-born yotties was in the Cape Verdes, and the first thing we noticed was that they have now increased their family: they now have two near-identical dinghies.

Beate was evidently fed up with being a mere passenger; or perhaps Daniel wanted someone to race against.

Fitting two hard dinghies aboard a boat which is only around 30 foot long is not easy but where there’s a will there’s usually a way. In this case, Frodo hangs in davits at the stern and Sam rests on the foredeck.

(For those who are not Tolkein buffs – Galadriel is one of the characters in the Lord of the Rings, and Frodo and Sam are hobbits.)

Five Drops in the Ocean

Theophile is the 15 year old son of Michel and Veronique Cantelobre, the elder brother of Romnald and Gaetan, and the mate aboard Grainedo, a French-flagged catamaran. He’s also the webmaster and principal author of the family’s blog, which is why he takes precedence on this page.

Theophile (far right) aboard Grainedo with his family

We first met the Cantelobres while they were dashing through the Cape Verdes and we caught up with them again in Brazil. Their home is a fast flashy catamaran – named Grainedo, or a Drop of Water – and their philosophy and life’s experience are a million miles apart from ours: Michel is a computing boffin – a chip architect, he tells us – and young Theophile has his father’s sharp mind and his appetite for business. He plans to end the cruising adventure in four years time and train as a naval architect. Besides all this, the family’s attitude towards passage-making is quite alien to us: when their boat is making less than 4 knots they press the button and start motoring. All in all, one could hardly describe these folks as kindred spirits… and yet for all our differences we felt a great deal of affinity with this family. I guess that’s cruising for you: it’s one of the few environments where hobos can rub shoulders with business men, doctors, a weapons designer, and even a nuclear physicist, and all be on the same par.

(The nuclear physicist aforementioned was a German who we met in the Azores. He was sailing with two school teachers, a Russian surgeon, and a Roman Catholic priest; which, I think, says it all.)

Theophile was born in France but having spent most of his life in California – where his dad was working in Silicon Valley – he is completely bilingual. This gives him a head start when it comes to producing a two-language report of the family’s travels. Anyone following the same route around the world will find much that is of interest to them here.

Sailors against Whalers

Green Nomad and her crew

Luis and Marli are a couple of well-travelled nomads who we met in the Bay of Ilha Grande. Luis was born in Mozambique, of Portuguese parents, and Marli is Brazilian. They built their boat in Porto Seguro, and she’s a rare thing: a DIY aluminium yacht.

When not cruising (very very slowly…) Louis sometimes works for the ocean conservation group Sea Shepherd.

Sea Shepherd’s modus operandi is to harass the whaling ships to the extent that they cannot pursue their quarry, and Luis reckons that during this the 2011-2012 season the organisation was able to prevent the killing of around 500 whales.

Luis has also delivered Sea Shepherd’s racy motor trimarans, driving them all the way across the Pacific, but his preference is for voyaging under sail – green voyaging, in his Green Nomad.

As I say, he and Marli seem to like to take things easy, and when last I heard, they were still where we met them, more than a year earlier.

Shane Delivers

Shane is a lovely Irish sailor, with a gentle accent, and gentle manners, and a beautiful yacht called Iolair. Iolair means eagle in Gaelic, but, interestingly enough, the boat had this name before she came into Shane’s possession. No, I haven’t mis-spelt it. You-know-who’s Iolaire is a female eagle; without the e at the end the word is masculine. Since boats are supposed to be female, in English lore (and seemingly, in Irish lore too) Shane is little bit troubled by this – but not so very troubled that he can be bothered to buy a tin of the gold paint and make the change.

Iolair is a 37ft Blackwatch sloop designed by the renown American racing yachtsman, Ted Hood. She was built more than 40 years ago, in the days when GRP was something of an unknown quantity. Thus her manufacturers decided to err on the safe side: the topsides are said to be 1.5″ thick… ! (As one of their employees is reputed to have said, “Nothing too strong ever broke”.) Aluminium spars were also something of a novelty at that time, and the company who supplied Iolair‘s mast evidently followed the same philosophy; Shane reckons that the walls of the extrusion are 1cm thick!

Head Office of Atlas Deliveries, aboard Iolair

Mollymawk, Iolair, and Cherub sailed in company from the Canaries to the Cape Verdes, and after we arrived Shane took three of us out for a wonderful and highly memorable daysail. That boat is a dream! The Admiral wants to steal her.

When not messing about aboard Iolair Shane let the Mollymawks know instead…!)

Okko Productions

Tidely-Idely’s new sail, made by Vladimir of Okko Productions

Vladimir is captain and – since Celine jumped ship – cook, too, and bottle-washer, aboard the big, bulky steel yacht Kafeoli.

A sailmaker by trade, this Frenchman (yes, you jumped to the wrong conclusion there, didn’t you?) was born aboard a boat in Martinique. His parents have since gone ashore again, but Vladimir reckons that terra firma is unfit for human habitation and he has lived his whole life afloat.

An example of Vladimir’s handiwork now forms part of Tidely-Idely’s wardrobe. It’s not his best work – we would have liked quite a bit more peak – but there are not many ship’s dinghies which sport a kevlar lugsail, so we’re proud of it.

Besides making dinghy sails, mending big sails, and making dodgers and biminis, Vladimir has now started production of a range of chic and classy shoulder bags and mini-rucksacks which are especially designed for image-conscious, trend-setting, and eco-aware yachtsmen. They are made by recycling kevlar and carbon fibre sails, and they are marketed under the name of Okko.

So, if you want to get ahead of the fleet take a look at Vladimir’s website.

Sea Spray

Maresia

Whilst cruising in the Bahia we were fortunate enough to run into a couple of Brazilian cruising yotties.

Perhaps that might sound a little odd. After all, if you are sailing in Brazil then surely you are bound to run into lots of Brazilian yotties? In reality, however, they are a fairly rare breed. Yachting is still a rich man’s sport here, and rich Brazilians tend either to buy motor yachts or cruiser racers. Both of these are to be found in the Bahia in the vicinity of Salvador – those acres of flat water are a superb playground both for speeding, about wasting fuel, and for racing around the cans – but the only cruising yotties that we met in Bahia were Elias and Gean, aboard Maresia.

Maresia on the Rio Paraguaça

Elias is a 50-something wood carver who tells us that he was once an Italian sailor, in a past life. He is a martial arts enthusiast; he plays the treble recorder; and he never lets a drop of water pass his lips, preferring to live on coca-cola. (Seriously: this man has drunk nothing but coca-cola and fizzy lemonade for six years… and yet he is still alive!)

Before buying Maresia (which means Sea Spray) Elias spent a couple of years learning to sail in dinghies. Dinghies are a very good training ground, being much more responsive than a yacht.

Gean is a 20-something skate-boarder who grew up far from the sea in the countryside of Sao Paulo province. He had never sailed before he joined Elias in Salvador but he is now quite expert, and he is also in charge of navigation.

Before they met us these two fellows used to motor their dinghy ashore, but having been reprimanded Gean has now turned over a new leaf. Nick taught him to scull. And Roxanne, meanwhile, taught him many useful knots, demonstrating them in his lovely dreadlocks.

Gean and Elias sailed in company with us down the coast of Brazil. They plan eventually to cruise to the Caribbean.

They are hoping to start a blog – and when they do we will post the link here.

A Couple of Right Charmers

John and Fran
John and Fran

What can I say about John and Fran? They’re adorable; they’re incorrigible; they’re the best double act we’ve met in years. And as for Ninth Charm

“Wow! D’you mean to say you’ve sailed right round the world in that THING?”

John Scholberg hails originally from Blighty but has lived most of his life in Montreal. He earned his living shuffling figures and was once the owner of an entire shipload of coffee. Building “that thing” took 15 years, partly because he could only work on her during the summer. In the winter she vanished under piles of snow. If the undertaking was at all stressful it doesn’t show: John looks about fifty-something but is actually approaching seventy.

John’s oppo is Fran (“We’re not a couple”) Slingerland – a forty-something woman with the energy of a teenager. Fran writes, sings, worries, shouts when the urge takes her… and hates people calling the trimaran a THING. “It’s a boat!” she yells.

Aw, come on, Fran! That’s not a boat. You FLEW past us!

The Magnificent Flying Machine
The Magnificent Flying Machine

Ninth Charm has a wing for a mast. She has a flying-boat hull.

She looks as frail as any boat could ever be – but she’s come right around the world; and she’s done it via the Cape of Good Hope.

Looks can be very deceptive!

The trimaran’s hull seems so slender and small that one expects to find very cramped conditions down below, but nothing could be further from the truth. The curved decks allow for a spacious saloon with double berths either side and a galley in the middle.

And this is the only boat we’ve ever come across with a long-drop BELOW DECKS! I think that even beats our arrangement – although ours has the best view.

John and Fran took us out for a spin, one day, and we had a look at the racing yachts. We were here, there and everywhere – skipping through the lee of the flash, super-expensive Farr 42, with its liveried crew all hiking hard on the rail; darting off to have a look at the old saveiro trading boat; zooming back again to sail through the fleet for a second time…

“They don’t like us doing this,” John remarked calmly. “They think we’re taking the piss.”

Ninth Charm is definitely the most exciting boat I’ve ever sailed (= the fastest) but whether I’d want to cross an ocean in her… Well, I guess I would, now that I’ve seen her and know her story. After all, she’s carried Fran and John in safety for 14 years.

Ninth Charm was designed by Dick Newick.

To follow her adventures and check-out Fran’s writing, visit the Ninth Charm website.

Two of Everything

Oryx
Oryx

After all these years, we’ve finally run into Pete Hill and his wife, Carly! We’ve been nearly bumping into each other since the South African days, when we were building Mollymawk and Pete, having just sold Badger, was building a twin-masted, junk-rigged catamaran. Since then he’s also owned a Freedom – which he rigged as a junk – but he’s now back on multihulls, with a second twin-masted junk rigged creation. This one is named after the famous desert-dwelling antelope of Carly’s homeland. If you take a look at the boat when she’s bows on, you’ll see why. With her sails goosewinged she’s a butterfly, but with just the masts poking up… she’s got the head gear of a gemsbok, or Oryx.

We will be writing more about Pete and Carly and their geen cat in the future, so for now i’ll just say what a pleasure it is to get together with likeminded sailors, whose emphasis is on simple, independent living and “sustainable cruising”.

Oryx has just spent three months up the Rio Uruguay, and the fruits of this adventure will no doubt be appearing in print somewhere, sometime.
To keep tabs on Pete and Carly visit their blog.

Yeah-Yeah

Frank began his travels as a hitch-hiker, carrying his belongings on his back, but after a few years he realised that it would be better to turn the thing around and get his home to carry him.

He returned home to British Columbia and there, on a farm, he set about building the cheapest kind of boat possible – a ferro-cement boat.

Frank’s crew, Elise, hails from the other side of Canada – which is pretty much a separate country. Her first language is French, and when she first joined the newly built ship, she would respond to her captain’s orders with the words, “Ouais! Ouais!” – which is how the boat came to be named.

Elise was also a hitch-hiker, and when she joined Frank it was with the object of getting from Vancouver to San Francisco.

That was forty years ago…

Frank and Elise support themselves in their never-ending travels, by making scrimshaw jewellery. In a community of scrimpers and savers they stand out as being the best, bar none, at the art. When we met them their staple food was clams, which they gathered with the locals on the nearby sand-bank. They also dry their own fruit and bottle tomatoes, which – they say – is much cheaper than buying tins. However, we beat them on one count, because they are not growing their own tomatoes on board!

As Free as a Bird

Fernando (centre) with Caesar and Roxanne
Fernando (centre) with Caesar and Roxanne

Many people of many different nationalities go cruising. In theory all it takes is enough money to buy a boat and you can be off to see the world, however, for some reason one meets very few cruising yotties from Southern Europe. They have wealth, they have the water to practice on, and nowadays the Spanish, at any rate, have plenty of experienced sailors; but still they don’t come cruising; they stay at home and play in their own waters.

Perhaps they feel that the Mediterranean is good enough. Or perhaps it is simply that the warm-blooded Latin people enjoy a closer relationship with their families and so find it more of a wrench to cast off and head for the horizon.

One Spanish sailor who has made the break is Fernando Deoleza. Fernando hails originally from Mallorca, but he has managed to tear himself away from the island and has joined the cruising family. His new home is a 26 foot Triton which he bought in North America. As a matter of interest, this is the same class of boat in which Brian and Marta began their cruising life. Brian named his boat Saorise, which means Freedom in Gaelic. Fernando has called his Pajaro, which means bird – in Spanish.

Brian and Marta had no difficulty sailing their little ship across the Pacific to Australia, and Fernando plans to do likewise; indeed, he plans to press on and put a girdle around the world. This will be his second circumnavigation but his first as skipper. The previous voyage was made aboard a rather bigger boat – very much bigger, in fact – and on that trip he served as part of the entertainments team.

Yes, when not at the helm of Pajaro Fernando earns a living playing guitar on the cruise ships, getting paid to see the world!

If you want to keep tabs on Fernando’s progress, visit his website.

Passion for Cruising

One advantage of owning a centreboarder is that you don’t have to slip her to scrub off.

Jimmy and Muriel are a French couple sailing aboard a fairly radical centreboarder by the name of Pomme Liane (Passion Fruit). Even the dining table, aboard Pomme Liane is made of carbon-fibre, so the boat is super-light.

Jimmy and Muriel have been bumming around the oceans for about as long as we have. They earn their bread and butter by mending sails, but Jimmy also plays guitar and makes a bit of money entertaining in restaurants.

To follow Jimmy and Muriel on their travels visit their blog.

Big Freedom

Brian (on the R) with his son Seamus and a couple of other nutters

In Itaparica we met a really special family of liveaboards with a boat which is almost as untidy as our own. We like people with boats which are as untidy and tatty as our own. It makes us feel better…

Brian and Marta hail from Ireland and Brazil repsectively, but they met in Japan while they were both living in the rat-race and making lots of dosh. After spending time in Ireland and in London they bought a little boat named Saoirse.

Marta (in stripes) with her daughter Bianca and some Brazilian friends

Saoirse is the name which the Irish nationalist Conor O’Brien gave to his beautiful gaff-rigged yacht, built in the late 1920s. O’Brien had previously owned a smaller boat and, together with Erskine Childers, had used her to run guns from France, across the Channel, into Ireland.

After the greater part of Ireland gained independence and was divided from the North (whose people voted to remain part of Britain), O’Brien apparently became disillusioned with the state of affairs in his homeland; so he decided to push off and go sailing.

The name of O’Brien’s new yacht is very significant: Saoirise means Freedom, in the Gaelic tongue. Perhaps your man was merely glorying in the freedom that his nation had just won, but I imagine he was thinking in wider terms and had realised that he needed a bigger freedom – the freedom of the seas and of the whole wide world.

He subsequently became the first man to sail a small boat round Cape Horn (Slocum having cut through the Magellan Straits).

Anyway, so far as Brian and Marta were concerned Saoirse was just an apt name for a cruising yacht. After they’d started a family, and consequently needed somewhere bigger to live, they upsized and named the new boat Saorise Mor – which means Big Freedom.

Special Sailing with Mat

Fancy a trip across the Atlantic? Or perhaps you’d like to cruise in the Caribbean, or in the Baltic or the Med? Every year our German friend Mateus spends the winter on the American side of the pond and the summer back home in European waters. His spacious, well-appointed 45ft catamaran is always available for day charters, weekend trips, and longer voyages – including the crossing.

Matt speaks English just about as well as you or I, cooks delicious meals, and is a very experienced mariner. He’s also a professional saxophonist… so if you want a truly memorable cruise, you could ask him to provide a bit of after-dinner entertainment!

Cosmopolitan Yachting

Franz, Anna, and Milena, aboard Scorpio
Franz, Anna, and Milena, aboard Scorpio

Scorpio is a Petersen 44 – a very attractive and seaworthy yacht. She is evidently named for the constellation which dominates the southern sky, but with a name like that, one feels, she ought to have a sting in her tail…

Well, wherever it is, the sting certainly isn’t in her crew. Austrian-born Franz and his Swedish-German wife Anna are the loveliest of people.

I’m not sure why it is, but a great many cruising couples are of mixed nationality, and it’s not just because the fellas find crew as they roam. On the contrary; most of these mixed marriages were made before the couple set off to travel. Thus, on this page, you can meet a Mozambique-Brazilian duo, a Canadian-English duo, a German-French duo, and an Irish-Brazilian duo.

When young couples go cruising their progeny are often born along the way – as were our own – and since we first met them Franz and Anna have been joined by a third crew member. Little Milena joined ship while Scorpio was cruising on the Rio de la Plata, and so she has Argentinian nationality.

It’s always nice to meet people whose children are genuine citizens of the world.

Cooee, Ui!

Lena and Yara
Lena and Yara

There don’t seem to be as many cruising families as there used to be when we were starting out, so it was nice to run into Katharina and Kai with their two little girls. The family hails from what we used to know as East Germany. Like us, they built their own steel boat – but unlike us they had the sense to finish working on her before they set off…

Ui is immaculate. German yachts always are.

When we met them, in Brazil, Katharina and co were fresh out of Europe. They were also new to sailing, and when we heard that they planned on taking their little daughters to Patagonia we were somewhat alarmed… However, all has gone well so far, and the last we heard they had just arrived in Punta Arenas.

“When are you coming to join us?” the girls wanted to know.

During our time together they had great fun playing on the trapeze with Roxanne and it seems that she is now their idol.

Well, unfortunately we are travelling at a rather different pace – the pace that everyone slides into when they have completely cut their ties with the Western machine; the pace of people who have stopped caring about the destination and who are living from day to day. So it is unlikely that we will ever catch up with Ui – until they also give up caring about tomorrow.

Every now and then we get e-mails from people who are envious of our lifestyle. “You’re so lucky!” they say. Some of them seem to imagine that in order to go cruising you have to be rich. Well, you don’t; you just have to be willing to work. If you scan down this catalogue of yotties you will see that almost all have some kind of work with which they raise the funds to cruise. One drives a tug-boat, leaving his boat from time to time to fly off and work in foreign places; one delivers other people’s yachts; one is a chippy; one runs an IT company and spends much of the day on-line. This one writes; that one is a marine mechanic and rigger.

But of all of the people featured on this page I think that Kai probably demonstrates best the attitude which enables a man and his family to go cruising: Kai is a goldsmith – (I’m pretty sure that’s what he said) – but then isn’t a lot of call for that kind of work on the cruising circuit – so, after six or eight months of cruising, when funds were running low, he flew home and spent eight weeks painting a suspension bridge!

So – I will say it again, for the sake of those who hope to go and think that they can’t – YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE RICH TO GO CRUISING! You just have to really, really, really want to go.

Osman and Sibyl are sailing Far Away

Osman’s new yacht

Osman Atasoy and his first wife are amongst the many sailors who set off around the world and found themselves building their crew along the way. Having completed the tour the couple, together with their baby girl, became the second Turks ever to have circumnavigated the globe under sail. In honour of this fact – and bearing in mind that the first Turkish circumnavigator is still living aboard his vessel – Osman was persuaded to give his old GRP sloop to a museum. It now resides under a splendid glass dome – and Osman and his new lady reside aboard a splendid, newly-built aluminium yacht. The new boat is called Uzaklar, which means Far Away.

For his encore Osman is sailing around South America, with Sibyl as mate and cook. You can visit his beautiful website and follow their progress – but only if you can speak Turkish.

Still Wandering

Wanderer III

In Paraty (Brazil) we happened upon Thies and Kicki Matzen, the new owners of Wanderer III.

When I say new, Thies has actually owned Wanderer for about 25 years, which is longer, by far, than Eric Hiscock owned her. After completing their first circumnavigation, Hiscock and his wife decided that the ideal cruising yacht was bigger – but Thies disagrees; he and Kicki have no desire for greater comfort, and they are perfectly confident of the boat’s ability to handle heavy weather.

Whereas Hiscock merely followed the milk-run, circumnavigating in the tropics, Thies and Kicki have taken Wanderer III down into the Southern Ocean. Over the years their travels have led them to New Zealand’s South Island and to Tasmania, to Patagonia, and to the Falkland Islands; and when we met them they had just spent two years hanging out in South Georgia.

Thies and Kicki aboard Wanderer III

South Georgia is very remote and very cold. Anyone wanting to come here has to bring their own supplies, and anyone over-wintering will be bound to spend a lot of time clearing the ice and snow from their decks and from their rigging; thus it is interesting to note that the only other yotties to have spent an extended period of time in the islands were also sailing aboard a very small, old fashioned wooden boat.

(Tim and Pauline Carr spent 8 years in South Georgia aboard their 28ft yacht, Curlew.)

Upon reflection I suspect that this is no coincidence. Both couples are cruising on a tight budget; both are independent and resourceful; and both eagerly embrace a lifestyle of simplicity.

It is worth noting that, under the new regulations, visitors to South Georgia have to pay somewhere in the region of £150 per person per month, which – as Thies points out – would have made their expedition impossible.

Thies and Kicki were recently awarded a whole clutch of medals in recognition of their cruising enterprise.

Whitebird

Mike and Bev are typical liveaboard yotties: determined to prolong the cruising adventure by any means necessary and, in consequence, always on the look out for ways to “make it pay”.

Mike is actually a professional TV camera man by trade, and when we first met the couple, three years ago in southern Spain, he was making it pay by doing photo-shoots from his catamaran.

Now based at the southern end of the Caribbean, in the Windward Islands, Mike and Bev are earning their keep by offering cut-price charter holidays aboard Whitebird.

If you want some fun in the sun without the millionaire price tag, or if you would like to sample the liveaboard lifestyle and see whether it suits you, check out their website and drop them a line. Don’t forget to tell them we sent you!

Update (Sept 2013) Whitebird is currently in the Med.

Wylo II – Built to Cope with the Reefs

Once upon a time there was a young man called Nicholas Skeates who set off from his home in southern England to sail around the world. His command was a little wooden bermudan-rigged yacht called Wylo.

Wylo carried her skipper all the way across the Atlantic and over the Pacific, and by the time they reached Fiji she evidently reckoned she could cope with just about anything. Thus it was that, while the boss was napping, she tried to cross Fiji.

After that Wylo wasn’t really up to much, and so Nick built Wylo II.

Wylo II comes sailing into the anchorage

Wylo II is a gaff-rigged cutter measuring 32ft on deck, and she is built of steel. Steel is a much better boat building material for people who might find themselves doing a bit of un-planned overlanding. Bernard Moitessier, the patron saint of French yotties, lost two wooden yachts before he finally realised that steel was the answer to his problems. His third boat also ended up on the beach, albeit not through Moitessier’s own fault. She came ashore in Baja Calafornia during a hurricane, and she would up at the bottom of a pile of other boats. Her owner took one look at the crushed remains and walked away, but a younger man, having bought the wreck for a dollar, was able to beat her back into shape and take her sailing again.

Anyhow – I digress.

Nick intended that Wylo II be suitable either for single-handed liveaboard sailing or for use by a couple, and so she she has a double berth for’ard, on the port side. She also has two setee berths, one on either side of the spacious saloon. The galley is perfectly adequate; the loo is in its own ample compartment; and Nick has even managed to leave space for a workbench, an essential feature of any good cruising yacht but one which is very often overlooked.

Nick prefers sailing to working, and so – having very little money – he built the boat on a shoestring. Rumour has it that she cost him under £1,000.

Nick Skeates in the cabin of Wylo II

Nick and Wylo have been together now for thirty years, which is more than enough time for a boat to prove her worth. The design is available for sale, and there are now plenty of Wylo IIs sailing the oceans. Several of them were built by the man himself.

Although the original Wylo II has a centreboard and a plywood deck, Nick also offers plans for a fixed keel version (which can carry a steel deck), and although he favours gaff he has also drawn up the plans for bermudan and junk-rigged versions. Likewise, you don’t have to squat on the deck to steer, as Nick does; you can have a cockpit.

Quite apart from being a very well-seasoned salt with many tens of thousands of miles under his belt, and quite apart from being the designer of a really handy little boat, Nick Skeates is also one of the nicest people we have ever met. Moreover, he happens to share this family’s views on motoring, marinas, curry, rum, sailing dinghies, flag etiquette, GPS, and the general lack of seamanship demonstrated by many modern yachtsmen.

Nick Skeates has not succumbed to the use of computers for any purpose and so anyone wishing to communicate with him must use paper and pen; or flags (which are actually his prefered medium).

Send your signal to this website and we will pass the message along.

Out of Argentina

The funny thing about Ezekiel and his family is that we’ve never met them. (See update, below!)

R- L, Nick, three Ypakes, Rox, Caesar, and a couple of crazy Saoirses
R- L, Nick, three Ypakes, Rox, Caesar, and a couple of crazy Saoirses

Some years ago we received an e-mail from a guy who told us that he and his family are our Argentinian counterpart – and so they are. Ezekiel – or Zeek – bulit his own steel yacht, and he and his wife are sailing with their three teenaged kids and their dog and cat.

Well, our cat has signed off, whereas theirs is still aboard… but, like us, the Ypakes have also lost a crew member, one of their kids, like Xoë, having opted for the shorelife.

Thus far, our paths have never quite crossed – we’ve always been just a few months apart – although we keep meeting people who say, “Hey, we met another family just like you guys…!”

While we were in Buenos Aires we almost met up with Zeek’s dad… but, again, it didn’t quite happen.

Ezekiel and his family hail from Patagonia, and we’re hoping that by the time we get there they might be just arriving from the other side of Southern America… but at the moment they’re heading for England.

If you want to check up on Ypake, you can visit their website.

Update (Sept 2013) At long last, the Mollymawks have met up with the Ypakes… but not with their yacht! The family just happened to be at home, visiting their folks in BA, while we were passing through, and so we finally got to know each other, face to face, and had the chance to share a couple of meals and a few stories.

It turns out that their cat has jumped ship, too; so we really are reading from the same book, it would seem!

Ypake is currently circumnavigating Britain.

Zao and the Art of Making Cruising Pay

Zao, well-reefed in preparation for a stiff wind blowing beyond the rio

Thomas and Isabel are the nearest thing we have ever met to an ordinary cruising couple who manage to run charters aboard an ordinary cruising boat without compromising their ordinary cruising plans. Essentially, they just get on with orbiting around the Atlantic – travelling with the seasons, in the usual way, and stopping off at all the usual haunts – and their guests pay the bills. An eminently sensible and very fair arrangement.

Whereas most charter yachts are either characterless plastic tubs or sleek classics glistening with honey-coloured varnish, Zao – with her cabin trunk and her gaff sails – looks more like a traditional work boat. In reality she was designed by Laurent Giles and she dates from the 60s; and although she looks as if she is wooden she is actually built from curved steel plates.

As a rule, Thomas and Isabel tend to stick to the North Atlantic but anything goes, it seems, and when we met them they were pootling up the east coast of Brazil. Their home port is in Brittany and they sometimes spend the summer there; so if you fancy a taste of the genuine cruising life but don’t have the time to make a crossing perhaps you might like to “discover the islands of Brittany, for a weekend, a week, or longer” (as their brochure reads).

Alternatively, you might opt for a “made to measure cruise, ambling along idly, sailing, navigating and fishing, as you wish…”

Their website is in French, but Thomas and Isabel both speak very good English, so if you want to get in touch you don’t need to reach for the dictionary.

Duty-Free Hand-out

This is a tribute to a wonderful Dutch family who we first met in Las Palmas. At that time they had a child of two years, plus another one whose arrival was imminent.

Because the baby was due any day, Herwich and his wife, Yvette, berthed Duty Free in the marina; and since the marina is an entirely separate, more upmarket community, our paths seldom crossed.

To be honest, by the time we saw Duty Free again, two years later, we didn’t even recognise her. She rocked up in Jacaré, in northern Brazil and – once again – took up a berth in a marina. This time Herwich and Yvette needed somewhere safe to leave the boat while they flew back home to Holland.

By now the family had expanded still further: the toddler had just turned five, the Canary Islander was two, and they had a baby brother, born while the boat was down in Uruguay. They had also had a few adventures, including a collision with a fishing boat which left them dismasted.

Herwich and his son came aboard one evening to share a few drinks, but the following day they left the boat and flew away – and that was the last we saw of them.

About a fortnight after the Duty Frees had left somebody asked us how it was that we hadn’t fetched the sail which they had given to us.

“What…?”

“Don’t you know? They left a sail for you. Their neighbours are looking after it.”

Well, needless to say, we were over there like a shot – and, sure enough, it was true: Herwich and Yvette had given us a genoa! And not just some tatty old rotten genoa, but a quality sail in a perfectly good state of repair!

Just over two years ago our old, original genoa fell to bits and so we replaced it with a cheap Chinese sail. The original sail had seen ten years of use, but the Hong-Kong one began disintergrating on its very first outing from the bag. (You gets what you pays for…) Thus, Herwich’s gift was timely.

We rushed home and ran the genoa up the forestay, and it fits like a glove! It fits as if it were made for the boat!

Imagine that! A thousand quid’s worth of sail, gratis!

The cruising community is always supportive, and most yotties are warm-hearted and generous, but this goes above and beyond ordinary kindness. In fact, I think it’s just about the best present we’ve ever been given, by anyone!

Amigos

Lakki and Hildegunn are a couple of Viking nomads with a beautiful little daughter called Mayni and a great big catamaran called Enata.

Lakki entertains aboard Mollymawk

Cruising is a new venture for Lakki and Hildegunn. Previously they travelled the world in a camper van or on foot. Having been on the road for around 30 years, Lakki finds his nationality to be somewhat irrelevant and considers himself to be a citizen of the world. I think it would be fair to say that most of us feel much the same way after we have been homeless for a few years – but Lakki works rather harder at it than most. In keeping with his multi-national identity he is fluent in half a dozen languages, and as an off-shoot of this linguistic ability he has created a game which, he hopes, will enable others to learn a foreign tongue.

New Amigos is currently available in various combinations, including German-and-Italian, and English-and-Spanish, and it will soon be available in Chinese…!

Lakki is also an accomplished guitarist who has recorded his own CD with a couple of Cuban guys. He and Hildegunn have recently begun working together – they made their first public peformance at the admiral’s birthday party – and you can find them playing and singing on YouTube.

UPDATE: Lakki and Hildegunn have now sold the boat and bought themselves a finca (farm) in Ibiza. Old cruisers sometimes throw out the anchor for good, but they seldom return to the old nine-to-five routine.

Hermann Heinrich

Another family cruising aboard a home-built yacht. Hermann Heinrich is a plywood catamaran constructed according to a set of plans devised by her owner, Frank.

Frank and his elder son, Felix, aboard their cat

One-off designs reflect the opinions and ideas of their creators, and they almost invariably contain a good few idiosyncrasies – but in this case the differences are radical. Hermann Heinrich‘s hulls are 8ft high – because that’s the width of a sheet of ply – and they are completely straight “because this makes it easier to build the interior”.

The boat is about 30 feet long but weighs less than 3 tons. Besides the sails, her only means of propulsion is a solar-powered motor, and the family also cooks on solar-generated electricity. Yes, this machine is just about as clean and green as they come!

Cruising with Frank are his wife, Angela, and their two teenaged sons, Felix and Marvin. If you speak German you can find out more about them all by visiting Frank’s website.

UPDATE: After various exciting adventures – including a collision at the outset of their attempted Atlantic crossing, and the near loss of the boat when Frank dozed off and hit the Azores – our German friends decided to give up cruising. They have now sold the boat and are living on a mountainside in Austria. Knowing them, their house is probably powered by a mountain stream…

Ile et Aile

At last! We have found another family who are even crazier than us!

The crew of Ile et Aile

Patrique and Elisabeth have opted out of the French fast lane and are taking Neige, Ambre, and Ocean on a voyage of self-discovery. The kids are obliged to spend all morning doing their schoolwork – in the usual French fashion – but the younger girl and her brother then spend most of the afternoon swimming and fishing. The older girl is a talented musician who plays the guitar and the tenor recorder, and mum is the author of “an anti-religious science fiction novel”. It explains how Jesus came down from another planet and walked on water using anti-gravity boots.

The family live on sunshine and weever fish, and their boat is even more untidy than ours.

UPDATE: The Barry family have now decided that cruising is not for them and they have returned to the old terrestrial life. As a point of interest, one of the things that Patrique and Elisabeth liked least was having to push the kids, every day, to keep up with their lessons. France expects its young overseas-citizens to follow the same curriculum as those who attend school and to this end they provide a free correspondence curriculum, known as the Cned. In all our years of cruising we have only ever met one French family who were not putting their kids through this semi-compulsory mill. (The offspring of that unconventional family lived a wholly unfettered life – during which one of them failed even to learn to read in his native tongue – and yet they are now flying high.)

Keep the Ball Rolling

According to Gigi, he was just an ordinary guy, living in an ordinary apartment block and doing an ordinary job – and then Marie rocked up. Marie is a performance artiste who hails from Quebec, but at the time when the couple met she was travelling around Europe with her three year old son and a circus. As the man says, “You can’t let something like that just pass you by”, and so he abandoned his job and his flat (and his wife), grabbed his guitar, and joined her.

The couple now have an amazing routine – involving a large red ball and a small trapeze – which they perform in schools and small theatres. Marie does the clever circus tricks, dressed up as a doll, and Gigi does some equally wonderful strumming and singing.

Marie – La Poupe

Having decided to up-sticks and move to Quebec, Gigi and Marie didn’t just get on a plane; they bought a boat, put the big red ball aboard, and arranged an itinerary which will take them and their performance to children in Senegal, French Guyana, Martinique, and America.

To make ends meet along the way Marie is performing her routine on the street. Gigi, meanwhile, performs wherever the wine flows freely – and since this includes the good ship Mollymawk, we and our friends have been treated to some wonderful entertainment.

When they reach their destination Gigi plans to build a tree house in the Canadian forest, and then, having created a home, he will knock up a float plane. Yes, this man dreams BIG!… but in fact he has done it all before – or, at any rate, he has built his own aircraft – and that “ordinary job” that he was doing when Marie turned up was teaching people to fly.

If you can speak French you can keep tabs on this amazing family by visiting the Roule ta Bille website. If you can’t speak French, go there anyway and enjoy the wacky artwork and the video clips.

Update: Gigi and Marie and the kids have now reached their destination and have embarked on a new adventure. They sold the boat to someone who promptly sailed her out and got capsized in a storm!

Updating the update: At the time when the new buyers were taken off the stricken yacht it was assumed, by most people, that Roule ta Bille would soon sink. Myself, I had a suspicion she might stay a afloat for a while yet… Yachts are often a lot more seaworthy than sailors… but what I didn’t expect – what no one could have expected – is that she would one day turn up on the coast of Spain!

Happily, someone spotted the boat before she hit the beach, and she was salvaged and towed into harbour. Truly, a boat with a story to tell!

The Brazilian Ribiera

Those of us who were born and bred in the Western world are apt to take for granted our right to travel, and for those of us who grew up amongst boats and boating types a yacht seems like the obvious means of transport. Still, as we wander the world and meet our fellow citizens I am often acutely aware of my own good fortune. Just supposing I’d been born to a peasant farmer… or even to a peasant fisherman – to a man who knows the sea well but who won’t ever have the means to build an ocean-worthy boat and set off to see what lies on the far side of the horizon…? How different life might be.

Concita and Luciano

What is it like to grow up on the edge of the sea in a place where foreign cruising folk are part of the scene? Wouldn’t one feel jealous?

Perhaps Luciano Zinn knows the answer. Growing up in the southern-most part of Brazil, in Porto Allegre, he must have seen an endless stream of cruising boats travelling up and down the coast, and he had ample opportunity to meet with the Fortunate Ones. Inspired by stories of voyaging under sail he eventually managed to get himself a small yacht and he then set off up the coast, aiming to make the adventure last for as long as he could.

Well, this lifestyle is – or can be – a lot cheaper than most folks would believe, and Luciano managed to keep on going for longer than he had dared to hope. After ascending the coast of his home country he travelled on up to the Caribbean, and then he crossed the Atlantic and visited Europe. However, after five years of barely scraping by Luciano decided that what he really needed, in order to be able to keep on with this wonderful lifestyle, was a source of income; oh, and a woman. And so he sailed back across the Atlantic and started looking.

Ribeira Adventure Club

The first thing that Luciano found was the lovely Concita, who hails from the port of Sao Luis, on the north coast of Brazil; and the next was Ribeira, a secluded and tranquil hamlet on the banks of the Rio Paraiba. Here he has established The Ribeira Adventure Club – a marina, of sorts, with berths for up to ten yachts and all of the usual facilities (water, electricity, and internet).

At this stage in the game the jetty is a little bit rustic, but somehow this merely adds to the ambience. The place is cheap – the cheapest in the whole of Brazil, Luciano claims, with berths costing less than half the price of the ones at Jacare marina – and it has been recognised by the authorities as one where foreigners may leave their boats unattended. (Under Brazilian law a tourist may only stay for six months in any one year, but a boat may stay for 2 years – provided it is berthed in an approved location – and so many people leave their yachts and travel overland around South America.)

Eventually Luciano hopes to have a fleet of kayaks and bicycles and a couple of sailing dinghies, so that visitors – both foreign and local, he hopes – will be able to explore the river and the surrounding countryside at Ribeira.

More than anything, however, he hopes to attract a business partner who will share the expenses, the profits, and, most important of all, the running of the Ribeira Adventure Club; because, as you will recall, Luciano is a yotty himslef, and he wants to go cruising again. His ideal is to find someone who would like to spend six months of each year hanging out at Ribeira so that he and Concita can spend six months of each year cruising.

Any interested parties should visit Luciano’s website and drop him a line using the contact form.

Andy is In Stitches

If you arrive in the Caribbean with torn sails, or if you find that you need a sun-awning or a rain catcher, drop into Tyrrel Bay (Carriacou) and visit Andy in his seafront loft. It’s called In Stitches.

Andy hails originally from Chichester Harbour, which is our own home port, but although we know all of the same haunts and many of the same people we never actually met each other there. It was thirty years ago that Andy escaped from those cold and miry waters and set off to sail around the world, but like many others setting out before him and after, he crossed the pond and then got no further. If the Caribbean is not paradise on earth it’s a pretty close thing.

Andy, with Xoë, Rox, and Johnson

Before finding his niche in Carriacou Andy tried his hand at various other exploits, such as treasure hunting and piracy (the former for real – on a famous wreck – the latter, only on film, so far as we know…) and he has lived and worked on several of the islands. Indeed, at the time when Caesar and Xoë were entering the world via the island of Antigua, Andy was living there too – he knows all of the same people, and he remembers all of the same incidents and excitements that we recall – but, again, so far as we can remember we never actually met each other. Makes you wonder who else may be criss-crossing our wake as we journey across the ocean of life without ever quite coming into sight…

Although his business keeps him tied to the shore Andy still lives aboard his boat, Yellowbird. He shares his home with a cat called Seesee, and the loft is inhabited by two other felines called Gollum and Timmy – but they have never met each other. Sharing an owner and never meeting up… now that’s even more weird than sharing a harbour and an island without bumping into each other!

Sylvain, the Ice-Cream Man

Sylvain is a crazy French guy who first set foot on a boat the day he bought one. Having successfully navigated as far as La Gomera (Canary Islands) he decided to take some time out from his voyage and spend a few years running an ice cream shop. For reasons which are not entirely clear, the shop is called “El Sueño de Yanini” (a sueño being a dream, and Yanini being the village drunk).

If you happen to find yourself in Valle Gran Rey be sure to drop in and sample Sylvain’s home-made chocolate or strawberry ice-cream, or try the passion-fruit and mango sorbets which are made from the fruit of his own trees.

Sylvain is keen to keep in contact with other cruising folk, and to encourage us to drop by he has installed a wifi antenna. So, if you pop the laptop in a bag and take it with you, you can sit on the terrace enjoying a raspberry ripple, and keep in touch with the rest of the world.

Made in Ghana

A funny thing happened while we were in Sao Vicente (Cape Verde).

David Amoako with his neice, his daughters, a Cape Verdean shop assistant, and Roxanne

I’d been trying to buy an Amilcar Cabral T-shirt, and I saw one hanging in a souvenir shop. It was an interesting sort of a shop, stuffed full of African wood carvings, and bead necklaces, and drums, and tie-dyed cloth, and as we peered in, through the window, I found myself thinking about a Ghanaian fellow who we met, here in Mindelo, some 17 years earlier. That young man used to stand on the street selling souvenirs which he brought from his homeland and from Senegal.

“Whatever became of David Amoako?” I wondered. The last time we saw him he was back in Ghana and we bumped into him purely by chance. We were in the market in Tema and some lunatic suddenly flung himself at me. It was a couple of seconds before he began crying, “It is me! It is David!”

That was 15 years ago. Now… well, now he could be anywhere in the world.

African wood carvings

We wandered into the shop and were greeted by a man who was sitting just inside the door. “Ca va?” he said cheerfully.

So we ca va-ed back, but in a manner which made it clear that we were not actually French.

“Ah,” said the shop-keeper. “I should have taken a better look. I always try to guess where my visitors are from, and now I see that you are from England.”

“Yes,” I said. “And you are from Ghana. I recognise your voice. You remind me of someone – a good friend; a lovely man – who we met here.”

Well, the fellow just sat there staring up at me with his mouth hanging open. He seemed not to have understood my words. I noticed that there was an Asante stool in ther window, just behind him.

I said, “We’ve been to Ghana, actually; and we bought a stool like that one.”

And suddenly the little man flew up out of his chair and hurled himself at us – thew his arms around us both and hugged us tightly – yelling, “It’s David here!”

Mask from Cameroon

David is married now – to a Cabo Verdean – and he has four kids. He also has two shops – one for himself and one for his wife – and a tall thin house which he built with his own hands in a suburb of the sprawling town.

David’s niece, Abigail, has come to join her uncle – in accordance with Ghanaian tradition – and although they may be half-Cape Verdean and born in the islands the four children appear to see themselves primarily as Africans and, indeed, as members of the great Asante tribe.

David’s shops are stuffed full of interesting things. Besides African masks and statuettes he also sells African-print clothing, which is designed and made by his wife and Abigail, and he sells colourful leather sandals, Ghanaian baskets, bags of all sorts ansd sizes, batik paintings, bracelets, and – from the Cape Verde islands – eartenware pots, baskets, and a collection of rather tacky items which includes clocks shaped like Sao Vicente, model boats made from goat’s horns, miniature pestle and mortars emblazoned with A Present from Cabo Verde, and collages made from sugar cane trash. These are not the most attractive objects, in my view… but it seems that they are just about the only kinds of handicraft that the locals pursue.

Besides all this (and much, much more) David also has the biggest and best stock of souvenir T-shirts… which is where we came in; quite literally.

If you are passing through Mindelo and want to pick up a present for the folks at home this is the place to look.

David’s delightfully chaotic shop is on the main street – the second one back from the beach – which leads from the high street to the Praca Nova.

His wife’s much more organised and orderly emporium is right beside the said praca, on the road leading inland and up the hill.

Jessica the Eskimo

Jessica is a genuine Eskimo who is sailing the world with her New Zealander boyfriend. She tells me that genuine Eskimos don’t like being called Inuit… so, ya-boo-blzzzoop to the Politically Correct sect.

The younger members of Mollymawk’s crew were disappointed to learn that Jessica has never lived in an igloo… She grew up travelling along the Aleutian chain while her dad fished for salmon from his big steel purse-seiner.

Thanks for taking us spearfishing, Jessica. We’ll see you again one day, on Kodiak Island.