Cape Verde: Mindelo marina and town

A cruiser’s Cape Verde stopover is a welcome break on an Atlantic crossing.

Published 5 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Sailing in from Lanzarote late November 2018, prior e-mail contact with Marina Mindelo indicated no berths would be available during this, their high rally season. Three rallies, two ARC and one French, meant 95 extra boats would fill their pontoons to capacity during the same week we’d be arriving.

Rounding the northern point between Sao Vicente and the large rock northwest of the Grand Port, the marina informed us over VHF ch72 that they were able to make space for us and to look out for their red dinghy, manned to assist us. With a forecast of high winds the coming weekend and previous Noonsite reports of several thefts aboard anchored boats in this popular bay, we tied up bow-in to the leeward side of Pontoon A, grabbing the mooring line from the dock hands and tying it off to our stern. (see SV Kandu below)

Checking In:

The one-hour time difference between Canary and Cape Verde Islands meant that after checking into the marina, we had 30 minutes left before the state offices closed. Using the map the marina office provided I quickly walked solo the short distance to both Immigration and Border Police, offices adjacent each other just beyond the ferry terminal. Border Police had a simple form to fill out and would hold our ship’s original documentation paper, to be returned on check out. Contrary to another Mindelo cruiser’s Noonsite report, no paper relinquishing them of any responsibility of theft was offered or required.

Immigration took a copy of our crew list and stamped our 3 passports, requiring €5 total for the service. Both offices gave notice that if we wished to depart on a weekend, we’d have to clear out through their offices the Friday before. The whole process took 15-20 minutes.

Mindelo Marina:

Checking into the marina was simple. Proof of Insurance, the captain’s passport to scan, and a standard form describing the vessel, crew, and prior/next ports were all that was required before taking my Visa credit card. They charge by the square meter. Our boat, 12.7m x 3.8m cost just about $30 day, which includes security, power, toilets, and access to WiFi through their Floating Bar restaurant.

Water is a premium here, so the marina access card doubles as the water card. One pre-pays for water, $5 buys 250 litres for both their showers (hot) and dockside water. Although potable, it was highly recommended it be filtered. Their fuel dock offers VAT-free diesel, costing about $1/liter, 15% less than at the street-side service pump. The high volume of cruisers arriving for the rallies motivated the marina to set up a SIM provider on premises. One euro bought the SIM, €10 bought 8 GB of data, valid for 30 days. The marina is well run, clean, and convenient to all services (see image to right).

BoatCV operates a smart yacht services shop on premises and can connect boats with other service providers. There seems to be some bad blood between the marina and BoatCV owners, but we had no issues. The facilities, marina staff, the restaurant staff, security, and the chandlery are attentive and professional; operating at the highest standards relative to most locations we visited across our circumnavigation. Aswell surge can push boats around and strong gusts can jet through the bay’s valley, so many fenders, chafing gear, and attention to dock lines is required. When it comes to an overall wet-berth marina experience, this place is hard to beat. As for security, the marina feels safe and guarded against theft. I can’t speak to boats anchored. The ever-present young men and boy beggars and the proximity of the beach to the anchored boats might prove problematic.

Receiving Mail:

We had items mailed to us at the marina Priority International USPS with varied success. A box of parts took a week and no customs charges were applied; but an envelope of documents was routed through Praia, the capital, apparently beholden to the post office’s whim as to when to send Mindelo its post. It might be possible to speed this up by collecting mail in Praia. But because mooring in Praia sounds dangerous, even for a day: armed guards, robbers, etc. maybe anchor at Maio and have the person named on the mail hop on the ferry with their passport while the crew keeps watching over the boat.

Island Life:

The location is convenient as well, central to Mindelo. Many cultural opportunities are within walking distance of the marina and inexpensive land tours can be had. Open markets and small supermarkets have most anything one may wish to provision. The local butane gas company seems capable of filling most any gas bottle fitting, including American/Australian. Cooking gas filling service itself is straight forward and nearly immediate. Laundry from an outside vendor is collected and returned at 09h and 17h daily. They charged $12 for 7kg of laundry, washed, dried, and folded.

Mindelo is mellow, quaint, clean, and convenient (see left). The views of the surrounding mountains and nearby island are stunning. Yes, industry surrounds the port but feels much less imposing than at other countries we’ve visited. Portuguese and Creole are the common languages spoken here. Service providers offer varying degrees of English, French, Spanish, German, etc.

We enjoyed the local dishes and drinks. Cachupais is a type of stew, consisting of mashed maize, onions, green bananas, manioc, sweet potatoes, squash, yams, tomatoes, cabbage and possibly bacon. It is never the same dish from restaurant to restaurant, so once is not enough. For breakfast, we find it as a hash (below), served under a fried egg with chorizo slices. For lunch, we found a delicious soup version.

Grogue is a local rum-like spirit and ponche is syrup that’s low in alcohol. Both are inexpensive and together, they make a tasty cocktail. I think they should give my new cocktail creation the French name for a mooring buoy, “corps mort,” which, when translated directly means, “dead body.” (Turns out I didn’t invent anything. The drink’s actual name sounds like: “Strompf-Parrot.”)

Through the marina office, we arranged a standard island tour, covering three coasts. It was well worth the €60 for the three of us (the car accepts up to 4 at no extra cost), which included driving to the windy summit of Mt Verde, the tallest mountain on the island. The driver didn’t speak English and very little French, so we didn’t learn much about the history, but he took us to great photo spots, walking paths, and Restaurant Hamburg for an inexpensive local lunch.

Sailing to Cape Verde took us 8 days and will cut about 3-4 days from our upcoming Atlantic crossing to French Guiana. I feel the extra time spent to experience this African island was well worth the diversion. It also proved to be an enjoyable and pleasant way to shake down the boat before our third and last ocean crossing. I wouldn’t insist that a cruiser come this way, but were they to make the effort they would likely be pleased that they did, especially if they could dock at the marina.

From here, we leave for French Guiana, Suriname, and possibly Guyana, in route toward the Panama Canal. Cheers from SV Kandu!

Eric Rigney

SV Kandu

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