Sir Ernst Expedition


Tuesday 5th October, it started the day before – that feeling somewhere between nostalgia and expectation, knowing that tomorrow we are going to leave the vastness of the open sea behind us, that this life of regular watches and being so in touch with the elements would make way for the pleasures of new discoveries, but also the constraints of setting foot on land. But already, after the last watch spent under Orion’s protection on a beautiful mild starlit night, we must face reality: we completed these last hundred miles in the night and ETA is expected late afternoon if the wind doesn’t drop and we manage to maintain this quasi 7 knot speed.

The miles tick by to the rhythm of the passing hours. We work to optimise the boat’s trim and trajectory according to wind forecasts on the weather charts in order to arrive before nightfall, which drops its curtain quite rapidly in these latitudes. It is late afternoon that the highest peaks (nearly 2,000m!) on Sào Antào, an island close to our final destination, Sao Vincente island, emerge under our genoa which is well filled by a wind that does not drop, on the contrary!
The initial outline of these volcanic ridges, the appearance of which are reminiscent of Moorea, gives way to a strongly contrasting mineral landscape of high cliffs of a dark colour despite the late afternoon sunshine.

The sea gets rougher as we approach the island and lighthouse which herald the entrance to Mindelo bay, the seabed rising sharply and the wind switching about in direction and strength as we approach.  But it’s not over yet and helmsman and crew remain very much alert to the current’s peccadillos at this point, the swell building as we make our final approach and the wind showing no sign of easing. Looking towards the end of Mindelo bay, a sort of large caldera, we can see the commercial port’s seawall and the twinkling lights of the town, as well as a body of calm water protected by a semi-circle of mountains.
Time to drop the sails and head towards an almost deserted quay that awaits us. We end the day eating at the water sports club before returning to our bunks, our heads full of wonderful memories of these 850+ miles covered entirely under sail, acutely aware and grateful for having this opportunity to experience them.