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Island Hopping in Cape Verde – Trade Winds, tropical sun and island exploration

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Embark Disembark Vessel DurationVoyage No
Thu 24-02-2022, 17:00Sal, Cape Verde Mon 07-03-2022, 09:00Sal, Cape Verde Oosterschelde 11 NightsOS240222

Turtles, tropical sun, flying fish, local fishermen catching wahoo and trade wind sailing between 9 volcanic islands, (no active volcanoes) on a Dutch tall ship that has sailed around the world twice. This is Oosterschelde’s favourite winter sailing ground and we think its as good as the Caribbean, but without much mainstream tourism once you leave Sal. Be as energetic or chilled as you like. Jeep safaris and walks ashore are optional but a great way of sampling the culture and different landscapes on each island.

  • Voyage
  • Vessel

VOYAGE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Islands 100 miles apart, and closer day sails
  • Trade winds & sensational blue water sailing
  • Winter Sun and tropical 22-25 degrees C
  • island jeep safaris with shared costs
  • Mountain walks amongst lush crops
  • miles of sandy beaches, shipwrecks & turtles
  • Sea rich in wahoo, turtles& tuna
  • Traditional music & African Culture
  • No light pollution & few tourists

Oosterschelde

Vessel type / Rig Three Masted Schooner
Guest Berths 24
Beam 25ft
Draft 9.8ft
Deck Length 131ft
Overall Length 164ft
Tonnage 400 tons
Year Built 1917/1992
More about the Vessel

Voyage Description

IDEAL VOYAGE FOR…

Anyone who likes the idea of sailing amongst tropical sun, big swell and blue seas, cooling sea spray and flying fish, but wants to explore islands and a different culture too. The sailing winds are generally fantastic as this island group sits squarely in the NE trade wind belt and Oosterschelde has a lot of canvas.

The cabins and below deck spaces are elegant and spacious and this big steel ship sits pretty steady in the Cape verde anchorages so it suits guests who want to be comfortable.

A good choice for solo travellers, couples and keen walkers who want a unique travel experience first, and life at sea on a sailing ship as a bonus.  These voyages are popular, so there is generally plenty of keen guest crew and professional crew to pull on ropes if you fancy taking more relaxed approach to your holiday. Going aloft is not compulsory, but you do need enough agility to climb down a short boarding ladder into the ships inflatable dinghy, and landings on quays and beaches can be a bit bouncy if the swell is running. Nice and warm though. 

VOYAGE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Islands 100 miles apart, and closer day sails
  • Trade winds & sensational blue water sailing
  • Winter Sun and tropical 22-25 degrees C
  • island jeep safaris with shared costs
  • Mountain walks amongst lush crops
  • miles of sandy beaches, shipwrecks & turtles
  • Sea rich in wahoo, turtles & tuna
  • Traditional music & African Culture
  • No light pollution & few tourists
local boats in Cape Verde
local boats in Cape Verde

FULL VOYAGE DESCRIPTION

Oosterschelde is the expert vessel in these cruising grounds. In the early days she employed local Cape Verdean guides to sail with the ship and arrange tours on each island on arrival. The ships crew now have enough contacts of their own and have developed a great itinerary. It might not exactly be the same each 11 day voyage, but they do know how to create an active winter sun holiday that has just about everything from diving off the bowsprit to sharing a ‘Catchpa Stew’ with local families.

The Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) are a tropical island group are well south of the Canaries on about the same latitude as St Lucia in the Caribbean. They lie off the West African coast of Senegal and slap bang in the North East trade wind belt. Hot sun, a constant strong breeze (typically force 4-7) and a mix of islands – some of which are 100 miles apart and others only half a day distant, creates a world class cruising ground for those who prefer anchorages and islands to explore without hordes of tourists.

Going ashore to the island of Sal. Your landing is normally a beach
Your landing is normally a beach or a small quay. Photo by Arthur Smeets

The inhabited islands include Brava, Fogo, Santiago, Maio, Sal, Boa Vista, Sao Nicholau, Sao Antao and Sao Vincente in two distinct groups – windward and leeward islands. The Cape Verde islands are out in the ocean for real blue water cruising and are just about perfect for an island hopping holiday on a ocean tall ship like Oosterschelde.  Sal has hosted world kite surfing and Boa Vista is well known as a windsurfing blast spot. Cape Verde is a real mecca all year round for those who like it windy and sunny, with warm seas to swim in.

On a sailing voyage we never use the word itinerary, as skippers will always be aiming for the best sailing and shore landings for the forecast and most idyllic or sheltered anchors and ports. They are as keen as you to include some of the highlights described below, but you have to go with Mother Nature, not fight her. The description below is based on what we think might be possible, based on past trips, or experience, but nothing is guaranteed on a sailing voyage.

Tall ship holidays in Cape Verde on Oosterschelde
Photo by Arthur Smeets – Sensational blue water sailing in Cape Verde

Sal to Santiago & perhaps Fogo

Sal has amazing white beaches and turquoise seas and the cross shore winds on the beach at Santa Maria is becoming a mecca for kite surfers. If you are flying in early, then Santa Maria is the best place to stay and chill out on the beach and eat fresh fish in town. When it is time to start your voyage, Oosterschelde will be in the port of Palmeria, which is a very short taxi drive away from the airport or hotels in Santa Maria. This is not a touristy town and you meet the ships crew in the ships tender, down by the fisherman’s quay.

The first sail usually starts with 110 miles downwind with a day and night passage to Tarrafal on Santiago to find your sea legs. Santiago in the leeward islands is a total contrast to flat Sal, with high mountains and cobbled mountain roads built in the past by slaves. Santiago is the most African island with mountains and green valleys. Oosterschelde crews typically spend the entire day on the island. With a taxi bus you can travel across the island to visit the colourful markets of the capital Praia and the oldest city of the Archipelago, Cidade Velha. Inland there are mango trees, banana plantations and old grog factories, where the sugar cane is still grinded by a grinding stone pulled on by a cow. From Santiago high roads you can see the classic volcanic form of Fogo – the highest summit in the Archipelago at 9281 feet. Crews have landed on Fogo but the anchorages are usually too exposed. 

Spontaneous parties often start on the beach here in Tarrafal, where everyone is dancing to the swinging Cape Verdean music.

Mountain villages on Santiago, Cape Verde
Mountain villages on Santiago, Cape Verde

Sao Vincente & Sao Antao

Sailing close hauled and 130 miles to make North westwards to Ilha da Sao Vincente gives plenty of sailing action for those who want to set lots of huge sails. For others the simple pleasure of reading a book in hot sun on deck, with a cooling breeze and the odd dollop of sea spray is enough activity. 

The upwind passage typically takes a day and night.

Mindelo is the largest harbour of the Cape Verde, and the town has restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. Some of the anchorages have strong currents and swell but Mindelo has a good beach for swimming. Live Cape Verdean traditional music at Club Nautico is worth an evening dinghy ride.

Across a 7 mile strait is Santo Antao. The greenest and maybe the most beautiful island of the archipelago. A perfect island to explore on foot with volcanic craters swirling in trade wind clouds, zig zagging paths between villages and terraced fields, often with spectacular views revealed.

There is no safe harbour so the ship normally stays in Mindelo and those who want to explore the island of Sao Antao catch the local ferry (and we strongly suggest you do as it is one of the highlights of the voyage). A taxi bus is arranged (this can be an open jeep with seats) to take you to the top of the crater, with an amazing walk down the Ribeira Grande valley full of crops and thatched houses, until you reach the coastal road and your lift back to the ferry.

incredible donkey path switch back from the crater rim on Sao Antao, Cape Verde
Incredible donkey path switch back from the crater rim on Sao Antao. Photo Arthur Smeets

Sao Nicolau

Sail past the uninhabited island of Santa Luzia, and if swell permits the ship may anchor and run a trip ashore. The waters around the island are rich in fish so it may be worth staying on board with a fishing line. Swimming is not recommended due to the large number of sharks, but watching these menacing beauties is a novel treat for wildlife lovers.

The destination on São Nicolau is also called Tarrafal. We anchor just before the harbour, or maybe even moor at the quay. Tarrafal is a peaceful fisherman’s village where we will be welcomed with open arms. There is barely any tourism and the majority of fisherman sail instead of motorized boats.

A jeep safari across the mountains to the wild windward coastline of Sao Nicolau is spectacular. Swim in the wildest natural infinity pool ever – if you dare – with waves crashing against the vertical cliffs below. There are the beautiful worn basalt formations and drive up to the last remainders of a primeval forest in the mountains.

Sao Nicolau West Coast - shipwrecks and trade winds
Sao Nicolau West Coast – shipwrecks and trade winds

Boa Vista – deserts and water sports

The last island is usually Boa Vista and back to an up and coming watersports destination- with its massive desert dunes, date palms, camels and white, white beaches. A great place to hire a windsurfer if you are into wave sailing or blasts. A short hop brings the ship back to Sal.

Typical Itinerary on a 11 day Cape Verde Expedition

Please remember you are guest crew on a sailing ship and there is no such thing as an itinerary. Everything is dependant on the weather, swell conditions and sometimes the strength and stamina of the guest crew. Cape Verde has pretty predictable wind directions most the time so the ship will take advantage of that knowledge.  There will be overnight sailing on a couple of passages, and the stars are awesome if there is no Sahara dust in the atmosphere. If you do get dust from Africa then it creates stunning sunsets, but a need to navigate carefully as it often looks clear in the bright sunlight, but there is a haze present. Places you may visit – it will not be possible to go to all these places in the time allowed and the choice will be made by the skipper in light of the weather and crews abilities and or wishes.   

ITINERARY

On this voyage we will visit at least five or six islands. These are  approximately a day of sailing apart. After each leg we take the time to explore the island of destination. At night we will mostly be anchored, but in some cases we will keep sailing through the night.


The landing places are carefully selected and on most islands that we visit we will organise an excursion with local guides.

DAY 1

Upon arrival on Ilha do Sal you travel to Palmeira on your own accord, for example by taxi. The ‘Oosterschelde’ is waiting for you there, anchored in the bay. Palmeira is a rustic town where you will find few tourists. The island Sal is desert-like, with miles-long sand beaches. On the south side of the island there is the fisher’s village Santa Maria where the larger hotels and busy tourist attractions are located.

DAY 2

The following morning you have time to take a stroll, make a visit to the town or take a dive in the ocean before we set sail. While sailing from the windward to the Leeward Islands we have the wind in our back. The passengers are divided up in shifts and are encouraged to participate in all duties onboard, from navigation, steering to trimming the sails. Those who dare can climb the mast to see the world from up a yard of a big sailing vessel. The crossing to Santiago is approximately 110 miles; we expect to arrive somewhere during the night.

DAY 3

We anchor in the beautiful bay of the village Tarrafal. Santiago is the most African island with mountains and green valleys. We will spend the entire day on the island. With a taxi bus we travel across the island to visit the colourful markets of the capital Praia and the oldest city of the Archipelago, Cidade Velha. In the inlands we find mango trees, banana plantations and old grog factories, where the sugar cane is still grinded by a grinding stone pulled on by a cow.

We will not come back onboard until the evening. It is no exception that spontaneous parties start on the beach here, where everyone is dancing to the swinging Cape Verdean music.

DAY 4

The crossing from Santiago to São Vicente is the longest leg of this journey. Close-hauled and with most of the sails set we push ‘Oosterschelde’ to her limits. The night will be spent on the sea.

DAY 5

To reach the gentile beach of Mindelo we sail between the islands São Vicente and Santo Antão. Because of the venturi-effect the winds are usually very strong. Mindelo, on São Vicente, is the largest harbour and the second largest city of Cape Verde. There are restaurants, an indoor market, cafés and souvenir shops. A little beach offers a chance to go swimming.

DAY 6

Santo Antão is considered the most beautiful island of the archipelago. It is also the greenest and most fertile of the islands. With the ferry from Mindelo we sail to Santo Antão and let a taxi bus take us to the edge of the volcanic crater.

From this point we take a walk down to Ribeira Grande. The variations in the landscape and the breathtaking views make this a walk to never forget.

DAY 7

Today we sail close past the coasts of several islands. On our way to São Nicolau we pass Santa Lucia, one of the uninhabited islands of the archipelago. It is very rich in fish so we throw out a fishing line to test our luck. Due to the large number of sharks, swimming is not recommended.

DAY 8

The destination on São Nicolau is also called Tarrafal. We anchor just before the harbour, or maybe even moor at the quay. Tarrafal is a peaceful fisherman’s village where we will be welcomed with open arms. There is barely any tourism and the majority of fisherman sail instead of motorized boats.

On São Nicolau we visit the beautiful worn basalt formations and drive up to the last remainders of a primeval forest in the mountains.

DAY 9

Another amazing leg of our voyage that will take us to Boa Vista. A considerable distance from the village we drop anchor, as it will not be possible to come closer to the shore. The rubber dinghy is used to go to shore, but due to safety precautions we only undertake this during daylight. Boa Vista is one of the islands on which mass tourism is developing. Along the coastline several resorts have risen from the ground. The beaches are indeed beautiful and the inland is known for its remarkable moving sand dunes.

DAY 10 AND 11

The last crossing, from Boa Vista to Ilha do Sal, will probably be made with help of the engine. We drop anchor at Santa Maria, which has already been a touristic spot for some time. The upside is that there is plenty of opportunity to buy souvenirs or get some ice-cream. The last day of your holiday can be spent lying on the beach or renting a surfboard.

Kite surfing instructor in Cape Verde
Kite surfing instructor in Cape Verde

WINDS, WAVES & WEATHER

The North East trades can blow from force 4 to near gale, but for a ship like Oosterschelde this is perfect sailing. The skies are normally blue and cloudless but at sea level you can get Sahara dust obscuring views of the next island shore.  Seas can be oceanic as you are sailing in the Atlantic many hundreds of miles from the continental shelf, which is great for whales and dolphins, but you can get some impressive swells.  In the lee of islands it can be calmer. January is the ‘coldest’ month but still a lovely 21-23 degrees centigrade. Unlike the Caribbean, Cape Verde is generally a dry heat with very few tropical downpours. Some islands have not seen rain in years.

HANDS ON HOLIDAYS

Whether you are an experienced sailor or a complete beginner, the professional crew will train you to be guest crew from the moment you arrive, with the intention that everybody works together to sail the ship. The common thread to all Classic Sailing holidays is ‘Hands on’ participation on ships that use ropes, blocks and tackles and ‘people power’ to set sail.

Aloft at 11 knots on oosterschelde in Cape Verde
Aloft at 11 knots in Cape Verde. Photo by Debbie Purser

SAILING STYLE & LIFE ON BOARD

We cater for a wide range of ages and physical abilities and how much you are expected to do varies a bit between vessels. See the vessel tab above which explains all about the ‘sailing style’ and what to expect in terms of hands on participation. There is a lot of information about day to day life, the ships facilities and accommodation on the vessel pages.

Adam, Debbie and Becky in the Classic sailing Office have all sailed on Oosterschelde in Cape Verde so do ring us with your questions on 0044 (0)1326 53 1234

AGILITY & FITNESS

Every customer sailing with us will need to fill in basic medical questions on their booking application. Medical facilities ashore are what you would expect for a poor African nation, so if you have a serious medical condition this primitive cruising ground might not be your best choice.

If you are not sure if your current level of fitness and agility are up to a voyage, then please ring the Classic Sailing Office on 01326 53 1234 and we can chat through your concerns and possibly find options that might suit you better.

a winter escape for all ages. oosterschelde in Cape Verde. Photo by Arthur Smeets
a winter escape for all ages. Photo by Arthur Smeets

 

Start & End Port

Sal, Cape Verde

For joining Oosterschelde and Blue Clipper, and usually, any ship on the island of Sal see the above map for the port of Palmeira. It is about a 15-minute taxi ride from the airport (€15 approx). If you are staying over on the island before joining your ship, please see advice below on where is best to stay.

Voyages start and end from Palmeira which is a bay and small fishing port on the west of the island, nearer the airport. The large concrete commercial breakwater is cordoned off.

Wait under the shady tree near the bar, Chiosco, near the Chapel ‘Capela De Sad Jose’ where the local fishermen unload their catch on a little stone jetty. The ship’s dinghy will come in to collect you at joining time.

Kit List

Oosterschelde Kit List

Included

 

  • Sailing Instruction
  • Safety Equipment (life jackets and harnesses)
  • All meals to including refreshments throughout the day
  • Duvet, pillow and sheets
  • Hand towels

What is not Included

  • Waterproof jackets and trousers
  • Alcoholic drinks but there is a bar on board

What to Bring

Suitcases take up a lot of room in a cabin, so it is better to uses soft bags in a ship. A small rucksack for going ashore is useful.

  • Oosterschelde does not supply waterproof jackets and salopette type trousers. Please bring your own waterproof clothing.
  • A mix of warm and wind proof clothing.
  • Lots of thin layers is better than one thick layer in cold destinations.
  • In tropical countries - long sleeves and long trousers to protect you from the sun 
  • Footwear on board needs a good grip and soft soles- the decks are wood or steel.
  • Ashore stout, waterproof walking boots are best if you are in remote places.
  • Oosterschelde has European 2 pin sockets 240 V
  • Cameras, chargers and video recorders
  • Binoculars are handy for bird watching etc.
  • Suntan lotion, hats, sunglasses
  • Dont forget any regular medication, persciption glasses and spare
  • Euros for bar bill
  • Passport, travel insurance, tickets etc
  •  To get ashore is usually by dinghy so be prepared to get wet feet. Rubber boots or quick drying sandals - depending on the location.

Review

Cape Verde & Caribbean Crew

Together with my husband Bert we were on the trip around the Cape Verde on the Oosterschelde and had a great time. The crew was fantastic and very friendly. They showed us what has to be done to sail a beautiful ship like this. Made some new friends among the passengers and it was a trip I will not forget for a long while. And who knows when we will meet again. Thanks" Jenny H E.  from NL Mar 2018

I've just completed my fourth voyage in four years and it was like a big family holiday! Familiar faces welcomed us aboard, we met up with guests and friends from previous voyages and the islands that we visited in the French West Indies were beautiful. The best part of the voyage was our last sailing day when the "lunatics took over the asylum". Maarten let the guest crew sail the Oosterschelde from St Lucia to Martinique (while keeping an eye on us to make sure that neither we or the ship were in danger) It was hard work but safe to say that I learned a lot more on that day, having to think about what I was doing, rather than just being told what to do. We are just about to book our next voyage" Richard D. British Columbia

What was the best bit?
Variety of sailing and the islands visited.

What was the worst bit?
One rough passage.

Why do you sail?
We enjoy the technicalities of sailing a large vessel and the passage planning involved. We generally enjoy off-shore sailing.

Any other comments
The skipper and crew were very friendly, helpful and informative. Accommodation and food was very good.- Phillip B - Cape Verde 

Ocean Passages

What was the best bit?
A genuine feel for a bit of a longer ocean voyage with great people.

What was the worst bit?
Somewhat cramped cabins if sharing

Why do you sail? 
Comraderie; understanding historical sailing voyages; seeing interesting parts of the world" Robbin C: Ocean Crossings

Credit to Robbin Conner - Oosterschelde Ocean Crossing from Cape Verde to Rotterdam
Credit to Robbin Conner - Oosterschelde Ocean Crossing from Cape Verde to Rotterdam

Canada Tall Ships Race Participants

So happy to have sailed from Miramichi to Quebec! So good to be on this beautiful grand old lady with only nice and funny people. Miss you all! And for this moment especially Richards' breakfast. Thank you so much Jenny Edward Richard Jan-Willem Jurriaan and Maarten, and all the other guests for this wonderful and amazing time. Love and hugs xxx Ernst and Ellen V.

The dream come true! What a georgous trip I had between Québec and Halifax! A part of me will be onboard forever... Il will be back to you, most beautiful ship of the world! I will be back, Oosterschelde!  What a crew! What a captain! Marteen, I could write a novel with you as the major character! You are an amazing guy, a good, a great man! Your team is fantastic! I am now back ashore but... "I must go down to sea again... "

" C'est pas l'homme qui prend la mer
C'est la mer qui prend l'homme " 

Pierre-Luc. Canada

Now is the hour that I must say goodbye, soon you'll be sailing far across the sea. We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when. Maybe in the south pacific or around Cape Horn. Captain Arian, I would sail anywhere in the world with you, your crew and Oosterschelde. Warren C. New Zealand

The Word from European Voyages

Just sailed on the Oosterschelde across the North Sea to the Netherlands! Great taste of sailing would recommend to anyone who is thinking of dipping their toe in. Loved every second of it, hauling ropes out in the elements (mainly with the Sun on my back) rolling around in the middle of the North Sea on the deck of an authentic lovely Dutch schooner brilliant! A life changing experience of the open sea, next stop RYA competent crew! Many thanks to Adam and Classic Sailing for all the arrangements at such short notice and thanks too to all the crew for looking after me and feeding me so well. Be warned though life ashore afterwards can seem very hum-drum." Rex aka Steve W

I  want to thank the crew for the three magnificent days passed on board, between "Golfe du Morbihan" and "Le Havre". I sailed on numerous occasions on about ten different ships, and this sailing on Oosterschelde is the best experience I ever had. I was impressed by the good performances of the ship, and by the way the crew adjusts sails permanently so that the ship always gives the best ; it was an immense pleasure to participate of my best in all these operations. I regret that our different languages did not allow us to communicate more, because all the crew members were really very nice and very thoughtful with us. I have now only an envy: to embark again on Oosterschelde, to be on the deck to participate in the laborers of sails, to climb on the mast to help the crew, and to share again these excellent moments given by sailing on Oosterschelde !!! " Excuse my bad English, Gilbert P. Vernon, France
 

Vessel Gallery

Three Masted Topsail Schooner Oosterschelde in action and images. Photos from Classic Sailing customers, ships crew and professional photographers. We hope it gives a flavour of her sailing, life on board, the people that come, her beautiful sailing grounds and what it is like to live below decks.

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