Sailing the Cosmos, Canaries to Cabo Verde

I last left you in the Canary Islands after a crash landing onto a nude beach following a 6 day sail on open waters from Portugal on La Fortuna, an old Swedish built sloop. You can click here if you missed that update.

So I had a beer (on land!!!….first beer in a week – all boats flying under a Swedish flag are dry) with Richard and Ivy to celebrate our safe arrival then we said our farewells and off I went to stick my thumb out once again, traveling to three islands hitting up marinas and posting my “personal ad” wherever I could. Some tidbits from the Canaries….

I knew exactly one person in the city of Las Palmas, the guy who had rented my bedroom while I was to be away traveling. He’s from Las Palmas and would be there for the Christmas holidays. In the 5 days that I was there, in a city of 600,000 people. I ran into him two times randomly on the streets

I got a feel for just how much competition I was up against when I saw a motley crew of more than a dozen vagabonds from all over, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Holland, etc. They were camped out on one of the main city beaches next to the marina cooking over a little gas stove. I knew immediately when I saw them that they were hitchhikers. I struck up a conversation with them….of the 6 or so I talked to they had on average been there for more than two weeks looking for a boat. 😬

I celebrated Christmas Eve alone eating in at an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. It suited me just fine 😊

I was contacted by two guys readying to set sail for the islands of Cape Verde, they had room for more crew, had seen my profile and thought I might be a good fit. I met them for a beer and toured their boat, a 45 year old 12.8m(42ft.) Danish racing boat….They would become an big part of this next chapter of the story…

I had a good connection with them from the start, was happy to see the boat was well equipt and kept tidy and organized. The only issue was their itinerary, they were heading to Cape Verde and from there crossing the Atlantic making landfall in Suriname (For those who have no idea where/what that is you are not alone….it’s a Dutch colony part of “the Guyana’s” between Brazil and Venezuela)

The boat and crew were a great match, but the destination would make it really hard for me to stay on my schedule and keep my goal of not flying. But I talked it through with the guys and it was decided I would go with them to Cape Verde and once there give them an answer as to whether I would stick around for the crossing.  And like that I had found my next ride! I was gonna set sail again. So on Christmas morning I caught a ferry to the next island (Tenerife) where they had sailed to and boarded my new ride…Cosmos.

Our captain was William, a 35 year old Dane (via Lebanon & Syria). He had bought the boat 5 years ago and had slowly slowly been making his was south from Denmark with the ultimate goal to cross the Atlantic and do a full circumnavigation. There was no doubt that Will was a character. A strong personality, full of energy and bravado and with his own brand of logic. He’s very intelligent and full of all sorts of knowledge and facts, I just had to learn to sort through them to find which were based in truth and which were based on conspiracy theories. He had some Trumpian qualities for sure (who he openly admired). Political correctness had no place in his discourse, he could say things that would offend the likes of most people. But unlike a Trump, his brash ways would often be contrasted by actions or remarks that showed (genuine) empathy and a big heart. He’s a walking talking paradox, you never know what will come out of his mouth or what position he might plant his flag in on a subject.

Will’s first mate was a 30 year old polyglot who grew up between Luxembourg and Ireland. Kevin (or Kev as he prefers to be called) loves beer (was a professional brewer for years) and had done a fair share of traveling in his days. He got the sailing bug when he was living in Panama managing a hostel and went out on some sailing trips with some people he knew there. He had joined the crew of Cosmos also as a hitchhiker for the first time in 2018 back when Will was still in France with the boat and had spent bits of time onboard off and on since then. He knew the boat well and had a good working relationship with Will. From the get-go I knew I wouldn’t have any problems with Kev. He had the Irish propensity of joviality and good humor and a well-balanced demeanor.

I also met Aksel for the first time when I reached the boat in Tenerife. Aksel would be the fourth crew member who was also just joining the boat and had found Will and Kev in the same sailboat hitchhiking group on Facebook as I had.

A young 20 year old from Denmark, still wet behind the ears but well on his way to being a proper sailor (he already had his own small boat back in Denmark.) I got to like Aksel a lot, he was mature for his age and resolute in his desire to become a true sailor. He had a good head on his shoulders and kept a positive attitude.

On December 27th we set sail from the island of Tenerife bound for the neighboring island of La Gomera.

The Cosmos Crew

Some stories and observations from my time onboard the Cosmos…

In total I sailed 960mi/1550km miles on Cosmos, this was the route:

While moored in Tenerife climbing onto the boat, my phone (Fully loaded with podcasts and apps for the crossing) fell out of the pocket of my hoodie, bounced off the deck of the boat and fell right into the 15in/40cm gap between the boat and the dock. Plop….right into the water.

In the same marina where I lost my phone we had been admiring this beautiful fancy 50 meter yacht that was moored near us. On Christmas night we noticed they were throwing quite a party onboard…music and dancing. We walked closer and I said, “Wait! I think I know that girl!” In a crazy random coincidence I did! A friend of a friend I had spent a week hanging out with doing some day-sails in Barcelona. Small small world.

I was involved in another disgraceful crash landing in a dinghy on a rocky beach in La Gomera, did some nice damage to my shoulder and ribs which made it impossible to sleep on half of my body for the rest of the trip

I decided to try and dive down and recover my phone in the marina, at least I would have my SIM and SD memory card. We guessed the water was 20ft./6m deep. After a couple attempts I just wasn’t getting down fast enough, so in addition to my fins I made myself a weight belt (to the amusement of the rest of the crew) and tried a few more times. It was only after those failed attempts that someone finally thought to just check the depth meter…62ft./19m!!! .😳 R.I.P Sony Xperia XZ1

Having completed my second long crossing, I learned that for me they are not a thing of constants. Your mental state is in always in flux. One day you are totally exhilarated by the experience, the next you might just want it to be over, many days are just apathetic and/or lethargic. It’s only natural out there that your emotions come in waves too.

We completed the crossing in record time with nice broad reach winds behind us. Cosmos may be old and heavy but she was still built for racing. We averaged 6.65 Nautical miles per hour. Most boats do the crossing in 6 ½ days. We did it in just under 5.

For three days the sky was muted, a dull miserable yellowish color. We were sailing through a massive sandstorm that originated in the Sahara Desert, sometimes it was so thick you couldn’t see the sun at all. Massive amounts of dust where being blown into the air and would eventually be taken by the trade winds across the Atlantic where they provide essential minerals to sustain the Amazon forest on the other side of the pond. But before reaching there much of it had opted out of the wind in lieu of hitchhiking on Cosmos, which was completely covered in dust.

Check out the dust on that line

I became convinced that the word “lurch” defined as “an abrupt, unsteady, uncontrolled movement or staggering motion”, was most certainly invented by a sailor. I have never lurched so much in my life as I have since I started sailing.

We sailed the entire way hand-steering in shifts (for those who aren’t sailors, this is almost unheard of nowadays as most boats utilize some sort of autopilot to maintain their course). This despite the fact that we had one of these fancy autopilots onboard that cost several thousand dollars and works perfectly well. Just one of Will’s little quirks.

I got to scramble up the mast with a safety harness to free up a line that was stuck and I got a birdseye view of Cosmos.

You always need someone awake at the helm which means you often have to wake up at one in the morning to sit alone in the darkness of night for several hours, this along with the rocking motion, the constant noise from the water and the boats rigging, and just general sleep irregularity on a crossing totally messes with your biorhythm and leaves you in a constant state of impaired awareness, also probably a big contributor to the emotional waves.

In 5 days we never saw a single other boat.

Despite diligently putting out our lines everyday, and checking on them incessantly, by the last day of our sail we had still not caught a fish. And then all of sudden hits on both lines! A hysteric scramble ensued. We had not quite perfected the protocol for hooking a fish. But we managed to pull in our catch (we were hand-lining). Two nice Mahi Mahi (Dorado)! Our giddy happiness perhaps a bit overexaggerated for our small accomplishment. The smiles say it all.

Aksel got a bit carried away…like I said, we were pretty excited

We rang in the New Year right around here: CLICK LINK

Nightshifts are a solitary march through space and time. It’s hard to describe. First the alone-ness is compounded by the reality of the fact that you are a tiny speck floating through a pitch dark night with no land or man-made thing in sight. The barely perceptible horizon extends evenly in every direction creating a sense almost akin to vertigo. And then above you there is a full 180 degrees of dark blue sky ripe with shooting stars just waiting to be harvested by your eyes. And then there is the phosphorescence, “magical” blue and green light that flickers and dances in the ripples of the water like telescopic photos of the cosmos. And this magical phosphorescence is delivered by the waves, which on a moonless night you can’t see approaching like you can in the day, so every once in a while a 4 meter wave will hurl the boat in once direction or another and you have to wrestle not to get knocked too far off course. Speaking of which, when you aren’t staring the elusive horizon, harvesting shooting stars, staring at the magical phosphorescence, or wrestling the helm, (and when your handsteering) then your eyes are glued to the glow of a spherical compass that just never seems to sit still no matter how much you try and micro-steer. You can only get away with taking your eyes off the compass for about 4 seconds max or you risk veering far enough off course that the sails could jibe (when the boat changes direction so that the winds forces the sails to the opposite side of the boat). The whole things somehow manages to be both stimulating and monotonous at the same time, all with a serving of introspection, loneliness, and moments of feeling very much alive.

We arrived in the small fishing village of Palmeira in Cape Verde on the island of Sal at seven in the morning on January 4th, very excited to get into the harbor, drop anchor and make landfall. Went to start the engine to motor in – Nada. There was such a thick layer of dust on the solar panels that we didn’t have battery enough to turn the engine over. So we had to sail around in circles just outside the harbor for 5 hours!

Our GPS track upon arriving at the first island in Cabo Verde

The important thing is that in the end we arrived safe. In total I would spend 16 days onboard Cosmos. But after being a few days on anchor in Palmeira, in an unfortunate and unexpected turn of events, Will gave up my space on the boat to a couple who he had sailed with a few months prior. I wasn’t too pleased about the circumstances around this, but I guess being captain has its benefits and there was not much I could do about it other than try not to let it get me down or take it too personally.

So I found myself once again with the thumb out, looking for my next ride, having traveled thus far 750mi/1150km overland and over 2000mi/3200km by sea.

So here I am on a tiny African island nation off the coast of Senegal…a bit closer to my goal but still a long ways away. I’m currently on the Island of San Vicente in the town of Mindelo, spending my days hanging around the marina pestering every new boat arrival along with about a dozen other hitchhikers (most of whom have been here for weeks). I’m trying to keep a positive attitude, I’m sure I will get a ride soon 🙂 But there is more to Cape Verde than marinas, and I hope that in the next post I can share some impressions of the country with you. Until then, click to view a few more photos from the trip (if you move the mouse towards the bottom of the photos you will see some have a bit of commentary)

And if you want to track my movements (and maybe get a sneak peak of any departure across the Atlantic that I make before I get out another blog post) you can always use this link to see where I am in the world: (Click on “View all Tracks” in the upper right if you want to see my prior routes)






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