News: 26 July 2010, Home




Home again, home again, jiggety jog!

A meaningless phrase we used to say as children when we returned home from a long trip away, and seeing as most of my family regard me as some sort of bearded child, still quite appropriate.

The flight home from Mindelo was fairly tiresome. First, an early morning local flight to the ghastly Sal, and I got nailed for 20 euros overweight because of the propeller in my luggage I've brought home early to do a proper repair. I holed up in a hotel for most of the day amongst a huge crowd of Spanish sun worshippers waiting for my flight to Europe at 19:45. The Tui flight was full of bronzed Germans, I got a couple of hours sleep, it arrived on time in Hannover at 03:30. Then a wait for Germanwings at 6 arriving Stansted at 7:30. Finally, rather than taking the bus, my daughter Alex, fresh home from a gap year in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and other points east, came to get me in the little white car.

Even though the seats were for midgets, the main flight back to Europe wasn't as bad as it could have been, partly because there was a spare seat between me and my neighbour, and partly because he was an interesting chap who operates a 36 ft Marlin fishing boat from Mindelo, and a second one from Ascension island.

Marlin are so rare that these days they always release them, so you never see those Ernest Hemingway style scenes with huge fish hanging on the dock when they return from a successful day's fishing. So I wasn't actually aware they did this at all in Cabo Verde, but he told me that after Ascension island, Cabo Verde is possibly the best place in the World for Blue Marlin.

Nevertheless, he said, stocks are still noticeably reducing because the long line fishermen from the Far East are busy exterminating all Atlantic tuna and also catch significant but unknown numbers of marlin, sailfish and other similar creatures by accident. He said there are still big fish about though. To give an idea of the scale, there are half a dozen 1000+ pounders caught worldwide annually, fish over 500 Lbs are considered to be a good size, and they catch them in Cabo Verde quite often.

I've not much knowledge of big game fishing, but I do know catches are rare, so if you came for a weeks fishing, what can you expect? I asked. He told me this season, and it isn't quite finished yet and hasn't been particularly good; apparently a worldwide phenomenon, but on average they've been catching a bit less than one fish per day. Last year they caught 85 in 75 days. He said if only they could have been here 50 years ago with the kind of kit they're now using, it would really be paradise.

I was interested he also operates from Ascension because it's a difficult place to get to. "Yes", he said, "you have to go to Brize Norton." This is of course from where the MOD operates the South Atlantic Airbridge to the Falklands, they stop at Ascension to refuel and there's always space for a few civilian passengers; it's the only way you can get there apart from the infrequent ship. Although Ascension is British, the airfield is operated by the Americans, the strip is very long and it was even designated as a place where the Space Shuttle could make an emergency landing.

He was telling me that the UK government do these flights to the Falklands on annual contract with different airlines, in past years it's been BMI, Globalspan and others, but at the moment none other than Air Tahiti are operating the route. Must be a very strange sight in the howling wind and driving rain at Mount Pleasant. The other thing about Ascension is it doesn't have a port, so the fishing boats have to stay at sea, or moor to buoys offshore. Apparently there is a big crane if you need to get it out of the water though.

I've been home nearly a week now, our FIB is hopefully somewhere between Mindelo and here, but there's no news. Next week and the week after I shall be at Sywell scoring the European Microlight championships, I hope it will be arriving shortly after that.

I then have to quickly manufacture a crate for it to go by air to Dar Es Salaam. From Dar I can easily fly to Zanzibar and Pemba for the next episode of the series. Eve Jackson, who lives in Dar, has been hugely helpful in getting all the permissions and things we need.

We have a fairly tight time slot, the national elections are on October 31, and in Zanzibar, and particularly Pemba, they have a reputation for getting violent so we need to be finished well before, but we can't go much before the end of Ramadan on 10th September because most people will be too busy with their devotions to have much time for us.

At the moment, the plan is to arrive just before the Eid ul-Fitr celebration and we should then be finished some time around the end of September. My next dispatch should therefore be some time in the second week of September from the United Republic of Tanzania, though if anything interesting happens I may well put pen to paper before then.

Micro Avionics - Suppliers of pilot intercom and radio equipment to the expedition
Joint Aviation Services, suppliers of insurances to the expedition
Articole Studios - GRP mouldings
SKYDRIVE, the UK Distributor of ROTAX engines
Polaris - manufacturer of the FIB
Cam-ARA - Suppliers of video equipment to the expedition