News: 31 Jun 2010, SS Tarrafal







"Keep an eye out for the white ship" says Antonio when we're back at our Hotel by the beach in Praia. "It hasn't arrived yet, but when it does we should take the FIB there. Passengers load later".

Carolin has bought me a phone so I don't have to use my one which is locked to Orange, and usually says 'No Service'. I'm not really sure how to work it, Antonio converts it to English, some stuff is still in Portuguese. I expect I'll get the hang of it.

The white ship has apparently arrived. We go to the port via a supermarket where I buy some beers, bread, cheese, salami, a pizza and a large bottle of water.

Antonio has to be somewhere else to watch the Portugal - Spain match so it's Carolin and me. At the port I see the white ship for the first time, it's quite a modern looking a roll on - roll off ship, about a quarter of the size of a channel ferry, and its called the Tarrafal. We discover we are in the wrong place, somebody clambers in the back and yells directions to our driver. The football is on the radio; this is something quite different to the clinical efficiency of a radio 5 live broadcast, although I don't understand a word you can tell the announcer is a real master of his art and speaks at an incredible speed and with such excitement you can almost sense what is happening. The score is zero zero.

We are taken to a warehouse not far from the one where I originally built up the FIB. There is the most tremendous melee of trucks and pickups all trying to get through a small gate at once. Somehow we manage to get through it into a yard which is slightly calmer. Stuff is being loaded onto a variety of trailers: long things, boxes, crates, sofas, you name it. We are given our own trailer to load the FIB on to, it is designed to carry a 20ft container and is two or three feet higher than our little truck. FIB is hauled up onto it by our helper and several others and I strap everything down. Probably wisely, the helper insists there is nothing loose. Blue barrels are full so I stuff everything else into my bag which is now very heavy. The boss promises not to stack more stuff on top of ours.

Passengers don't have to board for several hours so we return to the hotel and all go out for dinner. The score is still zero zero.

When we get to the restaurant, the match has ended. Portugal are out, Antonio (who claims to not be interested in Football) is in a depression. Still, he accompanies me when it's time to go to the port, Carolin says remember to get receipts. We walk up the ramp into the car deck, the FIB is loaded and there's nothing else on the trailer, so far so good. There's some consternation that we've got on the ship the wrong way, but I want to see the straps are still tight, they are, and we're ushered up a stairway into the passenger area, it's unbelievably hot. They ask for my ticket and I produce the paperwork Carolin gave me.

Not good enough, apparently, the ticket for me isn't paid though both Antonio and I are convinced my ticket has been paid already by the efficient Carolin, but my new mobile phone doesn't work inside the ship. They take me to an even hotter place where I can leave my heavy bag. Of course I'm completely disorganized and with sweat pouring off me have to reorganize my bags so I don't leave my beers and picnic in storage. A man comes to tell Antonio he must get off the ship as it's leaving, so he goes. I'm still shuffling my stuff about when a man in a red stripy shirt comes to tell me I must pay for a ticket or I'll be thrown off the boat too (at least that's what I think he said) so I paid, but he couldn't give me a receipt and the explanation of how one could be got was too complicated for me to really understand, but I think it involved an office in the port, which was obviously a bad idea at this stage. Anyway, it now looked like I could stay on the ship. From the top deck I watched them finish loading. Last thing on was a truck with a crane on it, which lifted off the ramp and dropped it on the quay with a big clang.

Once you got used to the all pervading smell of vomit, SS Tarrafal actually isn't a bad ship. Apparently it spent most of its life in the Baltic before coming here, probably to eventually die; I hoped it wouldn't be on this voyage, somebody told me that a ferry sinks here every couple of years. SS Tarrafal can probably take more than 500 passengers but there were only about 20 on this crossing. The down side was that despite being equipped with a restaurant and several bars they couldn't even make a cup of coffee, so the beers and picnic were a good idea.

The crossing was quite smooth so I don't think anyone added to the vomit smell on this trip, and I slept quite well in one of those aircraft chairs. A sheet of cardboard or polythene or something might have been nice, then I could have slept on the deck, but just in a t-shirt I didn't want to get stuck to it.

We arrived in Mindelo at about 5pm. The truck with the crane lifted the loading ramp into place and then drove off the ship. I disembarked with my stuff and stood around looking lost, waiting for Ana Paula to find me, my new phone seems to be stuck in Emergency mode. A very tall man found me, who turned out to be Ana Paula's husband, who works for Radio Cabo Verde, and whom everybody seemed to know. There didn't seem to be any particular plan with what to do with the FIB when it emerged from the ship.

I was taken into the terminal building and shown the left luggage room. The door looked as though it might open wide enough, so the truck with the crane lifted the FIB off the trailer with me in it. They were very impressed when I put the wheels down before it landed on the quay. It's blowing a gale, could this be the only flying I get here? It did fit into the left luggage room, just, and the tall man took me to my hotel. Having found the pin for my phone, the others are apparently arriving by air from Praia tomorrow morning.

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