The Beautiful Islands of Cape Verde

03 April 2012 - Manchester Evening News - Peter Thompson

We had barely left the port on my maiden fishing voyage, yet I was already starting to question just how safe our vintage vessel was – and my sanity. 

The tranquil Cape Verde island of Boa Vista had so far lived up to its billing as being an ideal place to relax and soak up the winter sun, but the serene beaches now seemed a million miles away. 

After a catamaran outing the day before had set off without me due to a mix-up with the time, I was determined not to miss the boat again – if you will pardon the pun. I learned of availability for another trip and before I knew it I was clambering aboard a dinghy along with three other tourists from my hotel. 
Little did we know we were about to set sail for what turned out to be a Boa Vista-style episode of Deadliest Catch. Passing a swanky catamaran and sturdy-looking fishing boats, we were soon being hoisted aboard what appeared to be the oldest and smallest vessel in the harbour by Mamadou, the merry Senegalese fisherman who was supposedly going to teach me how to fish. 

We quickly learned Mamadou could hardly speak a word of English. The boat’s skipper forced the engine to splutter into life and we set off for the high seas – although I had a feeling it was not all going to be plain sailing. 

I perched at the back of the cramped boat along with Darren, the only one of the four of us to have any idea about fishing, Adam and his girlfriend Laura. Small talk about what we might catch quickly turned to concern about the size of the waves. 

The boat was getting battered from all sides and as it rocked precariously, Mamadou noted “biiig waves”. That had not escaped my attention and Laura, who later informed us she could not swim, was soon sprawled out across the only seat, struck down with sea sickness. With the waves getting bigger by the second and still no sign of any fish, my stomach was in turmoil. 

But after a turbulent hour or so in which we appeared to be going round in circles, Mamadou finally dropped anchor as the skipper casually blocked up some holes in the boat and shovelled water back into the sea. All very reassuring. 

Mamadou soon beckoned me over to reel in the first catch of the day – although the fish was almost given a lifeline as I started winding the reel in the wrong way, much to Mamadou’s amusement. With the waves still hammering into the boat I decided to take a seat to watch the expert at work. 

Mamadou soon let out a cry of “whoppppaaaa, shark”, prompting the skipper to rush out of his cabin brandishing a sharp metal spike and a hammer. Granted, this was no great white, but I did not need to be an expert to recognise the fin and jagged teeth. 

Three hours into our expedition and with my stomach still in knots due to the unabated choppy ocean, Mamadou finally declared that it was time for “beers, yes”. A man of few words, but those two were more than welcome. I had been like a fish out of water all afternoon, but that was certainly not the case for the rest of my week in Boa Vista. The third largest of 10 islands off the west coast of Africa, Boa Vista is very much untapped and undeveloped, although for just how long remains to be seen.

To read the remainder of Peter's feature, please click to view the article as it appears on the Manchester Evening News website.