38 – Dakar and first steps West Africa
38 – Dakar and first steps West Africa

38 – Dakar and first steps West Africa

This is how we travel on to Dakar and make our first steps in West Africa, before letting ourselves relax in the rivers of Senegal.

Sailing to Dakar

Three days are planned for our crossing, counting with an average of 6 knots (6 miles per hour), predicted wind coming from the north at 4-5 Beaufort. So, we leave from Santiago / Cape Verde, in order to arrive in Dakar in the morning in daylight, because we had heard that entering the bay isn’t easy at night.

Rough sea

Just around the southern cape of Santiago the wind and the waves set in (2-3 metres). It doesn’t take long for me to feel a little grotty… The next 2 days we half-heartedly eat the precooked lunches, suppers and breakfast, or eat what Jean-Luc manages to prepare as I cannot even attempt to do anything in the galley. Note that we don’t use the table for eating once in three days as the boat is tilting too much to starboard and we’re sitting uncomfortably with a bowl of food in one hand and a spoon in the other… We don’t insist on second helpings, we eat just to keep us going. As we said in our last article, we bought lots of food for nothing… 37 – Leaving Cape Verde

And steering would be much more comfortable with one leg shorter than the other! …

  • water
  • boat
  • food

It does get better

On the third day the sea calms down for a few hours, sailing is suddenly quite nice again. But with the speed we’re going at, we clearly will be arriving in the night – bad plan with what we’ve heard about fishing nets and unlit boats. We anyway go ahead with it. Close to Dakar, at 02:00 AM, Jean-Luc gets told by a fishing boat to go between the island of Gorée and the mainland in order to avoid nets. Oliver and I are on deck, checking with torches, and after several hours of tiresome approach, we finally drop the anchor at 04:30 in front of the CVD (the “sailing” club called Cercle de Voile de Dakar) amongst 10 – 15 other sailing boats. Peace, finally!

The CVD of Dakar

We wake up late morning with the stench in the bay, and no, we don’t want a refreshing dip! The water and smells remind us of Dakhla (our legendary stop in the south of Morocco – see our article 31 – Dakhla, aaaahh Dakhla… if you haven’t read it!). We get greeted friendly and informed by the taxi boat of the club how to proceed and that he would pick us up later in the day whenever we wish to go on shore. Very efficient and unexpected service running from 8h30 until 19h30 to take sailors to and from their boats.

A sailing couple, who already once was here 16 years ago, tell us, that swimming in the bay and enjoying the beach and the club house was at that time possible. But plastic, pollution, lack of maintenance, dead animals! and bad water management have turned the beach and surrounding into a public rubbish dump and sewage pond. The club would need a serious lifting.… but it still remains a mythical place in West Africa for sailors: kind of the last, more or less, structured mooring.   

Furthermore, the staff of the CVD is attentive and helpful. Our laundry gets cleaned by Mama lessive, we buy vegetables from Mama légume, have flags sewn by Mama tissus and buy sweets from Mama nougat… Catherine is regularly called mama too!

Noisy Dakar

Customs and immigration formalities, phone cards and getting money takes up most of our time during the next days. But with all the cruising around we discover the busy city, being driven in completely demolished taxies. Oliver, in fact, nearly flies out of a taxi as the door suddenly opened in a curve! – we change taxi after that. We walk for kilometres along lorry-packed roads. They are all dusty, but when we say dusty, it is 5 to 10 cm of very thin dust. It is hardly possible to walk on the pavements (when they are recognisable) as they are blocked by broken down lorries, cars, motor bikes, chicken, goats, cows…

We learn how to bargain for every service and every purchase. We’re in Africa!

  • pontoon
  • club
  • pirogue
  • water
  • food
  • trafic
  • buses
  • shoes
  • boats

The island of Gorée

We take the ferry to go and see this “memory island” declared UNESCO world heritage that lies just off the bay of Dakar. It’s the painful memory of the Atlantic slave trade, the island having been the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast between the 15th and the 19th century. The museum, that includes the famous “door of no return”, was extremely interesting and emotionally demanding. 

Time to go

We have a lot of exchanges with the sailors aiming, them as well, for Siné-Saloum and Casamance. This gives us a first idea of places we’d like to see. The evening before lifting the anchor, we’re invited to have a drink on bord of an enormous 130 year old boat belonging to a REAL pirate. But a pirate who has his values, anyway, as he’s says (meaning he trades for guns, diamonds and all sorts of values but no drugs or people). The boys love it, especially the stories he has to tell… (we’ll tell you those in private!).

  • goree
  • pier
  • houses
  • memorial
  • market
  • view
  • guns
  • sheep
  • hotel
  • roofs
  • poster
  • door
  • memorial
  • ship

Stop in Saly

Sailing to Saly, our in-between stop to the rivers, is quite peaceful. That is, if you ignore the fact that we have to avoid about 200 fishing boats, 100 nets and at least 1000 buoys on the way. Due to the shallow water miles off the coast, the sea is pleasantly calm and the wind gently pushes us south.

The Bandia reserve

We know that a safari in Senegal will never match a safari in East Africa, but we anyway decide to visit a private nature reserve for the boys’ sake, sitting on a raised 4×4 landrover. Monkeys, warthogs, ostriches, gazelles, antelopes, zebras, crocodiles and rhinos… Always a great experience! Alexander has prepared a photo presentation, that we will share with you shortly!

On top of that, driving back from the parc, we discover that it’s much easier to go big shopping in Saly than in Dakar. Tip for other sailors! Our food reserves should now keep us going for a while in the rivers!

Next, we’ll let you know about our sailing in the Siné-Saloum and the Casamance! Sorry, no crocodiles…

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *