Day 9: Cabin Fever Hits Mina2

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Fri 11 Dec 2009 16:40

Noon Position:  05:47.2S 030:12.9W

Noon to Noon Run:  190.1 miles (Warp Factor 2)

Date:  11 December 2009


I have been remembering our passage across the Bay of Biscay four years ago in the frontal weather systems of the North Atlantic. 600 miles over four days and, as the depressions spiralled by, we had everything. Flat calms to gale force winds, clear skies to thick fog, and wind came at us from every point on the compass. It was varied, challenging and interesting.


In contrast, trade winds sailing is easy, comfortable and predictable. As Neil said,


“Every morning I come up on deck and ask the same question, “What’s new?” Nothing’s new. Ever. Wind speed: the same. Wind direction: the same. Boat speed: the same. Course: the same. “Can I get you something to drink Venetia?” “Yesh pleesh, I’d like a Mango Bomb with a triple gin float”. It’s all so predictable. Day after bloody day. It’s like Groundhog Day. It’s driving me nuts.”


No, not driving you nuts Neil – driven you nuts. After more than a week on the boat the cracks are beginning to appear and there has been an outbreak of cabin fever. Let’s look at the evidence.


First, Venetia: I’m afraid she’s developed a drink problem again. Ever since we inadvertently gave her a triple measure Mango Bomb I suspect she has become a little over-fond of Mothers’ Ruin. Yesterday, we found her unconscious on the sofa, cradling an empty bottle of gin in her arms. She claims she was only asleep and that the bottle had been planted there by Neil. Neil denies this. So who do I believe: a respected matron of the shires; one of the Great and the Good of Weston-super-Mare and respected member of the Magistrates Bench who has a drink problem which must at all costs be kept quiet? Or Neil who has nothing to lose or gain from the revelation? ‘Nuff said. (And if Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Run are reading this: this time we have the video evidence).


Then Peter: having set off on the passage with such golden promise, he started developing little eccentricities which have now progressed into full-blown manias. Of our domestic rubbish, we keep all plastic, glass, cans and other non-organic materials and anything organic goes overboard to biodegrade. The latter includes cardboard which we tear up before throwing into the sea. Peter took on this particular responsibility. I started picking up on abnormal behaviour patterns when I noticed that Peter was taking considerable care in tearing the cardboard into exactly uniform pieces, mumbling to himself when doing so and getting agitated when any piece was not perfectly shaped. Not satisfied with the regular supply of whisky cartons and wine boxes, Peter started hunting round the boat for other bits of cardboard. All my note books no longer have their cardboard covers. And last night I was woken by a ghastly moaning noise in the cockpit. Peter was on watch alone, standing at the helm, singing in a strangulated descant. “What on earth are you doing?” I asked. “I’m singing a duet with John Barrowman here” he answered, gesturing into thin air. Whose John Barrowman anyway?


And last, but not least, Neil: I started noticing that when Peter had piled up his bits of cardboard into stacks of twenty and began the process of flicking them carefully overboard at the rate of 1.2 every second, Neil would slip quietly to the back of the boat. When the bits of cardboard came winging past him he would snatch them out of the air and pop them into his mouth. Enough’s enough. I confronted him about his odd behaviour. “Why are you eating the cardboard?” “Because I’m hungry and it’s tastier than the bread” was his response.


OK. We have had a small problem with the bread. We bought just enough in Cape Verde to last before it went stale. And then we went through the sealed pre-baked bread, the tortilla wraps and the numerous packets of crackers. But not to worry, I had bought about two dozen packets of bread mix. The Absent Downstairs Skipper had given these a trial in the summer and had produced marvellously tasty rolls that were exquisite straight from the oven and more than acceptable the following day. But the ADS was not here. The instructions on the Portuguese packets shed little light on how we were to go about the process. Venetia took over, and later that afternoon presented us with four cow pats. They were rock hard on the outside and like Playdough on the inside. And they tasted disgusting. I always try and look on the bright side but could find no redeeming features at all unless you wanted to use the insides as filler for crash damage on the wing panels of Ford Cortinas. Peter tore them into perfectly equal squares and flicked them overboard. This time Neil was not in his usual station to pop them into his mouth. Having emailed the ADS with desperate pleas on how to make the bread, the following day I tried my hand bristling with confidence. Same inedible result.


But going back to Neil, when we crossed the Equator he phones up Sarah, his girlfriend to tell her of our heroic achievement but instead some internal fuse blows and, can you believe this, he proposes to her! Proof positive that the poor chap has completely lost the plot.


So with the three of them close to breakdown it is just as well that I remain strong and sane, as evidenced by this lucid and honest blog.


Meanwhile, back on the race course, the only consolation of the nightmare that was the Doldrums is that we managed to get away with using our engine for much less time than some of our fellow rallyists. When we came out of the Doldrums we (along with everyone else) were frustrated by unforecast southerly winds and whilst we more than held our own within the fleet we had a couple of days of slowish speeds. But in the last 36 hours we have been able to storm along and noon yesterday to noon today we managed a very respectable 190 miles and have picked off another two or three boats. Not that we can see any of them, nor have we been able to hear any of them on the VHF. Instead we rely on the daily email we get from the organisers which are so complex and anomalous it is difficult interpreting anything from them. Proof of this is that I am told by those of you at home who are following the rally closely that there are a dozen rally boats all blogging away and all of them claiming to be winning after all achieving record days. We are not winning and are unlikely to do so, but we are having a great deal of fun trying to out manoeuvre our friends on the final 700 miles down the coast of Brazil to Salvador. Best guess at the moment is that we will arrive Tuesday afternoon – but a lot can happen between now and then.