Christmas on Mina2 without CapTim - brilliant!

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Mon 28 Dec 2009 23:17

So, no sooner had CapTim’s taxi turned the corner than we were casting off and bumping our way out of the marina. With about 300 tonnes of bread, cheese and Doritos on board (Neil had done the shop) we were off and heading for an anchorage off Muta in the Itaparica Channel, keeping close on the tail of the lovely Minnie B who promised CapTim they’d keep a close eye on us while he was away.

As we approached the anchorage Neil (the Acting Temporary Upstairs Skipper) become very quiet and transfixed on the depth...err...thingy. He’d managed to get us out of the marina but would he be able to drop the anchor without first running us aground? With caipirinhas in hand the rest of the crew watched on in delight at Neil’s clear discomfort. He kept edging into the shore and we’d all shout “Perfect – let’s whack the anchor down here - it looks fine!”  and suddenly he was full throttle, swinging round and shooting back out into the middle of the bay. In the end Neil chose a spot that, while I can’t be sure of the exact coordinates, seemed to be somewhere slap bang between the Muta anchorage and...Salvador. The rest of the crew speculated whether half a tank of petrol in the dinghy would even be enough to get us to shore. Poor Neil, he endured our wrath, but later that evening as we watched the river practically drain away, it turned out that had we “whacked” the anchor down where we’d suggested we would have been dry on our side.

Run up to Christmas - Muta
In the warm up to Christmas we spent a couple of lazy days meandering around the river, diving off the back of the boat and occasionally swimming ashore to enjoy a bit of land sway helped by a drink at a local beach bar.

In the evenings we plundered the fish from the freezer, caught on the passage and proudly vacuum packed by Tim and his on-board vacuum packer (bizarre but useful it turns out) and cooked it up on the tiny but brilliant tin BBQ that Tim and Selina had bought at the amazing Sao Joao market in Salvador that was a sea of stalls bursting with vegetables, live chickens and goats in wheelbarrows.

The nights were clear and we gazed up at the stars, but it was Sarah who seemed most over-awed as she gazed up from her cabin and marvelled at the brightness of the stars only to be pointed out by a sniggering Neil that those “stars” were actually the anchor lights at the top of the mast.

Christmas Eve - Santiago de Iguape
We had arranged to meet other members of the Rallye in Santiago de Iguape. We made our way up the Paraguacu river, stopping off at an idyllic bay for lunch. As we arrived at Iguape with a huge church looming up on the river bank the DS (Maria – the Downstairs Skipper) was busy making caipirinhas and Selina was feverishly making xmas decorations out of newspaper. Once we’d anchored the boys put up the fairly lights that turned Mina2 into a giant Christmas tree - we got cheers (or maybe they were jibes) from the shore.

At about 8pm we settled down to our Christmas Eve dinner with the saloon turned into a Santa’s grotto with glittering candles, paper snow flake chains, crackers and Andy Williams belting out Jingle Bells.

After our Christmas dinner we went into the town nestled behind the majestic church on the river bank. We found the crew of African Seawing dancing with locals and enjoying some strong caipirinhas. We ordered a round and within half an hour with her usual complaint of “This doesn’t taste like it has any cachaça in it at all!” the DS became highly “animated” and was ordering another round.

Feeling by now in a thoroughly festive mood we went with African Seawing to gate crash the far more civilised evening that the rest of the rally were enjoying at a local house cum restaurant. We rounded the evening off singing Christmas carols - French vs English and then made our way back to the boat with the DS insisting on rowing us back gondola style. If it weren’t for Pete valiantly wrestling the oar off her I’m not sure we’d have ever got back to the boat that was sticking out like a sore thumb on the river, lit up like one of those houses that has the Santa climbing up the side of the house and a full team of reindeer on the roof or, as the DS pointed out, slightly vulgar.

Christmas Day
Pete and Maria then took their hangovers to the early morning Christmas service at the church on the river bank. Two hours later they returned with their hangovers still very much on board. At midday we all swam or rowed over to African Seawing with the crews from Minnie B and Suzie Too to sink down Christmas beers, pancakes and smoked salmon.

Boxing Day
We were all woken up at 7am by the sound of a horn, that kept blowing with momentary pauses getting closer and closer to the boat. Pete took a look out of his cabin window just in time to see a dug out canoe with 4 men inside being rowed silently past us about 2 metres away heading for the town. Another dug out canoe rowed with them and at the front of one was a man blowing a conch shell. We could see that villagers were gathering on the shore. Not sure whether this is the norm, to announce your arrival by blowing a massive shell but it was all rather magical.

Later that morning, before heading off, we went to visit the mangroves in the dinghy and then picked up the anchor and floated back up river and anchored off at the monastery that we’d passed a few days before. Built in 1692 - amazing really to imagine what life must have been like for the monks out there trying to convert everyone to Christianity. It does appear to have been plonked in the middle of nowhere though, so who exactly they were there to convert apart from the occasional conch blowing fisherman passing by, it’s not entirely clear although a little later the Reconcavo as this area is called was important for its sugar and tobacco plantations.

As we left, one of the kids from the village had charged up on his horse and was cruising around chatting with his friends. We’ve seen quite a lot of this - the local lads all getting around on horse-back. They look no different to guys in Italy that beat around on mopeds, except the mopeds are replaced by horses.

In the evening we anchored off a paradise island, lush with trees and a long stretch of sandy beach. It was a beautiful clear and calm evening and we rowed ashore with Suzie Too and African Seawing and had a BBQ beach party.

The caretaker (a toothless old man) of this private island welcomed us, having taken a definite shine to Selina, and with the help of his sidekick with incredible agility sprinted up the coconut trees handing out coconuts and cashews (the fruit) to us all. We invited them to join the BBQ beach party, sharing with them caipirinhas, beers and food. The DS was delighted when the caretaker announced that her caiprinhas were good - too good in fact. Selina was less delighted as her mother’s infamously potent caipirinhas only seemed to further fuel the caretaker’s ardent proposals of marriage.

But the night was magical. The moon shone down and twinkled off our 3 boats anchored close to the shore and we all lay back in the sand and enjoyed a warm and balmy Brazilian evening on our private paradise island.

Back to Salvador
The next morning we waved goodbye to our Brazilian friends as we left their island and set off back to Salvador, about 3 hours away. I think it would be safe to say that Neil was sh***ing himself at the prospect of getting Mina2 back into position in the marina. He slept or prayed or drank heavily (we weren’t sure as he’d locked himself up in his cabin) for most of the journey back. But whatever he did, it worked. We genuinely glided back into our spot on the pontoon with no problems at all. At which point Neil collapsed and (we suspect) cried a little.

We had the night and next morning to stock up on provisions before we’d be heading back out into the bay for our New Year’s adventures...


Postscript… Malvinas invasion cancelled

You may have noticed that since the last blog, the route map on the blog homepage has shown our position as the Falkland Islands – known to the Argentine DS as the Malvinas. This was supposed to be a joke intended to spook the Absent Upstairs Skipper. The joke however has backfired. Whilst we were sunning ourselves on a beach just round the corner from Salvador we understand that Mina2’s insurance underwriters (avid readers of the blog) had withdrawn all insurance cover and, knowing that the boat was now under the effective control of an Argentine national (the Downstairs Skipper), they informed the UK Ministry of Defence. As a result there has been a major invasion alert. Nuclear submarines have been deployed to the South Atlantic and a Task Force is being assembled in great secrecy as I type. It’s all rather embarrassing.  So the offending and erroneous plot has therefore been removed. Sorry everyone!



Mina2’s saloon decked out for a festive Christmas Eve




The Lambretta’s of Brazil




The church of Santiago de Iguape