Preparations for the Transatlantic

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Fri 4 Dec 2009 05:08

Position: 16:53.14N 024:59.48W

Date: 1 December 2009


You can’t believe the number of things that need to be done in preparation for a long ocean passage. From important things like final provisioning of fresh food, to unimportant things like getting haircuts (Neil was so impressed with the service that, to the surprise of the barber, he went back for a second haircut within three days) the “to do” list seems never ending (I am a Virgo and big into lists). Getting up at 0600 to chip away at the tasks is all well and good if you haven’t been up half the night partying. Over the last two months the crews of all the boats have been bonding. This is now our world – our community, and with most of us about to embark on our first trans-oceanic passage, there is an emotional need to mark the occasion and to say our farewells - a need manifested in endless drinks parties. Sometimes two an evening before going out to dinner, then after dinner the impromptu “Come back to our boat – we’ve got an excellent malt” – that’s the killer. (Yes, Maria, I KNOW I should say “No” but without your sensible influence, and with the irrepressible, irresponsible influence of Neil egging me on, it’s so difficult). So the urgency of trying to get everything completed on time, combined with lack of sleep and an unhealthy intake of alcohol, leads to a spiral of fatigue and stress. Survived the City, defeated by cruising.


A couple of nights ago we went back to an excellent restaurant  “El Gaudi” run by a Parisienne. The food is superb and reasonably priced – the best food we’d had in months. They were putting on a musical evening the star turn of which was the accompanist for the legendary Cape Verdean singer Cesaria Evora. The music was fantastic, the restaurant full to bursting and the service appalling. We had to wait an hour for our orders to be taken; an hour and a half for our first drinks to appear and two and a half hours before we got our starters. Drained by accumulated fatigue I was falling asleep at the table. When, after three and a half hours our main courses had still not materialised, I flipped. I made a scene. Yes, me. Never done it before, and hope never to have to do it again. “It’s unacceptable. We will leave the restaurant and we will pay you nothing!” I ranted. The owner and waiters came to mop my fatigued brow and miraculously within three minutes our food was on the table. Perhaps I should have tried it two hours earlier.


On Monday evening, Peter and Venetia arrived to swell our Transatlantic complement to four. Peter, my son, is not an experienced sailor (my fault, as when he should have been learning how to sail, I was too busy working) but he saw this as the opportunity of a lifetime, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have a member of my family to share this amazing experience. He has sacrificed, as has Neil, much needed working income to join me on our adventure.


Venetia, on the other hand, is a highly experienced sailor and has been a stalwart member of our passage-making team. We have done many passages together since Mina2 started her globe-trotting six years ago. She also acts as a much-needed sobering and motherly influence on an otherwise hopelessly male crew. This doesn’t mean that she does all the cooking, washing up and tidying – but she does make sure that it is all done, and we aren’t allowed our evening cocktails until she’s inspected our hands and behind our ears and made sure we’re all properly clean (except our minds that is – that’s a task beyond even the formidable Venetia).


To break the monotony of tasks and parties, we did have a bit of excitement the other day. A Danish boat came in. (One of the great things about Cape Verde is that the only boats which visit – and there aren’t that many - are all serious cruising boats and have either just completed an ocean passage or are about to embark on one. The marina and anchorage is like the League of Nations with boats carrying the flags of an enormous number of countries. So everyone is an adventurer and there are loads of interesting people. Every boat which leaves is heading out on an epic voyage and are set on their way with a celebratory cacophony of fog horns and emotional waves.) Back to the Danish boat. They had just been to Gabon and they had established that they had a rat on board which had taken up residence in their anchor locker. Rats, if anything, are more feared by yacht owners than even cockroaches. John Minton, the original owner of Mina2, was sailing from Gran Canaria to the Caribbean a couple of years ago on his new Oyster 56, Stealer VI, and returned to the boat to find that rats had settled in. They had gnawed their way through the upholstery, the bedding, and the wiring. Not knowing which wires they had shorted, basically the entire boat had to be re-wired – and there are miles of it.


So back, once again, to the Danish boat. The rat hunt commenced. Neil said he had just the implement. He rushed back to Mina2 and grabbed my fine bamboo pole which I had salvaged from a beach in the Northern Sporades in Greece in the summer and had it earmarked for a specific purpose on the boat. The anchor locker was opened and the Dane started a frenzied attack on the cornered rodent with said bamboo pole. So fierce was his assault that the pole broke into two. Not deterred, the Dane shouted to the swelling crowd of blood-crazed yachties “Does anyone know how to use chopsticks?” The mayhem continued for a while until the Dane stood up and heaved a sigh of relief. A cheer went up amongst the assembled throng of fascinated onlookers. The Dane smiled and took a bow. Until his wife, still peering into the anchor locker, shrieked “Its still alive!” The Dane went berserk resuming his attack with refreshed vigour, my treasured bamboo pole splintering into a thousand pieces. Eventually a very dead, almost dismembered rat was hoisted from the anchor locker and displayed for photographs.


So the preparations finally completed, we finally set off tomorrow, bound for Brazil.