Day 1: Skipper Beaten up by Crew Member

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Fri 4 Dec 2009 23:00

Noon Position: 14:10N 025:19W

Noon to Noon Run: 164 miles

Date: 3 December 2009


Things could have started off better. A couple of hours into our passage, we were running with a stiff breeze behind us and the mainsail secured outboard with a preventer. I was at the helm. After all the preparations, this was it. We were on our way. My joy was inexpressible. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. However, a momentary lapse of concentration later and I inadvertently gybed the main and we now have a couple of bent stanchions.  Although the damage is not material to speed or safety, it was a timely reminder of the need to be alert, and mindful of the power of this boat.


Although we are constantly reminded that this is a rally – not a race, I have to admit (along with I suspect almost all the other skippers) that the competitive element really adds spice to what is already a wonderful experience. We all receive daily emails from the organisers of each boats position, and there is a VHF radio net twice a day where all boats which are in range report their positions. By this morning we seemed to be reasonably placed in our group and hopefully we will be hauling in some of the smaller boats in the other two groups which left before us.


But more important than one’s position relative to other boats is one’s position within one’s own boat. A “pokey little boat” as someone once described Mina2 is an unforgiving environment in which inter-personal tensions can build and ferment leading to an unhappy ship and a potentially dangerous one as well. That is why the selection and training of a crew prior to a transoceanic passage is critical to the success of the venture. A complicated and long drawn-out process of psychometric testing is required to ensure compatibility of personalities. Then there are the weeks of crew training, bonding weekends, planning summit meetings and so on. Every detail of life on board needs to be discussed, analysed and agreed upon at the outset. So some people say. Poppycock. That’s what I say. If they can mix the skipper an extra strong gin and tonic and wash up my empty glasses, they’re on.


Or at least that’s what I used to say. Yesterday afternoon we had an incident. We had been belting along under a sunny sky with the cruising chute billowing before us. The wind was picking up and, not wanting to shred the sail again so soon into the race rally, we decided to take it down. We were dropping acres of sail onto the deck, all of us pulling like mad to stop it from going overboard. I was momentarily enveloped in sail cloth as it was coming down when something smashed into my cheekbone. Stunned I shook myself out of the sailcloth to find standing beside me Neil, who was rubbing his fist with a grin on his face. He later claimed that it was a complete accident, but I overheard him later telling Peter that he had been dying to do that for a long time, but it was quite tricky because as I was covered by the cruising chute he had to have three goes before he made contact. So it’s mutiny again. Perhaps the psychometric testing would have revealed Neil’s psychopathic tendencies. Mind you, I should have guessed as much. He is a Geordie after all.


In the same conversation between Peter and Neil, I overheard Peter saying “You should’ve given me warning you were going to hit him in the face.  I could’ve followed up with a winch handle…” . So that’s the thanks I get for all those year’s of personal sacrifice, rationing my gin for the sake of his school fees.


The beating up incident was followed shortly after by my standing by the sink in the galley asking why no one had yet washed up my empty glasses, when Venetia sitting above me in the cockpit gave every impression of hurling a full glass of fruit juice at my head. Again, apparently, it was an “accident”.


Only Snoopy is showing me the respect I deserve. Snoopy is now very old and much loved, if a little threadbare. In those heady carefree days before the children arrived, Snoopy travelled all over the world with the Absent Downstairs Skipper and me. He arrived in Pete’s luggage and narrowly missed being slit from groin to neck by the drugs officers at Sal airport. Snoopy is now the ship’s mascot for the Transatlantic crossing and sits faithfully in the tray in front of the nav table looking admiringly at me whilst I sit doing skipperly things.