Day 4: Killer Fish Caught - Panic Ensues

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Sun 6 Dec 2009 16:10

Noon Position: 05:36.6N 025:01.8W

Noon to Noon Run: 157 miles

Date: 6 December 2009


I apologise for the break in transmission yesterday, but the fact was that I had fallen behind on the blog so it was always going out 36 hours after the event. So here we are, back up to date again.


Yesterday we were approaching the dreaded Doldrums. The Doldrums is the band across the Atlantic where the north east trade winds of the northern hemisphere meet the south east trade winds of the southern hemisphere. It is an area of meteorological confusion with lots of calms and light winds interspersed with vicious squalls. But the position of the Doldrums is not defined; it is not a fenced off theme park with a sign at the gate saying “Welcome to the Doldrums”. The band moves around from day to day, and sometimes it is narrow and sometimes it is wide. So it’s difficult to know when to expect it, where, or for how long.


Our first indication that the Doldrums were approaching came last night when we saw great sheets of lightning flickering across the sky many miles in front of us. Over the next few hours the previously steady wind slowly faded away and started shifting direction. We held the cruising chute throughout the night but come dawn we were barely trickling along, the mainsail was slatting and the cruising chute hung limply in the water. We made the decision to take the sails down and turn on the engine just as the first drops of rain began to fall – the first rain I had seen in months.  Within seconds visibility was down to less than 100m as the rain came down in biblical quantities. Thunder rumbled overhead. It was dark, cool, wet, windless and eery. When the squalls do come, they come in fast and vicious. Within seconds the wind increases from less than 10 knots to more than 30 knots. As we are now 700 miles from land (and particularly as we aren’t racing) we’ve decided not to use the cruising chute again until we are out of the Doldrums in perhaps 24 hours time.  So with everybody turning their engines on for varying amounts of time, the competitive element of the crossing is temporarily on hold. The non-race will resume once more when we are out of the Doldrums.


Talking of not racing, we do get a report emailed to us by the rally organisers every day with feed back they receive from other rally boats. Although we can only understand part of the shorthand French, we understand that two boats have hit whales. The boats were undamaged but one of the whales sadly was bleeding badly after the encounter.


We, too, have had encounters with marine life. We hadn’t bothered to put out a fishing line as we had some previously caught fish in the freezer and we have half a cow to get through (we bought two enormous and absolutely delicious vacuum packed Brazilian beef fillets in Mindelo which we are now transporting back to Brazil).  Yesterday morning we put out one of our last remaining lures and before long we had a fighter on the line. We hauled it in and found a large fish (about a metre long) with a vicious set of teeth thrashing about on the end of it. A junior member of the sailfish family we believe. What to do?


Neil fancies himself as something of a Bear Grylls, but I’ve never heard such a fuss. There were girly shrieks as first he tried to lasso its tail to haul it on board, and then he donned massive gloves to try and lift the thrashing beast on board. Venetia meanwhile had gone off to get a bucket. As we were lowering the desperate fish on board Venetia was shrieking “Put it in the bucket! Put it in the bucket!”

“How can I put it in the bucket” Neil shouted back “It’s so big I couldn’t even fit it’s head in the bucket”.

“Then why don’t you just cut its head orf?”

“Because it might get just a little bit angry and this thing’s capable of biting my arm off”.


Eventually the fish died of boredom and within 20 minutes it had been gutted, cut into eight large steaks and four large fillets with some of the steaks cooked to perfection by Venetia for a very memorable and delicious lunch.


Responsible yachts sail passages dry – no alcohol. This is not a responsible yacht. Happy Hour (or “six o’clocksies” as Venetia puts it) is the crew morale boosting time of day, and believe me we need as much crew morale boosting as we can get. Neil and I were preparing the cocktails. Venetia’s favoured tropical tipple is mango juice and gin. Neil poured in a good measure of gin, topped it up with mango juice, forgot he had already put in some gin so added more. I came past, assumed that Neil hadn’t floated any gin on top as Venetia likes so I added a further good measure. By the time the glass was drained, Venetia was staggering around and slurring her words. She wasn’t allowed out of the cockpit until she had sobered up.


I, meanwhile, have been taking the opportunity to get to grips with astronavigation, so I’m constantly popping up on deck with the sextant to take sights and then going below, wrapping a wet towel round my head and struggling with the intricacies of spherical trigonometry. I’ve managed a couple of fixes between 5 and 10 miles of where we actually are which is gratifying but I am still a million miles from being a competent astronavigator. Much more practice required.


But the revelation on board has been Peter, my son. He came on board a very inexperienced sailor. But apart from filming the documentary he has thrown himself into the learning curve of sailing, mastering all of the skills with minimal instruction. The boy’s a natural. A chip off the old block. So far he has been awarded no fewer than seven Mina2 Gold Stars – that’s right, seven. Mina2 Gold Stars are as rare as hens’ teeth. They are like a combination of the VC and a Olympic Gold Medal. Until now only a total of five have ever been awarded, and no person has ever won more than one. What a boy!


But it’s a shame that some people can’t bear to see others succeed. Neil has been in an increasingly odd mood. He refuses to talk to Peter and keeps on muttering about “nepotism”, whatever that means.