Skippers Reunited

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Sun 14 Feb 2010 12:11

Position: 13:01.29S 038:45.12W – Ilha do Cal, Bahia de Todos Os Santos


I had returned to Salvador to find Mina2 had been left by the temporary crew in spanking good order so there was less maintenance work and making good to do than I had anticipated. And just as well as the heat here has been so overwhelming that one gets up at 0530 and carries out a few chores. By 0900 it’s too hot to do anything more until the evening. No wonder so little gets achieved here.


The marina, locked and guarded day and night by armed security men, is by the docks– one of the less salubrious areas of town, and the area just a short distance outside of the marina is so dangerous that not even the police venture in. It is a very pleasant sort of prison – with the goodies on the inside. So, sadly, one feels constrained to wander around and get a feel for the place, the people and the culture.


Liliana and her boyfriend Rodrigo came to the rescue. Liliana is an old friend of Selina and had stayed with us for a few weeks when she came to London a few years ago. She had been looking forward to showing us around when we visited her home in Salavador. They were wonderful. They escorted me around town. They took me to wonderful restaurants and guided me through the particular cuisine of Brazil (very different – very yummy). We went to a brilliant jazz concert to hear great Brazilian music and introduced me to her friends and family. She arranged for me to get a data SIM card so that now we have internet connectivity on my laptop in whatever little bay we happen to be anchored. Liliana and Rodrigo were just wonderfully hospitable and my stay in Salvador would not have been a fraction of the cultural experience without them.


On Monday evening I was sitting on the bow of the boat when I saw an unusually fine example of South American chic sashaying down the pontoon.

“Hell-lo” I drawled as she approached. “Ding…dong. Fancy coming aboard for a drink?”

“You bet” she said in almost faultless English, “I could murder a gin and tonic”.

This one was going to be a cinch, but, there was something disturbingly familiar about the easy way she chucked her luggage up to me, climbed up and swung her shapely leg over the pulpit. Having poured us both a stiff one, my unease persisted until it all came flooding back; this was no common-or-garden conquest of which there have been so many in the past few months – this was none other than the Downstairs Skipper herself. I had seen so little of her over the last few months that I had completely forgotten what she looked like. It was the nagging that started the moment she had got the drink in her hand that was the giveaway. What bliss – we were together again at last.


Tuesday was spent at supermarkets re-provisioning the boat, not least in preparation for taking Liliana and Rodrigo out for a sail on Wednesday. It was good to be out of the heat of the marina for the day.


Meanwhile the marina was beginning to fill up, as was the City of Salvador outside our gates, in preparation for Carnaval – the annual excess of wild celebration of exceedingly loud drums and music blaring from exceedingly big floats with exceedingly flimsily-dressed Brazilian lovelies gyrating on and all around them. It is recognised that the biggest Carnaval in the world is in Rio de Janeiro – very commercial, very brash – but arguably the best and most authentic Carnaval in the world takes place here in Salvador. It started with a bang Thursday night.


Thursday morning I awoke feeling a little below par. By lunchtime I was feeling dreadful. The DS took my temperature – it was sky high. I took to my bed and the DS showing an unusual degree of sympathy (must have had something to do with our months of separation) caressed my fevered body with a flannel dipped in ice water. The shock would have killed a lesser man. As I slipped in and out of consciousness (OK that may be slightly dramatic exaggeration, but I did spend most of the day sleeping) we speculated as to the cause of the fever. Denghue fever was the DS’s first typically pessimistic theory. No. Too inconvenient – it takes weeks to recover from. Food poisoning? Possibly, but some of the symptoms were inconsistent. Heat exhaustion? Almost certainly, given all the right components and symptoms. But my favoured theory is that it was a simple case of love fever. Our passionate reunion after so long apart had taken its toll. Whatever the cause, the second liveliest Carnaval in the world passed us by unnoticed that night as I lay, near death, within the very sound of the drum beats.


Friday morning, and I staged a near miraculous recovery. Temperature was normal and, apart from feeling a little weak, everything else was normal too. So by Friday evening, we were ready to join the party. We took the “Elevador” up to the historic old town and as we emerged into the main square all our senses were bombarded. The music blasting from the vast floats hit you in the solar plexus. The streets were crammed full of Brazilians wearing extraordinary costumes, and everyone was gyrating to the sound of the Brazilian beat.


Brazilian women are renowned for their voluptuous bottoms and they show these off to great effect, bumping and grinding them ceaselessly to the never-ending rhythm as the parade of floats wind through the streets at a snail pace. It’s crazy; it’s noisy, it’s happy, it’s fun – it’s CARNAVAL!


If we had any concerns about security in the crammed streets, our fears were allayed by an overpowering presence of the military and police. They were all over the place as they stood vigilantly in groups, or marched in great squads through the crowds fully decked out in riot gear, gripping their riot batons, guns at their hips. But there was no trouble. Everyone was happy.


On Saturday, re-provisioned and party’ed out we slipped our lines and left the marina for the start of our journey south. But before we were to head out into the Atlantic rollers we were to spend a couple of days exploring the bay of Salvador which I had missed out on when I flew back to the UK in December.


We sailed round the island of Itaparica and down a long wide channel to anchor for the night between two islands fringed with white beaches and palm trees – we are continually pinching ourselves to make sure we haven’t died and gone to paradise.