Crew sickened by first passage on Mina2

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Fri 5 Mar 2010 22:56

Date: 1 March 2010

Position: Abrolhos Islands 17:57.89S 038:41.19W


If we thought the entrance to Itacaré was interesting, it wasn’t half as interesting as our exit. We wanted to get to Ilhéus in good time but couldn’t leave Itacaré until there was sufficient water over the sandy shallows barring the exit. I thought we could probably get away with it shortly before half tide. We couldn’t. As we headed towards the narrow gap, the water got more and more shallow until we felt the old familiar sensation of the boat rocking forward as the keel made contact with terra firma. Having tried to back out off the sand unsuccessfully, I then tried every point of the compass to find a gap through the shallows. There appeared to be none.


I was scratching my head and waiting for the tide to rise further to a background murmur from the DS of “Well that’s a lesson learned. Now we’re stuck for good. We’re doomed” when, yet again, a local fisherman who was entering the harbour came to our aid. He showed us where the deeper water was and with this certain knowledge I gunned the engine and ploughed our way through the sand and at last we were afloat – but not for long. Following the local knowledge put us aground a couple of more times before we were able to scrape across the bar and out into open and deeper water. Free at last.


We had to motor a good part of the 32 miles to Ilhéus where we anchored in front of the charming thatched buildings of the local yacht club. For a small fee all the facilities of the club including restaurant, bar and swimming pool were available to us. Very civilised. We went ashore and started the lengthy process of clearing in and out at the harbour captain’s office, a short walk away. Our papers were scrutinised at length, then turned the right way up and scrutinised some more. Some 40 minutes later, one of the documents was stamped and we were told to report to the Federal Police for their approval of our documents. We went to the police office as directed to find a bemused member of the Military Police who said he couldn’t help and said the only Federal Police office he was aware of was about an hour’s bus ride away. Exhausted we returned to the yacht club and a welcome caipirinha.


The following morning we were told by the yacht club that they thought the Federal Police might have a presence in the commercial harbour right next door where, in turn, we were told by the gateman that that was not the case but why didn’t we forget the whole thing? Authority enough, we thought, and did just that.


Later that day we were joined by Christine, Fernando and Michael who had flown up from Buenos Aires to join us for ten days on our passages down to Rio, some 600 miles south. Christine knew she was prone to a bit of sea-sickness but had been persuaded by her family to arm herself with every seasickness remedy known to man and go for it, to join us for what would be the experience of a lifetime.


We set sail the following morning for the first passage 185 miles down to the Abrolhos Islands. When I say “set sail” due to light winds, now from the south, we managed to sail for only 9 hours out of the 32 hours it took us. Despite the light airs, the sea was lumpy. During the course of the voyage, Christine had been getting quieter and quieter and, notwithstanding taking all precautions, becoming greener and greener. Come to that Fernando wasn’t doing so well either. And whilst Michael was bearing up relatively well, he wasn’t exactly offering to go down below and cook the meals.


Christine’s relief at reaching the anchorage in Abrolhos was shattered when she discovered that the swell curling into the bay made the boat roll and pitch almost as much as it had been on passage. Everyone knows that the instant cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree, but no luck there either. The Ilhas Abrolhos is a Brazilian naval base as well as a national park and landing on the islands is forbidden and enforced. The look on Christine’s face was one of tragic misery.


The Ilhas Abrolhos, lying 35 miles off the coast and which we could only look at, were a bit of a disappointment as well. The archipelago consists of four small islands, in all about 1 ½ miles across. Having been used to lush almost jungle-like vegetation down the entire coast of Brazil, the completely barren landscape was, well, dull.


The DS went down below to cook a delicious dinner. Fernando, notwithstanding having slept for the whole passage, appearing on deck only to stand his watches, announced at 1930, just before the meal was served, that he was going to bed. Christine had one mouthful and announced at 2015 that she was following Fernando. Michael, stalwart that he is, managed four mouthfuls and retired at 2030. None of them reappeared for the next 12 hours. Must have been the food.


By morning the swell had diminished and everyone was feeling a little more human. But only a little. Getting on to dry land was still a priority. We contacted on the radio the national park ranger who could give us an escorted tour round one of the islands. He said he would be delighted but was a little busy. He gave us permission to anchor our dinghy off one of the islands and sit on a rock on the foreshore until he had time to appear. Off we went and after swimming ashore, Christine’s world at last stopped moving. Colour returned to her cheeks and a smile to her lips. The rest of us, meanwhile, swam off to explore what the Abrolhos were famous for – the underwater delights of unique coral and exotic fish. Snorkelling through the shallows we entered another world. Surrounded by turtles, and extraordinary fish of every brilliant colour, shape and size, it was like swimming in a tropical aquarium.


Above the surface of the water, the air is also full of exotica. Magnificent frigate birds, tropic birds and brown boobys (also birds) glide majestically overhead whilst their young squat on the barren slopes of the island waiting for their doting parents to bring back a morsel of regurgitated fish. But it is in the southern winter in June to September when the most spectacular display takes place in the islands. It is then that literally thousands of humpback whales migrate north from the Antarctic to mate and bring up their young. Apparently the water is thick with them. There is a regulation that says that yachts should not get within 50 metres of the whales but, in practice, it is almost impossible getting MORE than 50 metres from them. It must be some spectacle. Another time perhaps.


I had been concerned that the boat seemed increasingly sluggish over the previous week or so. Now in the clear waters of the Abrolhos I went down to have a look at the bottom. Even though I had had a diver go down and clean the bottom only three weeks earlier I was appalled to find it covered in an inch-long coat of fine seaweed. I had had a very expensive application of copper epoxy applied in September which was supposed to provide excellent antifouling properties for ten years or more. This was not encouraging.


So now we had to plan for passage speeds 10% below our normal average because of the excessive weed and, given the light winds we had experienced recently, rather than leaving for the next 200-mile leg to Guarapari at first light the following morning I decided we should leave at midnight.