Master Under God - Not

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Fri 23 Dec 2011 03:05

I can not tell you how much work needed to be done on Mina2 after our Falkland cruise once we got to Ushuaia. I had three days before I was to leave the boat to fly to Buenos Aires for Christmas with the family for eight days, and I wanted to leave the boat as ready as possible to step back on board on 28 December, re-victual and head off for our ultimate adventure across Drake Passage to Antarctica. She needed 750 litres of fuel to be sourced in 200 litre drums and then hand-pumped into the tank and into 23 jerry cans, which then had to be distributed about the boat and lashed down. Brazilian gas bottles had to be refilled – which turned out to be a problem. In fact almost all of the numerous tasks turned out to be a problem of greater or lesser magnitude, and without the help and support of Saint “Mrs Fixit” Roxanna, I really don’t know what I would have done.


The final unexpected problem was to discover that you can’t just leave your boat in Ushuaia and go to Buenos Aires for eight days. Oh, no. To do that would be to abandon your boat without the authority of the Argentine Customs (even though you're not actually leaving the country); an infraction punishable with a completely arbitrary fine of up to the value of the boat itself. So I had to go to a Notary Public to get a Power of Attorney sworn (Roxanna was not only arranging all of this, but had also agreed to be the appointee) and a covering letter prepared to the Customs to justify my extraordinary decision to abandon my boat after three months at sea to spend eight days with my family over Christmas. The following day Roxanna and I returned to the Customs office with a bundle of papers for them to check, double check, turn the right side up, check again, photocopy and stamp in quintuplicate. Meanwhile I left a bundle of dirty thermal underwear and sheets at the laundry to be collected on my return, then rushed back to Mina2 to pack, decommission her and take her off to her mooring (she can’t stay on the jetty in my absence).  By the time I left the boat and headed for the airport I was completely and utterly knackered and looking forward to my eight days of R&R.


I arrived in Buenos Aires on Tuesday evening into the bosom of my family – well, so far, the comforting bosom of the Absentee Downstairs Skipper -  and have been luxuriating in the warmth of Buenos Aires (35 C vs Ushuaia’s typical 10 C) and as there isn’t anything I can do to fret over the boat from here, all I can do is relax which is a self-indulgent novelty.


In days of yore, the Captain of a vessel was designated “Master Under God”, emphasising his total authority over and responsibility for his ship, its cargo and its crew, and so it remains today. There is no place for democratic decisions on a well run boat. The boat can have only one skipper and his authority is absolute. His instructions are like the Eleventh Commandment. He is infallible. He is like “The Pope on a Boat”. And so it is with Mina2. The slightest hesitation in obeying a crisply delivered instruction is dealt with severely. Even a quizzically raised eyebrow has been known to result in ten lashes with the cat o’nine tails. (I appointed Able Seadog Snoopy to be in charge of the cat – possibly a bad decision as he was once humiliated when he had to chase it three times round the deck before wrestling it to the ground and bringing it before the Skipper, to be flailed against the back of some miscreant crew member.)


But absolute power can be a heady drug. One can begin to think that one is, indeed, infallible. And that, I have learnt, is a mistake. Since my return to Buenos Aires, the DS has been kind enough to remind me of all my little fallibilities. Indeed it would appear that barely a moment passes without my being guilty of some error of judgement. How fortunate I am to have her wise counsel. I will return to Mina2 a humbled and wiser Skipper ready for the privations and demands of the great challenge ahead.


As I am unlikely to sober up sufficiently to type a blog until I return to Mina2 after Christmas, may I take this opportunity of thanking all three members of the Mina2 Blog Fan Club for your indulgence over the last few months, and to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.