Making Progress But Could Do Better 4/10

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Thu 15 Nov 2012 11:58
Position 19:02S 039:12W

Date: 15 November 2012 1145 UTC (0845 local)


Making Progress But Could Do Better 4/10


After 24 hours of motoring, at last the wind filled in. We have since been sailing in mainly moderate winds from the beam or behind us and we have quickly settled into the routine of a long passage. Being in the tropics, the nights are long with 11 hours of darkness, so we take it in turns to be on watch – three hour watches between 6pm and 6am when it’s dark, and four hour watches during the day.


At sea, generally, the air temperature is much the same as the water temperature. Just along the coast from Rio is Cabo Frio – Cape Cold – named because the cold current from the bitter south rises to the surface here. With the water temperature at just 15C the first night was distinctly chilly and had us digging around for our fleeces, but since then the water temperature has risen dramatically to more than 26C, so even at night, the breeze is balmy warm. It can also be pretty wet. If you think that because Brasil is hot, it is also sunny, then think again. Having spent a number of months sailing down the coast of Brasil and now back up again, my experience has been that most of the time it is cloudy with regular downpours of heavy rain. But at least it’s warm rain. And our night sailing is often illuminated by flashes of distant lightning reflected off the cloud base.


As we head north we are following the coast line. About 20 miles offshore we are too far away to see land, but there is no sense of isolation here. Oh no. We are on the same course as all the other commercial shipping that plies its way up and down the coast, so a constant lookout needs to be kept for any rapidly approaching leviathan that may be on a collision course, or one that is creeping up on us from behind. But their courses tend to be predictable – unlike the fishing boats. The sea off this coast is shallow – perfect fishing grounds for the fleets that came out of the fishing ports every night. A couple of nights ago it was particularly bad with hundreds of them criss-crossing all around us. Being small wooden boats, few of them show up on the radar and as they ply backwards and forwards with their trawls or nets out, their course is erratic. It’s a nightmare as we slalom our way through the fleet and we have already had a couple of encounters much closer than I would have liked. If that wasn’t enough, Brasil is blessed with rich offshore oil and gas reserves and the coastline is littered with enormous production platforms. But at least they don’t move. They are the size of small towns; incredibly brightly lit and often with a tall tower belching out orange flames - you certainly don’t have difficulty in seeing them. But all of them have numerous support vessels in attendance that meander around creating yet another navigational challenge.


Our navigational skills, and indeed all our seamanship skills, are not just being challenged but assessed as well, I suspect. Having a Yachtmaster Instructor Examiner on board is a two-edged sword. Having spent her entire professional life making sure that everything on board is done correctly, to the highest standards and at the right time, Sally must be appalled at the incompetent amateurism that surrounds her on Mina2. Lawrence and I are in a constant state of nerves, fumbling with our knots and trying to remember which way round the winches the ropes have to go. I can see Sally looking at my rather untidy splices with disdain – the only splice I do really well is splicing the mainbrace which I do regularly. With Lawrence at the helm, in the past I might have said “Larry, right hand down a bit, old boy”. Not now. Now I find myself barking instructions like “Starboard 30 Mister Wells, if you please”. Lawrence, of course, hasn’t a clue what I’m talking about and we find ourselves shooting off to the left into the net of some passing fishing boat. I fully expect Sally to start coming up on deck with a clipboard and marking us out of 10.