Wind and Barnacles Cause Further Delays
Position 15:32S 038:33W
Date: 18 November 2012 1400 UTC (Noon local)
Wind and Barnacles Cause Further Delays
About 400 miles north of Rio are a ring of tiny islands about 30 miles off the coast called the Abrolhos Islands. Low-lying and barren save for a handful of palm trees planted in the 19th century to provide sustenance for mariners who were shipwreckerd on these treacherous shoals, the islands are now a protected nature reserve. Below the surface of the shallow water are rare corals which provide a rich ecosystem for exotically coloured fish, so the islands are a famous dive site. But they are equally famous for being the spot to which Humpback whales in their hundreds migrate annually from their feeding grounds in Antarctica in order to breed, the cows then returning the following year (or is it two years later?) to give birth to their calves. In July to October they are thick in the water but my research suggested that there were likely to be quite a number still around now in mid-November. Indeed, on two separate occasions on our way north from Rio we had seen Humpbacks swimming south.
It had been our intention to do a pit-stop in the Abrolhos Islands for a few hours to enjoy the spectacle of these magnificent whales tail-slapping, breaching and spy-hopping all around us. There was also now another imperative for stopping there. Ever since we left Rio we have been having a few problems. Our log, which measures the distance we have sailed, is not working. Our bowthruster which is a propeller right at the front of the boat which helps us to manoeuvre under power in confined waters is jammed. Our main propeller is not working properly (for the aficionados, the inexplicable cavitation that we have suffered for the last three years is now considerably worse), and our overall boat speed is sluggish. We needed to dive under the boat and find out what the devil was going on down there.
So at 0600 on Friday morning, having sailed deliberately slowly throughout the night to avoid arriving during the hours of darkness, we sailed into the shallow bay of the Abrolhos Islands and picked up one of the mooring buoys that are laid there for passing yachts and dive boats. Notwithstanding the need to investigate the bottom of the boat, first things first. Sally, The Pro, was to be initiated into one of the great Mina2 traditions – the Anchor Nip. Whenever we tie up or anchor after a passage, regardless of the time of day, we all enjoy a small tot or three. By 0630 The Pro was giggling like a schoolgirl. By 0700 she was unconscious.
A little later in the morning I got into the warm clear water with some goggles on to identified the problem. Just 10 days parked in the Petri dish-like water of Rio, the bottom of the boat and the propeller were covered with a forest of small sharp barnacles. This explained (I hope) all the problems. They had to be removed, but it would take more than someone with a snorkel and goggles to achieve. At best it would take a diver quite a lot of time and some very hard work with a sharp scraper to dislodge these little critters. And at worst the boat will need to be lifted out of the water. The only place along 2,500 miles of coast where such facilities would be available is in Salvador which is just 40 miles north of our next destination. Taking Susy, our saviour in Rio, at her word that if we had any problems we should let her know, I’ve emailed her and she is kindly looking into the possibility of getting a diver or a lift out of the water next Thursday. This will put us back an additional couple of days but it can’t be avoided.
We stayed in Abrolhos for 24 hours because strongish northerly head winds had again been forecast for a short while and as we were in a conveniently protected bay it seemed sensible to stay there until it blew through. We awoke yesterday morning to find that the wind had indeed swung round to the west, so we cast off the mooring and set sail again. Since then we have been enjoying very good sailing and we are scheduled to arrive in Morro de Sao Paulo sometime tomorrow morning.
It’s not just good sailing we’ve been enjoying, but good eating too. Lawrence, Hunter Gatherer supreme who would put Bear Grylls to shame, caught a nice small tuna yesterday which went straight into the pan for an excellent lunch. Then, of course, he got silly. “Ti-im, have we got a harpoon?” “No, Lawrence, we don’t have a harpoon. Why?” “There’s a whale over there and we could have it for dinner”.
Actually the last bit about the whale is a fib. Having seen no whales in the Abrolhos Islands, we were told by the nature reserve ranger that there were still plenty to the north of the islands through which we were to head. In the event, and in the area of the greatest concentration of Humpback whales in the world, we saw precisely none.
I mentioned in an earlier blog The Pro’s obsession with hygiene. Well, I’m afraid it’s getting out of hand. She’s taken it upon herself to impose all sorts of regulations, one of which is that if you enter the galley area you must vigorously scrub your hands with bactericide. As I have to pass through the galley to get to my Master Suite, this means that I am scrubbing my hands about 30 times a day. I used to take some macho pride in my horny calloused rough’n’tough sailors hands. But with all the scrubbing they are now pink and soft. They look like girls hands. It’s humiliating.
And when I was cooking dinner the other evening and something fell out of the pan onto the galley floor, I invoked the “ten second rule”, picked it up with my fingers and lobbed it back into the pan again. The Pro was horrified and we jolly nearly had to scrap the whole meal because of the inevitability of “cross-contamination”, whatever that is.
On other hygiene matters, we have another slight problem. Mina2, being a luxury ocean-going expedition yacht, has two heads (loos to the landlubbers). One is en suite with the Master Cabin and available for the private and exclusive use of the Skipper (who, for the avoidance of doubt, notwithstanding what some other people on board might think, is me). The other head, for’ard of the mast, is for the ratings. Well, yesterday, my head blocked. Solid. As I write this, I can almost the feel the chill dread of fear passing down the spines of those of you who own boats. For you know as well as I do, the only way of unblocking a head is to dismantle the pump, detach the pipe work and, in the process, find yourself covered in unspeakable fluids and solids. This is something I would rather not do at sea (actually, I’d rather not do it at all) which leaves me with a dilemma. There is a tradition on ships that the Captain can only venture for’ard of the mast below decks with the permission of the ratings who live in squalor there or – and here’s the let out – for inspection. So since the catastrophe happened, the crew have been bemused on my insisting on an inspection of their heads every few hours (and I have to say, in comparison to mine, it is immaculate). But if Sally were ever to find out that I was actually USING their heads rather than just inspecting it, she would throw a fit. So I’m relying on you all never to mention it. Thanks.