Crew Mutiny As Cruise Plans Are Shattered
Position 13:03S 038:20W
Date: 29 November 2012
Crew Mutiny As Cruise Plans Are Shattered
Some readers of the this blog sign in for a little light hearted banter about the jolly antics of the Mina2 crew as we wend our care-free way up and down the Atlantic. Well, you’re going to be disappointed. Care-free it ain’t, and jolly we’re not. Not by a long chalk.
Our saviour, Marcelo, on whom we were totally dependent for the numerous repairs that were being carried out on our unscheduled stop in Salvador, turned out to be arguably the most unreliable and untrustworthy man I’ve ever had the misfortune to deal with. When running a business it’s always a good idea to set the clients’ expectations at a realistic level and then, at worst, deliver those expectations and, at best, exceed them. Result – a happy client. Marcelo’s philosophy is a little different. He promises everything and fails to deliver on every single point. Throughout the week he has said such and such will be delivered by 2pm, or “my men will start work tomorrow at 8am”. On no occasion has anything happened within an hour of the promised time; often it has been delivered more than three hours later and, on several occasions, it has never been delivered at all. So we have spent most of the last week grinding our teeth waiting on the boat for something that wasn’t going to happen.
My objective for this part of the Amazonian cruise is to take Mina2 3,000 miles round the coast of Brazil to French Guiana in time to get Lawrence and Sally back home in time for Christmas. The plan was for five long passages, interspersed with four stopovers in beautiful places of four or five days each. 22 to 27 days at sea and 13 to 18 days ashore. You can’t cut the number of days it will take to sail the 3,000 miles, so any slippage reduces the number of days available to experience this Amazonian coast. We had already been delayed by three days at the beginning of the cruise by bad weather, and took another day in the Abrolhos Islands for the same reason. Because of the incompetence of Marcelo, what should have been a four day repair stop in Salvador has turned into 7 ½ days. So basically we are by-passing Jacare entirely and now only have the prospect of one day or two at the most at the other two stopovers – Fernando de Noronha, the tiny island 250 miles off the northeast tip of Brazil considered to be the Galapagos of Brazil, and Ilha Dois Lencois, another island just beyond the Amazon delta with spectacular sand dunes .
As each day of frustration cut yet another day from our dwindling “holiday” time, the effect on morale of skipper and crew was profound. We were not happy bunnies. The final straw came on Monday morning when my back went quite badly. Those that know me know that I have had a chronic back problem for decades and perhaps once a year a disc slips and I am totally immobilised for a while and in considerable pain. The only solution is to take to my bed for a day or two, and swallow a “killer cocktail” of drugs that turn my body and brain to jelly. I sleep most of the time, but after a day or so I can start to move around again, albeit carefully. But I was not the only one on board with back problems. What Sally had confessed to Larry and me a few days earlier was that a month before we were to set sail, she had been hospitalised for two weeks with a severely trapped nerve. She knew that to back out of the cruise at the eleventh hour would be to destroy the plans of many people, so she was determined to tough it out. At the airport flying out to Rio she was transported to the plane in a wheelchair. So as not to give the game away, she left at the Rio hotel the crutch she had been using. A true pro.
But our dire situation, with the boat in bits, and with both Sally and me in delicate health, was the final straw for Lawrence. The following morning, whilst my brain, under the influence of my recreational cocktail of drugs was still like scrambled eggs, Lawrence came to me. I knew trouble was up as he didn’t touch his forelock (what’s left of it) in his usual deferential manner. “I didn’t sign up to sail the boat single-handed 3000 miles nursing a couple of cripples” he said bluntly but hurtfully. And in fairness he had a point. Although we were now north of the area where we were likely to be hit by very strong winds, it would have been unreasonable to expect him to do all the heavy pulling and lifting whilst Sally and I washed down our painkillers with caipirinhas mixed by Lawrence. But his defection at this stage would be disastrous so, before he stomped off to pack his sun tan lotion and his sequined sun-bathing thong, I applied my tried and tested technique for diffusing tricky personnel issues on board. I lied through my back teeth. I told Lawrence that I knew my back, and I guaranteed that by the time we set sail again, I would be pulling up the 40kg anchor with my bare teeth and twirling the spinnaker pole round my head like a drum majorette on amphetamines. Sally also said that her back was infinitely better than it was and, come the crunch, she would be on the foredeck wrestling the shredded sail onto the deck along with the rest of us. Lawrence wasn’t happy but he agreed to stay and see how things panned out.
Meanwhile, still laid up in bed, I had a succession of people peering into my cabin through the hatch, showing me bits of broken boat and telling me how incredibly expensive they would be to replace. I felt like a French king holding court in my bedchamber being told in bite size chunks how the Peoples Revolution was developing.
The evening before (Monday), the gearbox which had originally been promised to be returned repaired over the weekend eventually turned up. “We’ve taken the whole thing apart” said Marcelo, “we have repaired the seal which was causing the oil to leak, inspected all the other components and everything is like new”. As it was brought on board it was leaking gear box oil all over the place, so back it went to the work shop. The next day, Marcelo announced that on the second dismantling and inspection they had discovered that the clutch plates (about the first thing you would look at) were totally worn. Replacement clutch plates would cost a zillion dollars and could be imported within three weeks. But by shear good fortune he had an identical and virtually new gearbox which he could install straight away in exchange for my knackered gearbox. And all for the very same price. A bargain. He had me over a barrel and we both knew it. Also delivered, two days after it had been promised, was the completely serviced outboard engine for the dinghy which had refused to start in Morro. Lawrence put it in the dinghy, tried to start it and – nothing. Now screaming blue murder at Marcelo over the phone, I sent it back again.
If I had made the mistake of trusting Marcelo, I would have left Salvador with a gearbox and outboard that were in no better condition than when we had arrived, having parted with eye watering amounts of money.