A Most Welcome Mutiny

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Thu 13 Dec 2012 10:38

Position 01:18.925S 044:52.886W  Ilha Dois Lencois

Date: 10 December 2012


A Most Welcome Mutiny


I left you last, half way through our passage to Ilha Dois Lencois, suffering from heatstroke but looking forward to a rapid recovery. It was not to be. The temperature remained (not the roaring fever of the first day, but enough to make me feel rotten) but the constant stomach pains, headache and nausea continued. I was unable to take any food apart from the occasional small banana, and even that occasionally made me retch. As we approached Lencois, I was getting progressively weaker and weaker but still being pig-headed enough to insist on standing my watches.


I staggered out of my cabin to stand my next watch. At the companion way to the cockpit stood Sally and Larry. Sally grabbed my arm. “You’re going back to bed Tim. You’re not fit to stand your watch. You’ve got nothing more to prove. I’m sorry, but I’m taking over – I’m in charge”. I looked at Larry pleadingly. “Sorry Skip, I’m with The Pro on this one”. This was mutiny. “STAND ASIDE WOMAN. I AM THE CAPTAIN. STAND ASIDE OR STAND THE CONSEQUENCES!”. Those were the words that were going through my head. What came out of my mouth was a pathetic whimper “Thank you Sally. Carry on.” Never was a mutiny more justified, nor more welcomed. I obediently and gratefully turned round and went back to my cabin. My relief was profound.


Lencois was still about a day away, but the way things were developing, we were beginning to debate whether we shouldn’t abort our visit there and press straight on for the medical facilities in French Guiana a further 5 days sail away. There were no easily accessible medical facilities closer. Our concern was that there were no signs that my condition was improving at all.  We had been assuming it was heatstroke but it could have been something tropical and much worse, and none of us knew how dangerous my continuing inability to eat could become, nor how quickly. It may sound over-dramatic now, but at the time we were even seriously beginning to factor in the possibility (however remote) of emergency helicopter evacuation.


At home, we are blessed with a fantastic GP, Frank Auty. I emailed him, giving him chapter and verse of my condition. He immediately emailed back with a comforting response. It makes you feel quite a lot better when you’re told by someone you trust that you’re not going to die quite yet.


So Ilha Dois Lencois it was then.


The gremlins that had been plaguing us since the very start of the cruise continued with their mischief. On passage the generator packed up yet again. Too exhausted to start pulling it apart, I decided we would simply run the main engine to recharge the batteries. The gremlins thought this too easy a solution so they broke the alternator that generates the electricity. This was now serious. Alternators can’t be fixed and it’s not the sort of thing you carry around as a spare – not even on the spare’d-out Mina2. We now had NO means of recharging the batteries. Like it or not, even though we are a sailiing boat, modern boats are now absolutely dependent on electricity. Not just for the luxuries like refrigeration, showers and lights, but for all the navigation instruments, the chart plotters, radar, communications (not just sending emails and blogs but getting our weather forecasts as well); fresh water generation etc. So I was hauled out of my sick bed to fix the generator. Luckily, with a bit of creative thinking, Larry and I were able to go straight to the nub of the problem. It was the fuel line from the diesel tank that had blocked solid with, horror upon horror, the dreaded diesel bug. I thought we had got rid of the bloody stuff. I hoped (and continue to hope) that this was the legacy of the last infestation, and not the whole ghastly thing starting up all over again.


As we arrived at Dois Lencois, Sally asked whether I had turned off the pump that takes the fresh water from the tank to all the taps on the boat – to the galley, to the basins in the heads and the showers. No, I hadn’t. The gremlins had broken the little drive belt on the pump. No problem. I carry a spare pump and we took the belt off the spare and fitted it. Simples.


Within half an hour, the gremlins had broken that one as well. We were now in a bit of a pickle. Without the pump, we could still access the water in the tanks by a foot pump in the galley, but it would be a bit like having the water mains cut off at home and having to access water from a standpipe at the end of the street. We had one last chance. I had one remaining drive belt from another pump spares kit, but it was much too large. However, shortening it with some cable ties, we’ve managed to get it working again, although only for short periods at a time and I think it’s safe to assume it won’t last the full passage to French Guiana.


One of the reasons so few yachts visit the island of Dos Lencois is that it is in none of the pilot books and, looking at the charts, it would appear to be completely inaccessible, barred by sand banks and shallow water. But I had met a couple in Bracuhy who had shown me precisely how to get in and where to anchor. We hung around at the entrance waiting for the tide to rise and edged our way in. Once over the bar we were in deeper water and we made our way carefully up the wide channel in between mangrove swamps. Rounding a corner, an extraordinary large, high sand dune opened up before us. It was “The African Queen” meeting “Lawrence of Arabia”. Tucked beyond the sand dune on a long spit of sand was the small fishing village of Dois Lencois. We dropped our anchor in front of the village and, after the worst passage of my life, we found ourselves in paradise.