Mina2 Heads North Again

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Sat 24 Mar 2012 14:43

Mina2 Heads North Again


So The Great Adventure is entering its final chapter, and its now time to take Mina2 back north to leave her in Brazil for the southern winter.


When preparing for this adventure over the last couple of years, I had been so focussed on Antarctica that I hadn’t really spent much time in anticipating and researching what the Chilean channels had to offer. It was simply something that would follow on from Antarctica. In the event, the Chilean channels completely blew us away. You can’t really compare them with Antarctica. They are completely different, but in terms of the variety of stunning scenery, including the glaciers, the world-class hiking and the richness of the flora and fauna, it is far, far away the most stunning cruising ground I have ever been to and, I suspect, one of the best in the world. The fact that it is such an exclusive, isolated cruising area enhances the experience. As Maria, the DS, said “After this, the Mediterranean will seem incredibly mundane”. I have taken this to be a chink in her armour and, rather than having to retire to the lotus-eating fleshpots, I now have carte blanche to organise future cruises to Labrador, Greenland and Alaska. But I generally seem to misinterpret everything the DS says, so time will tell.


Few boats make it this far south and those that do are full of some of the most interesting people I have met. Everybody has a story or three to tell, many of them quite extraordinary, but they are told modestly. You get to know pretty much every other boat and the camaraderie both on the quayside in Ushuaia and Puerto Williams, and also in the channels on the rare occasion that you come across them, will be one of my enduring memories of the last few months. We have made many friends here. The lack of anticipation of the last 5 weeks cruising round the channels by the DS, Andrew and me made it all the more exciting and enjoyable. Being able to share this together has been a wonderful experience, so it was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to Maria three days ago who was flying back to Buenos Aires to see her mother whilst we take the slow route back to BA on Mina2.


But before the DS left, The Beard left as well. My extremely fine Antarctican beard generated a lot of comment from all quarters, but none of them complimentary I’m afraid to say. Comparisons with Bill Oddy and David Blunkett were bad enough but the cruellest and final cut came from Peter, my son, bearded Antarctican himself, who said “Dad, your beard gives me the creeps. You remind me of Dr Harold Shipman”. Weirdo twitchers and philandering left wing politicians is one thing, but for your own flesh and blood to accuse you of looking like a psychotic mass-murderer was the limit. The Beard had to go. When the whiskers came off the morning of the DS’s departure my face, which hadn’t seen the light of day for 2 ½ months, looked ashen-grey.


The evening before, Tom and Lawrence flew in from the UK to join Andrew in helping me get Mina2 back north to the warmth and tranquillity of Brazil for the southern winter.  We are doing this in two long non-stop legs. The first is from the Beagle Channel up the South Atlantic Ocean, past the Falkland Islands, back into the River Plate to Buenos Aires. A distance of 1,500 nautical miles, it should take between 10 and 12 days. We will then spend about 6 days or so in BA where I will be getting rid of the weight of all the special southern equipment we are carrying and re-stowing all the hot weather, light winds stuff I left in BA in October. Andrew will be leaving the boat in BA, leaving the three old boys to complete the journey with a final 1,200 nautical mile passage from BA to Bracuhy in between Sao Paolo and Rio in Brazil. This final passage should take about 8-10 days. In less than three weeks sailing, we will have left the ice of the south behind and replaced it with palm trees. The water temperature will have increased from a Weezly 7°C to a humid 30°C. Layer after layer of clothing will be discarded exposing our pallid skins to the tropical sun until, bronzed once again, we will decommission Mina2 and tuck her up for six months.


So – Meet The Crew.


Andrew, from Switzerland, you have already met. He is the 26 year old nephew of a great friend of ours in Argentina. He is an experienced sailor and has been an invaluable help and good company over the last four weeks when the DS and I were in the channels.


Then there are Lawrence and Tom. If you are a veteran Mina2 blog reader, you’ll have met them before on several occasions, as they have both sailed with me on a regular basis since Mina2 started her cruising in 2004 (indeed Lawrence and I used to race together in the 70’s and 80’s). Do you remember the Three Drunks that drank their way down the coast of Brazil with me in December just over a year ago? Well, Lawrence and Tom are two of them (Richard, Admiral of The Watch and the Third Drunk is skiing at the moment, so couldn’t come). Between them, they are 134 years old. Not much more to say about them really.


We left Ushuaia at 0900 on Tuesday morning. We came out of the harbour into the channel and 40 to 50 knot winds, but they were heading east, like us, so no problem. On our way along the Beagle Channel we were passing Harberton, the 125,000 acre estancia (ranch) owned by the descendants of Thomas Bridges who was the missionary who came to Tierra del Fuego in the late 19th century to convert the Indians to Christianity. The copy we have on board of the famous book his son wrote “Uttermost Part Of The Earth” (an inspirational book that I strongly recommend: ISBN 978-1-58567-956-0) has been read this year by no fewer than 7 people so far, so we popped in for the day so the crew could have a look around before we set off. Natalie Goodall, the wife of the owner and who is a leading expert on dolphins and porpoises was very interested in hearing about our sighting of Chilean dolphins in Brazo Sudoeste. Andrew showed her photos of them. She confirmed they were Chilean dolphins and said that as far as she knew that was the first sighting of them in that area.


I’ll send this out now, and hope to send another blog bringing you up to date, later today. But suffice it to say that we are progressing well.