Amputation Crisis on Mina2

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Sun 8 Apr 2012 20:43

Amputation Crisis on Mina2


Position:  34:59.3S 054:57.2W – off Punta Del Este

Date:  08 April 2012 1740


We left Buenos Aires yesterday morning at 0815 for the final passage of our remarkable adventure – non-stop 1100 miles to Angra Dos Reis in Brasil.


The last few days in Buenos Aires was a hectic round of provisioning, refuelling, dumping excess Antarctic gear and re-loading all our hot-weather gear that we had left here; taking delivery of a replacement bimini and a new sun awning which also doubles as a rainwater collector, and farewell drinks and meals with all our old friends here.


Tom and Lawrence had been hoping, to take a ferry over to Colonia in Uruguay for a day trip, not least because Lawrence had a load of Uruguayan currency worth £600, which he bought when we stopped off at Punta Del Este on our way south last year. Time didn’t allow for the day trip, so he went off on a round of the banks in Buenos Aires to try and change the money. As the afternoon dragged on, bank after bank looked at the pile of notes and said they couldn’t help, which seemed odd. It was only later that Robyn (Tom’s girlfriend) looked at the currency and found that Lawrence had been trying to change West African Francs, worth about 20p, which he had bought in Western Sahara when we had been sailing down the African coast a couple of years back.


Tom was also experiencing difficulties. In one shop he asked if they had a spray nozzle for a water hose. Yes, the shopkeeper announced triumphantly, went into the back of the shop and returned with a fire extinguisher. Later that afternoon, Tom was buying a couple of cartons of cigarettes and asked how much they were. With a quizzical look, the shopkeeper went over to some scales, weighed the cigarettes and gave Tom the weight to the nearest gram. Clearly he needs a bit more time on his Spanish language tapes.


Mind you, Tom & Lawrence came up trumps when they returned with a pair of waterproof loudspeakers for the stereo in the cockpit to replace the ones that had packed up – a welcome gift for the boast that had looked after them for so many thousands of miles over the years.


Then, inevitably, there were the bureaucratic complications of clearing us and the boat out of Argentina. We had allocated about two hours on our last day for the process. Starting at 0900 we didn’t complete the formalities until 1700. I’ve loved cruising down the coast of South America but one thing I won’t miss is the stressful, time-consuming and mindless bureaucracy.


There was one other thing that spoilt our last day in Argentina. Lawrence. He had been complaining for a couple of days about a bit of athletes foot. He started limping a little and then the whining started. “Ti-im, it really hurts” he moaned about every five minutes, now in full-on Pathetic Mode. I really didn’t have time for this sort of whimpish behaviour. “Just pull yourself together. It’s only athletes foot for God’s sake” I told him. The following day, Lawrence came whining again. “My whole foot is painful now, and I’ve get red lines tracking up my leg”. That’s all I needed. The stupid idiot had allowed his foot to become infected. We dragged him off to a pharmacist (by this time Lawrence was hopping on his one good foot, tears of self-pity pouring down his pathetic face). The pharmacist took one look at the manky foot and said that Lawrence really should go to a doctor, and straight away, but it was late afternoon and we were leaving at first light the following day. I wasn’t going to allow Lawrence’s irresponsibility to get in the way of our plans. Tom and I had discussed the matter and we were confident, whatever fate befell Lawrence, we could handle the passage with just the two of us, so we got the pharmacist to prescribe a seriously powerful course of penicillin which Lawrence started taking straight away.


It wasn’t just the pain that made Lawrence feel uncomfortable. Tom is our Medical Officer (he’s a retired dentist), and he unnerved Lawrence by arranging in a neat row on the saloon table a collection of blunt knives and rusting hacksaws together with our copy of “The Ship’s Captains Medical Guide” opened at the page “How to Amputate a Manky Foot” and with a bookmark at the page on “Disposal Of A Body At Sea”. (Actually, the recommendation is that you only conduct a burial at sea as a last resort. The preferred procedure is to store the corpse in the ship’s deep freeze. But our deepfreeze is rather small and it would take forever cutting Lawrence into sufficiently small parts to jam him in. Anyway, the deep freeze is already full of rather good cuts of meat that Tom and I are looking forward to eating). Anyway, in the event, it seems that the penicillin has done the trick. Lawrence’s foot seems to be on the mend, and the penicillin probably got rid of all sorts of other infections as well. Deep down, I think Tom was rather disappointed.


As we sailed away from Buenos Aires we noticed a few flies down below, and then more and more. God knows where they came from but we found we had a plague on our hands. There were all over the place, buzzing around and covering every surface. Enter “The Executioner”. This is a recently acquired contraption. It’s like a small tennis racquet with wires across it. Press a button and when it touches a fly or mosquito there is a loud crack, a flash, a smell of burning flesh and the fly drops dead. It’s easy to use and quite brilliantly effective. During the course of the day, we killed hundreds of flies to the point where every sheet, sofa, table and floor was covered with little black singed corpses. Walking around was like walking on black corn flakes until Lawrence came up with the brilliant idea of getting the dustpan and brush out (how he found it I don’t know – he’s never used it before) and swept them all up. They could have filled a bucket.


Meanwhile, we have covered more than 200 miles since we left yesterday morning. Apart from a couple of hours yesterday evening when the wind died to nothing and we had to motor, the sailing has been good – from every angle – the sea flat and as we progress, it is turning from the muddy brown of the River Plate to the blue of the open ocean, and the sky has been clear and sunny. At night we sail under a brilliant full moon. As I type, we are sailing a mile off Punta del Este where the DS, Selina, Peter and I have spent so many happy holidays over the years. Couldn’t be better.