A Bit Of A Catch Up

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Fri 11 Jan 2013 17:28

Date: Written on 11 January 2013 but covering 21-31 December 2012


A Bit Of A Catch Up           


Oh dear, I’ve been a bit idle (again) and have been neglecting you all. Humble apologies. First up, may I wish everyone a very Happy New Year. Since I last blogged just before Christmas, a fair amount of water has passed under Mina2’s keel and I’ve got a lot to catch up on: Christmas with the Melina’s; the arrival of the Downstairs Skipper with my sister Linda, and brother-in-law John; New Year’s Eve celebrations in the Iles du Salut; the passage to St Laurent du Maroni up a river on the border of French Guiana and Suriname; and the passage to Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname. To make our Guyanese Cruise more palatable, I will divide it into bite-sized chunks. Chunk 1:


After Sally and Lawrence left a couple of days before Christmas, I was all alone on Mina2 with no distractions. I had a long list of jobs to get on with and plenty of time to do them - theoretically. In practice, I also found myself in need of some downtime. Cruising around from one idyllic tropical island to another may sound like a thoroughly relaxing experience, but when you have the opportunity of stopping for a few days, you suddenly realise how the interrupted sleep patterns of night watches; non-stop repairs and maintenance and, in the time remaining, getting ashore to see something of the countries we had travelled so far to visit, is actually quite exhausting. Particularly as I was still regaining my strength after my debilitating illness, all the “should do’s” on the list suddenly didn’t seem so important – there were still plenty of “must do’s” to keep me busy whilst also allowing me to relax a little.


As it was not possible for me to leave Mina2 anywhere in the region and fly back to London to join my family, I had been resigned to the fact that the Christmas celebrations would pass me by this year. Enter John and Beth who had adopted Mina2 and her crew like family. I was invited to join them for their big celebration dinner on Christmas Eve (as is the custom). If I were to expect a dinner of roast turkey with all the trimmings, I would have been disappointed. What we got was MUCH more fun. John, Beth and their daughter Juliette had invited a dozen friends round. International in mix, the meal would nevertheless be French in style. All the guests brought something along for the meal. We started off with amuse bouche of smoked salmon and caviar. Then the meal proper kicked off with succulent oysters specially flown in from Paris, followed by foie gras (the Real McCoy – none of your watered down paté rubbish) with home-made onion tart. Next was succulent roast lamb, followed by an array of delicious French cheeses. A salad and then, the pièce de resistance and a nod to John’s English origins, a genuine British Christmas pudding. Every course was served with a different and excellent French wine, and champagne with the Christmas pud. And the company was as varied and excellent as the food and wine. I arrived at 1900 and left at 0200 on Christmas Day. What an evening, and my heartfelt thanks go to Beth and John for their generous hospitality.


A couple of days later and the package that had been couriered out to me with essential spare parts eventually arrived. At last I had a working bilge pump, diesel tank covers that didn’t leak and – most importantly - hot and cold running fresh water at last. When you are working hard in the confines of a boat and the temperature is a very humid 38 C, you can imagine how good a shower is from time to time.


The boat now looked like a building site, tools and spare parts on every surface and all the floor boards up. It took me about two days to get the boat ship shape, which I managed with minutes to spare before the Arrival of the Downstairs Skipper. On 29 December, Maria descended like an angel from the very heavens (courtesy of Air France) with my sister Linda and brother-in-law John. I’m surprised Linda and John had agreed to come – it was they who had a year earlier been with me on the Falklands cruise where we endured a hurricane force storm for 36 hours. If they thought they were here for a holiday, they were quickly disillusioned. John, brilliant at fixing things, was immediately given a long task list, whilst the DS and Linda were tasked with masterminding the Big Shop at the superbly stocked French supermarkets for provisions for the next five weeks. John and I were meanwhile ferrying jerry cans back and forth from the boat to drive to the fuel station to replenish our nearly exhausted diesel tank.


By the following evening we were in sufficiently good shape to invite the Melina’s aboard for drinks and nibbles before ferrying everyone ashore for our farewell dinner with them at a restaurant specialising in local Creole food.


The following day, we weighed the anchor (in the 10 days I had been here the fouling is so bad in the Petri dish-like water that barnacles were actually growing on the anchor chain) and we made our way out of the river and across the 10-mile stretch of water to anchor in the Iles du Salut for our New Year’s Eve celebrations.