Preparations For the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (aka The DS)
Most long-term cruisers are married couples. They arrive together to re-commission their boat, sharing the numerous tasks to get their craft ship-shape and Bristol fashion before setting off on their cruise together. Not so on Mina2.
“I will join you in Antigua” the Downstairs Skipper had declared. She was to descend from the heavens (courtesy of British Airways) like an angel with an expectation that Mina2 would be fully functional and up to the highest standards of any luxury cruising yacht. Before the arrival of the boys I had worked hard and alone for the best part of two weeks to get Mina2 into shape for the delivery cruise, but Mina2 was still an expedition vessel, totally seaworthy in a rough and ready, functional sort of way. There was still a lot of work to be done to bring her up to the exacting standards of the DS.
I had six days between getting the boys onto their plane home and the arrival of The Queen of Sheba. Up every morning before dawn at 0530, I would start the day by making a long list of the tasks that had to be completed and then spend the next 14 hours ticking off the tasks one by one. There was varnishing to be done; all the topsides, superstructure and stainless steel to be polished until one was blinded in their reflection. The teak decks were to be scrubbed. All of the systems gone through; provisions bought and stowed. 500 litres of water had to be made with the desalination equipment; batteries equalised; old tatty lines replaced with bright new cord, spliced and whipped – the list was endless. But as the days passed, the list got shorter and shorter. On the morning of the day of arrival of the DS, just one item remained – collect laundry, stow clothes and make bed. I had made it with an hour to spare. Mina2 was ready. I had hired a car and drove to the airport to collect the DS.
On our way by dinghy to the anchorage, we stopped by at the boat of some friends. “Hi Maria” they cried, “lovely to see you. My goodness, Tim’s been working his socks off getting Mina2 ready for you – we’ve hardly seen him at all”. The barrier had been raised a couple of notches. The DS stepped aboard Mina2, looked around and went “Hmph”. She went down below, took out a clean white cotton glove from her bag and put it onto her delicate hand. With my heart in my mouth, I followed her round as she wiped every surface and looked at the glove for signs of any dirt. She inspected every mirror for the slightest smudge. She opened the fridge door, stuck her nose in and sniffed. Finally she went into the aft cabin and saw the crisp, clean, fresh-smelling sheets stretched over the bed. She took her glove off. “Not bad” she said. “Not bad at all. Now get me a rum punch”. “At once, DS” I said. “Pray, recline on the freshly-scrubbed cockpit cushions, and I’ll have your drink in a jiffy”. I went below to the galley, punched the air and let out a silent scream of joy. Mina2 and I had passed muster.