The Mid-Atlantic Crew
Friday, Jan 21, 2022
Latitude 28o 30’ N
Longitude 16o 12’ W
Santa Cruz Marina , Tenerife
The Mid-Atlantic Crew
From my perspective, I’ve been nothing but fortunate in the blue-water crews that have sailed on board the Lillian B. over the past 20 years. The caveat “from my perspective” is because I can think of at least one crew-member who probably wished he could have been elsewhere. Tim, a non-sailing friend of current crew member Brimmer signed on for the experience of bringing the boat up from Key West, Florida to Wilmington, North Carolina. Immediately upon departure from Key West we were pounding into a nauseating sea of oncoming waves which served as a prelude for some of the most dramatic weather I’ve ever experienced sailing. In the dark of the night, 100 miles offshore in the Gulf Stream off Cape Fear, it was if an Alabama thunderstorm had decided to sit on top of the boat with lightning strikes stretching to the horizon on every side and winds gusting to 40 miles an hour. To his credit, Tim gave it his best and never complained, but some months later when I saw him on land back in Alabama I asked if he was ready to go again. His reply was something to the effect that he was glad to have done it … but thank you very much.
Hopefully the current crew, ranging in age from 60 to 70, will have a more enjoyable experience.
In order of appearance, the first to arrive in Tenerife were Burke and Denise Munger. I first met Burke and Denise in 2016 when they bought a condo in the small condominium association in Rockport Maine where my wife Kay and I spend our summers. Denise is an individual of apparently unlimited energy. She’s the type of individual who gets up to go swim in the local lake at 0530 and then returns home to replant the flower bed in front of the condos in time for Kay and me to look out over our first cup of morning coffee to ask, “what is she doing now?” Her husband Burke is man of quite energy, a skilled woodworker with a calm demeanor that one might expect of a craftsman. Yet, despite his serious appearance, I suspect Burke is the crew-member who lashed a rubber chicken to my bowsprit.
The Mungers are both experienced sailors, owning their own blue-water sailboat and having bareboat chartered all over the world. Perhaps more importantly, they appear ready for any adventure. In 2017, knowing them only as new neighbors, I threw an invitation at them, offering a spot as crew on the leg from New York harbor, not expecting the yes answer I got back. They have been at the top of my crew list ever since.
The next crew-member to arrive in Tenerife was Dwight Leeper. Dwight and I have been traveling companions ever since we met 50 years ago as I pitched my tent by Megunticook Lake in Maine and he walked over to wisely suggest a drier spot. That meeting was the start of hikes and bicycling trips together, including one up the ALCAN highway in 1974. It was on that trip that we made a pact to sail around the world before we turned 40. That didn’t happen, but it did plant the seed for my subsequent interest in blue-water sailing. Over the years the friendship has grown in other aspects. Recent trips together have been more family and socially oriented than adventurous. In that sense, Dwight’s joining me to sail the Mid-Atlantic is more reminiscent of the travels of our youth. Having spent his summers on the coast of Maine, Dwight is not a stranger to sailing but he has no open ocean experience. None-the-less, I have no hesitation that if Dwight can through-hike the Appalachian Trail and canoe the length of the Yukon River he has the temperament that one wants on board.
The final crew-member to arrive in the Canaries was Brimmer Sherman. I have known Brimmer as a friend and neighbor in Huntsville, Alabama for over 20 years. Brimmer did not grow up sailing, so he is learning it as a late life skill. In that respect, the direction to turn the helm to head upwind is not second nature to him, but he compensates with an engineering mind and an enthusiasm for learning. And Brimmer knows the boat well. He was part of her crew for the North Atlantic crossing this past July and in years past has helped navigate her up and down the intercoastal waterway, not to mention numerous week-long summer excursions around Penobscot. All combined, Brimmer has spent over three months living on board the Lillian B. And he keeps coming back.
Having found a willing crew, the critical challenge was then for everyone to get from the US to the Canaries in the time of COVID.
The requirement on the Saturday I left for Tenerife was to have filled out an online form for the Spanish government indicating that I had been vaccinated. In return I would be sent a QR code that I would have to show at numerous checkpoints during my travels. It would also have to be shown for admission into restaurants in the Canary Islands. The Island had tightened their restrictions since I’d left in October and now everyone was required to wear a mask, even when outdoors, even when not in the immediate vicinity of another person.
As not unexpected, trying to complete the online forms led to a dead end. The government form asked for an airline seat number. The Iberian Airlines website required you to pay to have your seat preassigned but wouldn’t accept a US credit card. Given the conflict, I had no seat number and no QR code until, on my wife’s advice, I just made up a seat number. With QR code printed out and in hand, I made it from Huntsville to Boston to Madrid to Tenerife North Airport without incident.
The Mungers also had to get a QR code for Spain but in addition they were asked in Boston to show evidence of a return ticket. Denise already had a ticket for her planned return from our first stop in Cape Verde. But Burke didn’t because he is planning to sail back across the Atlantic. Instead, he showed them a copy of an “official” itinerary I’d prepared for our voyage. Perhaps they thought the Lillian B was a cruise line. In any case, the color coded excel sheet was official enough to get him on the plane to Madrid. Then in Madrid the learned that the entry rules had changed that very day and they had to get a COVID test at the Madrid Airport before boarding the plane to Tenerife.
Dwight was booked on the same flight numbers out of Boston leaving two days later and was also surprised by being asked for evidence of how he was going to return, resulting in a last minute decision to buy a return ticket from the Caribbean so he would be able to board the flight to Madrid. He too had to have a COVID test in MADRID. *
And Brimmer, who flew into Madrid from Dallas traveled without any evidence of a return ticket or the requirement to have a COVID test in Spain. Maybe they thought Texas is not part of the US. In any case, all the crew have made it and are now safe and sound in El Gran Hotel in La Laguna. We’ll all rendezvous later today and start stocking the boat for a departure for this coming Monday or Tuesday.
* (I also flew out of Boston, but mine was a return ticket, having flown home from Tenerife to Boston back in October.)