Covid-19 has marooned liveaboard sailors worldwide. Portuguese born Carlos Dionisio, owner and Jump Master of Bungy Portugal, formally situated at the Marina de Albufeira, faces the last leg of his passage back to Portugal from the island of Madeira.
The adventure began with a crew of 3, who sailed from Portugal to the Northernmost island of the Canaries, Ilsa da Graciosa. This was the first planned stop of a passage to the Bahamas. Unfortunately on the 3rd of February, after 11 days at sea, disaster struck.
The 10m sailing yacht, Lady Arlete, was forced onto a pontoon by another vessel and suffered crippling damage to her port side.
The very next morning, without explanation or warning, the crew abandoned the S/Y Lady Arlete and flew home.
Dionisio found himself devastated and alone in a foreign port where no one spoke English. Fortunately permission was granted to stay in port for repairs as the vessel was now unseaworthy.
A fiberglassing company from the larger island of Lanzarote completed the repair by the end of the second week in port.
Dionisio then continued Southwest single-handed (solo) along the islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura anchoring in various spots before arriving, unaware of the lockdown, in Puerto de las Nieves, Gran Canaria on the 16th of March. The authorities allowed Dionisio onshore for shopping and watering without having to undergo quarantine given the time spent at alone at sea.
Here he remained anchored for 50 days before being given the clearance to sail back to Portugal via Madeira.
At the time this article was written (13th of May) Dionisio has spent 100 days without a physical contact with another human being. He now waits for a weather window before sailing the last 500 nautical miles to the mainland.
Very few have considered the plight of hundreds of families and individuals on small boats. As countries closed borders, numerous vessels were refused entry to their port of call. Even boats that had been safely anchored before the pandemic were suddenly considered a foreign yacht in territorial waters. Sailors have been ordered home by authorities who know very little about sailing seasons. Sailors are being forced to make crossings that are simply stupid.
Contrary to popular perception most sailors are far from wealthy. Many, like Dionisio, who has lived aboard for 11 years, has no other home. Lockdown means it has been impossible to source spares for maintenance. Dionisio spent two hours a day for a month hand stitching a ripped sail. The lack of flights also means that one can’t get anyone to join as crew.
Governments of Madeira and the Azores, Portugal, France and Spain, have been asked to provide safe havens. The lack of open ports is “increasing the risk of loss of life and damage to vessels”. Dionisio has been fortunate that he has encountered reasonable harbour masters in both the Canary islands and Madeira.