POSTED: MARCH 15, 2020
Holy crap things are changing fast. Shortly after I got back from Ireland to Malta, Ciara, and En Plein Air everything was locking down with COVID 19. Borders were closing, airports shutting down and her friend from MSF had been contacted by that organization with a job for us.
The simple plan is that we are to become the “contingency plan” for getting some American MSF doctors home to the U.S. if the commercial flights all get canceled and if any of them miss the emergency flights they expect will be sent by some countries to pick up their nationals from Africa. So the idea is that we sail to Casablanca, which has the largest international airport in the region, to learn if we are getting any of the doctors there, and evaluate what has happened on the flight situation and then potentially sail down to the Western Sahara to pick up three American doctors who are working in and around Senegal for the sailing to North America – probably the Bahamas or another friendly (non- U.S. port.). We can’t be in U.S. waters. That’s a long story from En Plein Airs’ past. From there they can make it back to the U.S. with other help.
We are hoping the Americans can make it north to Casablanca or at least to a point along the Western Sahara to meet us as if we are going as far south as Dakar, Senegal it will add another week to what is already a three week trans Atlantic trip, and that’s once we make it to Casablanca. The trick in all of this is that one of the Americans is a recreational sailor and one has done some sailing so Captain Ciara will get some relief. When doing the transatlantic there is no port you’re in each night (duh!) so to make the trip work you are under sail the whole time and that means the bodies on board are all in a cycle for taking their turn.
We are moored in Valletta Malta and over the last two days we sourced our provisions for this leg, loaded up, and tomorrow morning with the sunrise will set sail to Gibraltar / Tangier. The big challenge is always finding a good grade of methanol for the hydrogen generator. A lot of the other provisions are pretty straightforward. Ciara and Aline also sourced some medical supplies as they expect there will not be many available when we make it to Casablanca and if we have one or more on the boat who are sick this is going to be one messy trip. It’s been a while since we have done “real” sailing and even the trip to Casablanca will take five days if we are lucky and more realistically seven days.
It’s a bit of a crazy plan and one that is going to take more than a month of sailing from this point to get to The Bahamas. The part that is as nuts is that all of this is tentative – if they can get commercial flights for the doctors they will, so we may have almost a week of hard sailing only to find that they have been able to get flights out of Dakar or Casablanca. We are dropping Aline, Ciara’s friend in Gibraltar and she will make it north to Lyon France where she is from.
At least we are being well compensated. A donor put a substantial sum in our account just for the leg for us to get to the western coast of Africa to pick them up so even if it is aborted we will have made what we made for all of last year. If we do end up doing the trip across the Atlantic they proposed a very generous fee, so the financial aspect is all working.
The exciting part for me is that the days with Justin, Amy, and Sven were the best of times for me, and this feels like we are back doing something meaningful. So it’s not really like putting the band back together but it has some of those elements. Its also nice in this crazy new world, where we won’t have bookings as its hard to “social distance” on a boat of this size, to be getting paid as I don’t know how we will survive otherwise.
It will also give me a chance to process my experience in Ireland with Ciara’s ex-husband and to try to find a way to explain to her how badly it went. Until then I will just try to hide some of the bruises.
So stay tuned. My posts may be scattered, not well-edited, and short for a while.