May 15, 2021 SPAIN
Hunkering down below at Real Club Náutico Portosín we move with JUANONA as she kicks the pontoon and tugs at her lines like a frustrated bronco. The stormy seas reflect our slackening hopes of getting our nephew Rudy aboard for our upcoming 2021 Trans-Atlantic Crossing. And, like Don Quixote in the end we realize our quest may have been doomed from the beginning thanks to CoVid and government bureaucracy.
In 2019 Rudy had signed on as our third crew member for our 2020 spring passage. JUANONA would be sailing to home waters after six years abroad. We anticipated a wonderful finale to our European adventure. Our tentative route of Spain to Maine included a stop in Madeira ending with a resounding chorus of Schooner Fare’s “Portland Town.” Yet, like most, the pandemic forced us to think of alternatives.
We considered and discarded various options based on the world’s responses to the nasty virus. With the amazing speed and efficacy of vaccinations on the horizon by early spring 2021 we returned to our original plan. We quickly purchased airline tickets and began preparations. We made one change when Aer Lingus cancelled our flight into Santiago de Compostella from Dublin, rebooking on KLM/Delta via Amsterdam-Madrid-La Coruña. First task done, now next step: getting permission to enter Spain.
On March 30 we began. The fabulous marina staff at Club Náutico wrote a letter supporting our reason for traveling to Spain. They verified our boat had been berthed at their marina since September 2019 and our plan to sail her home. We scanned and emailed the letter coupled with our passports, temporary Dutch residency cards, and vaccination certificates to the Boston Spanish Consulate.
After a week of no response to our calls and emails we contacted the marina staff again. They not only tried the Boston Spanish Consulate but also the U.S. Embassy in Madrid and the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C. The latter replied saying we needed to go through the Boston Consulate. Great.
The marina staff tried once again to contact the Boston Consulate and did get a response requesting our passports and Dutch residency cards. After more back-and-forth via the triangular route the Consulate set-up (we never did get a direct response to our emails), we received an email. On April 12th they granted us permission to enter Spain, emailing Carmela who forwarded it to two happy sailors. The Consulate based their approval on our having Dutch residency. This, in turn, qualified us as E.U. residents, allowing us to travel to Spain per Article 1 of the order INT/657/2020, July 17, 2020.
On April 29 we boarded our flight to Amsterdam after taking three PCR tests two days before. We had lined up multiple tests to ensure we’d have results in time to not only depart within 72 hours but also arrive, a requirement of Spain. Armed with verification of being CoVid-free and a separate Spanish Q Health form completed online, we landed in La Coruña with no delays. And, that was a good thing since any missed times would have jeopardized our 72-hour testing window. Two hours later we found ourselves back on JUANONA after an absence of 17 months.
A HUGE gracias to the Marina staff—Carmela, Carmen, and Elena. Their persistence in contacting the Boston Spanish Consulate is why Max and I are here waiting for a weather window to leave.
But, you’re only hearing about our two-week effort involving four entities: ourselves; Club Náutico; the Spanish Embassy; and, the Boston Spanish Consulate. These communications pale in the quest to add a vaccinated Rudy to the mix. And, once again, Carmela, Carmen, and Elena have gone overboard in their support and aid to break through government bureaucracy.
Before I drag you through another attempt to enter Spain I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how we absolutely understand and appreciate a country’s goal of trying to keep their citizens safe during this pandemic. And, we would not have contemplated returning unless we were vaccinated both as a protection for us but also for others. Frankly, desiring to enter a country during CoVid for the purpose of sailing one’s yacht home sounds pretty elitist. But, hey, we’re here, and we’re extremely thankful we are.
Okay, back to Rudy. Remember my stating the involvement of four entities for our return? Well, beginning immediately after our permission to enter we began lobbying for our nephew’s entry. After discussions with Rudy and his mom, Krissy, we started with an email on April 16 to the Boston Spanish Consulate while cc’ing Carmela. We stated this experienced crew member (Rudy) was necessary for “humanitarian safety reasons” to assist two people in their mid- to late 60s in sailing their boat back. If being old helps, I’m old. We included his U.S. passport number and his sailing experience.
On April 19 we received a promising response. The Consulate asked for: Rudy’s U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner credential (after working on the Cross-Island ferry last year he smartly obtained this license January 2021): an employment contract (which we immediately drafted): and another letter from Club Náutico.
The Consulate’s reply gave us renewed hope that Rudy had an excellent chance of joining us. We sent the documentation via email on April 21 and waited for a fingers-crossed “permission granted.”
Within five hours, we had our answer: denied due to not qualifying as an exception to the same regulation allowing us in as E.U. residents.
We weren’t giving up. If anything we were even more determined to get him here. And, that’s due to our interpretation of the same regulation and its listed exemptions: Article 1.1. d) Transport personnel, seafarers and aeronautical personnel necessary to carry our air transport activities.” Later we found more explicit language relating to seafarers issued June 30, 2020, by the E.U.*
Based on information from someone familiar with Spain’s employment contracts, we updated Rudy’s hiring to be by Max’s Dutch company, Juanona Publishing. We figured an E.U. company employing a seafarer added another level of professionalism to our pitch. An added tagline, “Maritime Research and Reporting,” positioned his employment as part of a possible documentary.
I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow activity relating to the goal of getting Rudy aboard, but, to-date as we sit aboard JUANONA with the angry bursts of wind and rain outside, we’re running out of time and ideas.
We are giving it our “all.”. And that “all” is composed of a whole boatload of people, beginning with Carmela, Carmen, and Elena with whom we strategized almost daily in their office… to a fellow traveler we met in Madrid and offered to help with his luggage only to discover he worked for the U.S. Embassy in Spain… to friends of friends asking their contacts… to a family friend in Belgium… to one in International travel… to one living in Spain… to state representatives and senators in Maine and Connecticut… to anybody we thought willing to join our quest. And, they all gave us their time and efforts.
May 16 morning
So, it’s now Sunday. Rain has fled, wind has softened, sun is out. And, we’ll know soon if our quest was in vain… or not.
May 16 18:02
Rudy just emailed: “I got authorized by the Delta ticket agent at Logan, and I’m through security! So far so good.”
May 17 04:12
D-day, or more like R-Day. Another Rudy message received: “I am aboard the flight to Madrid! Another step closer!”
We heard his Merchant Mariner credential was his “life line.” Next line of official scrutiny: immigration. Everything’s crossed, including my toes.
May 17 04:13
I can’t sleep. Coffee and roaming main cabin while Max is trying to get some rest. It’s not working too well as I hear him rustling around and no light snoring.
May 17 08:22
Max just checked flight arrival. Rudy’s plane landed an hour earlier than expected. One minute later we receive an update: “I just landed. I’ll let you know how it goes at customs.”
May 17 08:41
“I just passed through customs!“
He did it!
Estactic Screaming aboard JUANONA, which we just emailed Rudy.
His quick response:
“It’s frowned upon to do that in an airport, but I’m joining you in spirit!
The agent took one look at my passport and MMC and waved me through, he didn’t even look at the contract or anything!”
Photo coming soon to join the others below…
A happy boat, a happy day!
* COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL AND THE COUNCILCOVID-19Guidance on persons exempted from the temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the EU as regards the implementation of Council Recommendation 2020/912 of 30 June 2020
8. SeafarersScope: This category should cover third country nationals holding a seafarer’s identity document issued in accordance with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Seafarers’ Identity Documents Convention No 108 (1958) or No 185 (2003), the Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention) and the relevant national law, a Seafarers Employment Agreement in accordance with the Maritime Labour Convention of the ILO, a confirmation from the employer or a Certificate for International Transport Workers as annexed to the Green Lanes Communication (C/2020/1897). It should also cover service and maintenance personnel in shipping in as far as not already covered by category iv (transport personnel).
Possible evidence includes: seafarer’s identity document, Seafarers Employment Agreement, confirmation from the employer, Certificate for International Transport Workers, documentation proving purpose of travel, such as (copy of) work contract.
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