Crew of century-old vessel “with nowhere to go” after being denied entry to Portimão

The crew members of a 104-year-old vessel which has just completed a three-year voyage around the globe have been denied entry into Portugal and have “nowhere to go”.

The news came as a shock to the four crew members and the vessel’s owner who were told to complete a two-week quarantine period upon arriving at the Portimão Marina – despite the fact that they had already spent 37 days at sea after leaving Cuba – only to be told at the end of it by border authorities that they would not be receiving clearance to enter the country until at least June 15.

Due to leave Portugal tomorrow (May 16), they have no idea where to head next or which country will allow them to dock.

“This is very strange,” Sven Taylor, captain of the “Joseph Conrad” vessel, told the Resident.

“I understand the times we are living. But we have been at sea for 55 days – nearly four times the required quarantine period. We have no symptoms. We do not have the virus,” the British captain said.

“For the last two weeks, we have been told that we would be allowed to enter the country as soon as we completed the quarantine period. But at the last minute we received an email telling us we can’t,” said Sven, who lives in Portimão when he isn’t out at sea.

“My girlfriend lives here. The owner of the boat owns a house here and his parents live here. But we weren’t even allowed on shore. We were allowed to receive fuel, water and provisions, but we had to have our friends and family bring the provisions to us. We had to talk to them from afar,” he explained.

The crew – which includes Sven, a chef, an engineer, a deckman and the vessel’s owner – was expected to enjoy some time on land after a massive journey around the world which started exactly in Portimão around three years ago.

“The vessel is privately-owned and the owner wanted to go on a trip around the world. We left Portimão and headed to the Canary Islands first and then to Barbados, the Caribbean, the Panama Canal, French Polynesia, Papa New Guinea, Australia, Maldives, Seychelles, Madagascar, South Africa, Namibia, Barbados again and then Cuba, our last stop before returning to Portimão,” Sven told us.

However, they had to leave Cuba earlier than expected as the country was going to close its borders and the captain feared being trapped indefinitely there and risking potential damage from the impending hurricane season.

After 37 days at sea, with the crew fishing as much as possible to conserve supplies, the JC arrived at Portimão on April 30.

Apart from feeling like they are not being allowed back home, Sven points out the losses for the local economy.

“Local suppliers and technicians will lose out on income from our long-planned works on the sailboat, which will cost around €80,000. We were already preparing to get the boat ready for another trip around the world this winter,” he explained.

Sven also stressed that the JC is far from the only vessel that will be seeking to dock in Portugal.
“There are many others coming over from the Caribbean and other areas. Where will they all go,” he asked.
The Resident has contacted Portugal’s border authority (SEF) to clarify why the crew was not allowed to enter the country and is awaiting a response.

About the vessel
The Joseph Conrad is a 104-year-old gaff rigged, topsail schooner and sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

Photos: INÊS LOPES/OPEN MEDIA GROUP

By Michael Bruxo
michael.bruxo@algarveresident.com