A few years ago I jumped at the chance to join three other guys in sailing a catamaran across the Atlantic. The boat was owned and the invitation extended by a friend for whom I’d built a house here on Vinalhaven 30 years earlier.

While building the house he’d nearly killed me by buzzing the construction site in his airplane, causing me to lose control of a backhoe that in turn rolled over and pinned me between it and a nearby ledge. Still, he’d calmed down some and was a very capable sailor. 

Just as I was landing in London for a stopover, Tropical Storm Delta was bearing down on the Canary Islands. Although there’d been some warnings, they’d gone largely unheeded because severe storms and high winds are nearly unknown in this relatively serene oasis of Spanish Islands 60 miles or so from mainland Africa. The storm slammed into Tenerife, the largest island and home to a million or so with winds of nearly 100 mph. Passengers stranded at Santa Cruz airport huddled as the roof of the terminal was torn off and blown away.

Repair crews hadn’t reached the marina where water mains and sub-lines feeding the slips were torn and spraying water amidst similarly shredded but very much alive and arcing power lines strewn amidst the wet wreckage. Characteristically oblivious, I was delivered by a taxi at dusk and high stepped over all the havoc and peril to find Scout, a 42-foot catamaran clinging to the outermost slip, my captain confidently sequestered in the cabin enjoying a glass of wine. Confident with good reason for having chosen this seemingly most exposed position, he was in possession of a nearly unscathed vessel even though the slip, torn from its mooring and flung against the inboard wreckage, was destroyed. Scout was bobbing in relative serenity just beyond the chaos.

The following day, the other two guys arrived and we all jumped into the considerable void at the marina where might otherwise have been found emergency personnel and equipment but which, because greater Tenerife had suffered so much unexpected carnage, was left to its own devices.

The Catamaran required only minor attention, there being a hole just above the waterline where an aft rail had been torn off, so we directed our attention to the marina and the considerable challenge of shutting off errant electricity, removing wreckage and restoring water to the dockside showers and laundry, the latter of which was accomplished after three or four days of steady and inventive work and which earned us the fawning admiration of a lot of grubby sailors, particularly the women.

Tenerife is a wonderful place and a splendid venue, even torn asunder, in which to consume memorable late night dinners and to become acquainted with one’s new companions and plan an upcoming voyage.

I was to be cook, responsible, during the remainder of the time ashore, for provisioning liberally for a three-week passage, including several cases of 8-ounce Spanish beers at two per day per man and 42 bottles of pretty good indigenous red table wine.

During the voyage I was to be fully responsible for the galley: its cleanliness, preparation of each lunch and dinner and ensuring that each of those meals, particularly the evening repast, including suitable appetizers and atmosphere, was memorable and this was an adjective not settled on lightly.

Thus it was that we set sail on Dec. 4, just as Hurricane Epsilon bore down on us from Portugal and we threaded a course just out of reach. That course found us just south of the humbling and rumbling Mt. Tiede, third highest volcano in the world and our last landfall till the Caribbean, the predicted eventual eruption of which is expected to deliver a historic tsunami to the U.S. East coast. As the setting sun illuminated only the column of smoke from its summit we sat down in the cabin to a dinner of curried shrimp with braised brussel sprouts in Dijon and tarragon, fresh green salad and an exquisite dessert of pear and cheddar bread pudding.

My three companions had known their enjoyment of this voyage would hinge in large measure on the quality of these evening meals and the contrast between their barely concealed apprehension as they sat waiting for dinner and the great satisfaction as they consumed it is not likely to ever fade from my memory.

Thenceforth and every night we took our dinner there in the cabin, four guys sitting way too close to one another, always in candlelight, with the most profoundly romantic musical accompaniment and increasingly mindful with the passing of each of successive day of how lonely one can become, even though we enjoyed ourselves tremendously, without the companionship of women, one in particular in each case.

Phil Crossman lives on Vinalhaven where he and his wife operate the Tidewater Motel.