The Young Man and the Sea: Shane Mason’s voyage across the Atlantic

Shane Mason’s path from his hometown in Mississippi to the offices of REM was circuitous. And wet. Very wet.

Shane was born in Mississippi, where he attended college and got his CPA. He worked for PwC for three years in Austin, Texas before a family member fell ill, calling him back home to Mississippi. Craving adventure after too many days in a hospital, Shane decided to hit the road. This particular road took him to Europe, where he toured with a band in several western European countries, working the merch table and seeing the sights.

Shane's home for several weeks.

In 2013, Shane made a decision. He planned to return to the U.S., but he wanted to get back on his own terms—and cheaply. Using a website called Crew Seekers (kind of like Craigslist for sailors), Shane looked for work on a boat that would take him on as crew and ultimately land him home. He had little experience at sea (to be fair, few certified public accountants do), so the job search took a while. Around 70 applications later, Shane was finally offered a position on a crew crossing the Atlantic into Boston. Shane leaped at the opportunity and traveled to La Rochelle, France, where the crew was assembling at the sailing vessel, a catamaran.

The mission: deliver the catamaran to Boston in as little time as possible. On board were a British captain, a Welsh crewmember, the catamaran’s new owner… and Shane, the newbie deckhand.

The voyage got off to a rocky start. The catamaran’s rudders broke in the Bay of Biscay, forcing the crew to call the Spanish coast guard for help and dock for a temporary fix at Burela, a coastal town in Basque country. From there, they detoured to Lisbon for full repairs. These repairs took several days, and Shane and his crewmates were able to land and enjoy a week-long sardine festival in the Portuguese capital.

 

The crew relaxes ashore in Lisbon, Portugal. Shane is on the far right, in the festive purple garment.

 

After the rudders were restored to working order, they sailed to the Azores, an island chain off the coast of Portugal. There, the boat’s owner decided to abandon the journey and travel to Boston by plane. (He was not made to walk the gangplank.) Complicating matters further, the U.S. Embassy on the Azores was unexpectedly closed. This was a problem, because the Welsh crewman needed to obtain a visa before entering the United States. The captain had little choice but to alter course. Their new destination was Newfoundland, Canada, roughly a thousand miles northeast of Boston.

 

Video and still photos of the voyage.

 

The voyage from the Azores to Newfoundland took three weeks. Out at sea, Shane marveled at the sharks that circled around the boat when the water was still, watched for icebergs, and sailed north of the resting place of the Titanic. After dark, Shane witnessed the clearest night skies possible. Pods of dolphins stirred up bioluminescent plankton that lit up the nighttime sea. It was an experience like no other.

After delivering the Welshman to Canada, Shane and the captain were the only remaining members of the crew for the final leg south to Boston. The schedule was grueling—because someone had to be on watch around the clock, they worked in three-hour shifts, alternating between the wheel and the bunks.

In the end, Boston welcomed Shane. The boat’s owner hosted him upon arrival, and fed him a full lobster dinner. (Because what you really want after spending a month at sea is seafood, right?) Shane traveled on to visit friends in New York City, who convinced him to weigh anchor. Shane was offered a job as an accountant, and he ended up here at REM.

The sea still calls to Shane. He recently received his certification to buy a boat, and by next summer, he plans to hit the open waters again, this time on ocean vessel of his own.