A man from Argentia decided to brave an almost three-month solo sailing voyage to see his family, including his now 90-year-old father, right after the coronavirus pandemic stopped international travel.
Juan Manuel Ballestero was on the island of Porto Santo in Portugal when his home country of Argentina canceled all international passenger flights due to coronavirus, The New York Times reported.
Juan Manuel, 47, took his Ohlson 29 sailboat, named the Skua, and began an 85-day solo voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. And while he was faced with multiple challenges along the way and missed his father’s actual 90th birthday, Juan Manuel arrived in Argentina safely by Father’s Day and has since reunited with his family.
“I didn’t want to stay like a coward on an island where there were no cases,” Juan Manuel told the Times. “I wanted to do everything possible to return home. The most important thing for me was to be with my family.”
And while he has been sailing since he was 3-years-old, many were concerned that Juan Manuel would be sailing alone and in the middle of a pandemic.
Juan Manuel faced his fair share of challenges while at sea. On April 12, authorities in Cape Verde prevented him from docking his 29-foot sailboat in order to refuel and restock his food supply. Due to this, Juan Manuel was forced to head west, with less fuel than anticipated, as well as rely on the winds to move him along.
And by the end of his trip, heavy waves passed through and forced Juan Manuel to stop in Vitória, Brazil, which is added another 10 days to his trip.
But there was no turning back. Juan Manuel said he would cope by turning on the radio every night as well as rely on his faith. He also took time to appreciate the nature surrounding him.
And on June 17, Juan Manuel arrived finally in Mar del Plata — almost a month after he began documenting the trip on Instagram.
“Entering my port where my father had his sailboat, where he taught me so many things and where I learned how to sail and where all this originated, gave me the taste of a mission accomplished,” he shared with the Times.
But before he could reunite with his family, Juan Manuel had to take a COVID-19 test. Within 72 hours, his results came back negative and he was permitted to enter Argentina. And while he is overjoyed to be home after 85 days of travel, he shared how he is ready to get back out onto the water once again.
“What I lived is a dream,” he said. “But I have a strong desire to keep on sailing.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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