Buenos Aires, Argentina (AP) – Unable to return home to be with his parents during the pandemic, Juan Manuel Ballestero decided to embark on a transatlantic voyage to Argentina from Portugal on a sailboat, beginning a three-month trip that included fighting dangerous storms and waves.
Now in his hometown of Mar del Plata, where he arrived on Wednesday, the 47-year-old Argentine said he had planned the trip in just 24 hours after learning that flights to Argentina had been canceled amid blocking measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“I wanted to be with them,” Ballestero told The Associated Press on Thursday as he waited in quarantine before he could see his 90-year-old father, Carlos Ballestero, and his 82-year-old mother, Nilda Gómez.
Ballestero, who lives in Spain, was in the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira when the blockades in Spain and Argentina went into effect. He took the € 200 he had saved, collected his SQUA sailboat with food and set sail from Porto Santo, which had not yet been seriously affected by the epidemic.
Ballestero said terrifying storms threatened throughout the voyage and he nearly lost his life off the coast of Brazil when he encountered strong winds and waves driving the small boat. He also said that it was not easy to navigate the Río de la Plata that leads to Mar del Plata.
An experienced sailor said: “Now I am calm, stranded here in the middle of this port.” “There is no storm that bothers me nor a ship that runs over me.”
Despite being in Argentina, he must remain on his 8.8-meter (29-foot) sailboat for a 15-day quarantine without being able to touch his parents, even though they are in constant contact.
Ballestero said he made the trip because he was sure the pandemic and the lockdown measures would last a long time and he wanted to be with his family.
Ideally, he would have liked to go back in time to celebrate his father’s 90th birthday on May 15, he said.
“You’re coming home,” said Ballestero, who has fished Alaska and the South Atlantic Ocean and worked as a captain on oceanographic sailboats looking for whales or conducting environmental studies.
He said he was especially scared when the waves crashed into his fiberglass boat 150 miles from Victoria, Brazil. He said it “could have lost the mast” when the wave “rolled” it from above.
“The ship is gone. I couldn’t cut the sail in time, ”adding that the cable broke. He said he received help to repair his boat in Brazil.
Ballesteros said that the important thing now is his next reunion with his parents.
He said he has had enough adventures on the high seas for now and plans to stay in the house he has near his parents’ house.
I will grow a garden and buy three chickens. “I will spend the winter with the elderly,” he said. “I want to be with the family.”