When flights to his native Argentina were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, 47 year-old Juan Manuel Ballestero devised an ambitious plan to be with his parents » to single-handedly sail his small 29 foot Ohlson 29 from Porto Santo, Portugal, 12,000 kilometres across the Atlantic ocean, to Mar del Plata, Argentina.

BBC »

Explorer’s Web »

What do you do when you’re prohibited from international air travel but can’t fathom being away from your aged father? Sail 12,000km across the Atlantic, of course.

Juan Manuel Ballestero lives on the small Portuguese island of Porto Santo. When Argentina cancelled all international flights in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, he reasoned that the best alternative to reach his 90-year-old father was by sailing. Ballestero‘s voyage from Port Santo to Mar del Plata took 86 days. He arrived on June 17 to a celebrity’s welcome.

NY Times »

So he said he loaded his 29-foot sailboat with canned tuna, fruit and rice and set sail in mid-March.

“I didn’t want to stay like a coward on an island where there were no cases,” Mr. Ballestero said. “I wanted to do everything possible to return home. The most important thing for me was to be with my family.”

Sailing across the Atlantic in a small boat is challenging in the best of circumstances. The added difficulties of doing it during a pandemic became clear three weeks into the trip.

On April 12, the authorities in Cape Verde refused to allow him to dock at the island nation to restock his supply of food and fuel, said Mr. Ballestero.

While he didn’t get to celebrate his father’s 90th birthday in May, he did make it home in time for Father’s Day.