Man Sails From Portugal to Argentina to Visit 90-Year-Old Father

The trip took 85 days

Mar del Plata
Mar del Plata
Elvis Boaventura/Creative Commons

What do you do if you’re worried about your 90-year-old father, but prevented from flying internationally to visit them? If you’re Juan Manuel Ballestero, you figure out an alternate means of transportation. In his case, to travel from Portugal to Brazil, he opted for a method that’s worked for centuries for those wanting to cross the Atlantic. Ballestero spent 85 days at sea — an inherently risky proposition, but one that paid off for him in the end.

Writing at The New York Times, Daniel Politi has the story of Ballestero’s unique voyage. It began on the island of Porto Santo, where he lives, in the middle of March. Ballestero wanted to visit his father, but Argentina — where his father lives — had banned international flights as a precaution against COVID-19. And so he took to his 29-foot-long sailboat, the Skua, and began his journey.

It ultimately lasted for 85 days. Ballestero attempted to stop in Cape Verde to restock his provisions and refuel; he was barred from doing so. Still, he continued onwards, eventually starting an Instagram account to document his journey.

In total, the trip took 85 days — 10 more than he had initially planned, due to an unforeseen stop in Brazil. Eventually, he reached his destination, where he was tested for COVID-19. When the test came back negative, he was permitted to leave his sailboat and reunite with his family.

As methods of getting around travel restrictions go, Ballestero’s was particularly ornate. Then again, traveling alone across the ocean is about as socially distanced as one can get. Risks were certainly taken, but in this case, the long way around may have been the best possible option.

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