In what turned out to be an 85-day odyssey across the Atlantic, Juan Manuel Ballestero, a 47-year-old sailor, sailed from a tiny Portuguese island of Porto Santo to Argentina, crossing the entire ocean with a small sailboat just to see his family and his father who was about to turn 90 years old.
Ballestero was in Porto Santo when the lockdowns and social distancing started to take action around the world. He didn't want to spend "the end of the world" alone with all of his family members away from him in their home country, Argentina. Moreover, his father was about to turn 90 years old.
However, since all international flights were made non-operational, he had only one choice if he wanted to go back: to set sail across the Atlantic for 85 days in his small boat.
With his family on his mind, he loaded his 29-foot (8.8 meters) sailboat with canned tuna, fruit, and rice and sailed for Argentina in mid-March.
The most challenging fact about his brave story is that the authorities in Portugal were adamant about not letting him return if he set sail once, even in the case of an accident where he had to go back.
His odyssey was filled with hardship. While he is a skilled sailor, the pandemic had made everything harder. Three weeks into the trip, authorities in Cape Verde wouldn't let him restock on fuel and food, making the future look rather grim.
View this post on Instagram
He told The New York Times, "I wasn’t afraid, but I did have a lot of uncertainty. It was very strange to sail in the middle of a pandemic with humanity teetering around me. I kept thinking about whether this would be my last trip."
Thankfully, however, on June 17, he made it to his home in Mar del Plata. After being administered a test and getting a negative after 72 hours, he was allowed to step foot in his home town.
He had managed to get to his family safe and sound; however, he had missed his father's 90th birthday. That wasn't a problem though since he was with his father on Father's Day, just in time.
"What I lived is a dream," Ballestero said. "But I have a strong desire to keep on sailing."