When the Lockdown Began, This Man Traveled 85 Days Alone in a Boat to See His Father. Here's the Story

Across the Atlantic in a small boat, and the big story is why. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

Probably almost everyone on this list has close friends or family members that they haven’t been able to see for months. That feels strange, sad, and odd.

My family is in the same boat. To use a technical term, it’s a bummer.

This is why I was sucked right into the story of Juan Manuel Ballestero, a sailor from Argentina who was caught in Europe after the pandemic began, and who desperately wanted to make it to Argentina to see his 90-year-old dad and 82-year-old mother.

There are no flights — at least, there were none when he first got the idea. So Ballestero, who lives in Spain, decided instead to cross the Atlantic Ocean, alone, in a 30-foot sailboat.

The trip took 85 days, from the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira to Mar del Plata in Argentina.

“I did it! I did it! I did it!” Ballestero exclaimed when he reached the dock last week.

He was tested for Covid-19 (negative, which is unsurprising given he’d been almost totally quarantined for three months), and was given permission to set food on land, where he reunited with his Nilda, and his father, Carlos.

Misión cumplida! La fe cruza oceanos
June 20, 2020

Now, Ballestero is an accomplished sailor. But still, this was a roughly 6,000-mile trip, which he set out on with about the equivalent of $250 and a stockpile of food—and it wasn’t without mishaps.

“Stormy weather caused severe delays,” Euronews reported, “including high waves off the coast of Brazil that tossed his fiberglass boat around and snapped a cable, leaving him especially afraid.”

And, as Agence France Presse put it:

He learned during the long trip home that “people were dying every day, by the thousands,” a jarring realization at a time when he was “in the middle of nature, seeing how the world goes on.

“There were dolphins and whales … even as humanity was passing through this difficult moment.”

For 54 long days, his family had no word from him.

“But we knew he was going to come,” said a smiling Carlos. “We had no doubt. He was coming to Mar del Plata to be with his parents.”

Ballestero stopped in Brazil for repairs, which delayed him from arriving in time for his dad’s birthday. But, he made it for Father’s Day.

Anyway, besides being a nice story, this is frankly the first true life tale of the pandemic that I can actually see being made into a movie that people would really want to see.

It has all the elements: adventure, emotion and longing, danger—and it’s relatable because we’re all alone one way or another—but different enough. Heck, maybe I should option it.

Anyway, the good news is, you probably don’t have to sail alone across an ocean to keep up your relationships. I know I keep saying this, but c’mon: people are lonely.

So pick up the phone, hop on Zoom or whatever, or at least send a text.

No, you probably won’t get a movie deal out of it. But, I can practically guarantee that you and your loved ones will get some other worthwhile rewards.

Summer plans (plus)

Quick housekeeping before we move on today. Next month marks literally two years (!!!) that I’ve been doing a daily newsletter: first Inc. This Morning, and now Understandably.

Also, it’s summer, and we all have a lot of things going on. So, over the next little while, I’m going to shake things up and try some experiments.

I won’t describe them all here because it’s better just to do them. But you’ll see some changes in features, format — maybe even frequency. Maybe they’ll stick; maybe they won’t.

As part of this, a few readers suggested creating a “reader advisory group” of folks who really like this newsletter, and who might help me think these ideas through ahead of time. If that interests you, thank you! (You can sign up here.)

Also, at some point, I’m also going to want to take some time off. That’s pretty darn important, especially in these times.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know and set expectations over the next little while. As always, thanks for being here.

7 other things worth your time

  • A statute of Teddy Roosevelt on horseback, portrayed above a Native American and an African American person, is slated to be removed from the exterior of the Museum of Natural History in New York. Critics call it revisionism, but others say that even if you admire Roosevelt, the design of this particular statue “symbolizes a legacy of colonial expansion and racial discrimination.” (Forbes)

  • No more temperature checks or Covid-19 screenings at the White House, except for people who might come in contact with the president or vice-president. Also, two more campaign staffers who were in Tulsa tested positive for the virus, brining the known total to eight. (NBC News, CNN)

  • A high school senior who is a talented singer refused to sing the National Anthem at graduation, given the ongoing protests, opting instead to sing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” (known as the black national anthem). Her fellow students at Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts in New York, where the class is is 50 percent black and 50 percent Hispanic, offered “resounding” support for her decision, according to the school’s principal. (Wall Street Journal, $)

  • The Trump administration says it’s suspending certain foreign work visas through the end of 2020. (CNN)

  • Kind of wish I’d seen this yesterday, because it was part of a theme, but sheriff’s deputies responded to a call for vandalism and screaming in a street—only to find it was an angry, old neighbor reporting a 9-year-old girl for writing “Black Lives Matter” in chalk. (13 News Now)

  • Michael Keaton played Batman in 1989 and 1991. Then, he won a Golden Globe for starring in Birdman, about “a faded American actor famous for playing a superhero … in the 1990s.” Now, he’s in talks to play Batman again. (The Verge)

  • The FBI is investigating reports of a noose and notes found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace, the only black driver at the top level of NASCAR. Afterward, basically the entire assembly of drivers and crew at the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama marched with him as a show of support. (NPR; Fox Sports below)

If you liked this post, and you’re not yet a subscriber, please sign up for the daily Understandably.com email newsletter, with more than 4,000 5-star ratings from happy readers. You can also just send an email to signup@understandably.com.

And of course, please share Understandably! Seriously, that’s the #1 thing we need right now, is for people who enjoy this newsletter to encourage friends and family to sign up as well. Thank you!


One-click review and feedback: