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Sailor completes three-month solo Atlantic crossing to spend lockdown with parents

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Juan Manuel Ballestero on the deck of his boat in Mar del Plata on Thursday, at the end of a three-month crossing of the Atlantic Ocean
Juan Manuel Ballestero on the deck of his boat in Mar del Plata on Thursday, at the end of a three-month crossing of the Atlantic Ocean   -   Copyright  AP/Vicente Robles
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An Argentinian man has battled fierce Atlantic storms to arrive home nearly three months after he decided to bypass coronavirus travel restrictions and sail from Portugal to see his elderly parents.

Juan Manuel Ballestero began his journey in his 8.8-metre sailboat on March 24 and had hoped to reach Mar del Plata, south of the capital Buenos Aires, in time for his father’s 90th birthday on May 15.

He set off from Porto Santo in the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira with €200 and a stock of food.

But stormy weather caused severe delays, including high waves off the coast of Brazil that tossed his fibreglass boat around and snapped a cable, leaving him especially afraid.

“The boat went over. I couldn’t trim the sail in time,” the 47-year-old adventurer said, adding that he could have lost the mast.

“Well, I did all I could be there on your birthday, Dad.”

Ballestero was able to carry out repairs in Brazil and on Wednesday arrived in Argentina.

There has been no reunion with his father or 82-year-old mother yet because he must remain on his boat for a 15-day quarantine.

But the experienced sailor, whose fishing trips have taken him as far afield as Alaska and the South Atlantic, said he was pleased to be in quieter waters.

“Now I am calm, anchored here in the middle of this port. There is no storm to bother me or boat to run me over,” the experienced sailor said.

After quarantine, he will be staying in a house close to his parents.

“I'll plant a garden and buy three chickens. I'll make it through the winter with the old people. I want to be with the family.”