ANNA MARIA ISLAND – Anyone who’s ever owned or rented a personal watercraft knows that after about half an hour in the turbulent ocean, it becomes quite a workout.
Now imagine traveling more than 20,000 nautical miles on a craft of this size.
That’s exactly what a 60-year-old man from Spain is doing as he attempts to circumnavigate the Earth alone on the smallest craft in history.
This isn’t just an attempt to put his name in the record books; there’s a personal reason as impressive as the feat itself, and it brought Spanish explorer and ecologist Álvaro de Marichalar Sáenz de Tejada to Anna Maria Island on Thursday.
De Marichalar arrived at Anna Maria Island on the evening of March 3 and departed March 5, en route to Pensacola and far beyond. The island was not on his planned itinerary, but he said he enjoyed his time here.
It celebrates the fifth centenary of the first circumnavigation of the Earth by Juan Sebastian Elcano in 1522, initiated in 1519 by the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan, and promoted by King Charles I of Spain. The next destination on the road is Pensacola, the first European settlement in the United States, founded in 1559 by Tristán de Luna, predating the colony of St. Augustine on the east coast of Florida by six years.
De Marichalar says he is a direct descendant of de Luna and an honorary citizen of Pensacola for that reason, and is thrilled to be stopping in a town so important to his family heritage.
“I really wanted to replicate the original trip. I left Seville, Spain on August 10, 2019, the same day and time of this historic date and time 500 years earlier,” he said. “If you don’t take risks, there is no progress. Discovering is learning, taking risks is the only way to advance knowledge. They knew it 500 years ago, and it’s the same today.
Risk rings true in this journey. The only time a chase boat assisted was on the long Atlantic Ocean crossing. Apart from that, he had to rely on the generosity of others to find places to sleep, eat and shelter, in the face of sometimes almost insurmountable weather conditions. His small Sea-Doo watercraft can only travel 200 miles on one tank of fuel, so he not only has to carry extra fuel, which replaces food and water storage, but other things, like clothing.
“Sometimes I have to go a day or more without eating. I find a remote place to sleep and there is not always a place to find food or fuel; I just have to take what I can get,” he said. “I get water and food when I find a place to fill up. There just isn’t a lot of room on my little ship.
Many have asked why he would attempt something so dangerous.
“It’s my hobby, my passion and my favorite way to sail,” said de Marichalar. “With a boat this small, you’re not on the boat, you’re the boat. I always have to stand, I can’t sit because it will destroy my spine. Also, if I sit down, my skin will tear after a few days.
The pandemic delayed his progress, and during the downtime he gave more than 100 talks around the world promoting the fifth centenary of the first circumnavigation of the globe. He has spoken at universities, yacht clubs and schools in the United States, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Saint Barthélemy, Guadeloupe, Spain, Portugal, France, Monaco, Italy, Germany, Russia, Switzerland, Austria, England and Greece. In his lectures, de Marichalar always displays the flags of Spain and Portugal alongside that of the Fifth Centenary and also shows the flag of Monaco.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of the Sea, as well as a member of the Explorers Club of New York and the Exploration Club of the Yacht Club of Monaco.
After Pensacola, de Marichalar plans to head to Galveston, Texas, and then to the Panama Canal, which is 3,700 nautical miles from her post-pandemic departure in Miami on February 19. The route will follow the United States, Mexico and Central America. coastlines. It will then turn north and follow the west coast of the United States, then head towards Alaska and the rest of the world. This trip is not a direct route. Due to the size of his small craft, Álvaro cannot leave the coast unless there is no other option.
This trip should last until the end of 2023 if all goes as planned. If you want to follow Álvaro’s progress and learn more about the incredible endeavor that brought the explorer to the island of Anna Maria, visit his website.