Spanish Navigator Alvaro de Marichalar Completes Historic Voyage

Alvaro races past San Juan’s famous El Moro castle
historic voyage
Alvaro is greeted on his arrival in San Juan, Puerto Rico

“A record is just the result of an effort,” he says. “The important thing is the effort itself. Trying. Fighting. Succeeding.”

He wants to be remembered as a survivor who fought for his dreams and made them happen. However, it is how Alvaro de Marichalar turned his ambitions into reality in record-setting man-against-the-sea voyages with ‘true grit’ that adds to the public’s perception of this Spanish aristocrat, who is also the former brother-in-law to princess Infanta Elena of Spain. On May 10, Marichalar, with over 30 epic voyages already under his belt, completed his 8,000-nautical mile ‘Solo Caribbean Sea Tour’ in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“I wanted to commemorate the 5th Centennial of the European Discovery of Florida by Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon as well as celebrate the 5th Centennial of the European Discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Spanish adventurer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, which both happened back in 1513. My route was to follow their historic watermarks,” says Marichalar, who earned his first world record in 1992 and most indelibly made history in 2002 when he jet-skied from Rome to New York.

His latest expedition was divided into three sections. First, from San Juan to St. Augustine, Florida in 2013. Secondly, Florida to Cartagena, Colombia. And finally, from Cartagena to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Most remarkable is that Marichalar traveled solo, without a support boat, on an 11-foot modified SeaDoo RXT Canadian-built jet ski, named Numancia. He made several modifications in the vessel’s design to enhance its strength. Marichalar also installed six extra gas tanks to give him a 150 nautical mile range.

“I carried a compass and GPS for navigation and security equipment such as radio, EPIRB, flares and satellite phone. There’s no space to cook onboard, but I could rest. I just stretched my legs out on top of the steering,” he says.

“The whole idea of such a tiny vessel is that it allows me to be close to the magic of the water and to feel the ocean in a unique and very direct way. I feel like I am sailing onboard of a dolphin.”

historic voyage
Alvaro races past San Juan’s famous El Moro castle

Marichalar says the most exciting experience on his Solo Caribbean Sea Tour was arriving in St. Augustine on April 2, the same date Ponce de Leon landed there 500 years prior. His most challenging experience was crossing from western Cuba to Mexico, an 18-hour voyage where he found himself fighting the strong currents of the Gulf of Mexico. Most memorable, he says, was meeting the families living in the Cuajaracume, Venezuela.

“My vessel broke down two miles away from the shore of this tiny fishing village, located 20 nautical miles south of Punto Fijo, while I was crossing the Venezuelan Gulf from La Guajira, Columbia. The winds drove me to the shore where there were some kids playing. I appeared to them as a true survivor and from that moment they and their families did all they could to help me. We will remain friends forever,” he says.

Historic Voyage
A very happy navigator at the marina in San Juan

After checking in with immigration, securing food, water and gas, and finding a secure place to dock his vessel, Marichalar says that meeting local people, learning about their lives and culture and whenever possible giving motivational lectures occupied most of his time during shore stops. He visited 28 countries during this latest trip.

Next up this summer, Marichalar will complete a solo crossing from San Sebastian, Spain to London, England, and then tour the British Islands with friends.

In 2018, he will attempt another record-setting trip: a tour of the world in commemoration of the 5th Centennial of the World’s First Circumnavigation by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

What is most important about these milestone accomplishments to Marichalar?

“A record is just the result of an effort,” he says. “The important thing is the effort itself. Trying. Fighting. Succeeding.”


Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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