Álvaro de Marichalar departed Seville, Spain, at 5 p.m. on Aug. 10, 2019, to circumnavigate the globe. The place, time and date were no accident.
The 58-year-old de Marichalar, who will present a lecture Friday on St. Croix, is paying tribute to Ferdinand Magellan and his team who sailed from Seville 500 years ago in search of a western route to Indonesia’s Spice Islands. One big difference: Magellan traveled with five ships and 250 fellow explorers whereas de Marichalar goes solo by personal watercraft.
His 11-foot PWC, Numancia, also known as a water scooter, is sometimes called a “jet ski” which is the generic use of a Kawasaki brand trade name.
Aboard Numancia, de Marichalar has endured unruly seas, extreme cold and ruthless winds.
“All I can do is fight it. Resist. Keep it up no matter what!” he said. “That’s the spirit of Numancia, the tiny Iberian city which never surrendered against the Roman Empire 22 centuries ago.”
De Marichalar arrived on St. Croix Tuesday afternoon and will talk about his expeditions and his philosophies behind them at 5 p.m. Friday at the St. Croix Yacht Club. The motivational lecture is open to the public.
“I am commemorating the fifth centennial of the first circumnavigation of our planet, organized in 1519 by His Majesty King Charles I of Spain and commanded by Magellan on the first half, from Spain to the Philippines, where he died in 1521,” de Marichalar said in an email interview from St. Barths.
After Magellan’s death, Juan Sebastian Elcano took command and completed the voyage. He sailed back into Seville in September 1522 with only one vessel – the Victoria – and 18 original crewmembers.
“I departed from the same place at the same hour 500 years later … following the only itinerary my tiny vessel can possibly face,” de Marichalar said.
A seasoned storyteller, de Marichalar speaks English, Italian, French and Spanish and lectures worldwide on his 38 years of water scooter adventures on the high seas.
“It will be the greatest honor to share the first circumnavigation’s fifth centennial with St. Croix sailors, explorers and history enthusiasts,” he said.
He will address the terrors that those 16th century sailors must have beat back and “the fears we all feel and how to fight them.”
“I will explain the reason St. Croix was baptized by the Spaniards 530 years ago with such an important and beautiful name,” he said.
As an academic of the Spanish Royal Academy of the Sea, de Marichalar promotes respect for the world’s oceans. He encourages the protection of nature and spreads the stories of great sailors whose historic expeditions made way for the first international relations and commerce and also “allowed humanity to share its culture.”
Leaving Seville, de Marichalar sailed Numancia toward Lisbon and along the northern coast of Spain to Guetaria, where Elcano was born, and then continued to Biarritz, France. Encountering fierce conditions, he sent his tiny boat on to Monaco and, from there, pressed on for Nice, Marseille, Barcelona, Valencia, Malaga and Gibraltar. Altogether he solo navigated 2,000 miles before reaching Gibraltar.
There, a French explorer vessel, M/Y Yersin, accompanied Numancia on its transatlantic lap to Guadeloupe, transporting 4,000 liters of gasoline – enough for his small craft to cross the ocean. De Marichalar refueled every six hours using a system that enabled him to take the hose while navigating at 10 knots. Refueling 60 liters took less than two minutes, during which time the mothership sent over water and food.
When conditions allowed, de Marichalar dipped into the ocean. The ocean was his bathroom. He slept on his craft unless wild seas forced him to board the Yersin. The crossing took 15 days; he arrived on Guadeloupe on Christmas Day.
“It was magic in every sense of the word,” said de Marichalar.
From St. Croix, he will head for Puerto Rico, where he will come in at Club Nautico in San Juan, which offers reciprocity with his own yacht club in Monaco.
“I love Puerto Rico and its amazing spanish tradition and beauty,” he said.
He then goes on to Florida, Panama, Alaska, Russia, Japan, China, Philippines, Singapore, India, Persia, the Arabic countries and through the Mediterranean to his starting point in Spain. He expects the total trip to take about 16 months.
When de Marichalar is not at sea, he trains. He walks wherever he can, plays outdoor sports, drinks a lot of water and eats well. He makes a point to live in healthy places and avoid harmful substances and toxic people, he said. He prepares himself to face extreme circumstances at sea.
“The most important training is always mental,” he said.
His talks appeal not only to seafarers but also to students, businessmen and entrepreneurs who are drawn to his parallels between the business world and experiences on the seas. He discusses motivation and achievement, culture and society and sports as well as history and his passion for sailing aboard a water scooter.
Born in Pamplona, the Basque city of northern Spain famous for the running of the bulls, de Marichalar now lives between Madrid and Monaco. Since 1982, he has carried out 40 solo maritime expeditions and has set 14 world records.
Among others, his PWC expeditions include Rome to New York, Hong Kong to Tokyo, Seville to Genoa, Majorca to Sardinia and back, the Canary Islands to Bilbao, Spain, a tour of Sri Lanka and Moscow to Saint Petersburg. With these sea crossings, he fundraises for humanitarian aid.
He is a pilot, having served in the Royal Spanish Air Force, and writes books and produces documentaries for the National Geographic channel and other TV networks.
The desire to honor his compatriot explorers of the 16th century inspired this current expedition.
“In my view, spreading their high principles and noble values is most necessary in today’s society,” de Marichalar said.
Priests at ports along the way have blessed him and Numancia, and this sustains him.
“Trusting our creator is my biggest help out there in the ocean as well as inland,” de Marichalar said.