Spanish adventurer Alvaro de Marichalar arrived on Wednesday in St. Augustine, Florida, after a 14-day solo journey on board his jet ski retracing the route explorer Juan Ponce de Leon took when he set sail and discovered Florida 500 years ago.
“It was a very tough route, but full of experiences and complete, because I managed to do it right on the fifth centennial of Ponce de Leon’s trip,” he said.
Marichalar spoke by telephone with Efe as he was refueling his jet ski, which he named Numancia, just a few miles from St. Augustine, where Florida Gov. Rick Scott and other officials, sponsors and a crowd of fans who had followed his journey – which he began on March 20 in San Juan – were awaiting his arrival.
“I’m really exhausted. Tonight I’ve been sailing for 37 hours non-stop because I wanted to arrive on time,” the adventurer, who made the journey without any support craft accompanying him, said hoarsely.
“It’s been a real adventure finding out where to refuel and solving problems that were coming up,” the 51-year-old businessman said.
After spending his last “very cold” night on board the jet ski and making it through “a couple of really bad storms,” upon his arrival in St. Augustine, the oldest city in the continental United States, Marichalar unfurled and waved the Spanish flag he had carried with him on the journey.
“The Spanish flag is the one that has flown in the U.S. for the longest time,” he said, although he also brought with him the British and French flags, given that Florida authorities had wanted to involve those countries in the celebrations of the quincentennial of the discovery of Florida by the Old World.
“It’s been a spectacular welcome, with a beautiful atmosphere. The Americans have thrown themselves into this and they’ve made me feel very good,” he said enthusiastically in another conversation with Efe after reaching the shore.
Marichalar began his jet ski journey – charted at 1,624 nautical miles – on March 20 from the dock at San Juan’s Club Nautico.
“Juan Ponce de Leon arrived at the (site of the future) city of St. Augustine, in Florida, on April 3, and I intend to arrive right on the same date 500 years later, and at least try to carry the flag of Spain to that town,” Marichalar told Efe minutes before setting out.
Ponce de Leon arrived at St. Augustine on the feast of “Pascua Florida” (Easter Sunday), 1513, the reason he gave that name to this southeastern U.S. state.
Starting in 1982 and prior to this trip, Marichalar has made 38 ocean expeditions – logging some 30,000 miles on board his jet ski – and set 11 world records.