Share via Email The lowest point, says Count Alvaro de Marichalar y Saenz de Tejada, came one freezing day last month, at a desolate spot about halfway across the Atlantic, when he happened to glance down at the jet ski he was straddling and noticed something odd about the door to the engine compartment: The support boat was out of sight - maybe 10 miles away," he remembers.
Fortunately, though, he had installed an emergency pump - "and thank God - and I mean, thanks to God - I could start the engine and carry on.
Because De Marichalar - who arrived at Miami Beach at the weekend on a twin-engine grey-and-white Bombardier Sea-Doo, having successfully completed the first crossing of the Atlantic by jet ski - is, emphatically, not that kind of aristocrat. His brother is married to the daughter of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, and so he can hardly escape his noble background.
It is intended to explore, to travel, to discover. So to arrive at the coast of Miami, it was a little bit of Spanish history in America. So that was one of the big problems - I would get three or four hours' sleep on the boat each day. It was very tough.
But it was very beautiful. For a start, he had to stand up on the jet ski - "it's the only way of keeping your shoulders and spine safe; sitting down is very dangerous, because you risk breaking your bones" - and he soon got wrist pain from constantly revving the accelerator, though he had sensibly installed one on each end of the handlebars to spread the strain. Stricken by poor weather conditions in the Mediterranean, which he crossed immediately prior to the Atlantic leg, he was thrown from the jet ski into waters he believes were shark-infested.
More recently, off the Dominican Republic, he fell off several times as waves reached 18ft in height. Three times, he had to stop for repairs to the Sea-Doo; each time, Spain's most eligible bachelor stayed offshore in the support boat so as not to break the trip. There were certain comforts not normally afforded to long-distance seafarers, though. Every few hours he would radio the support boat and pull alongside it to refuel and stock up on food - packages containing three or four litres of water, glucose-rich sports bars and tuna sandwiches made with fish the crew had caught for him even so, he lost 12kg.
Jet skis are famously noisy, but he hates the noise, he says, and so had his fitted with a silencing system.
Since his arrival people keep asking him about, you know, going to the toilet, he says, but he can't understand their curiosity. I was thinking about myself, realising that at the end of the day we are nothing, in front of nature. I could see clearly the eyes of God on the horizon. And then at night, when the dolphin comes and navigates with you for hours My little water horse. De Marichalar had a personal score to settle with the sea. It almost killed me. But one of the crewmen couldn't get out and he disappeared.
And that's something I was only able to overcome when I arrived in Miami. It was a homage, to honour the remembrance of this sailor who died doing his duty. Then, next year, he wants to jetski to Japan.