Every January, in the Carraca arsenal they are used to put the finishing touches on the Juan Sebastián Elcano. The Navy training ship began its 96th training cruise this Saturday, a six-month trip that will take 82 midshipmen to join the crew with which they will sail the Atlantic Ocean until next July on a trip with ten stops that will include the challenge of crossing the Panama Canal twice by sail.

In the port of Cádiz everything was hugs and excitement between the midshipmen and their families. After attending a mass and the Galeona procession, the entire crew embarked on a trip that represents the midshipmen’s first contact with long voyages.

Among the crew is the ship’s second lieutenant Jorge Díaz, who explains to EL MUNDO that life on board, far from being a vacation, “is very complete and demanding.” The days, according to him, “begin at 7 in the morning and after breakfast maintenance and cleaning work begins, as well as classes for midshipmen, which end with the sun setting at dusk. Finally, it is usually customary to hold a daily concert with the band on deck after dinner. Finally there is silence and activities end.

During sailing time, Elcano becomes the floating embassy of Spain. That is why there are always protocol activities in each port they touch. This year the stops will be in Las Palmas, Fortaleza (Brazil), Santo Domingo, Manzanilla (Mexico), San Diego (USA), Balboa (Panama), New Orleans (USA), Boston (USA), London (United Kingdom), Marín and Cádiz, where they will arrive on July 21.

«This year’s route is characterized by not passing through climatologically excessively demanding parts of the globe. However, we will cross the Panama Canal twice and make two crossings of the Atlantic,” analyzes the Navío ensign. He also tells what it means to cross the Panama Canal: «It is one of the great engineering works in the world and a large number of world trade ships pass through it. Above all, it involves documentary and navigation preparation that is done several months in advance.

For Díaz, embarking on Elcano is “a privilege” because “generations and generations of sailors have passed through these decks without changing the essence of their purpose and tradition.” A feeling that the Princess of Asturias will be able to experience in 2025, who will embark with the rest of her companions on an experience that 82 new ladies and gentlemen midshipmen are already experiencing. Far from their families and friends, isolation helps strengthen the ties between them. And to those who get dizzy, Díaz assures that it is normal and that “in the end the body gets used to it, it is the opportunity to take control of its natural environment, the sea.”