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March 8, 2021

Ballina remembers Las Balsas navigator

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Gabriel Salas, navigator of Las Balsas, died on October 31.
Gabriel Salas, navigator of Las Balsas, died on October 31.

A memorial service will be held in Ballina today to remember Gabriel Salas, the navigator of the Las Balsas raft, who passed away in Spain late last month.

Mr Salas was one of only two people to have ever crossed the Pacific Ocean twice on a raft – once on the first expedition in 1970 and then again on the Las Balsas voyage in 1973.

Each ocean crossing took approximately 6 months.

Ballina Shire councillor Jeff Johnson became friends with Mr Salas during the navigator’s frequent visits to Ballina.

‘Gabriel has been living in a small town in Spain called Pitres for the last 5 years or so,’ Cr Johnson said.

‘I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of weeks traveling with him and stayed at his home in 2013.

‘Gabriel was an amazing man, full of passion and adventure.

‘He could recount stories from his times on the raft like it was yesterday and was happy to share them.

‘Gabriel used to travel to Ballina every year to commemorate the anniversary of the Las Balsas arrival. ‘

‘He was passionate about the raft, which takes pride of place at Ballina’s Naval and Maritime Museum, and was instrumental in championing the Las Balsas 40th Anniversary Celebrations in 2013, which laid the foundations for what is now Ballina’s hugely successful Prawn Festival.

‘Gabriel was a living legend and it was an honour to call him a friend.

‘His passing will be commemorated with a small memorial service on Thursday 12th November at 2pm in the park next to the Maritime Museum (near the waters edge).

Some tea and coffee will be available at the Museum after the ceremony.

Cr Johnson said the Las Balsas raft was a unique treasure that Ballina should be very proud of.

‘The expedition of 12 brave men is well documented and a DVD is available at the museum.’

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