On Dec. 15, 2021, Sergio Davì motored away from his home port of Palermo, Sicily, on an inflatable boat.
On May 20, a group of Italian Americans is spearheading a greeting for him when he arrives at 955 Harbor Island Drive in San Diego, his last layover before completing his nearly 10,000 nautical-mile voyage from Italy to Los Angeles with multiple planned stops along the way to refuel and rest.
“Sergio represents great pride for the Italian and Sicilian communities in San Diego, carrying on a great tradition of scientific discovery and nautical exploration,” says Tom Cesarini, San Diego’s honorary Italian consul and head of the Convivio Society, a Little Italy-based nonprofit focused on Italian history, heritage and culture.
Cesarini translated for me as I spoke to Davì on Wednesday by phone. He had pulled into a marina in Ensenada, his final way station before entering the United States.
The journey has been tough for the veteran sea captain, 57, who traveled solo most of the way in his rigid-hulled dinghy powered by two 350 HP outboard motors.
He forged through unpredictable, rough weather with raging winds and waves up to 10 feet. He fled from pursuers, whom he believed to be pirates, who chased his boat in the dark off Venezuela.
But his biggest setback was coming down with COVID-19 soon after leaving Sicily.
It’s difficult to imagine piloting a 38-foot boat solo while suffering from the coronavirus — without a doctor in sight.
The bad news was delivered through his COVID-19 test kit on the boat and confirmed when he reached Spain’s Grand Canary island. He wasn’t feeling well and was running a slight fever, he says. Davì quarantined himself in a hotel there for 15 days.
What he anticipated to be a 100-day journey has stretched out more than five months due to COVID-19 and weather delays. Alas, on Friday he will be welcomed to the United States by a greeting party on Harbor Island assembled by Cesarini and expected to include Pietro Bellinghieri, deputy consul of the Italian consulate in Los Angeles.
Davì also will be reunited with his life partner, Elena, who flew here from Italy to meet him.
She has been extremely understanding throughout his adventure, Davì said through his interpreter. “She’s very proud of my work and supports me 100 percent.”
His trip is sponsored by Suzuki, Simrad electronic equipment and several others. He posted a Facebook video about this challenging undertaking.
His love of boating began at age 6, when he helped pilot his family’s boat. As an adult, he decided to pursue a career as a sea captain. For 25 years, he has been skippering motorboats. Over the past decade, he has focused on taking a series of extreme adventures.
His first was piloting his inflatable boat from Italy to Amsterdam in 2010. “It was very hard, but I have great memories of that adventure,” he says in a Simrad-sponsored video. In addition to the experience, Davì says that first trip taught him to be prepared for the unexpected.
“A situation can quickly get out of hand on the ocean and safety is very important,” Davì notes in the video.
In 2012, he steered his inflatable craft on a longer voyage from Sicily to the northern tip of Norway. His next extreme adventure, from Palermo to Rio de Janeiro in 2015, was aborted en route due to an engine fire.
But Davì and his crew again set out in spring 2017 and made it safely to their destination of Cape Verde, Brazil.
His greatest challenge was a voyage from Sicily to New York via Iceland and Greenland in 2019 across the freezing waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Now, in what he calls his “Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean RIB Adventure,” he posts online updates (in his native language) of his ongoing odyssey on the www.ciuriciurimare.com website with a link to a real-time map of his route.
Davì’s nearly 10,000-nautical mile voyage took him to the Canary Islands, Cape Verde islands, French Guiana, Trinidad, Curaçao, Colombia, Panama (where he passed through the canal), Guatemala, Mexico and soon to the United States.
His longest leg was traversing the Atlantic from Cape Verde off the coast of Africa to French Guiana in South America — a 6½-day journey. Davì relied on his automatic pilot and took micro naps of 15-to-20 minutes, waking regularly to check the instruments.
His boat was modified to carry 1,717 gallons of fuel for the trans-Atlantic leg.
Boredom was not an issue. Davì says he enjoys the peace and tranquility. “I do a lot of self-reflection.” He also photographed encounters with marine life — sea lions, tortoises, dolphins and whales.
He did have a pleasant surprise. He received a call on his radio after leaving Cape Verde. It was from the crew of a Dutch petroleum barge who had spotted his boat, plastered with sponsors’ names. They were calling to wish him good luck and success.
During this voyage, Davì is collaborating with Italian university and environmental researchers. He is gathering water samples as he travels. These will undergo lab analysis to detect microplastics and heavy metals and help assess the health of our marine ecosystem.
This adventure officially will end when Davì ties up in San Pedro on Tuesday. As for future trips, he hesitates to speculate: “First, I’m going to finish this one.”
Why take the risk of piloting a coastal pleasure craft across the ocean? Davì explains his motivation in an online video: “This is a dream come true. Something that has never been done before.”
His preference for traveling in a rigid inflatable boat stems from his passion for challenges and coastal exploration. Seeing new shores is a much different experience in a small boat that offers greater access and maneuverability.
When asked his advice for other adventure seekers, Davì’s message is two-fold: “Always take care of the environment because we’re just passing through.” And he cautions: “Never stop dreaming because, as soon as we stop dreaming, we become old.”