Column: Italian adventurer travels from Italy to San Diego in a rubber dinghy


On December 15, 2021, Sergio Davì departed from his home port of Palermo, Sicily, in a rubber dinghy.

On May 20, a group of Italian-Americans prepare a greeting for him as he arrives at 955 Harbor Island Drive in San Diego, his final stop before beginning his nearly 10,000-nautical-mile voyage from Italy to Los Angeles, with several planned stops along the way finished way to refuel and rest.

“Sergio is immensely proud for the Italian and Sicilian communities of San Diego in continuing a great tradition of scientific discovery and nautical exploration,” said Tom Cesarini, Honorary Italian Consul of San Diego and director of the Convivio Society, a nonprofit organization based in Little Italy focuses on Italian history, heritage and culture.

Cesarini translated for me when I spoke to Davì on Wednesday. He had docked at a marina in Ensenada, his last stop before entering the United States.

The voyage was tough for the veteran sea captain, 57, who traveled most of the time alone in his rigid hull boat powered by two 350hp outboard engines.

He battled his way through unpredictable, harsh weather with raging winds and waves up to 10 feet. He was fleeing pursuers he believed to be pirates chasing his boat in the dark off Venezuela.

But his biggest setback came with COVID-19, shortly after leaving Sicily.

This is the route taken by Italian sea adventurer Sergio Davì in his 38ft inflatable boat from Italy to Los Angeles.

(Photo courtesy)

It’s hard to imagine piloting a 38ft boat alone while suffering from the coronavirus – with no doctor in sight.

The bad news was delivered and confirmed by his COVID-19 test kit on the boat when he reached the Spanish island of Gran Canaria. He doesn’t feel well and has a slight fever, he says. Davì quarantined himself in a hotel there for 15 days.

What he expected to be a 100-day journey has dragged on for more than five months due to COVID-19 and weather delays. Unfortunately, he will be greeted in the United States on Friday at a welcome party on Harbor Island, put together by Cesarini, and also expected to be attended by Pietro Bellinghieri, deputy consul at the Italian consulate in Los Angeles.

Davì will also be reunited with his partner Elena, who flew here from Italy to meet him.

She was extremely understanding throughout his adventure, Davì said through his interpreter. “She is 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 endeavor.

His love of boating began at the age of 6 when he helped pilot his family’s boat. As an adult, he decided to pursue a career as a sea captain. He has been driving motor boats for 25 years. For the last decade he has focused on undertaking a series of extreme adventures.

In 2010 he steered his dinghy from Italy to Amsterdam for the first time. “It was very tough, but I have great memories from that adventure,” he says in a video sponsored by Simrad. In addition to the experience, Davì says the 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,” notes Davì in the video.

In 2012 he steered his dinghy on a longer trip from Sicily to the northern tip of Norway. His next extreme adventure, from Palermo to Rio de Janeiro in 2015, was cut short en route due to an engine fire.

But Davì and his crew set out again in spring 2017 and safely reached their destination in Cape Verde, Brazil.

His greatest challenge was a 2019 voyage from Sicily to New York via Iceland and Greenland across the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.

Now, in his Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean RIB Adventure, he posts online updates (in his native language) of his ongoing odyssey on the 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 the United States.

His longest leg was crossing the Atlantic from Cape Verde off the coast of Africa to French Guiana in South America – a 6½ day journey. Davì relied on his autopilot and took 15 to 20 minutes of microsleep, waking up regularly to check the instruments.

His boat was modified to carry 1,717 gallons of fuel for the transatlantic leg.

Boredom wasn’t an issue. Davì says he enjoys the peace and quiet. “I do a lot of self-reflection.” He also photographed encounters with marine life – sea lions, turtles, dolphins and whales.

He had a pleasant surprise. He received a call on his radio after leaving Cape Verde. It came from the crew of a Dutch oil barge who had spotted their boat covered with sponsor names. They called to wish him good luck and success.

During this trip, Davì collaborates with Italian university and environmental researchers. On the way he collects water samples. These are subjected to laboratory analysis to detect microplastics and heavy metals and to help assess the state of our marine ecosystem.

This adventure officially ends when Davì docks in San Pedro on Tuesday. He hesitates to speculate about future trips: “First I’ll finish this one.”

Why take the risk of piloting a coastal pleasure craft across the ocean? Davì explains his motivation in an online video: “It’s a dream come true. Something that has never been done before.”

His penchant for traveling in a rigid inflatable boat stems from his passion for challenges and coastal exploration. Seeing new shores is a whole different experience in a small boat that offers better access and more maneuverability.

When asked about his advice for other adventurers, Davì says two things: “Always take care of the environment because we are just passing through.” And he warns: “Never stop dreaming because once we stop dreaming , we’re getting old.”


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