How much preparation, nerve and fuel does it take for a RIB to cross an ocean? Relive some of toughest challenges and the sweetest moments from adventurer Sergio Davi.
In English, this translates to “the challenge is always with myself, never with the sea.” Italian boater and adventurer Sergio Davi, who just set a world record by crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Palermo, Italy, to the Americas in six days in a 38-foot RIB, has lived by this motto his entire life.
The journey, which Davi completed on May 23, 2022, consisted of venturing two oceans and around three continents, covering a total of 10,000 nautical miles within 25 days. Armed with a Jolly Prince 38 CC RIB and two 300-hp Suzuki outboards, Davi was motivated to set out on this journey by the idea that he had never traveled the Pacific Ocean before.
“It was simply out of curiosity, for the adventure” Davi explains. “I’ve already done the Atlantic four times. I wanted to go through the Pacific Ocean and the Panama Canal.”
Since Davi was a small boy, he has been fueled by his curiosity. As a child, he worked with his father and older brothers on their family’s 30-foot Cicala and Bertinetti, from which they would fish and dive. It’s this same curiosity and need for adventure that’s taken Davi on RIB adventures across the world, including a crossing from the icy coasts of Greenland and Iceland to New York in 2019, and another transatlantic voyage from Italy to Brazil in 2017.
Crossing 10,000 nautical miles in a rubber boat is no small feat. In fact, there had never even been a recorded attempt of this in nautical history. For one reason, it’s dangerous. Davi knew this. He prepared for it.
“The preparation was foremost mental,” Davi said. “I’ve got a coach that mentally prepared me. The mental is more important than the physical; as long as your mind is there, your body will be there.”
For the last four years, Davi and his coach, Paolo Lonar, a former college soccer coach, would meet once a month, with several phone calls in between, to discuss and think about the good and bad things that could happen on this trip and to give him clear vision of his goal.
“My coach helped make it so that even if there are moments when bad things could happen along the way, I get through it thinking how happy I will be when I finish,” Davi explained. “It helps me with anxiousness; it brings the willingness, courage and patience out of me.”
As for physical training, Davi stuck mostly to power walking three to four miles at a time, four to five days per week, while eating a high-carbohydrate diet. While aboard his vessel, Davi is mostly sedentary, so power walking at each port becomes an important habit.
The most challenging part of preparation—and the whole trip, for that matter—was the logistical planning, which started back in 2019. Davi describes it like putting together the pieces of a puzzle—there’s the planning of his route, deciding which ports to call on, calculating fuel consumption and deciding what speed to travel.
Once aboard, Davi spent multiple days at a time at the helm before docking at any marina and getting back on land. Along the way, he made 38 stops at 11 different countries, including the Balearic Islands, Gibraltar, French Guyana, Trinidad & Tabago, Curacao, Colombia and Panama. Out of the 10,000 nautical miles and 519 sailing hours that Davi traveled, over 152 of those hours, from Cape Verde to French Guyana, were nonstop. Habits such as eating and sleeping became a lot different for the adventurer at sea than they would be on land. Meals would often consist of canned fruits or vegetables, crackers and bread and lots of canned fish. He also ate chocolate daily, as it helped give him energy, he explained.
The most important thing, Davi says, was to stay hydrated. The types of food he ate didn’t matter all that much, he professed. Sometimes if the weather was bad enough his stomach would turn, and he just wasn’t hungry. He based his routines around feel more than scheduled times—the same way he approached sleeping.
“I slept sitting down at the helm; I took little cat naps 20 minutes at a time, a lot like military pilots do,” Davi said, explaining the sleep pattern as a safety precaution.
And there were plenty of moments where extra caution was needed, such as one moment during his transatlantic crossing when a rogue wave hit Davi’s boat. The pressure from the water broke some of the metal bars on the bimini. There were other moments when the wind was so strong, Davi could barely even navigate through it. In fact, at one point the weather was so bad that he had to stop for several weeks.
“I planned to stop in Ensenada a night, but it kept storming for a month and a half,” Davi recalled. “I had no choice but to stay there. I was supposed to arrive in LA a month ago.”
All in all, crossing the Atlantic took about six days and ten hours. And despite the hardships, the moments of peace Davi felt made everything worth it. When the water is calm and the sun is shining, it gives him the chance to think, he explained.
“The first thing I think about is my surroundings. I’m like a computer making sure everything in the surroundings is OK,” he said. “Then I think about everything. I think about my life.”
Davi finished his voyage with a grand welcome, greeted by Italian Consul General of Los Angeles Silvia Key and his Vice Consul Pietro Bellinghieri, the Italian community of San Pedro (including a delegation of Sicilian fishermen from Terrasini) and President Masahiro Yamamoto from Suzuki Motor of America.
Headed back to his home in Palermo, Sicily, Davi will be returning with more than just his boat. In collaboration with the University of Palermo and the Experimental Zooprophylactic Institute of Sicily, Davi took several ocean water samples along his journey, which scientists can use to study pollution levels of microplastics and metals in different parts of the oceans. He’ll also be returning with dozens of photos and videos that he took along the way, which he intends to use in his next book as well as a documentary he will be producing.
The exact date and venue are yet to be determined, but Davi will return to San Pedro, California, in March 2023 to share the documentary of his journey.
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