Davi is one of a kind captain of one of a kind boat, and this is not an ordinary story!!
Captain Davi was born in Libya to Hungarian political refugees, grew up in New Mexico and Texas, moved to Australia at 14, and lived on the east coast there until the age of 21, playing jazz and blues in various dives and hustling pool on the side. Davi returned to Colorado and spent ten years there, writing a fairly autobiographical collection of stories about the amazing places and colourful adventures collected in over 90-something countries visited over the years before, and finding writer wife Elizabeth. Not long after, George Bush was elected the second time, and they fled to Hungary, where they had a tiny vineyard and produced awarded wine.
Five years later they moved to Florence, Italy, where they lived until they met me! After a few weeks, we were inseparable, and began our journey together as lifeloves and spouses. One fateful day, Davi realized that we would find some beautiful adventures on the high seas, and a year of searching resulted in finding the perfect-in-every-way, our first-and-last-and-forever boat. We named her Wake, and, without a backward glance and pausing only long enough to adopt three horrible little cats, we sold our things and traded the stable house for a life of endless travel. Two years later, here we are in Greece, continuing the adventure!
– What is your age, or age range?
My passport says I’m 43, people accuse me of looking 33, my taste in music is from when I was 23, and inside I’m no more than 13 (at best).
– What was the occupation before becoming a sailor/liveaboard?
I’ve been fortunate not to have had many jobs. I’m sort of good at a lot of things that aren’t productive, uhhh, financially: I’m an expert skier, certified SCUBA diver, published author, semi-pro-level pool hustler (2nd in the world trick shot player in Vegas, baby), decent Western horse rider, been playing piano since I could walk (sax and trombone too), spent years riding motorcycles and can drive almost any vehicle (including a Cessna, theoretically at least). I can cook you gourmet shit from six or eight different cultures, speak to you in a few languages, and make you some passable red wine from the vine to the bottle. Oh, and I spent some time sailing in Cambodia. A truly wasted life, but a fun one.
Back to the money…. My early years I hustled a lot of pool, and saved enough to shoestring around the world. But as for boat money, I got enormously lucky a long time ago. Long story short, I leased a chunk of land in the American West for pennies, which turned out to have oil on it. Worked that project for 2 years–put together tests and old historical information, projected a decent outcome for anyone who drilled it. When it sold, I invested the proceeds into some small real estate investments. It ain’t much, but it’s enough for a boat and to live on if we are careful.
– How long has it been?
Only two years. In the act of sailing, I’m fine, but I’m a complete newbie at boat ownership. Let me tell you, that learning curve is steeeeeeep!
– Who do you sail with?
I’m lucky enough to call my two wives my crew, although there have been plenty of mutinies. They discovered that by cooperating, they can outvote me every time. So I’m kind of screwed in that regard. So it’s just us three. And the three cats (who are not very competent crew at all).
– How has your life changed since you started sailing?
In some ways, all the ways. In some ways, not at all. Not so much sailing, but living aboard full time is an amazing feeling, but people bring old baggage with them wherever they go. Sometimes it feels like I’m living in paradise, that there’s nothing I can’t do here, like this. Others, it’s just a floating apartment containing the same things I was running away from. I think sailing makes me feel both more competent and idiotic at the same time. Depends on the day.
– How do you make money while cruising?
The investment proceeds provide just enough for a decent life if we watch our expenses. All summer, anchoring is free, and winter is cheap in a marina, if you know where to look. Certainly cheaper than living in an apartment in Florence, which is where we came from. I couldn’t rent a broom closet in most cities for what our bills are on the water. Of course, our bilges are full of rice and dried beans and lentils….but luckily we all love Indian food.
– What kind of a boat do you own and what kind of boats you had previously?
Wake is my first and last boat. She is a stunning 1991 53-foot Amel Supermaramu, one of the finest cruising vessels ever conceived. I could talk about her for days…
– What do you love and hate most about your boat?
Glad you asked!! Let’s go backward, because it is easy. I hate NOTHING about Wake. She is seakindly and strong, well-thought-out and safe, easy to sail and to make good speed. The sail plan is ample without being hard to manage, below-decks she has more storage than an average apartment, and her cockpit is warm and dry in any weather (believe me, we tested that in a stormy February bringing her home.) She looks like what sailboats looked like in my dreams, and there is not a single boat I’ve ever seen that I would trade her for.
– Where is your boat’s name from? (previous owner story? Or why did you pick this name?)
The original name of our boat was Gros Doux, which means Big Sweet in French, apparently. The second owner changed it to Hibiscus, and the last owner returned her to Gros Doux. We changed it to Wake after a lot of debate. We liked the brevity, the ease of calling on the VHF, the punchiness and unexpectedness. Wake means many things. To awaken from sleep. The trail of a boat through the water. The celebration after a funeral. All of these things seemed to fit perfectly for three landlubbers setting out on a voyage around the world together. That said, we retained the original name of the boat on the solar arch as a Coast Guard-confusing tribute.
– If you could change your boat’s name to anything else, what would it be and why?
We bandied about a few other names. Among the top choices was Tryptich. There are three of us, and I really liked it, but in the end sounded a little too “yachty” to our ears. That’s the name of a brand new 80 foot Transat racer, not a loveboat like this old Amel. Lotus Eater was the other front-runner, but that was mainly my idea, and it was swiftly outvoted. Shame, I thought it was rather fitting also for three scalliwags like us.
– What is your dreamboat?
I’m sitting in her as I type 🙂
– If you could pick any fictional character to sail with as crew, who would it be?
Tom Ripley, because I like a challenge. Oh, the games of cat and mouse we could play 🙂
– What’s the best thing about sailing and your favorite moment while sailing?
I could say the sounds of the water whooshing against the hull, or the wind whistling in the rigging, or the solitude of weeks out on the open ocean, finding my soul….but I won’t blow sunshine where it don’t go just to sound cool. My favorite part of sailing, hands down, is the sound of the anchor chain paying out in beautiful, protected little bay, with maybe a taverna or two on shore, a rotting finger dock just enough to tie up a dinghy, crystal blue water all around and a million stars over our heads at night.
– What are the most memorable anchorages and places you sailed to?
The most memorable anchorage wasn’t the best…tucked in on the north shore of Sardinia, entering Bonifacio, in February. It was pretty enough, and protected enough, but that isn’t what makes it memorable. It was our very first night anchoring our very first boat, together. It was amazing.
Most memorable marina is easy, it’s the one we are wintering at in Corfu. Imagine, crumbling fortress rising 20 meters behind you to tower overhead, a private little beach, arching bougainvillea on the walkways, a handful of local boats and a few sudden, delightful new friends…. It’s paradise in every way.
– What is the one county that you would most want to (and can) sail to that you almost certainly won’t get to, and what’s stopping you?
I want to see them all, and nothing is stopping us. Except time. And fear. And opportunity costs of leaving this amazing place. We came here to Corfu for one week. We stayed now for one winter. We’re pretty committed to staying here for a few more winters, as long as we are ranging around the Mediterranean. We have friends here who stopped for one week, and stayed 13 years. How can I plan anything!?
– What is the craziest thing that happened while sailing?
We sail with three little Russian-blue/black stray kittens, who grew up on the boat. Their names are Rocket, Kirby and Katinka, and they terrorize us daily, so anything “crazy” usually has to do with one (or all) of them. Other craziness took the form of turning a 40-hour commute from France to Mallorca into a 3 full day and nightmare that involved us bobbing abeam to 3+ meter swells for the last 16 of those hours dead in the water after both the engine and the wind died overhead but raged 30 miles away (think of a nice, deep, 45-degree roll every 5 seconds…that’s 11,500 rolls, give or take a few hundred). Oh, but the wind came back to us at the end, with a water-spout touching down less than a mile away). Ahhhh memories.
– Scariest moment?
These days, we have a hard and fast rule against sailing to a schedule (since we have been screwed by them enough times to know, including the above Mallorca fiasco, which was more highly annoying than scary). We go when the going is good, have no need to sail in bad weather anymore, and have not made a major ocean crossing yet. So there have not been too many scary moments thankfully. A fuel pump catching fire offshore, or being hit in the face with a sudden 50+ knots of wind in the Strait of Messina are probably the scariest so far.
– Share an anecdote
OK, this is a long one but a goodie…. Picture it: Little shuttered town on the coast of Mallorca, middle of winter. Everything is closed, but there was a lot of boat work going on, and for one of my projects, I needed a chain-link connector (basically a single link of chain that could be opened to connect other lengths of chain, then hammered back together). Beside me was a British guy in a little plastic fantastic, who lived there and told me to go up the street, knock on the shuttered glass door that says “KEEP OUT” and ask for Hans* (*real name redacted in case he kills me**) (**see below). Tell him I sent you, but be warned, he’s a bit….out there. He might be able to help you out.
Immediately intrigued, I told the girls I’d be back in ten, ran out in my crocs, found the door, and banged eagerly on it–apart from wanting that connector, people who were a “bit out there” are my jam. Instantly, two tiny dogs began barking furiously on the balcony over my head, and someone started hurling German down the stairs. I speak enough of that language to know he was yelling to come up, so, tentatively, I did, and met the guy at the door of his flat. Without a word, he yanked me inside. About 60 years old, looking like he was chiseled out of driftwood with an axe, paramilitary buzz-cut and wearing a black leather vest in a dark apartment. There was a couch, a coffee table, and an armchair in which sat a silent Eastern-european type in dark sunglasses. As he clicked on a light, the full splendor of their run-down pad came into focus like a scene from a B-movie: the walls were lined–and I mean, wallpapered–with enough artillery to outfit a small rebel faction. Carbines, pistols, the works, forty or more just in sight.
Hans took a seat on the couch, gestured for me to sit in the single, entirely-out-of-place office chair facing them. A white cat crawled into his lap and lay across his shoulder. Another 3 cats came to sit in a circle around me. There was a strange wooden stand beside my chair; on it was what looked suspiciously like an AK47. The dogs gazed balefully. It felt like an interview for the position of “Henchman #2.”
“YOU ah in zee sszailbot Vvvake. I see in zee morning, 7 am, every day. Vat do you vant? Vat do you NEEED?”
His voice was loud, nasal, sharp like a gaff…it just hooked you. Uhhhhh… Hans smiled, lifted the lid on a large metal tin on the coffee table and began rolling a joint the size of a mackerel. The words to the old Warren Zevon tune Lawyers, Guns and Money ran through my head; I thought, this is, straight up, full-on, the guy the song was written about.
Regretting deeply that I didn’t just Amazon the damn part, I said “Um, you see, I just need a little chain link connector, but you know, I’m sure I can just…” Trying to be cool like I was at Ace hardware talking to one of the teenagers in the orange vests. He studied his fingernails, silently consulted his friend, his cat, sniffed at the not-at-all-unpleasant scent of gun oil in the air…. “I vill have it for you in a few days.”
Oh good! Thanks so much, I’ll just get out of your hair.… I moved to get up. With one finger pointing crooked like an anchor hook at the ground, he motioned for me to stay where I was. He puffed a bit, clouds of smoke in the dark. Then he started to talk. And talk. And talk.
He told me about the corruption of Spain, about building motorcycles by hand, about classic cars, about history, about sailing, about traveling, about tourism, about his cats, about his business ventures and far-flung adventures, about his long-running feud with the Mayor and the Chief of Police (I wonder why), about mercenaries and about his many years living in Honduras to see if he could survive… (Now I’m hiding in Honduras, I’m a desperate man….send lawyers guns and money, cause the shit has hit the fan). I told you it was the dude from the song.
We bonded over sailing and travel, cats and motorcycles. I told him about our lives, and he claimed the greatest insult for him was to be accused of being normal, and at this, we became friends. An hour later I was still there, a cat in my lap, talking and listening and learning and grinning ear to ear and just having the goddamn best conversation I’d had in a long time. By now, his friend had come alive as well. He was from Romania, and was one of the gentlest souls I’ve met in years. How gentle? He told me he was always careful to look away from people docking their boats….I feel that watching them is an added stress they could do without. Incredible! Me, personally, I go out of my way to run upstairs to watch, especially in a good crosswind. But I digress… They were moving together to Romania soon, taking the whole operation with them (whatever that meant; some things don’t strictly require more information, what with the wallpaper made of guns and all). Maybe getting a canal-boat, maybe a little farm… “I have never set foot inside Ghromania, and zee first time shall be viz everyssing I own. How iz zat for an adventure! Hahaha!”
The British guy in the boat beside me, the one who told me to find him? When he emerged from his boat and said good morning the next day, I thanked him profusely for the introduction, and said, after meeting Hans, I just had to: He’s coming over later!! His reaction? Without hesitation:
A few days went by, and he appeared one evening with his Romanian friend, with my chain link connector and a lot of joints in his pocket. All told, we drank 3 bottles of wine, 1 liter of whisky, buckets of beer (plus all that they smoked), traded stories and ideas and laughed very long into the night. His Romanian friend told me Hans was very grumpy most mornings, but he always prepared a hot cup of coffee for him before he went on his morning walks, and my heart melted.
Every morning until we left, months later, there would be an English-language newspaper lobbed up onto our transom, a gift from Hans on his sunrise rambles. Oh, and the chain-link connector? On the transom too, a week later. No charge.
And yes, we did some target shooting inside his apartment too, but that’s another story.
– Your favorite myth/legend
A funny ‘myth’ while sailing for you (but not the kind you were expecting) would be: getting anywhere on time. Planning when to pick up guests. Anything to do with schedules or time.
Now, the reality is: you can know where you will be, or when you will be, but never the both together.
– Do you have any rituals on the boat?
I’m not at all superstitious so not really. I’d say cracking open a cold one after anchoring and letting the cats roam free on the deck. ( since I joined AA and got stuck in Corfu’ during COVID19, these rituals have drastically changed: non alcoholic beer and no anchoring)
– What are the plans for the future?
The best plan is: never make a plan! We were supposed to be in the Caribbean by now. But some mechanical issues and we ended up in Sicily instead. We were supposed to spend the winter there and go west again, but a chance meeting (and plenty more engine problems) left us beautifully stranded here in Corfu. Now we are hoping to explore Greece for a few seasons, using Corfu as a winter base. Longer range plan is to get out of the Med and do the whole Goaround. Even vaguer plans include always being on the lookout for places to get a little land to put a cottage on for our retirement years. Top places so far are somewhere in the Aeolian Islands off Sicily, and right here around Corfu.
– What is your personal dream?
To be happy. To not have anything scratching at the door. To grow old with my wives in that little cottage by the sea.
– What’s your ocean “anthem”?
If by anthem you mean the music I want blasting as I come into a packed marina in a crosswind, or sailing through a squall, that’s easy: Creedence. Anything by Creedence. Especially “Fortunate Son.” Which is also great if you find yourself getting airlifted into ‘Nam.
– How did the spreading of the virus change your plans?
As frightening and tragic as COVID19 is in general, being stranded here in Corfu it has unexpectedly given us the gift of a lifetime. With no sailing season to speak of (all Med countries are locked down for the foreseeable future), no tourists, no shops, we are stuck more or less for free in one of the most beautiful places on earth, except as it was a hundred years ago. When all this started in China, I felt there would be a much larger outbreak, so we had plenty of time to stock the boat with a years’ worth of dried and tinned food, flowerpots of herbs, equipment for long-put-off repairs and improvements. We have generators, watermaker, solar and wind power on Wake if the grid goes down, but so far, we have water and electricity aplenty, and high speed WiFi as well. There are three or four families living onboard in this beautiful little port, and such a lovely sense of camaraderie, cooperation and teamwork. We delegate shopping trips to one member of each boat once a week, to the butcher, greengrocer, supermarket (in gloves, bathed in sanitizer); we cook banquets every night. We share our resources and spare parts–one of us has an extra water pump, the other has a dive compressor to keep our tanks full, that kind of thing. There is a private beach, the water is perfect for swimming, snorkelling and diving already, and dozens of deserted nooks and islands to visit in the dinghy, while not breaking any quarantine rules because everything is uninhabited. We had big plans to sail into the Cyclades this year, but there is no way anyone is going to let sailboats traipse around in a month or two with the outbreak just getting started in so many countries. So we’re all hunkered down to spend the summer here…and I couldn’t be happier. We search the world for deserted, beautiful locales, and right now, there is nothing and no place better than Corfu.
– What is your idea of freedom?
I used to ride motorbikes because of the freedom. But that had nothing, absolutely nothing, on sailing. Specifically living aboard. To be able to say honestly that last year I lived in Mallorca, this year I live in Corfu, next year I might live in….Tunisia. Canaries. Brazil. Thailand. And with my entire home, my three furkids, my loves, my little treasures. We make our own electricity, we make our own water, we carry enough food onboard to last a year. We can move without an engine and we can catch fish (even though we usually end up catching just the little poisonous ones). To be able to pull up the anchor and literally sail halfway around the world without stopping, tomorrow, if we so choose, is the ultimate freedom. Even if we end up staying right here in Corfu forever*
*see previous answer…we just might have to 🙂
Anyway, if y’all would like to see more of me or our little ragtag crew, check us out below! We’ve been both lazy and had lots of changes, but we’ll be up and running with new material just as soon as this craziness blows over! (possibly never, but who knows!)