Sailor’s Journey of a Lifetime Ends in Naples
June 12, 2015
By: Katie Egan
After 30 years of having his “nose to the grindstone,” organic farm owner and self-proclaimed “farmaholic” Steve Davis decided it was time for a change.
Eight years ago, the 59-year-old bought a sailboat and taught himself the ropes. First he read books and looked at diagrams. Then he learned by trial and error. In eight years, he went through two sailboats, made numerous trips around New England’s coast and one four-month trip down the eastern coast of the U.S.
Three years ago, he became the proud owner of a 24-foot 1966 Bristol sailboat and spent a year and a half fixing it up.
Davis was preparing for the 16,000-mile journey of a lifetime.
On June 15, 2014, the adventure began in Portland, Maine. Davis set out across the Atlantic Ocean to the Azores, down to Northwestern Africa, back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and finally up to Naples City Dock, where he dropped anchor Tuesday in the U.S. for the first time in nearly a year.
Some people, he said, called it a midlife crisis and others called him crazy.
“But I didn’t feel it was a crisis. I had been in the woods and fields for years and I was thinking, ‘I want to get out on the ocean, learn what it’s like, experience it.’ ”
And he did.
“In some ways, there’s nothing that can match it,” he said. “You know, you’re out there by yourself thousands of miles from shore, nobody out there, and it’s quite a feeling.”
Davis was alone for 31 days straight when he crossed the Atlantic for the first time. The second time around, he sailed with a 20-something-year-old Japanese woman he met in Las Palmas De Gran Caneria, off the coast of Northwest Africa.
Mayo — Davis never got her last name — was trying to get across the ocean, too, but she didn’t want to fly. Davis knew he couldn’t make the trip on his own. He taught Mayo how to sail and they steered in shifts of four hours apiece, averaging about 100 miles a day. In the Caribbean, they went their separate ways.
His daughter, Addy Davis, met him in Grenada in February and traveled with him to the Lesser Antilles.
Before Davis left New Hampshire, he stocked up on things like cheese, peanut butter, bread, crackers, oats, dried raisins, apricots and maple syrup from his farm. He uses his small stovetop burner on his boat to make things like pasta, grilled cheese, curried beans and rice. Sometimes he has a cup of coffee.
When he’s out at sea, his sleep schedule is ruled by the elements. Since he doesn’t steer with an autopilot, he has to be near the tiller to make sure the boat stays on course.
Sometimes, when the wind is stable and the waves are calm, Davis can steady the tiller with bungee cords to stay on course. But if the weather isn’t cooperating, even the slightest gust of wind can knock the boat off course.
While out at sea, the things he missed the most, besides solid ground, were cold beer, sleeping in a calm place and good food.
He shared two weeks of his adventure with his former brother-in-law, who met him in the Dominican Republic. The two then traveled to Jamaica and Haiti — the place Davis said stuck with him the most.
In Jacmel, Haiti, Davis met someone who had been in the catastrophic 2010 Port-au-Prince earthquake and visited his refugee camp where he met his family. There Davis gave him $100 toward two 50-pound bags of rice. “They need so much, that the smallest things you can do to help them. It just feels so good to help.”
A year at sea taught him this: “We’re all just here briefly. We think it’s really long, but it’s really just a flash. And since it is, we shouldn’t worry about the minor things.”
Eventually he’ll make his way back up to New Hampshire to see his mom, three kids and help out on the farm. Before that, he plans to stay in Naples and relax until he can sell his boat and take a train back up North.
Like Mayo, Davis is also not a fan of flying.
As for sailing, he doesn’t think he’ll be circumnavigating the globe anytime soon.
“For a year, it was fine, and you know, I started coming in here closer to Naples and I actually thought ‘Wow, I’m finally going to make it.’ It was like such a relief.”