“Our son Elia is alone in the Atlantic without autopilot. And we are proud of him.”

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Elijah Favaro -2
Elia Favaro aboard his Van De Stadt 34 (10.25 x 3.30 m) Coconut

There is a 30-year-old guy from Veneto, in the middle of the ocean, alone, aboard a 1987 steel Van De Stadt 34 10.25 m) that he put together with his own hands. He is making the Atlantic solo crossing simply because it was his dream. His name is Elia Favaro, he set sail from Mindelo, Cape Verde, and his adventure is not the easiest because he now finds himself, about 500 miles from Barbados, without an autopilot due to a breakdown.

Elia Favaro, alone in the ocean without autopilot

In 2022, Elia Favaro, after refitting the boat with his own hands, set off with Coconut (this is the name of the Van de Stadt 34) from Caorle and sailed along the Italian coast and the Mediterranean, first landing in Murcia, Spain, and then stopping in the Balearic Islands. From there Gibraltar, then Cape Verde and landed around Murcia, Spain. With his boat, named Coconut, he had made stops in the Balearic Islands. Then Cadiz, Madeira (where he arrived after he was reported missing), Canary Islands. On December 3, he left Tenerife, destination Barbados. After a technical stop in Cape Verde, it is now about 500 miles from Barbados, without a pilot.

We got Elijah’s story from those who know him best and have always supported him, between “heart dips” and pride. His parents, Andrea Favaro and wife Lidia.

It is not easy to know that your child is in the middle of the sea, alone and potentially at the mercy of nature. But one thing is certain. You know he is happy.

(E.R.)


Elia Favaro’s parents, “Are we concerned? Yes. Confident? Also.”

Here we are, we are Andrea and Lidia, class of 1962, Elijah’s dad and mom. Many people ask us, “but aren’t you worried?”

Honestly, this is a question that is not easy to answer, but as is the custom at sea, let’s go step by step. I, Dad, was fifteen years old when I was a guest at my aunt and uncle’s house for the summer vacations and spent hours sitting in the small harbor in Menaggio on Lake Como and enjoyed hearing the tops flapping on the masts of the boats, was that a sign? With the first boat license arriving in 1987, our first motorboats were born. Yes really motor because many people told us “what do you want to take the sailboat that from us (Caorle) in summer the wind is never there” and first license because the second one, the important one really, the one without limits came in 1996.

Sandro and Serena are lifelong friends and fellow misfortunes, they call us one fine spring day in 1993 saying “we found a sailboat for sale, we can see it in a canal in Caorle.” Come on, it’s a very well-maintained Edel 5, seen it, liked it, bought it … and that’s where it all started.

Elijah Favaro -6
Elijah at the helm in the early 1990s

Elijah grew up in the boat

April 5, 1993 to keep his sister Gioella company, two years older…Old…can you say? ( the other 2 siblings Noah and Saffira will join us 10 years later) Elijah arrives, immediately embarked as a non-operational crew member.

Elijah’s first ship point!

Thus began the first sailings, sailings out of Caorle, Venice lagoon, Gulf of Trieste.

Years passed and we switched to a more livable boat an old Beneteau First 30 from 1981 that we completely refurbished with which we began our first crossings and cruises in what had recently become Croatia. Elijah grows up.

Things get more and more “important” navigating at night, in heavy seas, long crossings with what were then the only instruments a Garmin GPS (can you tell?) that provided only where you were. Elijah grows, Gioella helps.

The years roll on, the boats do, and here we are sailing during summer vacation periods between Italy, Croatia and Greece.

Inspired by Tabarly and all the “myths”

Elijah loves the sea, we all love the sea, it’s part of him it’s part of us, he sails and reads a lot, technical manuals and sea stories, Tabarly, Slocum, Sicouri, Malingri, Soldini, Chichester, Cornell and many others but the one that surely enlightened him was Bernard Moitessier and so one fine day a few years ago he was conversing over lunch with dad, mom, Gioella, Noah and Saffira, his beloved siblings, tells us “I would like to cross the Atlantic solo.” Delighted, we are all watching it.

Elijah on the piers in Mindelo in the company of a monkey.

With the cooperation of his mentor Adriano dalla Nora, a well-known personality, skipper, ocean navigator, and sailing instructor, he succeeds in his first goal of obtaining a VM license without limits-and the license arrives.

With the license also comes the first boat transfers in the Mediterranean basin.

After working for a charter company he gets hired by a factory in the area and for years he works shifts, Saturdays, Sundays, holidays, nights, the commitment is considerable and all to make his dream come true, he has that in his head.

Why destroy Elijah’s dreams?

Do we 100% approve of everything he has done and is doing? Definitely yes., are his choices to which we can only give advice, why destroy dreams?

In early 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, he tells us he wants to go to Croatia to Pomer to see a boat for sale-a 1987 steel Van De Stadt 34, a boat we think would be interesting for Elijah’s “dream.”

Full family, pads, green pass and off we go.

Coconut, the Van de Stadt 34 purchased by Elia Favaro and his family.

Inge and Ervin are two 81-year-old German gentlemen who, after sailing all over the Mediterranean and tired of cruising, decided to sell the boat, and let’s not call them “old-timers” because when we arrive they are sandblasting the hull, completely independently, strong!

Four chats and the deal is done, boat purchased at “iron price per kilo” is called COCONUT.

Coconut restoration begins

We transfer the boat to Caorle where Elia Favaro, capable of excellent craftsmanship and knowledge, begins the restoration.

Interiors are redone, water system, electrical system, side windows replaced, refrigerator added (missing) furling gear replaced, rigging checked, engine cut, new instrumentation, new sails, electric windlass installed (missing), and so on.

Testing begins with the collaboration of sister Gioella, who is very very attentive to all the details, not least the fridge without a beer!!!

Coconut is okay, ready.

Elia Favaro on the Coconut Tree
Elia Favaro on the Coconut Tree

Mediterranean sailing begins

Without ceremony other than a very normal family dinner in mid-June 2021 Elijah casts off his moorings, also on board Saffira with her friend Silvia.

It’s a succession of stops in Italy, with a few minor engine niggles, it shuts down and they discover the problem is a copper gasket letting air through, Rodi Garganico, problem solved.

They arrive in Corfu where the two young “tourists” are disembarked and a couple of friends embark.

Turned the Ionian Islands and disembarked the Elia couple set off, solo, for Crotone.

Gibraltar.

To follow, still solo, Strait of Messina, Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Sardinia, Balearic Islands, Spanish coast and Gibraltar for a technical stop and a greeting to the famous monkeys, on board all okay.

After well calculating tides, winds and currents departure for the famous Hercules Columns on board all is well, fortunately no problems with attacks by killer whales that seem to amuse themselves with rudder blades sometimes causing major damage to boats.

He lands at the end of October in Cadiz (El puerto de Santa Maria) for the last technical leg and a farewell to his sister Saffira in “El puerto” for a work internship, before the crossing to Madeira.

“Where did our son go?”

We talk by phone and he confirms the departure date for the Cadiz Madeira route, Nov. 09, 2022 10:30 a.m., about 600 miles, estimated approximate time 5 days.

Five days go by, six days go by, seven days go by, he failed to get Garmin’s Inreach satellite communicator before departure (it is the only communication option we have at reduced cost), and we never hear from him again.

We contact the harbor master’s office in Funchal and launch the PAN PAN (for those who do not know, distress signal where there is no danger to life) communicating all the data in our possession.

We are promptly contacted by Cristian, an officer of the General Command of the Port Authorities (Rome) who asks for detailed information, which we immediately provide. France, Portugal, Morocco, as well as all ships in transit are alerted for territorial jurisdiction, all looking for a 10-meter, white, red-banded sailboat.

At 03:06 a.m. on Nov. 19 we are contacted by Cristian who tells us “we found him is fine” with tears in our eyes Lidia and I get up and open a bottle of prosecco.

We would like to thank the Port Authority General Command, Officer Cristian and all his staff who have always kept us updated, day and night, on the development of the situation in a professional but above all “human” way Thank you very much.

Only upon Elijah’s arrival in Madeira did we learn that he had broken the autopilot and was at the helm the entire time of his first short solo ocean crossing.

Are we concerned? Of course it is, and how could it not be? You’re sailing solo, and if something were to happen it would become more difficult, you have no one to help you…but we’re also hopeful.

After a brief stop in Madeira where he and his friend Mattia experienced the beauty of the island, a farewell, and departure with a stop in Arrecife on the island of Lanzarote.

In January 2023, after leaving Coconut in Lanzarote he returned to Italy and found seasonal work as a first sailor on a private sailboat…cash must be made to continue with the adventure.

October 2023, happy return to Lanzarote where, with the cooperation of Dad’s mom and local mechanics, the boat is prepared for the crossing.

Starting from Lanzarote, it touched Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and landed in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Elia Favaro. The Atlantic solo crossing

On Dec. 3, after galleying and saying goodbye to friends, he left Tenerife bound for Barbados, a solo Atlantic crossing passing through the Cape Verde area to search for the best winds.

Eighty miles off Cape Verde he heard a dull, metallic thump, saw one of the lower shrouds break, immediately lowered the sails and started the engine to reach Mindelo for repairs, had it happened in the middle of the Atlantic, solo…best not to think about it.

“I crapped my pants!”

Once ashore, overheard by phone he will tell us about a nighttime adventure: “I was in the cockpit I heard an incredible blow, loud, I didn’t understand what it was then I saw, a big flying fish crashed on the sprayhood ( the canopy that protects from the spray)…I shitmyself” his words.

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Where Elia Favaro is now (Jan. 10, 2024)

Elia Favaro. Destination Barbados (without pilot)

Finally, after repairs, December 23 at 10:30 a.m. departure from Mindelo with Barbados route.

Now, at the time of writing, it is about 500 miles from Barbados.

Morale is high even though he has to helm for 17 hours a day because the control unit broke and he no longer has autopilot, of course you go ahead but at much lower averages and with more difficulty “but it’s more adventurous this way,” says Elijah.

So, “Well done Elijah,” indeed it is not for us to say… “Come on Elijah” the dream came true!

The future…will be seen.

Hugs, dad mom and your siblings.


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