A 70-something Moby Dick fan sailed from Italy to Nantucket but his voyage ended 1,500 feet short

A 70-something Moby Dick fan sailed from Italy to Nantucket but his voyage ended 1,500 feet short

The trip was not for sport or joy. I did it for the whales.

In April 2018, septuagenarian Vittorio Fabris set out for what he thought would be a solitary 20,000-mile journey around the world. Inspired by Moby-Dick, he planned to spend 1 1/2 years circumnavigating the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in his 33-foot sailboat, Mia, following the routes once traveled by 19th-century whalers.

As theFalmouth Enterprisereported, Fabris was not the most experienced seaman. He had been an artist, freelance writer and activist, spentseveral decadesas a fishmonger,worked in a bookstore, and owned a restaurant that was popular with poets and artists. But despite growing up by the sea in Venice, he hadnt actually spent much time on the water until about fifteen years ago, when he first learned to sail.

Through an interpreter, Fabris told the paper that buying and selling fish helped inspire his voyage. Over the years, he watched as fish stocks were depleted, which made him cognizant of environmental disasters such as overfishing and pollution. His transoceanic journey, he hoped, could spread awareness of what mankind had wrought.

After watching several film adaptations of Herman Melvilles classic novel, Fabris came up with his own interpretation of Moby-Dick. The white whale, he told the Enterprise, symbolized nature and the inherent danger it presented to man. From his vantage point in the 21st century, though, Fabris knew that the real threat was mankinds potential to destroy nature.

He hung a banner from the port side of his boat: Im going to apologize to the whale.

Before leaving his home port of Venice in April 2018, Fabris told the Italian newspaperLa Nuova di Venezia e Mestrethat he planned to make his first stop in Nantucket. The island off the coast of Massachusetts was where the Pequod, the fictional whaleship in Moby-Dick, had set sail. Fabris had a whale-inspired sculpture created by the Italian artist Carlo Pecorelli on board, and planned to give it to the Nantucket Whaling Museum when he arrived. He told a reporter that he expected to complete the transatlantic crossing within a month.

Two months later, however, the paperreportedthat Fabris was still in Spain. He had been on the way to the Azores when he hit a mystery object in the middle of the ocean, which he initially thought might be a whale. Fabris told La Nuova di Venezia that he returned to Gibraltar, where he was welcomed with a huge party.

After setting sail once again, Fabris quickly ran into problems with the automatic steering system that prevented the boat from veering off course while he slept. He told theCape Cod Timesthat he had detoured south to the Canary Islands to get it fixed. By the time the system was working, hurricane season had arrived, and it was no longer safe to cross the North Atlantic.

So Fabris opted to take the much longer southern route to Nantucket. HisGPS trackershows that he sailed from the Canary Islands to Cape Verde in January, before setting off for a long slog across the ocean. He touched land in Guadeloupe in March, and took a break to rest and replenish his food supply, according to the Times. From there, he continued slowly making his way through the Caribbean, likely confusing vacationers with the banner on the starboard side of the boat announcing the journey he had initially planned: Venezia-Nantucket.

It was April, a year after Fabris originally set out on his voyage, whenLa Nuova di Veneziareported that he had arrived in the Dominican Republic port of Santo Domingo.

More storms delayed on him on his way up the East Coast. Finally, over Memorial Day weekend, Fabris set sail from Long Island under calm conditions. Fourteen months after he first left home, Nantucket and its gray-shingled cottages finally came into view. He was just 1,500 feet from shore when his boat capsized.

According to the Times, Fabris had turned on Mias motor to guide him into the harbor, but the engine unexpectedly died and hebegan to drift. Before he could drop an anchor to hold him in place, the sloop flipped over and he was plunged into the frigid waters of Nantucket Sound. He pulled the boat upright, but it capsized again.

A tow boat operator who happened to be in the area heard a call go out to the Coast Guard, and rushed to help. But unfortunately for the Italian sailor, the man who had come to his rescue happened to be based out of Cape Cod, so he towed Fabris and his boat there, too. After getting so close to reaching Nantucket, Fabris was being dragged, literally, in the opposite direction.

For an in-depth discussion of Vittorio Fabris journey across the Atlantic, check out this weeks Enterprise Plugged In podcast. @elianna_spitzerour Falmouth reporter who broke this story.

Enterprise News (@capenewsdotnet)June 11, 2019

In Falmouth, Massachusetts, the unexpected arrival of a sun-tanned septuagenarian mariner who spoke only Italian and wore T-shirts declaring that he wanted to apologize to whales initially baffled local officials. The big issue was he didnt speak English, Will Hopkins, an assistant at the town harbormasters office, told the Times. Eventually, after some negotiation with the Italian consulate, they agreed to let him stay put for the time being, even though his boat was docked illegally.

Even if he couldnt get there by sail, Fabris was still dead-set on visiting Nantucket. Somehow, he managed to communicate to staffers at the Black Dog Cafe in Falmouth that he was trying to get to the whaling museum, the Times reported. They told him how to get there on the ferry. But when he arrived, he was once again stymied.

Fabris toldthe Enterprise,through an interpreter, that the museums staff refused to take the sculpture and asked him to leave. Speaking to theTimes, James Russell, the executive director of the Nantucket Historical Association, said that wasnt what had happened: Fabris had actually been given a pass to tour the museum when he showed up, and no one had any idea he was trying to donate a sculpture.

After leaving the island frustrated, Fabris returned to Falmouth, where he has been stranded for the past two weeks. As word of his adventures spread, the community rallied to make sure he had food and access to hot showers. The owner of a local Italian restaurant helped the sailor get around town andtranslated for him. Sebastian Agapite, the vice commodore of the Falmouth Yacht Club,spottedthe Italian flag flying from Fabris boat and gave him a berth at the clubs marina.

Originally, Fabris wanted to travel to the part of the Pacific Ocean where the whaleship Essex, whose harrowing voyage reportedlyinspiredMoby-Dick, is believed to have sunk after being rammed by a whale. But he has abandoned those plans.

Now he just wants to return to Venice in time for his birthday, Agapite told the Times, adding that Fabris will turn 78 at the end of June.

As his boat is inno conditionto make the return voyage across the Atlantic, the Agapite family has started aGoFundMecampaign to help Fabris complete his journey by seeing the whales, then fly back to Venice and reunite with his family.

The trip was not for sport or joy, he told the Times through his interpreters. I did it for the whales.

Sign up for Boston.com Today to get the headlines delivered to your inbox.

every morning and breaking news as it unfolds, right to your inbox.

GOP congressman blasts as repugnant Trump civil war tweet

Mistake by city contractors caused Lawrence gas leak, but valve involved should have been disabled last year

Forever 21 fashion chain files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

This local cats story has made her an Instagram celebrity. Now her owners have started a nonprofit promoting inclusion.

AP FACT CHECK: Trump mistruths on Ukraine, impeachment fight

GOP split over impeachment pushback as Democrats plow ahead

Manager Joe Maddon wont be back with Cubs next season

Man dies after shooting toward police from Jamaica Plain home

1 dead, 1 still missing after boat capsizes off Fall River

Whats next as House committees launch impeachment probes

The Latest: Pelosi urges Dems to highlight responsibility

USS Constitution announces fall public tour hours

Trump allies push denials as Democrats promote impeachment

Warm fall days are heating up some Boston classrooms

Connecticut trial nearing for TV personality accused of molesting 10-year-old girl

New York City police officer shot and killed in the Bronx

Rhode Island awarded nearly $3.5 million in federal funding for addiction treatment

Terrorism charge against SUV driver in suburban Chicago mall

40 inches of snow in Montana: Its a February storm in September

New Hampshire state budget raises smoking age to 19

Can Washington deliver on drug costs amid impeachment probe?

Ayanna Pressley says nation is ready to impeach Trump

Man gets up to 12 years in prison for stabbing Massachusetts state trooper

Could Washingtons impeachment drama spark China trade deal?

Iranian official denies plans to interfere with US election

Trump blurs lines between personal lawyer, attorney general

Doctor facing life in prison for thousands of opioid doses

Helicopter crashes in the grass at a regional airport in Maine

Whats next as House committees launch impeachment probes

Political rivals Markey and Kennedy to join striking workers in Lawrence