It isn’t every day you meet someone named Captain Ky the Sea Glass Guy.
Ky Davis is a beachcomber with no current land address. If it wasn’t yet obvious from the name, Captain Ky’s life is by no means normal. After serving as an army combat medic for five years with 27 months on the front lines in Iraq, Ky purchased the largest private cave in Hawaii, where he set up a farm raising livestock and various tropical fruits.
After some time, he sold it all in order to buy a boat to sail the world. He’s now captain of a travelling vessel that’s scoured the coast of the United States, Aruba, and Curaçao, with a mission to search the entire world for hidden beaches and old, rare sea glass. So far, he’s found many, many beaches stocked with ancient treasures, untouched by other hunters in the Caribbean.
Ky started off beachcombing with his mother in Maine. On their first journey to a beach, his mom found a red piece of sea glass and ended up giving it to a man’s 4-year-old son. Soon after, Ky and his mother learned that red glass is extremely rare, and this made them eager to find more.
Most of Captain Ky’s collection so far comes from his time spent on the coastline of Aruba and Curacao. One of his favorite things to find is sea marbles, which he says originated from the slingshots of children attempting to break floating glass bottles in the waves.
Though his social media videos documenting his numerous finds on the beach make it look easy, Ky says getting to the beaches is difficult. He often hikes or swims long distances, in addition to using his boat and inflatable dinghy to reach far off and rare locations where most people won’t go. Ky likes to hunt during the day, keeping his shadow behind him and wearing polarized lenses to see through the water. He also snorkels when he can.
Ky argues that the most lucrative type of coastline isn’t long stretches of flat sand but groupings of slippery and unstable rocks and coral. Though he gets beaten up pretty good by the incoming waves and the sharp coral and rocks on his feet, it’s well worth it—he says that’s where the good stuff is. “Most people probably wouldn’t enjoy hunting the way I do, but it feels more like an adventure to me. I always say, if I haven’t bled today, then I didn’t work hard enough.”
Many of the remote beaches Ky finds are covered in sea glass, but oftentimes it’s almost all green, brown, and white glass, so he still has to search hard. His favorites are marbles, stoppers, oranges, reds, turquoise, pieces of old ceramic figurines, or just anything strange in general. Like a true pirate captain, Ky keeps only his favorite treasures and sells the rest to fund his boat expenses as he travels the sea.
Ky says he visited a place (“A pro never gives too many details,” he laughs) where the locals were completely convinced no sea glass could be found. Ky decided to check out the burn pits at the landfill next to the shore, where nobody visited because of the smoke and smell. It turned out to be one of the best sea glass spots he’d ever been to.
Before traveling the sea, Ky often visited Trash Beach (which he calls Treasure Beach) on the southern tip of Hawaii. Though there’s mostly plastic debris and driftwood, Ky one time found the carcass of a massive decaying whale—someone had even used a chainsaw to cut away part of the jawbone. One time he also spotted a 22-foot Japanese lifeboat washing up on the beach. Though he attempted to bring it home, it was too much to transport, and he had to leave it.
Ky once found some ultra-rare ambergris on the beach in Hawaii with his friend Seth, and thought he had struck it rich. The chunk was the size of a football, and Ky promised Seth that if he carried the chunk back through the difficult 9-mile hike through a thick mountainous tropical rainforest valley, he would split the money with him. The only problem—the ambergris smelled HORRIBLE, enough to make both of them gag. They double wrapped the ambergris with trash bags and made the hellish hike, which Seth would later say was the worst hike of his entire life.
After they brought it home, Ky stashed it in his cave so he wouldn’t have to smell it. Then, they found out with disappointment that it was illegal to buy and sell ambergris in the U.S.—so they contacted two companies in New Zealand and France. The company in France requested a sample, and Ky sent some. A couple weeks later, they received an email that Google translated to “We do not want your rotten ambergris.”
Ky supports his globe-trotting endeavor and ship maintenance and repairs by selling some of his beachcombing finds. Though he finds rare sea glass and valuable treasures constantly, it is difficult to ship from the Caribbean to other parts of the world, as it is unreliable and expensive. So, instead, Ky convinces friends and family to visit him and stay on his boat. When they return home, he gives them sea glass to take back to his parents’ house. He has amassed a huge sea glass collection, and he and his mom began selling his finds online.
Captain Ky will often slip in extra free finds like geodes, fossils, flamingo feathers, gemstones, and other treasures when he ships his sea glass to customers. He says he now has enough to fill an entire room at his parents’ house, along with large collections stashed in two other countries which he plans to sail back to the states one day.
He works hard every day to find sea glass and other treasures—it is his job after all. But he doesn’t work completely alone—his first mate is his dog, LC. She goes everywhere with him, and since the majority of beaches are inaccessible, they are often alone on the beach.
“It’s tough to find a girlfriend when you sail around the world picking up trash on the beach with no plan of where to go next,” says Ky. “Most of my friends don’t really get the whole sea glass thing. I think maybe most people don’t start appreciating it until later in life, and since I’m only 34, it’s tough to meet people my age that are as enthralled as I am by the idea of it.”
Ky’s bucket list finds are a complete set of dominoes and non-rotten ambergris. He’d also love to find an engagement ring with his metal detector to offer to the girl of his dreams one day. Though he’s hit some rough waters, choosing to sell everything and captain his own ship was a calling, and something best done while young. “The best part about living on a boat is waking up at a new beach every morning to find what treasures the ocean has left for you.”
Ky’s recommendation for finding sea glass: if you want the things most people don’t have, you have to go where others won’t. Check old maps, ask locals for tips, and take the dirt roads that look seldom ventured. The beaches are out there, and if you take the time and effort to find them, the reward is immeasurable.
“I love the idea that the pieces of glass were once considered worthless, but after a lifetime in the ocean have become invigorated with new life and appreciated for what they’ve become. I think that sea glass reminds me of myself in a lot of ways, and I see my journey sailing around the world as a way to make myself better as a person.”
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine January/February 2021 issue.
Sail away with Captain Ky
Take a virtual beachcombing sailing trip with Ky and his dog, LC, in search of undiscovered sea glass beaches and rare beach glass. Learn more ›
I was lucky enough to meet Captain Ky and LC in person due to my good friend Gae. Hopefully this will happen again ❤