Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Yesterday I got ready to paddle and then went to run a few errands in Genova. I had tobuy food, get a lure if I could find one, pick up a couple of gas cartridges, and above all, I needed a chart. I was about to be off my current chart and I wouldn't be able to find one in a small city. Waterproof navigational charts are hard to find, but necessary for the mariner who occasionally finds his boat upside down.

It was a long tiring day of exploring the huge port and downtown area in Genova. I found at least six closed marine shops, and got directions to more that I couldn't find at all. One shop that was closed for inventory let me in, but their charts were not waterproof and their gas cartridges were neither of the two kinds that I can use.

Genova has a nice port area with an elevated highway stringing through what would otherwise be a neat downtown area. Their was a small playground where the swings had seatbelts.

By some happy chance I did walk by a large fishing store and they sold me a lure that they assured me the fish would burst for joy at the thought of getting caught by. In fact, the lure was so great, fish would take one look at it, hop into a pot and serve themselves on a plate with a side of tastyseaweed. This was good, because if I ever do catch a fish, I'm not sure I'll know what to do with it.*

After my failure to get a chart I went to the marina's offices and asked them it I couldleave my boat there until Sunday, “You kayaked from where!?”


“You brought your kayak on a plane from Barcelona.”

“No, I paddled from Barcelona.” I said.

“Yes, yes, you can leave your boat here. Have some chocolate.”

Genova is the northernmost city on my trip, so early this morning I got on a train for myspecial detour. My train ride is not a short one, and it's taking me through the Alps. I just passed a large mountain lake with an island. On the island was a picturesque village that is probably hundreds of years old. A great white ridge of mountains passes beneath me to my left and brittle brown and white giants shoot above me on my right. Forests of leafless brown skeletons standing out starkly against the snow covered slopes where they meet.

Elsewhere, the ground is shades of brown and stone gray. Here is a waterfall, half frozen pointing perfect icicles towards the ditch beside the tracks.

I pass a village with empty fields separating the houses and a great water fall coming off the cliffs behind it.

Higher up now, everything is white. White pine forests with a hint of green, whitemountains. We are stopped at a station and a plow clears fresh snow off the platform. Having lived in Israel since 2001, it's been almost a decade since I've seen this much snow.

A man in a plaid shirt and brown jacket showed me a badge and asked to see my passport. I guess I crossed another border, and am now out of the EU. I asked him if I could take his picture for my blog, and he said it's not allowed. Sorry.

I am disappointed I won't be paddling for the next few days.  But I don't think I'll be suffering too much here in the roof of Europe.

* Scale it, gut it, clean it.  You'll need a suitable knife.  I'm sure there are instructions on Youtube, Dov.  Cook it in a pan & use the bones & some of the other parts to make broth for cooking lentils or rice, too. ~ ed.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Lost in a City

Last night the Scout Master invited me to his home to shower and use his computer. He and his wife were very kind and gave me a chocolate bar and some homemade apricot jam from the apricots that had grown on their trees. I couldn't say no.

I checked the weather and saw there would be a strong north east wind. I thought that maybe if I stayed close to shore I could keep out of the worst of it. I would check the weather again in the morning at the port.

Day 41:
I was unable to check the weather at the neighboring port since it's closed on Sundays. Given the bad report I had seen the night before I decided I would not paddle today. After I finished my morning chores I was bored, so I put my stuff in my boat and paddled to Genova.


I had a solid tailwind, which left me with a problem. I could follow it out to seastraighttowards Genova, and if it held up I would be there in no time. If however it changed to the predicted northeast wind, then I would be in a bad place to deal with a bad wind. If I stayed close to shore then I would not enjoy the tailwind and might not even notice if it switched to a northeast wind. No risk no gain, and I wouldn't even know if I made the right decision. I didn't want to not know, so I took the tailwind on a course directly to Genova. It held up for about an hour before I had to desperately struggle back to the shelter of the cliffs.

The rest of the day was rough. When I had shelter from the wind, it was OK, but oftenI didn't. It was also very cold. I arrived at the first port in Genova late in the day, exhausted and cold. Banjo had given me a number to call for someone that would host me. Only they lived near the other port.

So I hitchhiked and took a bus and tried to call them but they didn't answer. Finally they did, and told me that they couldn't host me after all.

The size of a city has nothing to do with how many square miles it takes up or what its population is. It has to do with how scary it is. Genova is a scary city at night on a bus when you can't find anyone who speaks English. What's more is that asking directions for the port, that I thought but was not sure was next to the airport, was difficult since nobody knows it exists. I needed to get back to my boat and people kept giving me directions to the wrong port.

Eventually I found my way.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Going For A Hike

Day 40:

Friday morning I was woken up by my new friend Banjo.  He told me to try to make it to Celle Ligure and gave me a number to call when I got there. The winds were good, which was nice because not everybody at the marina I had been staying at was happy to have me there.

The sky was overcast and I got drizzled on.  This was no light overcast either.  It wasthekind of overcast that blocks out any understanding of the time of day and hides the tops of mountains.

I began with a good clip but as soon as I was around my first corner (44.181342,8.409176) the current picked up against me and I felt as though I was inching forward.  Once past the pressure point I took into the bay and was again moving at a comfortable gait.

For the most part I was moving into a headwind, but not a strong one.  Sometimes I would have a small tailwind.  At one point (44.313347,8.502903) while I was paddling along a tall seawall, the water around me suddenly splashed up in a hundred tiny ways in the space just ahead of my boat, as though a school of fish just below the surface was spitting up.  The water in the place was kind of nasty looking, with goo floating about, I don’t blame them. This happened a few more times.

I passed an island with a lot of seagulls and pine trees.  Bergeggi Island, there was a cave at one end that had a small seawall on either side of its entrance making it perfect for pulling boats up into.

Later, a large tugboat was heading straight towards me, moving fast.  They were still a distance aways but I though it would be best if I used my radio to warn them about my presence.  Moving into the bay I had made a security announcement, but that was an hour earlier.  “Large white tug boat this is solo kayak, do you see me?”  Nothing, I tried twice more and was now running out of time.  I let go of my radio and sprinted to safety.
As I approached the destination I had programmed into my GPS, a Boy Scout's clubhouse off of a beach, I grew concerned that I had put in the wrong coordinates.  There were only cliffs to my left, no beach.  Finally, only a few feet away, I was around a corner (44.336373,8.543072) and the beach was there.

When trying to make a beach landing it is important that my boat not get dragged on the sand.  The trick is to paddle in just behind one wave but before the next.  At the right moment when the water is shallow, I release my sprayskirt and get out, hopefully without falling on my butt in the cold wet and before the next wave comes to wallop me and fill my boat up with water and sand.  If successful, the boat not being full of water and sand, I lift it out of the water and carry it ashore.

All of this worked except for the last bit.  In the morning I can lift my boat up with littletrouble, after an energetic six hour paddle, I could not lift my boat.  And as I tried it got hit with a wave and took on water, though not so much sand as it was a pebbly beach.  After that, it didn’t go so well.

Once on the beach I found the clubhouse which would be my home for the Sabbath.  I called Banjo’s friend who was happy to hop over and show me around.  The beach was loaded with kayaks and small sailboats.  The one room clubhouse had  small loft and a heater.   It was perfect.

The Sabbath:

The sky was overcasat and their was a light drizzle.  I have heard it said that Ukraine is the armpit of Europe.  Italy may be wonderful but at that moment it felt like the place where the sun don’t shine.

Friday night I had a small Sabbath dinner with a few supplies I had picked up in town and slept.  Saturday I went for a walk.  I walked on a sidewalk along the beach, and then above the cliff for a while and watched the big waves play against the rocks, some times shooting spray twenty feet high.

I then headed into the Beigua Mountains.  I walked along the road always going up.  Each street in the village was at least one story higher then the previous one, and one row of houses between them.  Soon the houses gave way to a slightly more spread out country side.  Olive orchards and small farms now used what side of the mountain they could.  The green that was everywhere was fresh wet green, the smell of the sea left behind I could now smell wood stoves burning and the mountain forest ahead.

I arrived at a parking lot after which the street became too narrow for cars and was crowded on both sides by pink and yellow Italian houses.  The shutters and doors were green.  A small yard filled one of the few spaces between the homes.  A big German Shepherd was there.

“Hello, I’m cold and wet.”  He told me quietly.

I nodded understandingly and put my hand through the gate to scratch him behind the ears.

“I love you.”  He told me leaning his snoot into my hand as much as he could.

I put my other hand through the gate to give him the full service that every dog is entitled to.

After the small village I was on a dirt road heading into the mountains in earnest.  The woodsy air that surrounded me was fresh and exhilarating.  Mountain streams were abundant, it’s been raining, and the sound of their rushing water and the cool sweet air that surrounds them brought a full happiness to my being that I hadn’t felt since I’d been kayaking.  I could see the sea, and the village below me, and more mountains in the distance.  I was walking on dirt roads and small paths through the clouds and the woods and everything was wet and fresh and good.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kissing Into Italian

I'm in Finale Ligure. Yesterday was too windy to paddle. I met a member of the local kayak club who has told me that he will attempt to help me find places to stay for every night between here and Sicily. Currently he has me covered for the next four stops. I will call him Banjo.


Banjo doesn't speak a word of English, and I speak only about 17 words in Italian (and counting!). So we talk in front of my computer and use a translation program.

For example:

English: it's raining it's poring the old man is snoring

Into Italian and back into English: rain that the old man is snoring

after a round through Hebrew and Afrikaans: rain, the old man is snoring

Finally, translating it through some languages that I've never heard of including Azerbaijani:

I got: rain, old men kiss

Needless to say, I have a little bit too much free time on my 2nd day off. And it's raining out.

This morning the receptionist told me that I could stay if I wanted to, but that I should try paddling away and see how it goes. I don't think he liked me. Maybe if I stay close to shore, he said, I would be OK.

The forecast called for a 23 knot NNE wind. A direct headwind. Some time ago I came up with the rule for myself that I don't paddle into 20 knot winds because it makes me miserable. While the receptionist was appealing to my more energetic side, I've already made the mistake of not following my better judgment too many times. I would not be convinced now.

But I was already suited up so I did some laps in the harbor and then thought about practicing some techniques that would get me wet. As the air temperature has been frigid for awhile, this being an unusually cold winter, and a result of my initial month long delay having me much farther north then I had hoped to be at this time, I wasn't sure what good a dunk would do for me. The idea of testing whether or not the water would make me hypothermic didn't seem too bright. When people recommend clothing for these water temperatures they recommend a dry top. I had a neoprene jacket and a splash top.

I paddled over to be next to the ramp and rolled. The water was cold, but exhilarating. I did it a bunch more times until I felt that I was on top of my game, and then went to take a hot shower.

When my gas stove's canister runs out I start on the backup canister and pick up a newone at the next opportunity. I haven't been able to find one in some time. Fishing shops also seem to be closed for the season which is why I still haven't replaced my last lure. I'm not far from Genova, hopefully my fuel will last and I'll be able to replace my canisters there.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wet Socks

Day 39:

The weather report promised me a morning of good weather and an afternoon of bad weather. That is to say, good wind and bad wind. So I paddled, cutting straight across the bay of Loano. At first the water was so calm it was glassy, but then the wind picked up a little. Small waves would go in one direction, then another. At times the wind would die down all together.


It was raining when I started. Sometimes it was a light rain, other times it was heavier. A driving rain, or a beating rain. Some times the rain would take a break, in order to rain some more, and the follow it up with another bout of rain.

It was cold. When I was paddling at full tilt I was OK, but when I would stop for even a moment I would be cold. There was very low visibility. I couldn't see the other side of the bay and had to rely completely on my instruments. At times, my sight of land was almost entirely obscured.

A big fishing boat was following me for a while. The captain tried to say something to me but I couldn't hear him. I tried to reach him on my radio but was unsuccessful. For a moment I went into their wake hoping for a free ride, but the boats exhaust was terrible and I quickly pulled away.

I saw a cloud that looked like a dragon snaking it's way along the shore. And then thewind changed. It was one of the worst headwinds yet, my paddles feeling as though they were moving through peanut butter as I inched forward. (mmmmm peanut buuuutter)

I changed my course (44.157578,8.352356) to head directly into the wind, north, rather then towards my target port, northeast. I hoped that once close to land the wind would drop. Directly into the wind was a fantastic struggle made all the harder by doubt. I couldn't help but wonder that I might get close to the shore and find the wind not decreased at all. I made my trip longer in the horrid weather for nothing.

But the black raven of doubt was defeated by the bluebird of happiness as my plan turned out to be a wonderful success. Once close to shore a swell moved against the lessened wind to help me along at a good pace.

I arrived at port Finale Ligure and made my way to the marina office just shy of shivering. The rain had decided to put up a fight, since apparently there were still people who hadn't taken the hint and gone inside.

Their were two people in the marina's office. The man behind the desk and the man in front of it.

The man behind the desk said that kayaks weren't aloud in the marina. The man in front of it spoke to him in Italian, rather harshly, and then told me to come with him.

He helped me take my boat out of the water and without letting me get a word in edgewise sent me into a hot shower. When I was done he handed me a towel. Tonight I'll sleep in the marina's clubhouse. It's warm here. Tomorrow may be too windy, I don't know.

Oh, and my socks are wet. All the clothing I have with me, and it amounts to nothing. I'm freezing because my socks are wet.

Back on My Way

Greta, by default I'm using a pseudonym for you, if you'd rather I use your real name just let me know.

Sunday morning I took the train back to Imperia and arrived late morning.  I went to the captain’s office to get a weather report.  The captain’s office was surrounded by a high fence and there was a video camera and microphone at the gate.  Apparently it was a military base as well.

I buzzed.  Then heard from a speaker pleasant sounding Italian words that probably amounted to “What do you want?”  I like the sound of Italian.

“Umm, Bon journo.”  I went on “Do you speak English?  Meteo Journo?”  It befuddles me to talk into a box, especially to try to do so in Italian.

“One moment.”  I heard from the speaker.

I waited there for a time, and then a man in a uniform came out of the building bearing a double sided sheet of paper which he handed to me.  Line after line of text, it was in English, but different from any weather report I had seen before.  It had a list of seas, each one followed by a direction and a number.  For example, one line might have been “Tiberian Sea NNE 5.”  I actually don't know the name for the sea I'm on.  No it's not “Mediterranean” wise ass.   For the purposes of this report the Mediterranean had been divided up into a hundred smaller seas.

Fortunately one of them was in bold.  And double checking on the internet, it was my sea.  It was also under the list of “CURRENT GALE WARNINGS.”  And had NE winds of force seven.  I didn't know if that was for out in the center of the Gulf of Genova or along the coast.  But a force seven head wind is much too strong to paddle into (More manly kayakers might be calling me a pansy, but I expect they probably stopped following my blog long ago in disgust).

I also found something else online.  One of the couch surfing requests I sent out in this area had a response.  In an effort to get out of the cold I had sent a request to everybody that was volunteering their couch in the area, and one of them was a pretty 18 year old girl who speaks only a little English.

“Hi, this is Greta's mother.  Greta can't write back to you since she's out of town, but we'd be happy to host you tonight.”

I walked the length of the pier to feel the wind out on the edge of the marina.  The conditions were bad but not terrible.  The hour however had gotten a little bit late, so I would get on the train to meet my hosts.

I had a little time to explore before my train however, and I found a street lined with tangerine trees that looked as though their fruit were bursting with juicy tastiness.  I picked one and … Well, let's just say that I wouldn't consider it the victory I had expected.

Greta and her mom met me at the station.  Greta spoke a very little English.  She's been studying it in school for four years.

“Oh, that's great, I'm learning Italian and this will give me a chance to practice.”

“How long have you been learning Italian?” She asked.

“About a week and a half.”  And it was an opportunity to learn Italian.  They were very patient and I have a handle on at least a dozen new words thanks to my time with them.  Their house is in the mountains and has a great view of the sea in the distance.  Greta's family was extremely warm and welcoming. They insisted I join them for dinner and it was with sorrow that I explained to them my dietary habits.  But a salad and some other tasty options were available.

They have three much loved dogs, two cats, a rabbit, three egg laying chickens, and twohonking geese.  It was like visiting Old McDonald, if Old McDonald was a super Italian lady and her daughter.  Their dogs were very nice.

I had been given a guest house for the night and Greta came over to light up the wood stove.  Greta's mother explained that wood stoves were better than the standard gas heating unit that they had.  Their were lots of blankets, I piled them on top of me and slept better than I have in a long time.

I was invited back to stay over tonight also.

Day 38:

Today the wind was good, or at least not bad, though it was still cold and the sky was overcast and gloomy all day.  If the world is ever destroyed in divine fury, the holocaust will be preceded by a day like today.  A cold, dark calm before the storm.  It's supposed to rain the rest of the week with possible intermittent flurries of snow.


With my paddle clothing on I was comfortable once I was moving.  The wind was mostlyfrom my right but sometimes I could almost feel a tailwind and catch a wave.  That was nice.  It's been about two weeks since I wasn't fighting into a headwind and I felt strength flowing through me with the unaccustomed ease.

I sang a song by the Doors that I like and was in my head.  Which song?  That's none of your business, but if you think about them, you might be able to figure it out.

I stopped in the port closest to where Greta's mother works and I'll meet her at the end of her day to go back to their mountain home for another night of wood stove family warmth that heats body and soul.

The people at the port go into the super nice category, not only inviting me to use theshowers but handing me a bunch of coins to pay for them as though it had never occurred to them that I might pay myself.

The kindness of Greta's family and of the people at the port is proof enough that days like today will never harbinger anything other than cold weather and rain.

Special thanks to Jay of http://ourtakeonfreedom.wordpress.com/ for helping me with logistics.  Jay offers a slightly more relaxed approach to seizing the day.

Halflings are More Interesting than God

Thursday night I caught the last train to Nice.  For Friday, terrible wind and a fast were scheduled.  By fast, I mean that in memory of something or another that I couldn't remember, observant Jews refrain from eating or drinking between sunup and sundown.  Not conducive to paddling.

At first I had looked to take a train for the weekend to Genova, where I had hoped to be anyways, but for a week of headwind.  Nice is cheaper, and I know some people there.
I caught the last train to Nice and had to change trains in a mysterious city in the night.  I got off at the right stop and looked around.  Other people were getting off the train to, so I asked one of them whitch platform was for Nice.


“Ci, ci.”  I said, hoping that 'Nice' and 'Nitza' were the same place.  The young couple indicated that they too were going there.  We began looking for the platform together.
A word on languages.  I often ask the locals how to say what ever it is I want to say in the local language.  In so doing, in Spain I learned a little bit of Spanish, and then a little bit of French in France, and now I'm learning some Italian.  But I'm horribly confused.  In fact, I have never been more confused about anything.  I cannot effectively communicate the most simple sentence in any of the above languages without inadvertently including at least one word from each of them and then trying again with some other multilingual gibberish.

Not knowing what country I was in or what hour of the night it was, I was not prepared to open my mouth.  But I followed the couple and came to understand from time tables and their growing panic that the train that both they and I had been promised independently, did not exist and would not come.

I did not have my sleeping bag with me and it was cold.  There would be no more trains until morning.

The train station was now empty and quiet, except for the sounds of our footsteps walking back and forth between the platform, the posted time tables, and the electronic announcement board, which somberly went about their mission of telling us we were screwed.

I decided I ought to be somewhere, so I waited on platform one for the promised train that would not come.  A man opened up a door off to the side of the platform and the couple pounced on him for information.  They spoke, words meaningless to me.

I followed the couple out to the front of the station.  A bus was pulling up, a bus for us.
When I got on I went to pay the driver and he told me not to.

The bus drove from that strange place for a time I could not measure.  It stopped in Monaco and I recalled how in all of France, it is the only city I have been to whose streets were not covered in dog poo.  It drove on to Nice.  I looked out the window; the bus had stopped at a light in front of the hostel I hoped to stay at, and the driver kindly let me off.

I called up on the speaker to learn that the hostel was full.  It was the first time since winter came that I found a hostel that was full.  This is the off season.  I got bad directions to another hostel and looked for it for a time.  On the way I found many hotels for 80 plus Euro, so when I found one for 35, I checked in and slept.


Friday was a fast fast.  I went back to the cheap hostel that finally had a room and slept through the day.  It had been a hard cold week.  For the Sabbath, Chabad people were again happy to host me.

Friday night I was one of two guests at a young couple's table.  I asked the other guest sitting next to me “So what do you do?”

“I work.” he told me politely. 

“Aahh.”  I said.

The bearded man at the head of the table was a rabbi.  He gesture proudly to all the books on the walls.  Their were a lot of books. 

The rabbi's wife, the mother of the four children four and under with another one about to come, was very friendly and originally American.  “So why does your fleas* say 'kayakdov' on it?'”

I told her my story.  Dinner was yummy and my hostess was very friendly. 

Lunch they next day was similar.  The same guest from the evening before again sat to my right.  This time there was also a French family of guests.  The rabbi spoke almost without interruption for about an hour in French while I ate quietly and the other people listened (or pretended to).  The word “Messiah” cam up from time to time, a frequent theme at Chabad tables.

Afterwards when I was helping to clear the rabbi's wife told me she was sorry that I hadn't understood any of it.  I assured her that even if the rabbi had been speaking in a language that I understood, I wouldn't have payed the least bit of attention.

“Oh,” she said “So you're more of a thinker then a listener?”

That was kind.  “No, I just have a short attention span.”

I had been thinking.  I can't help it, my mind wanders during sermons.  In point of fact, I had been thinking about halflings.  Like I said, even if the rabbi had been speaking in a language I understood, he never had a chance.

* I think he means "fleece." *chuckle* ~ ed.

reader input wanted

I tried to post a blog that had the heretical title "Halflings are More Interesting then God" but it got stopped by my editor since he was worried this might offend some of my readers.  If any of you would be offended by this title, please email kayakdov@gmail.com or post here in the comments your thoughts.

A note though in my defense (I finally did some research):

According to wikipedia, "The Return of the King" box office takings were $1.1 billion.
In 2008 the Vatican took in 355.5 million.  So I speak not frivolously in choosing my title.  The masses have spoken.  Halflings are three times more interesting then God.

Current port: 44.175433,8.371325

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Lunge

This morning at the port in San Lorenzo there were two ducks.  I saw them last night also, though today they were less shy and let me get very close.  I tried talking to them, but they were unresponsive.

Day 37:

The wind, the forecast for today told me, would have a rating of Demonic on the Neimand scale.

There would be a two hour window during which it would only be Really Bad.  I seized the opportunity and struggled to make it to the next port, Imperia.

The port is huge and I could not see the captain’s office when I entered.  I looked for it for a while.  I tried to contact them on the radio to ask for directions.  Eventually they answered me, but I couldn't make out what they said so I kept looking rather than pursue the issue.
I saw an inflated motorboat zooming bye; I called out to ask for directions.

“I am the captain’s office.” one of the passengers told me once they stopped and understood what I was asking for.  No problem, I could leave my kayak overnight, I should follow them.

I followed and rode their wake.  It was awesome.  The inflatable boat left a big wake and so long as I was sprinting to keep up with its impressive force, I was flying.

On the dock a fisherman was doing maintenance on his skiff and throwing out giant sheets of ice that had stuck themselves to his craft.  It's been cold.

My wallet and passport popped out of my pants pocket as I was turning them inside out and landed in the harbor.  I lunged, breaking the sound barrier I could be heard for miles around, and saved them before they could escape my reach.

I'm having trouble coming up with a solution for where to park myself for the Sabbath.  Hopefully something will turn up.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kindness is a Sort of Magic

The nice people in last night’s port were kind enough to let me use a small room.  They also loaned me a space heater, which I was quite excited about.  The room stank of benzine so I opened the windows not to be poisoned by the fumes (yes, running a heater with the windows open is a sin, but this was an extenuating circumstance.)

The heater hummed, pointed at me warningly.  Before going to sleep I watched a portion of The Princess Bride on my computer.

“Sleep well, and dream of large woman.”  The Man in Black said.

The floor was wet.  What?  Why was the floor wet?  I looked around.  There was a large puddle taking up most of the floor of the room.  The pile of my stuff in the corner had somehow magically been spared.  I had left the nozzle of my water bag open.  Rats.  The area in front of the heater was dry.  For the rest of the night I would use the heater to dry off the floor rather than warm me.  It was still much nicer inside than out.

Day 36:
I went shopping for rice for breakfast.  Pasta was much cheaper, there were also more different kinds of pasta in this little market here in Italy then I have ever seen in one place before.  I am now in the land of pasta.

Walking back from the market I noticed a frozen puddle.  It had been a cold night out, and I was comfy thanks to good old fashion kindness.  A magic that I would later learn is in short supply.

The sky was overcast and the day was one of the coldest yet.  I paddled into an ugly headwind.  One works harder paddling into a headwind, so I kept chipper with frequent stops to eat.  While it's frustrating to be blown backwards while stopped, the invigorating effects of a snack on aching muscles, overall energy, and mental state are fantastic.  Occasionally I would find a good eddy or slightly sheltered place for my snacks.

At 2:40 I got to a port (43.839108,7.916508).  I looked on my map, I didn't know if I could make it to the next port before dark.  It was cold out so I wanted very much to be on land before the temperature dropped even more.

“Hi, I kayaked from Barcelona, can I leave my boat here overnight?”

“How long is it?”  The receptionist asked me.  She had an expression on her face that said 'I'm not your friend, and it's American hippies like you that are the cause of all the troubles in the world'.

'I'm not a hippie.'  I thought about telling her, but instead I said

“I don't know.  It's just a kayak, a very small boat.  Maybe it's 50 centimeters wide.”  I didn't want to tell her how long my Epic 18 is because I knew where this was going.  She was going to look up how much it costs to keep an 18 foot boat in the port for one night.

“It doesn't need to be kept in the water, anywhere is fine.” I added in the hope that this would deter her.  It only delayed.

“This is a port, everything on land is for cars.”  She told me.  Her heart was black as asphalt and it would cost me 20 Euro to keep my boat there for the night.

I paddled on for a while longer.  There was a small cliff to my left with a walking path above it.

Occasionally stairs would come down to a small pebble beach or rocky area with a ladder into the water. I thought about taking my boat out at these places, but decided a port with a chance of finding a host and maybe a shower would be best.

In time I did get to another port, the day was almost over when I made my way into the captain’s office.

“Hi, I kayaked from Barcelona, can I leave my kayak here overnight?”

“You can, but this is a private port.  You will have to pay.”  Two in a row, what devilry was this?  It was now very cold out.

The receptionist recommended a public port that I had passed on my way.

Whatever public port he was referring to, I hadn't seen it.  All the marinas I had been at so far were private.  But he was talking to me and trying to help.  I could sense there was good in him.

More talking.  More asking nicely and explaining that I'm very poor.

He called his boss.  The conversation was agonizingly long.  If the answer was no, then I would want to leave to try to make the next port as soon as possible.

But it was yes.  “You can't stay in the marina overnight, and you need to provide us with documentation proving that you really did kayak from Barcelona.”

Cool, I've paddled far enough so that people no longer believe me.

Outside, changing into my land clothing was an extremely cold activity.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Belching at Night Makes for Bad Kayaking

Last night I had been warned of recent thefts in the area so I brought my kayak up to a three walled and roofed space near the captain's office where I intended to spend the night. This was not a good idea.

I hadn't considered the vending machines and there popularity.  Machines like these, I don't even see.  But just because they don't exist for me doesn't mean they don't exist for hordes of other people.

A man got some coffee with his dog that wouldn't stop barking at me, the man was sorry.  Other people were in and out of the area, talking loudly and taking the time to stop and stare at the strange man with the scraggly beard sleeping next to the kayak*.

At around 10 a large group of teenagers made there way over and began to hang out.  Some of them kindly tried to keep their voices down.  Others didn't and spoke loudly as some teenagers do.  Still others conducted a belching competition, each one louder than the one before.  Some of those burps were very competitive.

I sat up.  When you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

The next morning the fishermen were getting coffee at an early hour, and so I got up.  A group of men had gathered to talk about my kayak kand me in Italian.  Occasionally a question would be translated.  Among the men was a member of the Italian Coast Guard.

He told me that this side of the border they do indeed monitor Chanel 16.

“Channel 16 radio check.” I tried into my microphone.

There was no response, the Coast Guard man was next to me and not in his office monitoring the emergency channel.  Later he went in, turned on the radio, and answered that I sounded fine.

He also took my picture and said he would tell his boss about me and that they may contact some papers.  Cool.

Day 35:
I didn't paddle long today, their was a mild headwind and I felt sick, probably from a bad nights sleep.

The sun was out, which was nice, and the view continued to be awesome.


I saw a large community of jellyfish, more than ever before.  They waved their bell shaped tops up and down and drifted their tentacles about.  Sometimes I would realize after it was to late that I had scooped one along with my paddle.  I'm fairly certain they're not edible.

I pulled up in San Remo and the people at the port were happy to welcome me and my kayak for the rest of the day and the night.  I even scored an enclosed back room to sleep in.

*Authors note: The description I had was less vivid.  This one was provided bye the editor.

order of things

A couple posts were inserted a little lower to their chronological place in things.  Make sure you didn't miss them.

Previous Post

current port: 43.780576,7.676997

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I had intended to write upon reaching Monaco something along the lines of “This time, I did a little research.”  and then provided something

interesting from the wikipedia post on Monaco in my blog.  However, just as I was opening up said post, my mother told me on the phone that the casino in Monaco was the same one attended by James Bond.

Enough said.  My research was done.

I set out to find the casino.  On my way I passed through a fun filled Christmas fair with happy people and lots of candy to look at.

I was thinking that I would arrive at the James Bond Casino and order

“A dry martini, shaken not stirred.”*


“How much is that?”


“It costs what!  Don't you think there should be some sort of warning?  Thanks anyways.”

But Alas!  Riffraff like myself are stopped at the entrance to the casino with a nine Euro cover charge.

“What if I don't play anything?” I hadn't intended to anyways, but I did want to take a look.

“It's still nine Euro” the lady at the front desk told me.  She went on “But you should know, tonight there's a strike.”

“So you're not charging people?” I said hopefully.

“No, we're still charging, but there's only one table of each kind open.”

“So you're still charging, but everything is closed?”  I asked.


“Ummm, no thanks.”

I went to look through the doors.  The insides, what I could see of

them, looked fairly cool.  I'll tell you what I saw for four Euro.

Day 34, Country 4:

Today was a gorgeous day with an intermittent light breeze.

I left Monaco behind and soon crossed the border into Italy.  I sang about it for some time.  I also reviewed my Italian lexicon.  Let's see their's …  "ciao."  That's it.  This morning I knew one word in Italian.  French I had the advantage of Ms. Piggy.  If I were to go to Sweden I would be near fluent, but no Italian.

As I paddled along the large green mountains above me would sometimes part to reveal great valleys leading towards giant white caps in the distance.  It was really nice.

After the border, the scenery immediately changed also.  Along the French coast the steep hills were mostly empty, but here in Italy they are cluttered with houses, having their own small farms and radiating a simple happiness that comes from living on the sea and working a rough earth.

By midafternoon as the sun was beginning to set I pulled into a port.  I got a fisherman at the dock to tell me where the captain's office was, and with a little more work, to tell me that 'Thank you' in Italian is 'Grazie.'  And so I began learning the new language.

The captain's office had been closed since 11:00 in the morning.  But a group of men playing cards where happy to offer me tips like, “You should find an unlocked boat to sleep in.” and let me into the port's showers with a set of keys.

So far, Italy is good.

* vodka martini.  Not dry martini. ~ ed.


Day 33:

I'm in a new country!  Italy? No.  I'm in Monaco.

From the beginning, I went to my kayak at the kayaking club in Nice,
and I didn't see my paddle with it.  I asked people if they had seen,
I made a phone call to the fellow that had helped me with it on
Thursday.  No one had seen it.  I looked in the paddle clubs store
room and office.  I checked and rechecked around my boat.  I was very

I rechecked around my boat again.  Someone had tied it with bungees to
the bottom of the boat.  I guess someone thought it would be safer
there.  Thanks!

The air was fresh and the day was beautiful.  There were at least
three other kayakers from Nice's paddle club out on the water.  Way to
go Nice!

I took a late morning since I was sick yesterday, and as it was
getting dark I pulled up to Monaco.  I had intended to go a little bit
farther, but I had heard exciting things about the city and its allure
drew me in.

The man working at the captains office didn't really have time for me
since he was feathering and gutting a duck he had shot.  He told me
where to park and curtly said good bye.  I'll go explore a little, and
then see if I can find some corner to sleep in.

The Tattooed Lady

The first thing I needed to do Friday was figure out where I would be for the Sabbath.  Monaco seemed like a good idea, but I tried calling their synagogue and nobody answered.  Finally I tried a synagogue in Nice, and they said that Friday morning was too late in the week to try to find a family to host me but I should go to the chabad house.  I would prefer to stay with normal people and not chabad people, but beggars can't be choosers, and I am a beggar.

Chabad in Nice was extremely welcoming.  In fact, word had reached them of my possible arival and as soon as I started to talk, they knew of me and would be happy to host me.  Saturday lunch I ate with the rabbi, and was honored to sit next to a man who I was told was the best pianist in all of France.  An interesting man who spends his time between NY, playing for the Philharmonic, and France playing here and in Paris.

He was extremely loud and wouldn't stop talking the whole meal about how important it is to get along and how much he loves everybody.  He knocked over my cup of water three times.  His right arm had been sitting for a while in a small puddle on the table that had collected near him.  He would occasionally break from his lecturing to give me an aside, and sometimes would give me the same aside three or four times without realizing that he was repeating himself.  Twice he accidentally drank from somebody else's cup of water and spit it out as though it was the foulest stuff in the world.  “Water is for horses.”  He told me.

On Friday, since I wouldn't kayak anywhere, I went to a couple of museums with a girl I met in the Hostel.

“Hi I'm Dov.”

“Hi Dov, I'm Lydia.”  she told me when we introduced ourselves.

She was pretty so I sang a song, Lydia the Tattooed Lady, as it is sung by one of my heroes, Kermit the Frog.  I stopped after only a line or two “You probably get this a lot don't you?”

“Yah” she told me.

Something I ate Friday night, or rather, the huge quantity of
everything I ate, made me sick.  I was up periodically through the
night and excusing my self from the synagogue in the morning to puke.
I sipped water so as not to dehydrate, and by Sunday morning was better.  Today I won't paddle far since I'm still not tip top.

That aside, Europe is awesome.

Friday, December 10, 2010


This post is dedicated to Eva.

Day 32:

This morning I checked the weather in the port in Antibes. A four to seven force tail wind was scheduled for the morning and a six to seven headwind for the afternoon. I try to avoid paddling against that sort of headwind since it would make me cry.

The tail wind would be great. I didn't know if I could make it to Nice before the change, but I decided to try.

I was enjoying the first clear day in some time. The weather was warm and for the first time since Saint Tropez, the sun was smiling. I could again make out the white Alp peaks, now much closer.

I was making good time with the wind. I sprinted and the next wave, rather then pass under me, pushed me forward at an amazing speed. It was great, I was surfing. I did it again and again. It was like downhill skiing.

The sprints tired me out so I spent some time paddling regularly. Then I did another, and caught a great wave. I cruised at my fastest speed yet, then it broke as I was turning into it, and down I went.

I tried to roll up but failed. That's odd I thought. I tired again, and failed again. Huh. I must have been turned and now be down wave, I'll try one more time then switch sides. The third time failed also so I switched sides and was up in a moment.

The wave that I had caught, and in turn caught me, was the first of a series of giants. Coming up downwave never had a chance.

Both me and my boat had taken on some water, so I spent the next little while spluttering and spitting and blowing my nose. One should never spit into the wind.

I crossed a line and the water changed color from blue green to gray.





I had about two miles left when I noticed the wind had died down. The swells were still headed in the direction I was going. Then the wind picked up in the opposite direction. It grew in strength.

I could see Nice. I could see the port. It was a couple of miles away, but I could see it. Atfirst the swells kept pushing into the head wind, with the spray flying off their tops. But before long, the waves were going every which way. The sea had become madness, and I was paddling into it. I was working as hard as I could to make the last distance and find rest.

The port came, and it was good. I got out of my boat and was greeted by Stephan, who was wearing a spray skirt. Cool. We talked some and then went on a paddle together. The wind had calmed down a little, and this sort of thing is always more fun and safer with a friend. Also, I wasn't trying to get anywhere.


Out on the water we did some rolls, and then headed back. Stephan had a diploma in kayaking. It was still daytime, so back in the port in Nice I did some rolls on one side and then the other until I was extremely dizzy. Stephan let me into the shower room, and tonight I'm staying in a cheap hostel in Nice.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

current port: 43.590463,7.130685

A Short Paddle and A Short, Fast Walk

Tuesday’s paddle started off with half a bag of water in the middle of nowhere, or at least, in the middle of a place where it was not easy to get water.  The paddle was long and hard, and when I finished I was a little dehydrated.  Not bad considering it was a first in a couple of months of day long paddles, and from now on I'll be taking my water bottle with me when I leave my boat so that it won't happen again.

Yesterday I was feeling sick and decided that I would only do a short distance, around the corner of the town to the next port.  By early afternoon when I was ready to leave I had been drinking all day and felt right as rain.

Day 31:

There was a slight headwind and almost no waves.  The weather was the warmest in a long time.  The birds where chirping in the way that they often do, except for the seagulls who don't chirp.  At sea, seagulls make people sounds in the distance.  Often, when I hear a seagull I turn around to look for a nearby ship on which a mariner may have spoken to me.

Most of my way I paddled along a very nice park.  After I was around the corner I had a view of Nice, my next stop.


I pulled into Port Antibes, and like many of the oldports, it was guarded by a great fortress.  It was a really big port with two captain’s offices.  The first one I had to climb up a five foot pier to get to, no easy feat from an Epic, only to find that that they were closed.  It was a captain’s office for the section of the port that had huge motor yachts that my parents could fit their house into several times over, and gorgeous double masted sailing boats that I expect carried more wealth on them then many of the pirate ships of old.

I paddled farther into the port to the other captain’s office, and the receptionist didn't know if I could leave my kayak there overnight so she sent me to her boss.  He was extremely welcoming.

The walk back to the apartment I had been lent was about a mile and a half, and I walked along a main commercial road loaded with shops and colorful Christmas decorations.  I was looking for a place to get an internet connection since I hadn't been able to in a while.  I walked into a bar called the Blue Lady, where they spoke to me in fluent English, which was a blessing to my ears.  They had a wi-fi connection, but upon inspection it wasn't working.  I'm in the habit of ordering tea or whatever, and asking it to be brought to me in 10 minutes, because I've often been promised a connection and ordered something only to find that the connection is down.  They also had a friendly crowd and good music, if I were to drink that would have been a good place to do it.

I continued walking back to the apartment.  I couldn't help but think how wonderful things were.

I passed a store that sold fitness food.  I walked in, the walls were lined with plastic jars containing unknown contents that failed to look even remotely appetizing.  The vendor approached me and asked me what I was looking for.

“Do real athletes use this stuff?  Not just the ones who are paid to.”  I asked.

“Yes of course.  What are you looking for?”

“Well, I kayak, a lot.  I kayaked from Barcelona to here.  What would you recommend?”

“Really?  Well, then you want some of this.”   He said definitely, cutting across the store to pull out what looked like a 50 pound bag of dog biscuits.


“Are you looking for a muscular physique?  Or are you going for that trim look?”

I wasn't sure how to answer.  I tried “I want to kayak fast.”

“Ah, then this is what you want!” He walked over to another bottle that looked like the others.  It wasn't very big and contained 'Energy!!'.  He told me it cost 33 Euro.

“I'll think about it.”  I lied.

Later I went into a bar and asked if they had an internet connection, they didn't but I was able to refill my water bottle, and was back on my way.

As I was almost at the apartment I walked into a restaurant.  Yes they had wi-fi.  Excellent.  I had been carrying my computer in my left hand so I put it down and hooked up.  Or at least, I would have, except it wasn't in my left hand any more.  Nor was it in my right.  It wasn't in my pack either.*  I was out of the restaurant and rushing back the way I had come.  I know that I had it in a computer game store that I had walked into to ogle earlier, so it must have been between there and here.  I rushed into the bar where I had refilled my water and began to look around.  The bartender didn't say anything and I began to look for it frantically where I had been standing.  I asked the bar tender.  As I began talking, extremely agitated, he got it for me from behind the bar.

Today I hope to paddle to Nice, it's not far but the day is windy in a bad way.

* Really, Dov?  Really? *sigh* ~ ed.