Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Failure to Launch

Having all my gear stolen I would have to replace some of it immediately and the rest in time.

I found a store that sold kayaking gear about a two hour train ride north of Barcelona. By the time I got there I had to use the rest room but the people in the store said they didn't have one. “Really.” They insisted.

I asked the manager about spray skirts. He took me to the back of his store with a tape measure and began measuring the skirts to see if any of them would be appropriate for my Epic. The closest one he had was about about 225$, an obscene fee. I also bought a pump and a dry bag. The dry bag, with its Velcro seal, struck me as suspect, so I asked the owner if he was sure it would keep my stuff dry. Yes, he was sure. I asked again a few moments later and he was still sure.

After my considerable purchase it turned out that they did in fact have a rest room.
The next morning I bought some camping gear. I couldn't find a free standing tent in Barcelona so I settled for a bivi sack.
That afternoon the local chabad rabbi was able to give me a ride to the warehouse, the kayak was ready right away, though sealed away from me in a crate with no lid. I beat the crate with a crow bar until my boat was free. A policeman watched to make sure that I threw out the remains afterwards. I'm pleased the policemen work so diligently to protect the peace.
My boat was beautiful and my paddles where winged, a different style of paddle then I had remembered ordering, but a more expensive one, so I wasn't going to complain.
With my boat on top of the rabbi's car we were on our way to the put in which I had scouted out on foot, only to find that the section of the port was open exclusively to industrial traffic. I had found a back up launch point that was up a river by looking at satellite images and it was there that the rabbi dropped me off with my boat (41.321203,2.115909). He asked me what I would do now. I told him “Get my boat and gear over to the water.”
“Then what?” He asked me.

“Put in.”

“Then what?”

“Paddle to Israel.” I told him and smiled.

I carried my boat and my gear over some muddy grasses and found the river that was not visible from the road. It was a beautiful place to start my journey. The sun was low in the sky and the river, surrounded as it was by grasses, was a separate world from the industrial zone it slid through. I loaded up my boat putting my computer, cell phone, and wallet into my dry bag.

I noticed that the hatches were much easier to manage then any of the waterproof hatches I had dealt with before, and as with the dry bag, I was a little worried. But this was an Epic, and what's more is that I had been told that a new kind of seal was being employed that was supposed to be an upgrade from what had been used before, so I had faith.

And I began. My boat was in the water surrounded by grasses coming up from the bottom. I stepped through the mud and got in being careful to keep the inside of my new home as clean as possible.

After only a moment of paddling a fish leaped over the front of my boat, a blessing on my journey. The big G was wishing me luck and I new that where ever my adventures would take me, I would be better for it.

I paddled down the river seeing many more fish jump out of the watter, and at least twice inadvertently hitting fish with my paddle. I was exhilharated. I was living a dream that I had had in one form or another for as long as I could remember. I was being the person I had always wanted to be. I was kayaking from Spain to Israel.

As I made my way out to sea the sun was going down, but the moon was full and the sky mostly clear so I paddled for a while longer. My destination for the night was the location I had originally set to put in at (41.321203,2.115909). It lay in an artificial bay that would make for an easy landing by the moon light. And I would be able to sleep on the sandy earth next to the closed parking lot.

Getting out of my boat being extra careful not to scrape it against the rocks, I picked up the bow to pull it half way onto shore. Since my hatches weren't sealed, the stern went under water and filled almost completely. Not knowing that my stern was full, I tried to lift up the boat and bring it completely onto sure, but it was to heavy for me. I thought that maybe the day had been longer then I realized and put a colossal effort into lifting up the boat that I knew to be only 45 pounds, and probably not more then 65 with gear. All my strength had moved it only a few inches; I knew that it must have taken on a lot of water.  Hatch seals?

My sleeping back was soaked, my bivi sack was full of water, and my dry bag had utterly failed in its task leaving my computer and cell phone ruined.

I tried to make camp but could not sleep in my wet bivi sack. Some time in the middle of the night I got together my expensive things and hid my kayak. Remember, I was professionally trained to hide myself and my gear in the field. I had to leave my boat behind because I could not paddle it with the unsealed hatches and I could not resolve the problem without a connection to the world.

I searched the area for foot prints but found only dog prints. I thought maybe somebody had been walking there dog here and they might find my boat, but I then remembered that there was a pack of wild dogs in the area that I had seen on my last visit. My boat in its out of the way hiding spot would be secure for a time and was completely invisible to the casual observer.

The walk back to the hostel would be a long one, especially with wet socks and my stuff in shopping bags and not a proper pack. I walked for a time and found a grassy spot near a bus stop. I decided I would try to sleep there any take a bus in the morning.

A diligent security guard however was soon able to put a stop to my dangerous behavior and sent me on my way. I tried to hitch hike, but not surprisingly nobody picked me up. I certainly wouldn't have. Eventually I found a bus stop that had buses every hour throughout the night, I was relived. After a wait a bus took me to spot about a 30 minute walk from the hostel I had been staying at. I missed my stop, but not by a lot. Walking the last leg at the odd hour was a strange thing. Night people where about, not the sort of people I was used to seeing.

Back in the hostel they were surprised to see me, but thankfully had a bed. I slept.

The next day I saw a doctor, I was running a high fever and, as it turned out, had strep throat.


  1. Oh no! Get better soon... good luck with your journey, I hope the rest of it is free from boat thievery and sickness!

  2. electronics needs not just dry bags but those watertight boxes.... check out otterbox

    are you having problems with the hatches or just that you didn't seal them properly?

    how did the boat paddle? and good thing you didn't try to roll!!!!

  3. I wasn't having a problem with my hatch seals because I didn't have any hatch seals. They have just arrived in the mail and I installed them. I didn't roll because I knew that the boat was circumspect and wanted to get to a safe place before breaking it in.