Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Voices in My Head

Today I walked from Perpignan to Canet Plage to my boat.  I had originally intended to take the bus, so armed with a schedule provided by my host I went to the bus stop.

I was talking with an English speaker at the bus stop.  He asked me where I liked the people more, in France or Spain.  I told him that my experience so far was that people in France were both more helpful and more likely to speak English.  He was surprised, while submitting that the English here is better, he thought Spanish people were nicer in general.  He explained that my experience was probably because this region of France is still really Catalan.

The schedule was wrong, there was no bus.  So I began to walk.

I didn't go back the way I came, instead I walked in the riverbed.  The going was much rougher, and for most of the way there was no path proper, but it was much prettier and felt removed from the city.  The riverbed was below the highway with woods, streams and mud, and a small river.  Lots of tall grasses.

I know what you're thinking, “Wasn't falling in a swamp once enough?”  But the fact is that it was really nice and I almost managed to stay completely dry.  Jumping over one stream I got my feet wet, but if a person goes exploring without ever getting their feet wet, then they're not exploring areas with enough rainfall.

Some time later I gave up on the riverbed as too slow, always hinting at the beginning of a more serious path, and never delivering.  And the bum encampment I passed through made me feel awkward.  Over a fence and into farmland I moved quickly until I got to a road.

I stopped.  I smelled a fig tree.  I always smell fig trees and there's no food in this world that I love more than a ripe fresh fig.  And I was, at that moment, under a fig tree.

There was a family packing up a car.  They watched me come out of the field.  Whether it was their's or their neighbors I don't know.

I waved, gathered a couple of particularly ripe looking figs, and moved on.  They were gooood.

I walked on dirt roads between farms until I finally found myself on the bike path I had taken to the city a couple of days earlier, and returned the rest of the way to Canet Plage the way I had come.

My boat was still there.  It was also really windy.  I stood in the wind and thought.

I was anxious to paddle, feeling the pressure to be back on my way.  But there was a lot of wind.  Sudden bursts of wind at the wrong moment could cause me to temporarily lose control.  And I don't have a single good dry bag.  If I found myself battling serious surf my boat could take on some water, and without a dry bag to protect my electronics, I could lose another computer.  I might have to spend a night in a wet sleeping bag, and not have any warm clothing to put on at the end of the day.  It would be misery.

I wanted to go, but I should get dry bags and my wet suit in the mail any day now (guaranteed delivery for last Friday) so I thought I would be best off waiting to have the right gear before I make stupid decisions.  There's a voice in my head that says things like “Go ahead Dov, you can do it.  It'll be fine.  You know you can.  Just go already, what are you waiting for.”  But some of the experiences that I have had on this trip  have taught me to quit listening to it.


I walked back to Perpignan and explained the situation to my host.  Currently there are small craft advisories for tomorrow and the day after.  I hope they don't mind me staying an extra couple of days.  In the meantime I can look forward to enjoying this great town.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sabbath Perpignan (pronounced like there's peanut butter stuck at the top of your mouth)

I spent my Sabbath in Perpignan (42.69006,2.892508) at the home of the chabad rabbi to whom my supplies were sent.  The wet suit, compass, and other equipment that had been sent to replace my stolen gear has not yet arrived despite a “guaranteed delivery” date for this past Friday.

Perpignan is a beautiful city.  Crowded by small streets and bunched up four story houses, there is an old and cozy feel.  While in some neighborhoods plaster walled houses are pushed up against each other with a rainbow of soft colors between them, others are populated by buildings with an old stone architecture and an attention to detail that is inspiring.  And like so many European cities, it has its share of castles and really old buildings that make knights and damsels seem like they're just around the corner.  That if you listen close enough you could hear them.

The Jewish community here is a friendly bunch.  I, once again, had to insist in the synagogue that I would not wear a prayer shawl (In my family we only wear them after we marry which - common in America - is rare here in Europe).

Walking home from the synagogue with the rabbi, we got to his house to find that nobody would open the door.  His family must have been sleeping upstairs.  The backyard has a locked gate with spikes on top. As we waited by the gate and nobody came I mentioned to the rabbi “You know, I could hop over this in no time.”

“But it has spikes?”  He told me.

I wasn't worried, and hopped over the gate to let him in.  When we were in his house and his wife came down he expressed concern that the garden was a little bit more open then he realized.

The food was good and the people nice.  My package hasn't arrived, but tomorrow I'll be back on my way.  Once it does, hopefully we'll work out a way for it to meet me.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 10

10/29/10 Day 10
This morning I woke up on a floating dock.   The dock, a short leap
from a fisherman's pier, was designed for jet skis and had a very low
edge with wheels to facilitate jet ski take outs.  This also made
it super easy to roll my kayak out of the water.
The night before I had made enough food for two meals.  As soon as my
food was ready I siphoned half of it off into my Nalgene bottle and
threw the extremely hot container into my sleeping bag, to preheat
the toes section.
Now, ready for breakfast, without getting out of my bag, I rooted
around for the leftovers.  There was also a bottle of water just a few
scoots away.  Having woken up at ten to six, I was on the water with
all my morning obligations taken care of by 7:15, before even a hint
of dawn.
On top of my T-shirt I was wearing the fleece vest I had been given
the night of my swamp walk and on top of that my spray top (shell).
Leaving the marina, the water was glassy flat, calmer then anything
I had seen yet.  Their was a deep fog.  I paddled close to the shore,
quickly leaving town and watching cars drive in an out of the fog just
above the beach.  Their was no sunrise but gradually the fog became
lighter and I could see the misty swirls a little bit better.
It was time to put Moe in the water.  I unleashed him into the sea,
sending him to accomplish great things, and maybe even catch a fish.
Having a place to stay for the Sabbath in Perpignan, I only needed to
make it to Canet Plage (“Plage” pronounced like the sound a penguin
makes when its choking) the next town over.
The fog thickened.
“So Moe, How's it going back there?”
“You sea any big fish?  I don't mean to be pushy, but feel free to
start earning your keep any time now.”
Moe was swimming behind me and unable to answer.
I could make out buildings behind the beach now.  After about an hour
I had made it Canet Plage. By 7:30 I was pulling into a marina.
I put Moe away, he had not earned his keep.
There was a fisherman and his son, a little fisherman, at the entrance
and I called out to him.
“Excusemwa, Canet Plage?” I had pronounce 'plage' in the way that god
smote the Egyptians.
The man responded “I don't understand you.”
I pointed down at the water and at the marina around me “Canet Plage?”
“No” he told me, and then gave some other name for the marina that I
didn't recognize.  I looked at my chart, I was pretty sure I was in
the right place, though I couldn't be certain.
I was about to show him my chart to ask where we were when he said
“Oh, you mean Canet Plage.”   (“Plage” pronounced like the sound a
penguin makes when its choking.)  “Yes that is also a name for this
I navigated through the marina to find the 'Club Nautic' where I was
told I might be able to leave my kayak.  The fog was so thick I don't
think I could see more then 20 feet.  Eventually I found a beach and a
guy who said I could leave my kayak there.
I wrapped things up and began the walk to my host in Perpignan.
Once away from the water the fog was behind me and it was a bright and
beautiful day.  My three and a half hour walk took me through a
beautiful French countryside that was completely void of surprise
swamps.  The white faced Pyrenees in the distance stood over a
gorgeous hill country with olive orchards and vineyards.  One vineyard
was close to my path and a low grape plant offered up its fruit to me.
I don't know anything about the morality of stealing grapes from a
vineyard.  I took three, they were really tasty, like sweet wine,
which I don't like, except that they were grapes.
Eventually I found my way to my host’s house.  The rabbi has a lovely
home with four kids who I can look forward to spending the Sabbath

* Canet Plage is where the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean.  There is a photo of Canet Plage near the bottom left of this website: ~ ed.

Thanks Epic Customer Service Dept.

My new hatch was sent to me in the mail quickly, with seals, and no questions asked.  That's good service.

Thursday, October 28, 2010



I'm in France!

Current port 42.62057,3.041158

After I finished putting up yesterday’s post I had a conversation with the bar tender.  It turned out that he himself was a kayaker and a member of the local kayaking club.  He showed me their facebook page and I made an effort to invite people to paddle with me the next day.  Unfortunately, I didn't quite do it right and the invitation never got out.

10/28/10 Day 9:
I woke up this morning after a warm night’s sleep in my new sleeping bag.  That was good.
Ike was missing his head.  Maybe he took yesterdays failure a bit too seriously and offed himself.
I began my paddle with one of the most beautiful sunrises I've seen yet.  The fiery dawn was framed by the dark rocky outcroppings on either side of the bay as well as bizarre monoliths at the bay’s center.
The water was calm and I made good time around the large peninsula I’d camped on.  Pulling between islands at its north east corner (42.321747,3.319244) I began crossing at a large diagonal rather then heading due west along the shore.
I got confused on account of not having a compass and misjudging the distance of the huge mountains that mark the mainland north of the peninsula.   After several hours of crossing I asked a passing sailor and was ecstatic to find out I was in France.  I sang about being in France for about an hour.
Some of my lyrics include:
“I'm in France, I'm in France, I'm entirely in France.”
“France is so much more French then Spain.”
There were more.  I also reviewed my French lexicon.
Corporal, Guillotine, Non, Messieur, and so on.
I ate a lunch on the water, taking a couple of five minute breaks.  At 3:00 I pulled into Port Vendres 42.516524,3.106728 and had a look around at my first French town.  It was 3:00 and every one was on siesta.  I was not yet far enough away from Spain.
The coastline in France is different from Spain’s.  In Spain red cliffs jutted up out of the water, and then went into hill country.  In France there are mountains.  Giants with snowy peaks looking over the sea.  When they do fall off suddenly in cliffs they are a dark gray stone with grass holding on wherever it can.
I tried fishing with Moe, a much bigger lure then Jake, the last surviving member of the previous batch.  Unlike his predecessors, Moe swam beneath the surface, that is, until the fishing line got all tangled on the back of my boat and he became useless.
After my break I hoped to make it to Canet Plage, but even with a helpful wind I ended up pulling into Saint Cypryen Plaig as temperatures dropped with the setting sun and I was anxious to get off the water.
Tomorrow I should make it the short distance to Canet Plage where I will begin my land journey to Perpignon to which  my care package should arrive.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day 8

10/27/10 Day 8: This morning, armed with my new hatch, I set about getting back to my boat. On the way, the bus broke down. It broke down on a small road next to a field, with woods on either side and fresh mountain air. I waited outside the bus while all the other passengers didn't. I don't like the insides of buses. I guess other people do.

Over the last few days I had noticed a small hole in my dry bag. I examined the bag closely to find many such holes. I needed a new dry bag, but the siesta had just started so everything was closed, except for one shop that did have dry bags. They didn't have one that was right for me, but they were able to recommend another shop that would and told me it would be open. Following the direction I was given, as closely as I could, I found it an hour later and it was closed.

I was on the water by three in the afternoon. Narcis had invited me to paddle to Roses and stay with him another night. The water was calm and the weather perfect with an occasional light breeze that was just as likely to help as hinder me. In these excellent conditions, I crossed the Bay of Roses at the mouth. Along the way Ike swam behind me.

Ike spent most of his time swimming along the surface and while we didn't talk all that much, it was nice to have the company. There was a large school of little fish that leaped out of the water together several times. Once across the bay, I paddled along the base of the biggest cliffs. Towering above me was the precipice that I had hiked along only a few days earlier. As the sun set behind me and the distinguished rocks took on a colorless tone in the dark, the sea turned a purple that made me think fanciful thoughts. Pink elephants leaping out of the water as the fish had done earlier. I wrapped up Ike since I didn't want to have to deal with fishing, or trying to, by moonlight. There was no moon.

I pulled into Cadaques, my destination for the day, and up onto a perfectly calm beach. I was pretty cold so I put on my dry land clothing, found my way into a hotel lobby with wifi, and am finishing warming up as I finish writing this. Now back out into the cold. I have a new sleeping bag that should keep me comfy through the night.

Current location: 42.280802,3.276576
I got my hatch and should be back on the water by this afternoon.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Santa Margerida

My hatch should be arriving soon.
I'm currently staying with Narcis, a boat builder in Santa Margarita.  Aside from working professionally to restore yachts, Narcis also builds and gives classes on the construction of kayaks.  If his library is any judge, then he is an expert on the subject of skin on frame boats.
Pigeon is also staying here and we've been going out on errands together.  Yesterday we found a cobbler.  He wouldn't fix my shoe.  He examined it and grumbled in Spanish, then gestured to the ceiling-high stack of shoes behind him and said, across the language barrier, that it would be weeks before he would be able to so much look at my shoes.
Rats, I was ready to leave.  But Pigeon persisted, “Please, it's his only pair of shoes.”
The elderly cobbler looked at the shoe again and poked and prodded the leather.  The leather was stretched.  It would be impossible to line it up properly.
Pigeon persisted “It doesn't need to look nice.”  This was true, I needed only that there not be a hole in it large enough to fit all five of my toes through.
He couldn't fix it because they're my only pair of shoes, what would I wear in the meantime?  It would take at least an hour.
“An hour?  Fantastic, that's wonderful.  Thank you so much.”  I took off my shoes and left the shop barefoot.
An hour later we began searching through the twisted streets for the cobbler who had my shoes.  Eventually we found him, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some divine gamer had moved the streets around under us several times before we got there.
While in Santa Margerida I also got a better sleeping bag and lure.  I will name the new lure Moe.
We went on a short hike through the amazing mountains that line the water and watched the sun set over the bay from atop a sheer cliff with ocean on three sides and bright flowery grasses rising up on the mountain behind me.  Just at the outset we passed some deep caves that we were able to explore as far as the light would let us.  The caves had been sealed almost shut ages ago with a stone wall to protect a shepherd from the elements.  The remaining entrance overlooked deep bays and steep mountains to the north.  Narcis, our guide, pointed to some torn up ground and told me a boar had been at it.  There was also a rabbit hopping silently through the ruins of an ancient vineyard and a 15th century war tower, Norfeu, at the head of the peninsula to defend the bay.
If security back then was anything like it is today then that tower was there exclusively to defend the bay from kayakers like myself.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Swamp Walk

[caption id="attachment_439" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="L'estarit"][/caption]

I ordered my new hatch in the mail.  Meanwhile I couldn't stay in the marina in L'Estartit until it came.  Pigeon had a friend in Santa Margarida who was willing to host me for a while.  I sent Pigeon an email asking what his address was.
I went to a tourist information center to find out about buses; in order to get to Santa Margarida, a town only about 12.5 miles away as the crow flies, I would have to take four buses.  I got schedules of the buses and found that it would be impossible to get there the same day.
Or could I?  I found a map on line with a 22 mile walking route.  That wasn't too far.  I figured I would get there around 2:00 AM and would then have a place to sleep for the night.  I still hadn't gotten the address of the place I was going, but Pigeon told me to call her whenever I got there, no matter the hour.
I memorized key elements of the map, put some necessities in my dry bag, grabbed my sleeping roll and some water, and was on my way.
My way quickly took me into the steep hills along the sea that I had admired from below.  As I hiked through lovely green forest I got a view of cool mountains in the distance and a setting sun to make the scenery perfect.  Here and there I passed a small field, olive trees, or the burst of a stony precipice from the soft forest.

Once the sun was down my way was lit by an almost full moon and a clear sky.  My path was dirt and gravel roads with the occasional intersection and sign leading me towards Escala.  It was a sad moment when I finally left the woods and found myself in a city.
In Escala I walked the wrong way for a while, but then got directions, and finally with my thumb, I got a ride through most of the city.  The truck had a cage behind the two front seats.  A cage that kept two giant ferocious dogs from tearing me to pieces.  The cage did not stop them from using every expression at their disposal to tell me that that was exactly what they would like to do.  Their gnashing teeth were inches from me.
I got out of the truck and thanked the driver, then headed down to a promenade above the bay.  I walked on it for some time with waves at the rocks just below me.  I climbed stairs and took turns besides old stone Catalan buildings above the water.  I turned onto a jogging trail that led along a beach.  The trail had a light pine wood on both sides, and beyond that, sand that led to the water.  For a while their was an old cemetery on my left, and then a stone castle-like building from another age.
Beyond the jogging path I was on a thin paved rode that eventually turned away from the beach.  At that point I looked ahead to a sandy expanse that fell away into a river.  Not far away their was a foot bridge over the river (42.14564,3.115527), so I went over the bridge.  Ahead of me to my right was a long sandy beach that would make the going tough.  Ahead of me to my left was what looked like a lightly used path through tall grasses, and a road in the distance.
I took the path to find that it quickly got smaller as the grasses on either side got taller.  Instead of sand under my feet there was now a little mud, then there were a few inches of stinky mud.  I stepped through it quickly so as not to get stuck.  And was suddenly submerged in chest high water.  My sleeping roll was bobbing behind me.
Ahead of me, there was more stinky water.  I could see fairly well now that I was beyond the tall grasses.  I didn't need a lot of time to reflect.  Returning, half swimming half flying, up the bank I was back on dry land.
Collecting my thoughts I opened up the contents of my dry bag, since it wasn't sealed some water had gotten in.  I poured it out, there wasn't too much.  I checked my phone which had been in my pocket.  It was blinking at me.  Laughing at me.  My phone was no longer working, and I could only hope that I had not lost a third computer since my trip began.
I was on the beach, very wet, very dirty, and reeking to high heaven.  I began walking, the chafing on my left leg was almost immediate.  I was soon cold.  I could have stopped to put my long johns on, but I kept from getting too cold by walking very quickly.
Later, a small hotel (42.187217,3.088397) was closed, but walking around I found an open bathroom.  There was no hot water, but I used it to change into my long johns, and I washed the tiny feathers off of my left thigh that had caused the chafing.*
There was a dog barking nearby.  I left the bathroom and saw that there was a house on the hotel's property.  The dog and two people were at the door, watching me.  I began to go back the way I had come.  Then I called to them in the dark, “Do you work here?” hoping that if they did, maybe they would let me stay for the night.
“What's wrong?” A woman answered.
“I really need a place to stay.”  I called back.  The desperation in my voice, I'm certain, told a part of my story if she was willing to listen.
She wasn't.  “We're closed.”
“We're closed.” She called back again, this time with absolute finality.
“Do you know if there is another hotel nearby?”
“Just over the bridge, in town.”
I left, went over the bridge and into town.  There where a couple of men leaning against a wall.  It was about 11:00.  I asked them if they knew where a hotel was, and they told me.
The hotel they pointed me to was closed. I tried knocking and ringing the bell, but no luck.  I walked for a bit and then saw the same two men, and asked them if there was another hotel or hostel in the area.  The man walked back with me to the previous one and determined that which I had tried to tell him.  It was closed.  Their was another hotel the way he was going.  He would show me.  Their was a buzzer.  I buzzed and buzzed, but nobody came.  I called a number that was posted on the door, by putting my sim card in his phone, and I was told that the hotel was closed.  We went to three more hotels, and along the way I told them my story.
As they walked around with me at night, a couple of friends joined up with them.  I greeted them with “Ahalan.” having picked up on the Arabic accent on there Spanish. One of them gave me his fleece, and told me twice that he was from Morocco.  I had begun to shiver since the walking was slow and not keeping my body temperature up.
Finally, there were no more hotels in Sant Pere Pescador.  One of the men told me he owned a bar, or something else that I didn't understand, and said that I could stay there for the night.  We walked to the bar, I went in and they went about there nighttime activities elsewhere, after showing me much kindness.
I sat in the bar for a while, warming up.  I then tried to explain to the bartender what the men outside had told me about staying there for the night.  She laughed.  I moved on.
As I walked through the night I got cold again so I jogged for a while until I was just beginning to sweat then I walked.  I walked and jogged for a few hours.  Cars would pass me on the road and I would stick out my thumb, but they could probably smell me even with their windows rolled up.
At about 2:30 AM I was close to Santa Margarida, my destination, so I went to a gas station and asked the man there if I could use his phone without it costing him a thing.
“No.”  He told me.  He was the last person I saw that night.
I got to Santa Margarita at 3:00.  I walked around for a bit, hoping I would find a bar or something open so that I could call Pigeon.  Nothing.  I opened my sleeping roll and went to sleep.  Pigeon was waiting for me not far away.  My sleeping bag was inside my water proof bivy, so it had only taken on a little bit of the swamp water.  For a while my stench kept me awake, but then I slept.
At 5:00 AM I woke.  It was cold and there was a frost.  I would need to switch to my heavier bag at the next opportunity.  I lay there until 7:00 not wanting to get out into the frigid air.
Day came, and with it, I eventually got in touch with Pigeon and found a warm place to stay.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Harmonic Motion to the John

Yesterday I got back to my boat and my back hatch was gone.  The hatch had been tied on though not closed, and now it was gone.
I guess it was the wind.
I untied the other hatch and found that it floated.  So I walked all around the harbor looking for a swimming hatch.  A hatch that had escaped the life that was planned for it in order to pursue its own destiny at sea.  I looked until it was dark, and asked people in the harbor if they had seen it.
My hatch is gone.  This upset me.
I had been sleeping the last couple of nights on a yacht that I had to use my kayak to get to.  It was tied onto the pier but too far to jump safely.  I decided that I would not paddle without a hatch, so I found a dockworker who had stayed late and got a lift to the yacht that had my stuff in it.  He would come back to pick me up at 9:00 or 9:30 the next morning.
I made dinner, read for a bit, and went to sleep.
I had all my stuff together the next morning and ready to go by 9:00.  I had to go to the bathroom.  I stood there and looked at the distance between the boat and the pier it was tied to.  At the other end the boat was anchored.
The weather was nice though windy.
I don't know how far I can jump, but I did know that the water was chilly and I was wearing my land clothes which where not meant to get wet.
Connecting the boat rope to the dock was a spring.  I tried to pull the boat closer to the dock, and while at first it was easy, the closer I got the stronger the force pulling me away, as though I was pulling against a spring, or an elastic rope.  As soon as I let go of the rope, after pulling on it with all my strength, the boat would quickly move back to its original position. There were springs on both ends of the boat, with the anchor, and against the dock holding it in place.
Brute force was not going to get me close enough to jump safely.
As I waited, I needed to get my mind off of my morning needs.  The chords holding the boat away from the dock got me thinking about springs.  That got me thinking about sine waves.  And that got me thinking about harmonic motion.  Harmonic motion, an extremely powerful force.
I stepped on one of the ropes connecting the boat to the pier and as my weight pulled it down the boat moved in.  And then, as expected, the boat began moving away, back to its original position.  As soon as this happened I took my weight off of the rope to let the boat move back as quickly as possible.  The boat overshot it's starting place, just by a little,  and then as it began to correct its location I put all my weight on the rope again.  Already moving towards the pier the boat now picked up speed and got a little bit closer then the time before.  I then hopped off the rope to feel the large vessel beneath me be lurch back away from the pier.

Back and forth, back and forth a few more times.  On the rope, timing, off the rope.  Each time faster motion and closer to the pier.  These were the best waves I had worked with yet.  When I judged the boat was close enough I leaped, grabbed onto the pier with my hands as my legs dangled close to the chilly watter, and pulled myself up.
I may have lost my hatch, and I may have a lot of stuff going wrong with my expedition, but most people go through there entire lives without needing harmonic motion to go to the bathroom.  And when I needed it, my year and a half of physics courses were there for me.
That's gratification.

Monday, October 18, 2010

An Email I Got

"Hello Dov, we are two of the members of that sailing club in Canet, the village near Barcelona where you left your kayak under that sailing boat with your telephone number. We would like to meet you and to know more about your interesting adventure, although we visit your blog. If some day you want to come back to Canet, please come to visit us.  We are sure we'll become friends.  Our names are Marc and Nuria. Thanks and have a fantastic trip!"

I'm always looking for invitations, so if anybody would like to host me and is not far from my route, please let me know.

Gooey Fish Treats

Today, walking around town, there was the sort of wind I had to lean into. The forecast for the next few days has gotten worse with another small craft advisory for the day after tomorrow. Thursday looks OK and Friday looks good. I've been using
Inspired by the fishing kayaker I met out on the water I went and got some fishing gear. I got a small net, a thin line that should break if there's to much stress, three small lures, and a hand reel that seems to be made of cork.

The mushy rubbery lures look like little fish with hooks coming out of their bums, so I will name them: Abe, Ike, and Jake. Hopefully they look appetizing to bigger fish, I wouldn't know.
I made a hangman's knot and with some effort closed it around Abe just behind the eye. It seemed secure, so I tested it by pulling with one hand on Abe and the other on the line. Abe's head popped off.
I could now see Abe's insides and where the top of the hook running through him ended with a little knob.
On Ike, I would have to tie the line behind the little knob, and so I did. I then had to tie the other end of the line to reel. There wasn't enough light, so I picked up the whole thing and walked to where I would be able to see better. I was holding Ike by the tail, when on the way the line got caught on something and Ike was torn from me, leaving his tail behind.

I found the remains of Ike together with a large knot of fishing line a short distance away. I tried unsuccessful to untie the fishing line, then cut it, threw it out, and started over.
Since then I worked it all out. What's left of Ike is on the fishing line on the reel. Abe is resting with the fishes, and Jake waits eagerly in the package he came in.
The guy at the store wanted to sell me live bait but I explained that it was too gooey. He challenged my manliness.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Trespassing (Again)

On the Jewish Sabbath, among other restrictions, I may not handle money, cook, or paddle. The Sabbath lasts from Sundown on Friday until it is dark Saturday evening.

Friday afternoon I pulled into the marina in L'Estartit. I wrote about my day and then literally ran to the supermarket in order to get myself some food before sunset. I was cutting it a little close to the Sabbath. At the supermarket I picked up some cream cheese and three loaves of bread for my next three meals. It would be a pleasant change from lentils and rice.

Shortly after getting back to my boat, my day of rest began. As I ate my meal, I watched the sun disappear behind some mountains and the last vestiges of its color leave the flat water of the harbor.

I did some thinking. I had been given permission by one of the fellows who worked at the marina, Really Nice Marina Guy, to leave my boat there and I had told him that I would sleep on the beach. I had also been invited to use a changing room in the marina to get out of my wet clothes and into something dry. Huh, a changing room.

I found Really Nice Marina Guy and asked him if maybe I could sleep in the changing room that night. He didn't think so because other people might want to use it. "Stay here, I'll get back to you." He told me.

And before long, he did. "You can't stay in the changing room. There may be somewhere else here that you can stay." He went on. "Right near here is a hotel. The owner is a member of this club and you could probably stay there for 15 or 20 Euro a night." He pointed, showing me where the hotel was.

It was a tempting offer, but the Sabbath had already started so I would be unable to pay, or do many of the rituals associated with checking in to a hotel. I explained "I'm on a really tight budget, so if there's somewhere I could stay for free that would be a lot better. Don't worry about saying no, I can always sleep on the beach." (.למי שחושב על טלטול, למזלי,היה גדר מסביב הנמל)

"Follow me." He said.

So I did, and he took me to an old derelict boat that he told me was scheduled for demolition. The big red and white motorized tub stood on stilts and bricks on the edge of a parking lot only a few feet from the water. It had clearly seen better days, but had a small cabin that might be comfortable. I climbed up a ladder to find that the floor was covered with puddles of water.

I did some thinking. I would explain to the fellow about the sabbath and maybe I could get into the hotel without writing, or presenting ID, or paying, or anything like that, and do those things Saturday night. A hotel sounded like a nice place to spend the sabbath, especially for 15 Euro. They would probably have clean sheets, and shower. The thought made me weak at the legs.

"Maybe I can stay in the hotel, but you see, I'm Jewish, and we have our Sabbath on Saturday, and I can't pay today. Maybe I could stay in the hotel tomorrow night, and pay for both days then?"

Nice Marina Guy tried to be helpful, but it was too much for him. "Could you leave your credit card as a deposit?" He said. He went on to say that I would block the credit card, so nothing would be paid until I was ready.

"This old boat is perfect for me. Thank you so much!"

And it was. There was a bench in there, with some cushions on it. I was careful to keep my things off of the wet floor. There was no wind, there was no rain, and it was warmer then the previous nights. That piece of junk boat was for me a piece of heaven.

I was asleep at my usual bed time of 8:00, and awake again in the morning at 5:00. I went back to sleep for another 3 hours, and my dreams were long and pleasant.

The city that I'm in, L'Estartit, is a lovely small tourist town surrounded by mountains and woods and far from everything. Saturday morning I went for a short hike that took me up a mountain and gave me a wonderful view of the bay, the islands, the town, a far off castle, and mountains in the distance. The morning mist hadn't yet lifted, so the mountains and the islands seemed to be resting pleasantly in it's embrace. Out to sea the cloudy sky let through beams of reddish light, imposing a fiery and magical landscape on the distant water.

A fellow came through with his dog, a lab, and we hiked together for a while. The dog was carrying a plastic bottle.

"I like your dog." I said. I like most dogs.

"Yah, he's alright." He answered. A bit later he went on "He's an ecological dog. Picks up after people."

On the next peak there was a small stone hut that had been there for untold years. More recently it had been repainted with graffiti.

After my hike I had lunch and went to take a nap.

It was a nice nap. A really nice nap. It was the kind of nap that makes angels weep. That is, until I woke up to the sounds of two other men on the boat. A moment later they were screaming at me.

"YADDA YADDA YADDA BLAH BLAH BLUE." They yelled. The men who had barged into my cabin were civilly dressed elder folks and a little on the heavy side. They were also mad at me.

"No hablos Esaniol." I responded hoping this would solve their problem.

It didn't, one of them started yelling "Policia, Policia!" And took out a badge to show me that he was a police officer (Or had been many years ago.)

They went on "Private property! Private property!"

I said right back "I know, so what are you doing here!? I have permission. Capitan de porto! Capitan de porto!" This surprised them. If I was a bum then why would I be asking fore the captain of the port. But they weren't that interested, I still had to leave NOW.

I went to get Really Nice Marina Guy. He came with me right away and explained to them, and then me, what had happened. They were the owners of the boat. The owners who had not been informed that I was given to sleep there. I would have to stay away for the rest of the day.

That night Really Nice Marina Guy arranged for me to stay in another boat that was on the water. Like Really Nice Marina Guy, it was really nice.

Really Nice Marina Guy, and Club Nautic Estartit rock.

Very windy conditions make it dangerous for me to head out today or tomorrow. The rest of the week doesn't look good, what I will do remains to be seen. For tonight and tomorrow night I'll be able to stay in the big boat with a dry cabin that has lots of comfy cushions.

Cafe Smoking Dogs

I'm currently writing in a cafe/bar in L'Estartit.  It's cool that two of the tables have dogs parked under them.  It's annoying that the people at the table next to mine are smoking.  I'm not worried about myself so much as the dogs.  2nd hand smoke can't be good for them and they don't have the privilege of being able to get up and leave.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 7

Yesterday I had four limes in my bag.  I peeled one and threw it into my breakfast and learned that limes taste bad.  I threw the rest out.*
Last night I pulled into a marina and got permission to leave my boat there.  No problem.  I would need to wait until 9:00 the next morning though for someone to open the secure gate so that I could get back to my kayak and leave.
I would never do anything like jump over a fence to make an earlier launch then 9:00.  (There will soon be posted a picture of the fence I jumped over for this purpose.)
Last night I slept on a beach from which I could see my boat, it looks like I'm going to get used to sleeping on the beach and getting my boat from a marina the next morning.

Oct 15th Day 7:
I made a pot of lentils and rice on a bench at the marina (41.845269,3.127383).   Ate half for breakfast and put the other half into my Nalgene bottle and tied it into my cockpit.  Organized my stuff, got into my boat, and began my paddle for the day.  I had hoped to make it to Roses where I would meet Pigeon.
I began paddling on water that was only a little rougher then yesterday.  A continuation of the same beautiful coast line.  (I managed to take just a few pictures before my camera battery went dead again.  There must be something wrong with it.  Pictures will be up sooner or later.)
As the day went on a northern wind picked up and the water got a little rougher.  I found a beautiful cove.  Two sides with the high cliffs frequent in the area and one with a steep incline that was full of trees and a small old stone house.  There was water coming out of the rocks near the cottage.  I ate half my lunch while sitting in my boat and enjoyed the calm water and the fine location.
After that the wind picked up and my attention was distracted from the scenery by the worsening, yet still tolerable conditions.
In order to stay out of the wind I tried paddling in many of the small bays and inlets along the way.  While they protected me from the swells, at times they were extremely choppy, with sudden forces of water pushing me one way or another.  Or simply dropping me from a height.  I had to skull at least twice to remain stable.
By early afternoon (41.972764,3.230152) I realized I would need to get off the water sooner rather then later, the next marina was in Estartit, the other side of the bay.  Rather then taking a straight line I stayed close to the shore hoping the bay would protect me from some of the wind and waves.  It did, but not until I was fairly close to the marina.
As I saw some breaking waves around me I reflected on my previous experience and recalled something I had read about taking waves in the face.
In the end I only got hit by two, and they weren't as bad as those from the previous day.  The first I took head on, ducking my face close to my bow and bringing my paddle alongside the length of the boat.  The other I took on the side and was able to recover from it with a quick skull as I fell off the backside.
At about 3:00 I pulled into the marina (42.051444,3.205884) and the people who run it were extremely welcoming and helpful about letting me leave it there over shabbat.  The man in charge thought my journey was so cool that he took my picture in order to publish in the marina's news letter.  There aren't even any fences I'll have to jump over.
It looks like I'll be spending my shabbat here in  Estartit.

* Ignore this part.  He’s babbling. ~ ed.
current location 42.054606,3.202343

Day 6

Oct 14th Day 6:
Today I paddled from Blanes to Palamos.  The water was refreshingly calm and the sky only a little overcast.
Most of the way seemed to be park land.  Red and orange cliffs and fascinating rock formations rose out of the water.  There was a castle, with battlements, crenellations, and towers.  There where beautiful forests and waterfalls that shot out from them over the cliffs.  There were sea caves, and it may surprise some of you to know that I had enough sense not to try to explore them.
I had lunch on a beach surrounded by the woods and the cliffs, and a waterfall that I sat at the base of while I ate.  It was nice.  Really nice.
Shortly after lunch I met another kayaker out there.  We were headed in the same direction so we talked, each of us in his own language.  He was cool and had a great moustache.  I told him of my trip and he showed me his fishing system which I hope to adopt.  He trails a lure on a line from a kite string handle, and keeps a net on his stern deck.  He showed me with his hands how big the fish he catches are.  They're big.  Really big.
It was nice to be paddling with someone else and also good for my ego since I'm a little bit insecure about my speed.  He told of some of the trials that await me farther up the coast as well as sights that I will see.
I made it a nice distance today and ideally I will be in Roses for the Sabbath, though I'll be cutting it close.


The first night that Pigeon and I made camp together, a fellow called out to us in our moderately hidden camping spot.  He asked us where we were from.
“Canada.”  Pigeon told him.
I didn't answer.
“Welcome.”  the man said.  “I was just, wait, here it is.”  He said.  He had left his jacket near our site.  After retrieving it he moved on.

[caption id="attachment_424" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="hidden boat camp site"][/caption]

The next morning he was there again.  Pigeon called over to him and told him to join us as we prepared for our day.
The man was a fisherman named Salim from Morocco.  Pigeon told him about our journey and he seemed pleased to talk to us.  He was happy to agree to help Pigeon around town with some of the things she needed to get done that day and she was happy to have someone who was bilingual to help her.
It seemed strange to me.  I thought he was shady.  I try to be careful about what I tell people about my trip, especially since there's a lot of anti-Jewish acts here in Europe (A swastika was graffitid on a synagogue only a day before I went there to pray.)
Later I got a text message from Pigeon that she had bought his jacket from him.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Current location: 41.845384,3.127233  more may follow.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Who Ever he is, It's Too Late.

Day 5:

Last night was my first night camping with Pigeon. It was cold and rainy all night, and there was nothing nice about the place we made camp. The good news is that we made it through the entire night without being asked to move. She seems to have a strong character so hopefully it did not mark the end of our team effort to see the Mediterranean coast.

Today I set out to paddle north from Blanes. The sea was rough. Large, fast-moving swells rushed towards me, popped me up over them only to drop me down on the other side a moment later. And then again.

I paddled away from the cliffs just north of the city where I could hear the crash of the surf from hundreds of yards away. And all the waves, and all the wind, was moving against me. Knowing that I would be fighting the sea today, I had hoped to make it only a short 12 miles to the next marina. After about 50 minutes (41.675284,2.813015) it became clear to me that I wasn't going to make it even that short distance. I turned around and began heading back to safe harbor at a fantastic speed. I was also heading towards the cliffs. I began paddling harder on my right side and leaning into an attempted turn before I got any closer to them. The current would have none of that though and I was pushed on. I gripped my paddle near the end and began paddling only on my right side. I put my all into changing course as I was was tossed up and down, rushed towards the cliffs by the giant waves.

Finally timing my stroke with the peak of a wave I found myself suddenly perpendicular to the direction that had been controlling me only a moment before. I leaned into the swells that were now heaving against the full port side and did my best to retreat from the deadly danger of the cliffs, now about 150 meters away.

Gradually I turned back with the waves to point again towards the harbor.   I struggled in the fast current back to Blanes for another 15 minutes before arriving.

I spent the rest of the day walking around Blanes. I looked for a cobbler to fix my broken shoe, and found one, but he wouldn't do it. He explained why in Spanish.


I also found a nice spot to dry out my sleeping bag and bivi sack, which had become extremely wet with condensation. Tomorrow the weather looks good.

Maybe I'll actually get somewhere.


[caption id="attachment_421" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Blanes"][/caption]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Breaking Waves

Oct 10th Day 4:

I woke up in a hostel, ate breakfast, got my stuff together, and went to the train station.  I would need to be back at the hostel that night so that the next day Pigeon and I could go shopping for her gear.  I got a two way ticket for six Euro, exactly the price of two one way tickets to any number of stops in the area I would be paddling.

I got off the train at my destination and went to get my kayak.  I had hidden my kayak under a covered light sail boat at a sailing club (41.585115,2.578296) with my phone number and card on sheets of paper placed on it.

When I had left my boat there the club had been empty and locked.  Now it was open and there were a couple of guys doing some work around it.  One of them, an older man, was happy to be help.  Though he did not speak a word of English I managed to communicate to him some of my adventure.

They asked me if I was going to put in then and there.  I said yes, and they gave me a look as though I was either very talented or a little crazy.

The weather was cloudy but no rain at the moment.  The surf on the beach was only slightly intimidating so I watched it for awhile and then put my kayak down, as the waves lulled, in a spot somewhere between the current wave height and the height they might achieve any moment.

I secured the spray skirt around the rim of the cockpit as quickly as I could so that when a larger wave would come to take me out to sea I would be ready.

When I was almost ready a moderately sized wave came and moved my boat slightly, though one of the guys from the club who had come to watch held onto the back of it.

My spray skirt was on.  I was sitting in my kayak facing the waves.  I made it clear to the sailing club guy that he should let go of the back of my boat.  He gave me another look as though I might be a little crazy.  And then let go.

I sat there and the waves came and went, not quite reaching the tip of my bow.  The first high wave put some water around my boat but not quite enough to get me moving, a moment later there was another that swept up under my boat and had me paddling with all my fury to get out to sea.  In a second I was rushing into the next wave, breaking in a white foaming frenzy and roaring over my head.  I closed my eyes for a second and felt the wall of sandy water blast into my face.  And then I was through it.  There was a second wave but I was as ready as I was for the first and that too was above, and then behind me.  I was beyond the surf.  A little cold and wet, and with a little water in my cockpit, but I was good.

I paddled north into what was probably a one knot current.  My rudder wouldn't engage, but that was fine.  The Epic handles really well without a rudder, at 18 feet long a little edging (leaning to the side) goes a long way.

There was rain, sometimes hard.  The water temperature was warm and I was working hard so I didn't get too cold despite the fact that my splash top (rain jacket for kayakers) was stowed away in the back of my boat.  The waves were high, but for the most part I was fine.

There was another kayaker out there in a wet suit handling a sit on top in the surf.   This was the first other kayaker I had seen so I gave an excited “Hola!”  I also saw a group of black forms in the water some distance off.  What looked like dying ducks turned out to be a group of about 15 surfers in black wet suits doing very little surfing and a lot of floating.

Farther on I could see that there where some pretty big white caps ahead of me.  I had been staying kind of close to shore, earlier their had been some lightning off in the distance.  Now though I would have to be out beyond the white caps, yet not too far out.

I paddled some more.  I wasn't out far enough.  A breaking wave hurdled towards me from my right.  I leaned towards it with my impact blade towards the front of the boat ready to skull back providing me with support. (I had read that one should not high brace with a winged paddle.)

Wham!  I was leaning way into the water as it threw me at a fantastic speed towards the shore.  The wave was holding most of my weight. I was leaning out way over the boat; I don't know how long it lasted.  The turbulent water flashed and stormed over me and then collapsed and I went down with it.  A moment underwater, my roll was already set up so: sweep, hip snap, and I was back up to see the next white monster roar towards me.

I paddled forward to barely escape its path and then continued on as quickly as I could, hoping to be out of this section before getting hit again.  Yet I soon learned that this would not work as another flashing breaking wall of water stormed in my direction, this one well over my head, flipping me easily.  Another roll, I was up to see the next coming at me.  My bow was faced slightly towards land so I completed the angle and backed directly into the oncoming wave.  It crashed around and over me but I kept upright and continued to paddle backwards.

My goal was now to get far enough out and beyond their origins.  There was a slight lull in the watery fury so I turned around to be facing out towards them.  Then I paddled hard.  The lull was over and another one came crashing over my head.  I may have moved through it more smoothly on account of facing into it, but seeing it was scary.  The next one was bigger and the swirling tumbling strength knocked me over again.  After that there was one more before I was free.


I had never before been so rescued by skills that had until then only been neat tricks.  I pumped the water out of my cockpit.

As I approached my destination for the afternoon, Blanes (41.673264,2.796814), I gave the white caps a wide berth.  The waves along the beach approaching the harbor where the largest I had seen in my life.  Curling into themselves before breaking, I had later heard that I was looking at eight footers.

I got onto the train at Blanes only to find that my return ticket wouldn't work.  I would have to buy another three Euro ticket, the same price I had paid for my return ticket.  Blanes wasn't the same place I had gotten off the train.

I worked it out so that I didn't need to buy another ticket.  Getting off the train I also needed to pass my ticket through a machine, and there was a police officer there watching so I had to wait until he wasn't paying attention.

If all goes well, tomorrow I'll be back on the water and on my way.

Meeting Pigeon

* I asked her if their was a name she wanted for my blog and she hasn't gotten back to me yet.  So I shall call her Pigeon.  Who is this lady that may have earned a more permanent place in my blog?  Why have I chosen to call her Pigeon?  And most importantly to many of you “Is she hot?”  These questions and others may or may not be answered in the coming posts.

On Saturday I was talking with a friend that I had made in the hostel.  She was telling me how she had been in Barcelona much too long and needed direction.  She was on vacation in Europe, but without a mission she was lost.

My kayaking friend Jerry recently sent me an email titled “This project requires two people.”  And told me that without any kind of partner, even landlubber for some on site logistical support, I should not launch my trip.

And then I was talking to Pigeon.  She was telling me she needed a mission, and I was thinking, 'I need a partner, even a landlubber will do'.

“So, ummm …  You want to follow me along my route.  You could take the train or maybe bike, and we would meet up once a day just to check in on each other.  Travel along the coast of France and Italy?”

She thought that that would be a good idea.  She would take the train and I would kayak.  We would meet up along the way, once every few days, and check in on each other.  We would provide each other with logistical support.

This was on Saturday.  She would need to reequip herself for hiking and camping.  Since on Sunday everything is closed we would spend the day on Monday getting her the camping gear she would need.

On Sunday I paddled, Day 4.

On Monday we went went shopping to the stores in Barcelona that I had already visited with a similar purpose.

The good news was that we got sleeping bags for free that other travelers had left behind at the hostel we're staying at.  The sleeping bag I'd been using was light and warm, but I wasn't sure if it was going to be warm enough.  In the hostels lost and found their were two warmer sleeping bags that were big and heavy, and one quality light weight sleeping bag that might not be warm enough.  We took them all and we'll see how it goes.

Joining our shopping trip for the day was another American that hoped to do some hiking and a fellow that had biked from Germany.  The German was a hockey player and a mechanical engineer.

I asked him if there was checking in his league and he said “Of course, but I specialize in hitting people while the ref isn't looking.”

About his work he told me “I could walk in to a lot of factories here in Spain and see machines that I designed.”

For lack of anything better to say I went with “Cool.”

“No, not really.”  He told me.  “As soon as I tell them who I am they insist that I provide them with onsite technical support.  I'm on vacation.”

The German had biked here from Switzerland.  At the store he pointed to a candy bar that had been made on one of his machines.

We first went to Decathalon, a large discount sport store.  If they had what we wanted it would be cheaper there than in other places.

For lunch we went to an all you can eat restaurant.  On account of me being kosher I watched the others eat.  There was a dessert stand that had fruit that weren't quite ripe.  For me to take from those fruit without having paid for a meal would have been stealing, a sin in my mind worse then eating traif.  Sitting next to me was Pigeon with some fruit on her plate.  She offered me and I accepted.  When she got up for seconds she came back with some fruit in an extra bowl that she put in front of me.  After that I got up to get some more for myself to save her the trip.  It's amazing what a person can rationalize with just a little bit of help.

After lunch we went to a mountain goods store that had a slightly better selection, though not much, and much higher prices.  Several more hours of trying stuff on and shopping behind us we went back to Decathlon and finally back to the hostel.

On the way back me and Pigeon had a deep conversation on the intricacies of the social dynamics of the primate fecal throw.  It looks like we'll get along just fine.

Today there are 30mph winds blowing in the opposite direction I need to be going and 10 foot waves.  Hopefully I'll be back on the water tomorrow when things are a little more settled down.

* ed.s note ~ Dov had left his kayak in a marina after the events in Chapter One and taken the train back to Barcelona for the weekend.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chapter One: Learning To Be a Bum

Day One:

In the morning I did insurance company paperwork at the U.S. Consulate.  After a few other logistical preparations I was down at the port (41.385374,2.19954) and paddling by five in the afternoon.  The water was fairly calm and I headed north, not straying too far from the beach.

A pleasant tail wind helped move me on but also gave me reason to engage my rudder.  After a time I noticed my rudder would only turn to the left so I went to make a beach landing to investigate.  There was a lot of surf and the beach rose steeply out of the water making a landing a pain in the neck.  In fact, a lot of sand ended up in my boat and the bottom probably got scratched up some.  After cleaning up and getting the water out I went to investigate the rudder.  The elastic handle rope for the back of the boat that was supposed to be securing my spare paddle was caught in the rudder.  Easily fixed and tied down so that it would not happen again.  I was back on my way with my launch not being any more graceful then my put in.  Imagine a penguin readying for a dive only to slip on a banana.

By seven I had found another marina (41.41322,2.229366) and an empty section of dock.  I pulled my boat up, had some dinner, and went to sleep.  Occasionally some one else would walk by me on the and give me a look, but nobody seemed to mind.  It appeared as though people where staying on the huge yachts to either side of me.

About two hours after I had fallen asleep I woke up to find someone standing over me speaking in Spanish.  I reached out of my sleeping bag for my glasses and looked up.  The man standing over me was a security guard, and he was speaking to me in Spanish.

“No hablos español.”  I told him hoping that this would solve what ever the problem might be.

It didn't and the security guard did not speak English, but he appeared to be telling me I was not allowed to sleep there.  Not wanting to understand and not able to make my case I enlisted a bilingual fellow walking by to see if he could assist me.  Almost Helpful Dude spoke to the security guard for a bit, then in a friendly and apologetic way Almost Helpful Dude confirmed for me what I already knew, I would have to leave.  Almost Helpful Dude moved on.

I tried negotiating with the guard myself.  My argument went as follows “Please?”

My understanding of what he said “I'd let you stay if I could by I'd get in trouble from my boss.”

I thought I saw a potential solution here “Can I speak to your boss? ”


We stood there for a few moments, him waiting for me to move and me hoping that he would find mercy.

He went on “If it was just you, I'd let you stay.  But it would be like opening a flood gate.”

“Really?”  I asked.  “How many kayakers do you get trying to sleep on your docks?”

He didn't understand.  He told me I would have to leave.

We both stood there for a while.  There was a beach not far away but I didn't want to make a beach landing in the dark if I could avoid it.  Despite the wait, the guard didn't find mercy.  “Let's go.”  He said forcefully, and I got in my boat and paddled away.

I managed to find a much more out of the way spot in the marina.  It would be a higher climb to get out of my boat, but still easier then the heavy surf at the beach.  I didn't know if it was within the range of the security patrol, but it didn't seem likely.  I went to sleep.

At about one in the morning I woke up again.  Somebody was near me.  About 40 feet away there was another security guard.  He hadn't seen me yet, but when I sat up to get a better look in the dark (mistake!) he saw my motion and began walking towards me.

He told me I wasn't allowed to be there.

“Oh.  That's too bad.” I said.

He thought some more, and then said I would have to leave early in the morning.  I told him I would be out before dawn.  This was acceptable.

He went back to his spot where I had first seen him and was there for the next few hours.  I think he may have been fishing though I wasn't sure.

Day 2:

In the morning I was awake at about six.  It was freezing so I was out as soon as I could be packed.  The water was really calm.  The sun, rising above the water, lit Costa Brava's sharp green mountains.  These are the days I will remember.


I stopped on a sheltered beach and went to make myself breakfast.

I had a few days ago been back to Decathlon, an outdoor goods chain,  because they had sold me a stove with fuel canisters that weren't right for the stove.  They assured me that the new canisters I was buying were a correct match.

Though they couldn't hook it up for me in the store because it was equipment that was only meant to be used outside.

On Day 2 I went to make myself breakfast with my stove only to find that I couldn't hook the stove up to the canister.  Either I was an idiot or I had the wrong kind of cannister again (or both).  My observant readers may note that this is not the first time my faith in a sales person has lead me astray.

I had some bread and cheese for breakfast and it was good.  I had enough for one more meal before I would have to fall back on tuna and peanut butter.

Not long after, I stopped in a marina, found a low dock with small sailing boats and other kayaks just above, and pulled in (41.476022,2.31274).  I asked a fellow, David, if I could leave my boat there.  And he said it wouldn't be a problem.   He was also able to give me directions to the nearest Decathlon.

Getting there and back took about four hours.  Without a receipt they would neither replace my brand new fuel tanks or  my stove but they did sell me a new stove that was right for my fuel tanks.  I miss Campmor.

I paddled until about 4:45 in the afternoon and saw a marina where I pulled over for the night.  Having not trained at all over the last month I would start off slow and hopefully ease my way into a faster pace.

At this new marina I would ask permission to stay to avoid the midnight moves.  Surely there would be a spot I could leave my boat and go to sleep at if I only explained to them about my adventure.  I asked the secretary in the marina offices if that would be an option.

She went and got the marina's captain who was happy to meet me and learn a little bit about what I was doing.

Around the marina there were sheltered parking spaces that would make a great place to sleep.  Most of them were empty and some of them were closed to cars permanently.  My boat was currently in an out of the way spot near a ladder that had taken me onto the pier (41.528639,2.447158).

“Could I please sleep in one of the unused parking spots?”  I asked the captain.

“What if the owner of the parking lot were to come back and see you sleeping in his spot?”

“I could sleep in one of the spots that's free.”  The ones at the end were free, a sailor had told me.

“No.  Their's a city ordinance.  Nobody is allowed to sleep in the marina.”

This seemed strange to me since I knew that many people sleep in their boats in the marina all the time.  What's more is that if I was in a car instead of a sleeping bag there would be no trouble with me sleeping in a parking space.

He went on “Let me call the sailing club though.  You may be able to leave your boat at least with them.”

That was good.  That was progress.  The sailing club was OK with it and somebody would meet me down by their section of the dock.  I was met by two people.  A young man and woman introduced themselves and showed me to the spot where I could leave my boat (41.52832,2.445817).  I would not be allowed to sleep there.

I thanked them.  Noticed that a few spots over from my boat there was a small sailing boat with enough space to sleep under and be completely hidden for the night.  So I would wait for the sailing club people to leave and then lay down to sleep.  In the mean time I began cooking dinner.

“Are you making dinner?”  The sailor who had lead me there asked me.

“Yah, all my stuff is here so I thought I might as well.”

“You can't do that, it's dangerous.”

That didn't make any sense.  “All the people in all these boats have gas stoves.  It can't be against the rules.”

“Yah”  he told me “But they paid for their spots.”  He went on “The people in the marina didn't want you to leave your boat here because they were worried you would try to sleep here.  But I took  responsibility and promised them you wouldn't.”

I would need to move along.  He would be back in the morning to let me in at 8:45.  I would not be able to get out at six, my intended morning launch time, he told me.

“Oh, don't worry about it.”  I said.  “I'll work it out on my own.”  I was not impressed by the fence guarding the dock my boat was on.

"No no," he told me, "security is really tight."  So I would have to wait.

I organized my stuff, spent some time studying my charts, and then took my ready dinner off the stove.  I finally moved along, but not far still hoping to sleep close to my boat and not on some beach in the area.  I ate my dinner off to the side.  Some fellows in wet suits walked by and told me to enjoy my food.  After dinner I noticed that they had left a door to the marina's bathhouse open so I helped myself to a shower.  I was depressed.  Somebody had left some shampoo for me to use which was nice.

When I came out of the shower the guy from the sailing club saw me.

“So, you where just leaving now, where you?”

“Yah, I was.”  I lied.

“Why don't you walk out with us then?”

Rats.  “Great!”

"The nearest beach is that one."  He pointed.  (41.529355,2.441483) “Now you're not allowed to sleep there either.  Make sure the police don't see you."

His friend made some comment to him in Spanish and he translated for me “My friend says you can sleep in a bank.”  Homeless people sleep in the ATM sections of banks.

I went to the beach, found a hidden spot, and slept.

Costa Brava

Day 3:

I was up again at six, and under the cover of dark went back to the marina, hopped over the fence, and pulled away.

Their were waves and a nasty wind pushing against me which only got stronger as the day went on.  The highest waves I had paddled in yet, seemingly five or even six feet tall.  Between breakfast, lunch, and five hours of paddling I had only covered about 6 miles, an extremely depressing pace.  Mid afternoon I got off the water at a beach.  With the help of a couple of strong youths we quickly removed my boat from the surf.

Since I need to take Saturday off, and I'm making an effort to start off slow, I found a cheap hostel and will be staying here until Sunday morning.

A Note About Bums:

I had always thought that it's Ok to try to keep bums from sleeping on the streets since there are shelters and better places for them.  Shelters that might require that they seek psychological help are a good thing.

I find myself needing to sleep in strange places and getting pushed around.  I'm a bum, but I think that maybe I'm a special sort of bum.  I'll bet every bum thinks that.  And I know that I don't want to have to regularly meet with a psychologist in order to have places to sleep along my route.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Learn Something New Every Day

There was a young Chinese-speaking woman I was talking to yesterday.  I asked her where she was from and she said Singapore.  Not knowing where Singapore was but later learning that she spoke Chinese I thought that it must be in China.  It's not and I was laughed at by her and her friend.

“You thought Hebrew was a language from Lord of the Rings.”  I responded.  I think I hurt her feelings because that was the end of the conversation.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Guided Tour

Today I did some last preparations before my planned launch tomorrow.

I took my kayak out for an extended test drive yesterday and left my metro card with it so I was on foot.  Staying in a different hostel I got to see a much prettier residential neighborhood than I had previously experienced.  A neighborhood had stairs where one might expect sidewalks and houses that where piled on top of one another on the steep slope of a mountain. Pleasant Spanish styles and coloring making for a huge improvement over the slum-like area my first hostel had been located in.

After I finished my errands on my way back through the old city I overheard a tour guide speaking to a group in Hebrew.  I stopped and decided I would join them, not only because I had not been on any sort of tour but because I missed the sound of my adopted language.

The group was a group of women travailing together from a plastic factory in Israel in honor of Woman's Day, with a few men as well.  I immediately stood out and was pounded by questions from both the tour guide and one of the men in the group.

Tour guide in Hebrew “Do you understand a word I'm saying or are you just watching us for fun?”

It took me a moment to realize he was talking to me.

Another fellow asked me if I was ready to chip in five Euro to pay for the tour guide.  I though about it and finally said yes, thinking that it was my last full day in Barcelona and I hadn't yet spent any money on touristing.  Later I realized that I only had 43 cents on me.

The group moved on and I followed.  The tour primarily dealt with the historical Jewish presence in the old city of Barcelona, only every time we stopped to hear about it a fellow named Yakov asked me all sorts of questions.  In  the beginning they where, “Where are you from?”, “What do you do?”,  “How old are you?”  etc...  Israeli culture has a reputation for encouraging nosiness.  Once I told him about my trip he began bringing other people over to ask questions on their behalf.  “How much money do you have?” There was no end and I heard almost none of the tour.  I guess it's OK that I couldn't chip in to pay for the guide after all.

Yakov invited me to his house when I get back to Israel and insisted that I write down his phone number.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with a notary having to do with a declaration for my insurance company.  When that's done I'll head down to the marina, and if all goes well, get in my boat and begin my trip.  Those of you who have been following my adventures so far, thank you for your patience an I hope your best wishes will leave Barcelona with me tomorrow.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Installing My Hatches

My hatch seals finally arrived. A long black rubber tube with a red flat side to it. A clever person would probably have known what to do with it, but I had to write to Epic and ask them.

The next day, armed with instructions, I went down to the Olympic Marina where my boat is being stored.

I needed super glue, a knife, and a screw driver in order to install my hatch. I had not replaced these items since my gear had been stolen, but since it was a day of national strike and most stores where closed, I could not just go out and buy them. Once at the marina I would see would I could scratch up.

At a desk in the marina offices I paid a minuscule fee for keeping my kayak there for a few days and then set out to the storage area, a 15 minute walk around the marina that would have been a 5 minute swim, if only I had the guts. I was told that the storage garage would not be locked.

On my way I asked a woman on a floating dock if I could borrow some tools. She was happy to volunteer her friend to lend me the tools, which was great, though he didn't seem too pleased about it. He, like many of the boaters at the marina, lived in his boat so I would be able to return the tools any time that afternoon. The woman was hoping to borrow my cell phone for a quick call but I explained to her that I didn't have any credits on my cell phone, however, I might have credits on the ruined cell phone in my boat. We could then switch the sim card to a good phone that would allow her to make her important call.

So we walked to the storage garage together. Along the way she told me a little about living with her daughter in their small boat in the marina. How the boat itself wasn't seaworthy so it never left port, but they got plenty of invitations from friends to go out all the time, and that was nice.

We soon arrived at the storage garage to find that it was locked, but the woman who was looking for a cell phone found one with someone else and was off to her own affairs.

There was an open marine shop near the garage so I bought some supplies like rope for tying stuff down, a sponge, and super glue to complete what I needed to install my hatch seals.

I walked back to the marina office and they where closed. There was a marina employee there who could open the garage for me, but wouldn't without proof that I had paid the storage fees for my boat. Catching the secretary who I had paid earlier walking out of a side door, she confirmed that I had paid. I then walked back around while the dock worker was there way ahead of me, by boat, and had left my kayak next to the garage for me to work on.

My instructions called for two millimeter and five millimeter measurements which I did my best to eyeball. I cleaned off the hatch with some toilet paper and began the careful work of installing the hatch seals. Even a slight imperfection would be bad.

Upon completion, I did other work that needed to be done, like the installation of a paddle leash with some of the elastic rope I bought. Then putting the whole thing into the water, I got in and began to test it.

I wasn't optimistic. I needed to roll the boat and I had previously had a great deal of trouble rolling a kayak with a winged paddle. But I was only a short swim on flat water from the dock so I would be fine. I was also prepared to try a number of different styles of rolls.

I went over on my left side, set up for the sweep, swept, hip flicked, and was up in a heartbeat. If anything it was easier then with a regular paddle, though a different feel. The audience I had acquired was also impressed. I rolled again and again many more times on both sides. I practiced a bunch of other techniques with my new blades to really get a handle on the feel of them and my new boat. All my rolls were fine and I was getting used to the way my paddles handled. I tried a hand roll and was unsuccessful, so I grabbed my paddle to get back up with my C to C roll. Only I couldn't sweep it. The same trouble I had had the other day I was having now. But I also knew now that I could do it, and that it was easy. I rotated the paddle shaft in my hand 180 degrees and tried again and came up without a problem. It turns out, that unlike a regular paddle, with winged paddles you need to have them facing the correct way in order to C to C roll.

There was a shirtless American man watching me with long wild black hair. We talked some and it turns out he's a traveling musician for a punk rock group. Their van was parked near by. He was excited that I would be trying to kayak to Israel since he had his bar mitzva there.

My back hatch seal was good and my front one I need to test some more. There was water in the compartment, but I don't know if it came through the hatch or was already there. I'll have to test it some more on Sunday.

Adventure Old School

I consider myself something of a cyclist, so when a fellow staying with me in the hostel told me that he had biked from Poland I naturally wanted to see his bike.

He's a big guy, tall with wide shoulders and not small in any way.  He laughed at me when I told him I was trying to make it as a kayaker, and then apologized the next day explaining that the reason he laughed at me is because Poland has a very good Olympic kayaking team.

I have a bike that I use for longer trips, while not super expensive, it has road tires, is made of aluminum and has disk brakes.  I really like my bike.

The big Polish guy showed me his bike and I was expecting something light and fast, the sort of thing that could really take on a lot of miles over the course of a day without too much effort.  But the bike was like its owner, who was not light and fast but big and strong.  The steel frame mounted wide tires and could support a mountain of things on the solid rack.  I imagine that if this same person were a boater, he would not have a vessel like mine, but rather an old fashion metal rowing boat that he could just pile up all his stuff in.  He would row the same sorts of distances I'd like to, maybe even farther, getting by with a stubborn strength that would take him through even the fiercest weather.
ed.s note ~ When I was in high school I had a bike Made in Poland.  It weighed a ton.  Maybe they're all that way?