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 espaƱol.”  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.


  1. like Nixon said, don't ask the barber if you need a haircut.

    and do you have a camera? how about uploading a picture of your kayak?
    good luck and enjoy...

  2. Dov does have his camera still, luckily after the theft, but he is having issues relating to the USB cable that enabled him to connect it to a computer. Hopefully he's been taking pictures & we will see them eventually. ~ ed.

  3. Good luck on your adventure

  4. I think you should have to see a psychologist.

  5. Hey Man you are up and paddling! Congrads! Reminds me of my cycle trip cross the USA. I think your idea to ask permission is best. That usually worked with me quite well. I would tell the local police what I was doing and they were helpful. I still think an extra set of back up float or float/dry bags is a good thing!

    Have a good week!

  6. Dov!!! Loved to read about your adventures... wish I could be there with you, but not really when I hear about some of the harsher exploits. Keep writing!

  7. Thanks. If it wasn't for my editor nothing would be spelled right.

  8. While I'm sure you'd have rather hit the water earlier, I'm glad to have found your blog right near the beginning of your paddling! (Just finished reading the back-issues!)

  9. So glad you have finally started paddling!