Friday, November 26, 2010

Fleeing a Storm

Last night I couch surfed. After I met my host, I got a pleasant tour around the center of town. The tour included the one thing I had to contribute: a look at my boat. It was not as I expected.

My booties were in it! I had lost them a few days earlier and now they had found their way back home.

This morning I inspected my boat as I frequently do and found hull damage. Towards the front some fiberglass the size of a fingerprint had chipped away revealing the Kevlar honey comb beneath. It must have happened when I was using the side of the harbor to dip myself as part of a technique a couple of days earlier. Bad. I decided I would probably be OK moving forward anyway. Tomorrow I'll tape it over with some tape I picked up in a hardware store in Barcelona.

Day 22:

The weather was good, so I paddled south from Marseilles along the coast, continuing my journey to the the Near East. There are a lot of great islands around Marseilles, in addition to the Chateau Diff, there are old fortress-like buildings on other members of the archipelago, and a walled stone town that seems left over from another age.

I stopped at the northern most end of Marseilles for a brief lunch break. Since I had not made my rice and lentils this morning, I picked up a baguette.

Back on the water, I was too cold without my neoprene jacket but too warm with it. I rolled up my sleeves and took off my gloves and hat to stay comfortable. My glasses are attached to my hat, so they had to go as well, but I can see OK without them.

The port I had hoped to arrive at for the evening was such a distance that I expected to get there about an hour after dark. Also, cutting straight across rather then sticking to the shore, my route took me a few miles away from the increasingly mountainous coast. For now, I'm getting closer to the Alps, and around me are their children.

It started getting dark. I turned around as I often do to check the waters behind me; I could see a storm in the distance. It was still far away. I didn't know if I would make it to safe harbor before the weather caught up with me.

I put all my clothing back on and increased my pace slightly. A bay to my left revealed a lighthouse and a town. No marina was marked there on my map. The storm was closer. Heading towards land would essentially be going backwards since I would put myself off of the direct line to my intended port, and by several miles.

Most people would have headed for port right away. I had to think about it for a moment. With the coming storm my priorities moved away from making miles towards getting off the water ASAP. Especially with the recent lightning hail monster so fresh in my memory.

I paddled towards land. The sky was now cloudy above me, and with the setting sun it was getting dark so I lit my lights and donned my head lamp.

Behind me I could see a red light not far off. It looked as though a boat was approaching, though it was strange sort of light and lacked a green counterpart to say the vessel was headed towards me. There was a fog so I blew my whistle to let the seaman know I was there. But it was in vain, no seaman. The setting sun was playing tricks on me through the strangeness of the storm.

The rain began, at first a drizzle. I passed between a set of four or five boats without any lights in the night. I don't know what they were doing out there, but I was close enough to make out standing people on them. Eerily in the darkness they watched me paddle past.

Occasionally the night would be illuminated by a distant flash of lightning. The thunder would rumble unnaturally long, moving around the mountains warning of the coming onslaught. The rain worsened and the wind moved my boat towards the harbor with the angry speed of the storm.

I could make out the red and green lights that marked the entrance to a marina. Not far from them, somebody in the marina aimed a spotlight at me. I called them on the radio and told them to quit it. I was safe.

A fisherman helped me get my boat out of the water. A guy in the captains office told me I could keep my boat there overnight. I went into the bathroom to change.

I turned on the heater and as I was getting dressed. I threw my shirt on it so that I would be able to put a warm shirt on. I like my shirt, it had my logo on it, fit me well, and had gone through a lot with me. That's why it saddened me so much when it caught on fire. It was ruined.


Finished with the changing room, I stepped outside. The storm had caught up with me. The cloudy madness threw lightning and hail stones down on the streets.

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