Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Old Man and the Sea Guide to Fishing for Cephalopods

David, the friendly guy from the sailboat, had told me a couple of interesting things. If I poke jellyfish in the night with my paddle they will glow. As it happens, my host is a biophysicist studying bioluminescence, he installs the Jelly fish glow switch in other organisms and then sees how their glow responds to stuff.  I don't think he pokes them with a kayak paddle.

The other thing that David told me was that his previous sailboat did not have a cabin, so when he would sail from port to port he would sleep in unoccupied cabins of other boats in port. Much as I had done with permission in L'Estartit. While David's idea intrigued me, I have an expensive bivi sack and an OK sleeping bag, so for now I'll manage to contain myself from trespassing on fancy vacant yachts.

Day 16:
On Friday I paddled from Palavas Les Flots (43.523674,3.934798) to Port Camargue (43.520607,4.126161). I had a late start because I was staying with some very friendly scientists in Montpellier (not the one in VT.)

Cutting straight across the bay using my compass to direct me to land and a port I could not see, I made great time with a strong tailwind.

As I overheated I went to roll, and I had trouble coming back up. I worked it out, but it wasn't as easy as it should have been. In the wind there were waves, and the rule is to always come up on the side of the boat the waves are coming from. I rolled again, this time on the appropriate side, and it was much easier. Back in America I had practiced in some heavy surf up on Lake Champlain, but they were lots of waves close together, not ocean swells. I would need to practice more when I got to my destination.

The tailwind and waves moved me fast. But some amount of nervousness from all the surf had me on edge with poor paddling style, so my arms were getting tired and I had to concentrate to paddle better. Not as easy as it sounds. Paddling should not make one’s arms tired.  Paddling correctly relies almost completely on core strength body rotation.

I arrived in port to see a party of kite surfers doing some pretty neat looking tricks off of the nicely sized waves. There were maybe 50 of them. I found a section of the beach that was a little less occupied and began to work on my rolls in the surf. All of my attempts on the upwind side were successful.

On the downwind side, Ip got one, then missed one, try two, try three, wet exit. I was floating next to my boat in the waves, the beach about a hundred feet away. I would get back into my boat upside down on the correct side and complete the roll. I swam under the boat and tried to get back in; there was something wrong. I couldn't get my feet into the cockpit. Maybe there was to much stuff in there? I tried pulling out the pump and the quick grab bag, but I only felt the back of the seat. That was odd, why was the back of my seat there, it was as though I was trying to get into my boat backwards? I was. I turned around, and got back into my boat the correct way.

There was fishing line along my arm, not a good sign, but no time to deal with that now. I completed the roll, but with my cockpit having taken on water and on the side of a heavy wave I began to go back over the down wave side. I gave a support skull which started to set me right, but it wasn't enough and with my winged paddle I couldn't swing the paddle back again to finish the correction, and I was upside down again. I went to roll up on the correct side, but between the heavy angled sweep stroke I used, and all the surf the direction of my boat had switched and I was trying again to right myself on the down wave side. My lung capacity almost exhausted, I made a wet exit and found myself standing in the shallow water, the waves breaking around me.

I pulled my boat ashore and began the length task of getting my fishing line out of everything. My lure was right there in the cockpit with me, and for once I was thankful that I couldn't seem to hook anything at all.

Ready to go back out, I would not pull into port until I was satisfied with my handling of the surf. I made for an upwind roll, but my boat again turned in the attempt and I was sweeping against the waves and the on the down wave side. Damn, I made to switch the side of the boat I was trying to roll on, but shifting the boat’s underwater center of gravity with the waves hammering it from above was extremely slow going. I finally wet exit. This time the reentry and roll went smoothly, and a few more practice rolls went well as well.

I was exhausted, so I pulled into port thinking that with the cold weather I had lost a little bit of skill, but now properly attired I would dedicate myself to setting it right.
A fellow in the port noticed my lure and asked me if I was fishing for squids. I said that I wasn't. I guess I bought the wrong kind of lure.


The next port I could have left my boat in was another 19 nautical miles. Their was no way I could make it in time. The people at Port Camargue were extremely friendly, offering me both a shower and the option of leaving my boat in a garage of theirs for the weekend.

For the Sabbath I stayed with the scientist couple again, and had a really nice time. Host-man was a friend of my brother’s twenty years ago and pleasure to talk to as an English speaker and somebody who shared my love for math and all things nerdy.
I went to the local synagogue for services Saturday morning (I was cutting it too close Friday night). The synagogue was a great high vaulted ceiling and artificially engraved wood around the walls. Marred slightly by blue florescent Jewish stars up above a beautiful wooden ark, as though they were selling Jewish star pizza right out of the holy ark. After services some people spoke to me, but I was unable to score an invitation for lunch, so I made my way back to were I was staying.

In the afternoon my host gave me a guided tour around the lovely old city here in Montpellier. There's a canal running through the city and on the canal we saw a bunch of kid kayakers next to a club. One of them had fallen out of his boat, and I would have told him how to get back in, would that I could speak French. Instead I watched him struggle with a cowboy like reentry to almost succeed at one point only to be pushed back in by a pier. Eventually he became cold and made his way a few feet to the side of the river and climbed out.

A Literary Moment:

Back at the apartment I decided that I needed to get serious about my fishing, so I read an introduction to fishing by Ernest Hemingway. In his book Mr. Hemingway described how he went 84 days without catching a fish. Then, he caught a really big one only to have it eaten by sharks. I can obviously learn a lot from this.

I had planned to be back on the water on Sunday, but another small craft advisory, together with the wind blowing in the opposite direction are keeping me off the water. A member of the chabad community in Barcelona had suggested that all my troubles that were keeping me there were God's way of forcing me to be with a community for the high holidays. I wonder what he was say about the fact that almost every Sunday so far has had bad weather.

One Last Note:

A friend of mine who I hold in highest esteem has in the comments of this blog innocently wondered how some of my actions correlate to my long held religious traditions. My editor and another friend of mine chewed him out. Please, all of you, play nice.*

* I didn’t chew him out.  (a) Nutella is kosher, and (b) you are in charge of your own diet.  I apologize for chewing, which was not intended but may have been inferred.  Mea culpa. Nobody messes with my brothers but me, and my fraternal instinct may have interfered with my forbearance. ~ ed.

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