Sunday, December 5, 2010

People Give Socks, but Don't Monitor Sixteen

Saturday night I was leaving the synagogue with a bag full of food goodies one of the chabad people gave me, when I was offered a ride.

A moment of explanation: On Friday night I had looked at a map designed for tourists, apparently it's not important the tourists get to where they need to go so much as get to major shopping centers, and picked out the location of my kayak.  I was very tired Friday night, and looking at an unusual sort of map.  It didn't have a lot of the roads, a scale that I wasn't used to, and prominently displayed the location of the maps commercial sponsors.  So the location that I thought my kayak was at was bogusly wrong.  This did not stop me from finding my boat, because there was still a part of my mind that knew where it was.

When I got a ride Saturday night I was in a car and the part of my mind that knew how to find my boat ceased to function.  I had no sense of how fast we were going, no sense of which way was north, and no idea where we were.  I couldn't really stop to look around.  So we went to where I thought my boat should be from my quick Friday night look at the tourist map.

It didn't help that the language the driver and I were speaking was Hebrew, and his wasn't very good.  I would say something like “Right!” and he would stop, or hit the gas.  When I would want to stop to take a look I would say “Stop!”  And my friend thought that I wanted him to turn.  He was very kind to give me a lift in the cold.

We got lost, a lot, turned around a lot, drove on some dirt roads, and finally I got dropped off near the sea and my patient friend left me there.  He was very kind to give me such a lift.  I went down to look at the water and understood the magnitude of the mistake that had been made.  Once on my feet with a view of the sea I knew exactly where I was, and that it had taken me about three hours to get my kayak from the water in front of me to its current location.

My GPS still had to coordinates of the town I had just come from in it, so I used it to confirm my fears.  I began to walk.  Once I was moving I wasn't cold, but it was a cold night.

My land clothing, all of which I was wearing, includes socks, long underwear, pants, two long sleeve T shirts, a short sleeve T shirt, a fleece vest, a fleece jacket, a Gor-Tex jacket, a wool scarf and hat made especially for this trip, and another polyester watch-cap under that.  A little below freezing I can handle.

I walked in the night for awhile.  A car would occasionally zoom by, slow down enough to see that I was hitchhiking and get my hopes up, and then rush on.

I saw a boar cross the road in the distance.  It looked like Pumba from The Lion King, and it was something akin to a small cow in size.

When cars would come in the opposite direction they would turn their brights off for a moment so as not to blind me, then turn them back on to get a better look at the guy out there in the cold.

Since then I have heard people talking about how unseasonably cold it is.  I used to live in Albany, New York.  I handle Cold with gumption.

But it inspired one local to take pity and stop.  I few hundred feet after me, he had to think about it.  I ran to catch up, and was happy to get in.  We chatted on the way and as I got down from his car he said to me “I am a wine maker, take this bottle.”  So I did, and now I have a bottle of wine in my boat.

I was back in Saint Tropez, and began the walk to my kayak.  I passed the synagogue and somebody spotted me.  They tried to give me another ride but I said no thank you, it would be a short hour’s walk.  Driving is evil, and should always be avoided when there is an alternative.

The boathouse from the night before waited for me, even at the late hour, and I slept well.

Dec 5th Day 28:

I paddled from Saint Tropez north.  I had thought I had seen the previous day that there would be a southern wind, and I had hoped to make it to Antibes, were the father of one of my best friends lives.  But it was a headwind instead.  The wind also brought rain and fog.  Southern winds bring rain with hail and lightning, but this was a rainstorm from the north so there was almost no lightning and lots of fog.  I could see little swirls of mist twirl pass me on the water and bunches of the fog stuff move here and about.

It was also cold.  I warmed up to comfortable with paddling, but when I stopped for lunch I got very cold.

Realizing I wouldn't make it I changed my course and headed northeast to hug the coast.  I wanted to see land, not because I needed it to navigate, but because paddling close to shore provided me with a cheeriness that countered the heaviness of the weather.

Since the weather was different from what I had expected I wanted to get an update and sought a port.  Having come in close to land from farther out, I didn't know if the nearest one was north or south of my position, so I tried to contact somebody, anybody, on channel 16 (the emergency distress channel).

“This is Kayakdov, is their a local non emergency channel that is monitored?”

I tried again.  Still nothing.  Visibility was very low; I could have been very near a port and not known it.  In the distance I could make out something that might have been a port, or not.  I spoke clearly and slowly.

“This is Kayakdov, visibility is low and I require assistance, is there anybody who can help me.”

Nothing.  I tried again.  I checked all the settings on my radio, they were fine.

“Channel 16 radio check.  Channel 16 radio check. [pause] This is why nobody likes French people.”  except I hadn't broadcast that bit.  Not that it would have made any difference if I had.

When I finally found a port (43.339717,6.685213) I was told that here they don't monitor the emergency channel, they monitor channel nine, though it changes from region to region.  That's good to know.  I had lunch in a warm captain’s office and got an update on the weather.  Tomorrow should be better.

I headed south for a while close to shore and began to enjoy myself and the weather and the sea, because kayaking is fun even in the cold rain, especially in a far out place like France were everybody knows that channel 16 is for emergency distress calls, but nobody thinks to monitor it.

I got off the water at a port (43.391507,6.730628) when I was ready to call it a day.  The captain’s office was closed because it's Sunday.  When I was told this outside of a bar I said “But it's not Sunday.”

“Yes it is.”  I the man said.

“No, it's not.”  I insisted.  I then thought about it for a moment.  “Oh yeah, never mind.”

People had come out of the bar to gawk at me and my boat since we had come a long way.  Then it began to rain again so everybody went back inside.  I asked if the bar had wi-fi and was told I would have better luck the next town over.

I got back in my boat and paddled some more.  In the next port (43.422166,6.748652) I found the captain of the shift and told him my story.  He began to call people who live on their boats in the port asking if anybody would like to have a guest tonight.

In the mean time I showered in the port’s shower house which I had been let into.  People had left shampoo and towels about.  I used somebody's shampoo, but thought it would be overstepping their hospitality to use a towel, so I dried off under the blow drier.

I was directed by super friendly people to a boat I would have to myself for the night.  “Don't touch anything.”  Is there anything for your trip you need?  I was asked.

I thought about it, and then showed them my socks.  I've been wearing the same pair of Darn Tough Socks for some time now.  They had cost me 20$ a few years back and had by now seen more miles than most pairs of shoes do.  A few days ago the first hole appeared.  I showed them to the super kind people of the port who came back a short time later with some nice winter socks, and hot chocolate.

Tonight is the 5th night of Hanukah, I think.  I'll light candles now.


  1. Looks like you are making good time now Dov. That's great.

  2. Dov courage, the weather is not great right now but things will get better ... Good luck and enjoy thoroughly

  3. hello DOV, I was very happy to give you snow socks. I hope they will be very useful for you and will last long GOOD LUCK AND CONGRATULATIONS I hope you will write some words too me, to know if your kayak trip is ok or finished like you wanted at the beginning. BYE BYE Françoise from PORT FREJUS

  4. You guys rock! Thanks so much for the hospitality. Even if I don't finish, this trip is amazing and I'm having one of the best times of my life, in small part do to nice people like you.

  5. Courage, I am a bear, hear my roar! Thanks for the comment.

  6. REUVEN saint tropez an NICEDecember 14, 2010 at 7:59 AM

    hello I'm your dov adventure every day
    I am your Reuven who give food to St. Tropez
    and bring your car I'm sorry I thought I left you at the right place we saw it again at Chabad of nice I came back after Shabbat was already parity but you I wish you good luck for the Following

  7. Thanks for the ride and the food and everything!