Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day 86


My host, the same one who picked me up five hours late on Friday, managed to get me to my kayak for an 11:00 launch today, that is, only two hours later than I hoped.

But he also encouraged me to stay again at the bed and breakfast.  I had hoped to paddled 20 miles to Le Castella, but with the delay I risked getting there after dark.  So I paddled 10 miles to Vilaggio Carrao and the same bed and breakfast that was happy to host me again.

There forecast said there was a north wind, but this near the coast heading east I couldn’t feel it.  Above the beach that stretched along my entire rout was a forest interspersed by a couple of small villages.  Shacks that were undoubtedly hot spots in the summer were closed and sometimes boarded along the beach.

I passed lots of seagulls on the beach and a couple of ibises.

About a mile before my destination a small wave broke just before jostling me towards the beach.  Before I could point my bow out to sea I was hit by another, and then another.

I was on the sand.  A few more waves came and I managed to get out of it, but not without three or four of them crashing over my open cockpit.  Two inches of water sloshed around the bottom of my boat.  I took my pump out from under my seat and began to work it.

Huh, it was leaking.  While the majority of the water coming out of the mouth of the pump left the boat a small amount was sprayed through a crack in the side of the pump back inside.  It still worked, just not as well.

I made a beach landing, a little bit more smoothly than usual, and unloaded my kayak.  I carried all my gear and then my boat back into the woods behind the beach.

From there, I walked to my bed and breakfast and rested.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3201,3202,3203,3204,3205,3206,3207,3208,3209,3210,3211,3212,3213,3214,3215,3216"]

Nautical miles paddled: 10

Total since Napoli:  342.5

Current location:  38.910938, 16.817545

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Day 85


I paddled in a straight line to Catanzaro Lido, taking me three miles off shore.  The sea was glassy flat with wide gentle swells. The air was crisp and invigorating.  The sky, blue with a few white clouds floating on the horizon.

After some research I decided to replace my spray skirt with an akuilisaq.  The idea is similar, but they are looser and have a more traditional design.  Hopefully it will resolve the chafing and rotation problems.  I asked a friend of mine to see if he could find a sponsorship opportunity on my behalf so I can get one cheap.  We’ll see how it works out.

In the mean time, when the sea is flat, as it was yesterday, I paddle with my skirt free of my combing.  When I was about a mile out from port a fun tail wind picked up allowing me the thrill of catching waves.  In order to really get into it I put my skirt back on.  Fiery Pain!  The chafing was terrible.  I finally pulled through the gates of the port as a weakened cripple.

I sat in my kayak and rested.  Inside the enormous seawalls I saw a large open space of flat water with a few small anchored fishing boats.  One of them had a cabin with just enough room for  a person to stand in.

There was no dock so I pulled my boat up onto the beach next to a bunch more fishing boats.  Most of the boats were about as long as mine and painted white.  They were wooden, very wide and deep, had a couple of enormous oars and an outboard motor.  They mostly didn’t have cabins and were piled high with nets and other equipment.

A fellow kindly let me borrow his phone to call Mario, the friend who had hosted me the night before.  He had offered to pick me up and host me again.

In the mean time I needed a safe place to store my boat overnight.  I asked the wool capped fisherman who had lent me his phone what he thought about the beach.  He told me that an Italian would never steal, but there were a lot of Africans and Romanians about and that I could never be too careful.

Without getting into the politics of it, I decided to accept the last sentiment.  I found a boat repair garage. with a fellow reading a newspaper at its gate. I tried to ask him if I could leave my boat there overnight, but was unable to make myself understood.

I came back with my friend the fisherman.

“How long will you leave it here?”

“Hopefully I’ll be on my way tomorrow, but that depends on the weather and how my chafing is feeling.  If I don’t kayak tomorrow, then I’ll be here until Sunday.  I don’t paddle on Saturdays.  If Sunday is bad weather, then I’ll be here longer.”

He didn’t like that.  How long would my boat be here?  Why couldn’t I just give a straight answer?

Eventually he came to a decision, I could leave my boat there until Sunday for 50 euro.

“Thank you but no thank you.”

When my host showed up he talked to his friend who ran the dry boat yard at the top of the port.  I could leave my kayak there under lock and key and it wouldn’t be a problem.

My host drove me to his family’s summer home in village at the foot of a steep mountain.  The house has a beautiful wild garden with overgrown stone steps, deep overflowing clovers, enormous wild untended hedges and an orange tree heavy with delicious fruit.

My host had to go, but I should make myself at home and he would be back to pick me up the next morning at 8:00.

I did not have internet, and with my phone still broken I did not have any way to contact the world.  I rested.

In the morning I waited to be picked up at 8:00.  I still waited at 8:30, 9:30, 11:00, it was too much waiting.  It occurred to me that if someone wanted to kidnap me, all they had to do was drop me off somewhere and leave me there.  I didn’t think I had been kidnapped, but I did want to find a wifi connection and contact my host to see what was happening.

I wandered outside.  I found the beach and a fellow who would lend me his phone.  My host was sorry he was running late, but he would arrive around 13:30 and take me to his cousin’s bed and breakfast where I could stay for the sabbath, since the day had been lost anyways.

Oh well.

On our way to the bed and breakfast I asked if we could stop at a supermarket so that I could get food for the weekend.  I don’t cook or go shopping on the Sabbath.

“Don’t worry.”  He told me.  “My cousin will be happy to feed you.”


The Sabbath was nice, except that his cousin didn’t feed me.  The B&B didn’t really serve breakfast, or any other meal for that matter, but I can’t complain since I had clean sheets and a lukewarm shower.  Above all, the price was right.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3191,3192,3193,3194,3195,3196"]

Nautical miles paddled:  14

Total since Naples: 332.5

Current location:  38.827297,16.635709


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day 84


Yesterday the forecast was for force four headwinds today.  But when I checked again this morning they were force three improving to two in the afternoon.

So I launched.  The woman from the bar I had been blogging from hugged me and the captain of the port and a bunch of marines hung around to watch me leave.

At first the waves were four or five feet and the headwind unpleasant.  My route would take me around the coast.  The closer to shore I paddled the sooner I would arrive, but the more likely I would get hit by one of the enormous breaking waves.  

The entire coast for today was beach.  Hills behind the beach were bright green with grass, brown with fields of crops, or dark with forests and scrub plants.

The tall and jagged, grey and brown, forested mountains of Calabrai towered behind the hills, dominating the landscape.

As the the miles passed the wind and waves died down.  I’ve been using crackers for energy, and I’ve gradually migrated towards putting a pile on my skirt at the beginning of every hour and eating one every ten minutes.  My energy levels are better for it.

The last hour I stopped often, since I ran out of crackers, and my energy dived.  My shoulders hurt and I was tired.

I arrived in Bandaloto Marina and my journey for the day was at an end.  The entrance to the port had almost filled with sand, but a path had been cut through it, presumably by the sleeping bulldozer on the bank.

I found a dock worker.  “Hi, I’m Dov.”  I explained in my rudimentary Italian how I had kayaked all the way here.

Usually people are impressed and ask me “How long have you been paddling?”  and “Where will you finish?”  But he just said “okay.”

Huh, that meant he probably didn’t believe he understood me.

“Can I leave my kayak here overnight?” I asked in Italian.


“Can I shower?”

“Ci.”  He gave me a key.

I also got internet.  While I sat working on my blog a local boater approached me.

“I heard your story. If there is anything you need, please let me know.  I have a boat here.”

“Does it have a cabin?”

“A small one.”

“Can I sleep in it?”  Usually I don’t ask directly for a place to stay but let people offer instead.  He sort of had offered.


My new friend also took me to the supermarket, taking a shortcut through a river in his jeep, and was happy to treat me to my evening’s beans.

“And most importantly ...” he told me as he showed me around the cabin, “here in this chess box is my stash of weed.  I insist that you help yourself.”

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3161,3162,3163,3164,3165,3166,3181,3167,3168,3169,3170,3171,3172,3173,3174,3175,3176,3177,3178,3179,3180,3183,3184"]

Nautical miles paddled:  19.5

Total since Naples: 318.5

Current location: 38.591145,16.568372


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Day 83


The next port was ten miles away.  I expected force four headwind all day, brutal but feasible.  I expected to be on the water for four to five hours, which meant I could start a little late.

The night before it had rained, and inside my sleeping bag seemed to be gradually soaking up more and more water.  I didn’t know if my sack was leaking or if the rain was causing substantial condensation.  I bought the sack to replace the tent that was stolen from me in Barcelona.  As I lay there on the beach next to a small fishing boat, I grappled with the idea of finding shelter.  I went back to sleep.

The glowing hands on my watch read 4:30 in the morning.  Since I didn’t have far to go, and I told myself that by sleeping in my bag I could dry it out before storing it, I went back to sleep.

At 6:00 the fishermen came to take their boat out.  Since I had gear hanging on the side of it, I got up and started my day.  Besides, it was important that I pooped before the sun came up and the back and forth water would no longer be a viable option.

There was no force four wind.  So I decided to start right away.

Everything was ready, and a fishing boat was coming in to the beach.  They were calling to me.  How could I help?  What should I do?  Another man on the beach was running and showed me how to help them get the fishing boat in.  A cable ran from the sea to a rusty metal cylinder on an axle.  At the top there was a metal loop and the fisherman picked up a six foot metal rod and ran it through the loop.

The two of us then pushed the rod, turning the cylinder.  The cable wrapped and pulled the fishing boat.  The fishermen down near the water put smooth logs under it so that it wouldn’t drag in the sand.  As we pulled it onto new logs they ran to the back to pick up the old logs and moved them forward.

Up at the cylinder we huffed and puffed and pushed.  The man I was working with was smoking, which made it harder to breath.

After a number of rounds, the boat was sufficiently high on the beach.  And I had warmed up after a cold night in a damp sleeping bag.  

I launched from the beach without taking on too much water.  I scraped the hull on the sand only a little.  I might be getting better at it, but I’m not sure.  I ended up hitting the waves backwards, but I’d like to think it takes talent to launch like that.

At first the sea was calm and the cloudy dawn was beautiful.  Rays of orange light pierced the clouds near the horizon and illuminated the sea.

Ten miles should take about three hours.  The first two were easy and pleasant.  The third was full of the fource four wind.  It drained me.  By the time I pulled into the Roccella’s port, every three strokes I wanted to take a break.  And once I was on the dock, I lay there dreaming with my feet over the edge in my cockpit, without any sense of time.

Eventually I found my energy and pulled my boat up.  I went to the captains office run by the coast guard to ask if I could leave my boat in the port overnight and maybe find out about a shower.

“What’s your boat number?  Can I see your passport please?”  The woman asked me.  Uh oh, she was going to try to charge me.  Rats.

I gave her my passport and began filling out a form that wanted to know my port of departure, and all sort of other information.

I did the best I could while I waited for my passport.

Technically, I might not be in Italy legally.  When I entered the EU I was granted three months.  But my passport was old and has lots of stamps in it.  Maybe they wouldn’t find the right one, where I entered Norway in August.  That was less than three months ago, right?

The captain came out with my passport and asked me to confirm that the Norway stamp was the most recent.  I did.  He also told me that I should write Israeli next to my nationality on the form.

I had written American and given them my American passport.  I’m proud to be Israeli, but it bugs me that they can access that sort of information about me.

“Where are you headed when you leave Italy?”  He asked me.

“Greece.”  I showed him on a chart on the wall where I plan to make the crossing.

“You’re not allowed to do that in a kayak.”  He told me.  “It’s not possible.”


“We’re done here.”  He said.  “You can shower over there.”  It seemed as though I was off the hook.

An older man walked with me to the shower building to unlock it.  The bathhouse was full of old bicycles, but there was a path between them to a shower.

“Aqua calde [hot water]?”  I asked.

“Ci.” he assured me.

I put my pack down next the shower and the man was trying to say something to me.  Was he asking how long I would be?

“Venti minuto [twenty minutes].”  I told him.  No, that wasn’t it.  He was asking something else.  He rubbed his his index and middle fingers against his thumb.

Oh, that was it.  “Quanto costa [how much does it cost]?”  I asked him.

“However much you want to pay.” I understood from his Italian.

I knew my own international symbol.  I pulled my empty pockets inside out.

He understood and said that was okay.  My shower was cold.

That night I slept in the Lega Navale offices in the port.  It had been a long time since Lega Navale had hosted me.  Life was good.


[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3148,3149,3150,3151,3152,3153,3154,3158"]

Nautical miles paddled:10

Totall since Naples: 299

Current location:  38.328465,16.43339

Friday, December 20, 2013

Day 82


Today I paddled from Brancaleone to Locri. At first the sun was bright, the day warm, and the sea so calm I could have nodded off during one of my breaks.

I thought I was making pretty good speed, so I took out my GPS to check. It didn't turn on. I opened up the back and took out the batteries. One of the connections was rusty, so I cleaned it, with my shirt.* And then tried to turn it on again. I saw the Garmin logo, then the screen went blank. I tried a second and a third time with the same result.

In the afternoon a headwind picked up. I paddled under a bank of clouds. The bright green mountains and their jagged red peaks darkened foggy and gray. I got rained on, and the temperature dropped below t shirt levels. In my t shirt, I was cold.

At 14:00 I arrived in Bianco and decided it would be a good place to stop. I could have continued for another two to three hours to arrive at a town with a port, but without any lights or gps I didn't want to risk paddling in the evening in the cold.

I pulled up towards the beach, scraped my hull while getting washed up onto the sand, then grabbed a hold of said sand so as not to get pulled back out. After that a couple of waves dumped enough water and sand in my boat to anchor me and I got out.

I tell my kayaking students that whenever they do something that fails spectacularly they should tell anyone who saw it that's exactly what they were going for.

I walked around town looking for a wifi connection, and couldn't find one.

I did find an orange tree with fruit hanging over the sidewalk. I climbed up on a car to pick the ripest one. It was a really tasty blood orange. Juice dribbled down my beard and fingers leaving them sticky. The color of blood oranges freaks me out a little.

The supermarket was closed, but I found a small flea market where I bought some homemade pickled peppers stuffed with tuna. They were spicy. Without internet or all the data saved on my GPS or my smart phone, I'll have to stop at the port tomorrow to try to learn what's ahead. Tonight, it looks like I'll be sleeping on the beach.

The few people I have managed to casually tell my story to preferred to believe that my story about kayaking from Barcelona would have made more sense if only I spoke better Italian. So they nodded and smiled.

When I look in the mirror I see my wild hair, unkempt beard, wool hat, tired eyes, and bare feet. I see a fellow who could have been an extra on Northern Exposure, and I know my life is going in the direction I had hoped. I'm an adventurer exploring the world.

Other people see something else. Two women who I happened to be walking behind crossed the street to let me pass. An older lady who was walking in the opposite direction kept at least 10 feet between us as she went well off the sidewalk. I don't like that I scare people, but I choose to blame them for being scared and not having watched enough Northern Exposure as kids.

*I washed my shirt last Tuesday.


[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3130,3131,3132,3133,3134,3135,3136,3137,3138,3139,3140,3141,3142"]


Nautical miles paddled: 18

Total since Naples: 289

Current location:  38.236571,16.270035


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Manhunt Part II


I ran to the police station and found that it was closed.  A vending machine repair man was there.  He had been waiting for ten minutes.  We waited together for another twenty, when someone let us in.

The officer told me that they were closed and that I should come back the next morning.

“Poko tempo! [little time!]”  I told him.  I was unable to communicate anything else.  When I started looking through my backpack for my copy of the police report to help me he told me again that they were closed.

Eventually we made a phone call to someone in charge who didn’t speak much English. I kept asking the officer on my end if I could use Google translate on his computer to talk to him so that he could relay what I say to the man at the other end of the phone, he kept saying no.

The man at the other end told the officer next to me to have me use Google translate.

I may or may not have successfully explained the issue.

“Do you have the coordinates?”  They asked me.

“No, but we can get them from NOAA, or maybe even the Italian Coast Guard.”

“So you don’t have them?”

“No.  I don’t.”

“What’s your phone number?”  the voice on the phone asked me.

“I don’t have one.” I told him, watching my hope ship sail away.

“Where are you staying?”  The officer tried.

“At the bar near the beach.”  I had forgotten the name of the bar.  The ship sailed over the horizon.

The conversation soon ended.  My additional attempts to communicate with the officer using google translate were completely unsuccessful.

When I left the officer suggested I try the patrol station down the street.  I did, and they told me I needed to go to the police station.

I went back to the Simonetti.

“How’s it going?”  The owner asked me with a smile.

“Not good.”  I explained my troubles.

He called Julie, the waitress that speaks English.  We got in his car, picked her up, and went back to the station.  Another officer was there this time and we only waited twenty minutes to be let in.  Meanwhile I had gotten the number of phone number of the US air force officer that had contacted my brother.

My friends explained to the officer the situation.  The police officer let me use their wifi connection, thank god.  He couldn’t call America, but I could with Skype. The friendly sergeant at the other end was happy to give me the GPS coordinates - 37'57.87N, 16'06.27E.  I divided the minutes by 60 and plugged the results into google maps.

The officer who had taken my report earlier arrived at the station.  The police looked over my shoulder as I pinpointed the location of my PLB.  The map told me the PLB was at sea about 10 meters off the beach, near where my kayak had originally been parked.

Hopefully the margin of error meant that the villain was on the beach and not that my PLB had activated itself when someone threw it away.  

The police put on theri gun belts, ready to go check it out.  My friends and I got in the car and drove. We got there first, but kept on driving to Simonetti.  The driver explained to me that we needed to let the police take it from here.  Not entirely my style, since I was there anyways, but I respected the notion.

I went to the bar to wait.  

The Italian Air Force called me to make sure I was okay.  They told me that the locator beacon was accurate to 100 meters, and that I would need specialized radio equipment to get closer than that.  The beacon would broadcast my location approximately once every hour or two depending on when the satellite passed overhead.

I saw the owner sneak off so I followed him and joined the search operation on the beach in the dark.  My two friends and I and the two officers scoured the sand, and the junk, and the boats pulled up on the beach, but no luck.  Any miscreants who might have been perpetrators had long since wandered off.  

I didn’t even have my super bright headlamp to see in the dark since it was stolen.

We didn’t find the beacon.

A young man told me that he would like to get me a new PLB to replace the one that I had lost.  He thought he could have it in a week.  In fact, here in this town there’s a store that sells them.

Another fellow told me that he wanted to help me pay for my equipment so that I wouldn’t think poorly of the town.  He insisted.  “Most people here are good,” he told me, “only a few are crooks.”

My host from the night before told me he had gone with my hooligan to talk to the local mob boss.  The boss had wanted to help.  He had known about my problem since the theft took place at three AM.  But his hands were tied.  As it was, he was already in trouble with the law and needed to stay on the straight and narrow for the time being.

I resolved to get new coordinates in the morning and try again in the light.  If the coordinates moved then we would know the beacon was still with someone and the police or I could try to follow them to recover the PLB and maybe even catch a bad guy.  If the beacon didn’t move then I would search the beach again.  If I didn’t find it on land, I would dive for it.

The owner of the restaurant asked me if I would like to store my boat inside overnight.  I took him up on the offer.  The young fellow who told me he knew where I could replace my beacon came to help me move my kayak up the beach to the restaurant.  

A small crowd of people gathered around my kayak to take a look at it.  One of them pulled my flashing beeping PLB out from deep in the cockpit.

Hooray, it was returned.  I searched the boat.  Only the PLB was returned, the rest was still gone.

The owner of Simonetti asked me to stay another day, today, in town.  I agreed, hoping more of my gear would turn up, but so far, no luck.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Manhunt Part I



The forecast the day before had said force five headwinds in the morning and force four in the afternoon.  So I slept in and then made my way to Simonetti, the restaurant with internet access.

When I left, my host warned me, “Don’t trust anyone.”

“I trusted you, and got a warm bed to sleep in for it,”  I told him.  I like trusting people.  I think it’s good for people to trust people.  I think it makes the world a better place.

“Everyone here is Mafia.”  He told me.  “Calabria is one of the cocaine capitals of the world.  Billions of dollars of the stuff come through here on the way to Western Europe.”

I figured that if I keep my nose clean I could stay away from that sort of crime.

At Simonetti, I saw the forecast had improved overnight.  I could leave right away.  I went to my kayak.

That was odd, my life jacket and paddle lay discarded next to the boat and not in the cockpit.  My rope and paddle tether lay on my deck.  They had been in my emergency quick grab bag in my cockpit.  The bag also contained my crackers, pulley, night lights, VHF radio, and emergency distress beacon.

The dry bag was gone.  The rope it had been clipped to lay limp in the puddle in my boat.

I was upset.

I looked at the footprints around my boat.  Plenty of them were mine and plenty weren’t.  Apparently a number of people had approached my boat and there was no single trail I could follow in case the thief was closeby.  In the loose sand there were no prints I could meaningfully photograph.

Two fishermen were working in a small skiff nearby.  With considerable effort, I managed to communicate that my equipment was stolen.  They expressed pity, but had seen nothing.

I walked back to Simonetti to tell them I was headed to the police department and ask if they had seen anything.  Out in front, I identified a hooligan.  A young man who seemed to be hanging around the beach.

I told him my gear was stolen and asked him if he had seen anything.  No, he hadn’t, but he was happy to take me to the police station.

I got in his car.  I didn’t understand a lot of what he was saying on account of the language barrier.  He tried to make up for it by speaking louder.

The day before I had seen the police station while looking for a wi-fi connection.  We weren’t on our way to the police station.

Brancaleone is a small town of 3,500 people.  I was surprised to discover that it had a slum.  We drove down an unpaved street surrounded by small homes with large fences.  Garbage was strewn everywhere.

We were not on our way to the police station.  We passed a couple of pedestrians, and my hooligan stopped the car to ask them what they knew about my stolen gear.

We were taking the law into our own hands.

We stopped the car and got out.  A dog barked at me.  We walked through a gate into a grungy yard with a couple of single-story dirty concrete gray houses facing eachother.

We were surrounded by three women, and my hooligan tried explaining my predicament.  They started talking at me.  I didn’t understand a word.  They were yelling at me.

I stepped back so that I could see them all.  I showed no fear and watched their hands as one of them clearly indicated to me that if I continued along this path I would find myself gutted.

They kept yelling at me, and I didn’t understand.  I stood my ground.  Cool confidence.  My hooligan said nothing.  Finally they seemed to be wrapping up the barrage of threats and insults with one final sentiment that I had heard enough times to understand.

“And what the hell is wrong with you that you’re not wearing any shoes?!”

We walked away.  I tried to maintain that delicate balance between not walking backwards and not losing sight of a threatening person.

We got back in the car and drove to the police station.

The Police in Brancaleone are much more helpful than the police in Barcelona.  For starters, they believed me.  Not only did they sympathetically make a report, they looked into where I can replace my gear.  

I could find a new radio in Calabria, they told me, but a new PLB - not in Italy.

They asked questions like “Is there any way we can get the coordinates of your emergency personal locator beacon (PLB)?”

“Only if it’s activated.”  I told them sadly.  That would be great, if we could track the villain.

I went back to my boat.  I searched the area around it with no luck.  I decided not to kayak.  White caps were scattered across the sea and the waves were formidable.  

I paddled two hundred meters to park my boat in front of the restaurant where the local fishermen and I would keep a better watch on it.

I surfed in to the beach, did a bunch of rolls, and began to feel better.  

I was filling out NPS job applications in the afternoon when my brother contacted me.

“Dov, is everything okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”  I asked him.

“Your beacon went off.”  He told me.

Woot!  This was my opportunity to recover my stolen gear.  The thief was broadcasting his location.

“What’s your phone number?”  My brother asked me.

“My phone is broken.”

“They’ll email you.”

I couldn’t wait.  Time was of the essence.  How long would the beacon be active?  What if they shut it off?

Come back tomorrow for part II.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Day 81


The fellow who invited me over to shower in the afternoon ended up inviting me to sleep over. He himself had arrived from Morocco six months ago and had found the local community to be as friendly as I had.

His apartment was a large room that looked as though it had been converted from some commercial purpose. In an overwhelming display of hospitality, he told me that he would be staying with a friend so that I would have the whole place to myself. I tried to dissuade him, but effectively communicated that I was scared to be alone.

“Don't worry, my friend’s grandmother lives across the street.  This is a safe area.”

I thought maybe he was leaving because he was giving me all of his blankets, so I asked if I should bring my sleeping bag.

He understood from this that I would prefer to sleep with my own sleeping bag than his blankets and told me it wouldn’t be a problem if I used my own sleeping bag.

I gave up and slept wonderfully after watching the episode of Star Trek where they go back in time.

The next morning, my phone wouldn’t turn on.  I use my phone to check the weather and blog and communicate with the world.  It doesn’t work anymore.

For breakfast I was excited to have a new kind of chickpeas.  The night before I found in the supermarket a brand that cost 50 cents instead of the usual 65.

They tasted like salty rat sludge, that is to say, I will be spending the extra 15 cents in the future.

I put in on flat waters and began to kayak towards one of the corners of Italy.  Sandy white mountains with pine trees and other southern looking plants I didn’t recognize rose up gradually from the shore.

As I approached the corner a headwind steadily picked up to a force four, the strongest wind I’m willing to paddle into.  

Around the corner I headed north.  I don’t like the prospect of going north, since it will get colder, but I’m pleased since the change in direction signifies that I’m now on the last major section of Italy before my big crossing.  The big crossing to Greece scares me, but with good weather I should be able to do it.

Over the last few days of paddling single car trains periodically ran along the tracks.  Farther north they have more cars, but down here I guess there just aren’t that many people.

The head wind pummeled me.  The forecast called for conditions to deteriorate further, so at 10:00, three hours after I started, I pulled over to the beach and took out.  

I lifted my kayak with the usual colossal feat of strength, this time accompanied by a roar, stumbled backwards and fell with the 800 pound boat landing on top of me.

If I didn’t have near hulk-like powers I probably would have been crushed, but as it was I lay there for a few minutes and decided I was fine, then yanked my leg out from under it.

I lifted again.  I try to lift my kayak without using my back, but I’m not sure if I have a clue how to do that.  I roared again, then resumed my slow progress to the waterline.

Once there, I opened the hatches, took off my jacket and skirt and put on my fleece and shell.

I impressed a couple of locals with the abbreviated story my journey, but not so much that I got anything resembling an invitation.

Since it was still early in the day, I decided I would search for a wifi connection. There was a bar nearby, but they told me they didn’t have one.  I walked for an hour to every bar, restaurant, and bakery in the town.  Everyone told me to go to Internet Point where I could pay for a connection.

Small houses with walled gardens backed up to railroad tracks.  An orange tree hung heavily with fruit out towards the tracks.  I looked both ways.  I didn’t see a train, so I hopped onto the railroad and went to pick a fruit.  Just I was reaching my hand out a woman stepped onto her back porch.  She was talking in Italian and looking at me.  I don’t know if she was talking to me and I don’t know what she was saying, but I tried to scurry casually off, no orange in had.

I gave up and wandered back to the first bar near my boat and dejectedly asked them if I could sit and use their electricity for my computer.

Sure, no problem.  While I sat I told them my story.  In exchange they gave me their wi fi code and offered me free lunch.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3103,3104,3105,3106,3107,3108,3109,3110"]

Nautical miles paddled: 7

Total since Naples: 271

Current location: 37.962729,16.102287

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day 80

My hosts wonderful hosts dropped me off at my kayak and hung around to chat while I packed it up.  By 8:00, I was on my way across the southernmost edge of mainland Italy.  At first the weather was calm but gradually a tail wind grew in strength and and the chop jostled me along.

I’m running out of chia seeds.  Recently I’ve been filling two one liter bottles with three ounces of chia and the rest water.  It’s great energy and easy to digest while paddling.  I found that if I tried to put more chia seeds in than the three ounces then the seeds would coagulate to form chia slugs.  Like real slugs, they’re super nutritious, but have a tendency to slide down the wrong way.

In order to get enough calories I’ve been eating whole wheat crackers every other hour.  With the last of my chia seeds in sight though, I tried today eating only the crackers.  I didn’t have an energy crash, but I was definitely running low.

There are no ports down here, and my research showed me that there are two good places to make beach landings in the area.  The first is in Marina Piazzi and the second in Bianco.  I arrived in Piazza with another thirteen miles left before Bianco at noon, and since I didn’t want to risk finishing in the dark, I decided to call it a day.

It didn’t help that it was cold and cloudy with worsening sea conditions.  I was especially inclined to take it easy on myself since I’ve been a little sick lately.

I found the beach and took out, though after the fact I realized that it was the wrong beach.  The easy beach to get out at was around the next corner.

I found a bar to sit and write at and one of the fellows who works here invited me to shower in his home around the corner.  He’s from Morocco so I had fun trying to remember all the Arabic words I know.

Interestingly, the two different weather sites I use, passageweather and lamma have opposite forecasts for tomorrow.  Once says I’ll have a force four headwind and the other a tailwind.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3097,3098,3099,3100"]

Nautical miles paddled:  11.5

Total since Naples: 264

Current location:  37.918794,15.978143


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Day 79


When I first set out from Naples I was using a paddle leash. A coil connected the center of my paddle to my kayak. I liked being able to put my paddle down on the water and do other things with my hands◊•  Sometimes though, the paddle would get pushed under the boat or wander a little farther than I liked. So I tied a bungee loop towards the front of my bow deck so that I could slide my paddle in up front and then stick it under the bungees near the cockpit and hold it on my deck. I removed the paddle leash so that I wouldn't have to carry it, every ounce counts.

This morning I launched from the kayaking club in Catona, a satellite of the one in Reggio Calabria, whose president came to see me off. I crossed the bay in front of Reggio Calabria and then another one with a healthy tailwind. This was the first time since Naples that I had this sort of push and I was very pleased with it.

Off to my right I could see Sicily and her mountains. Farther back I saw Mt. Etna well  above the others, it’s snowy heights shone brightly in the sun. The top was shaped like a spoon and smoke rose up from it all day.

My final destination was a port about five miles passed my hosts house, and he had once again, with extraordinary kindness, offered to pick me up in the evening and drop me off in the morning.

However, as I passed his house I thought I might save him the trouble and take out early. I could do the extra five miles the next day which was going to be a short day anyways. I needed to make a beach landing. The beach in my host’s neighborhood is separated by squat sea walls at even intervals that reach a short distance out from the beach.

Since I had the strong tail wind I pulled in just behind one of the walls where the water was calmest. I placed my paddle shaft on the deck just behind my cockpit perpendicular to the boat. I held it there with both hands behind me and leaned so that the out blade was on the sand below, stabilizing the boat.

The small waves were still pushing me back and forth, dragging the blade along the bottom, so I used my arms to pick my weight up and slide my butt onto my back deck. I pulled my legs out and was free of my cockpit. My boat is tricky to exit gracefully.

Standing in the water I grabbed my deck line and pulled my boat up onto the beach.

My host lives in a small gated community about a block away from the beach. I hopped over the gate and went to his home, but no one was there. I had befriended a dog that lived outside during my last visit, but now he was barking at me. I approached trying to make friendly sounds and the dog put its tail between its legs and cried while edging away. So I left.

Back at my kayak my paddle was missing. Rats. At least I had a spare.

When did I have my paddle last? Oh, I remembered. I guess the sea had it now. I climbed onto the sea wall and looked out. I didn't see it, it was after all a windy day.

I ran south on the beach. It had washed up at the base of the next seawall.


I was back on my way. I paddled under some beige cliffs with a really nice house on top. Maybe when I'm a rich and famous kayaker I'll have a nice house on top of a cliff.

I arrived at the port. A sand bar blocked the entrance and a fisherman informed me the port was closed. I made another exit in the surf. This time the sea was rougher and I was less graceful. Sand got into my cockpit and the hull is probably a bit thinner in places, but I remembered not to lose my paddle.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3074,3075,3076,3077,3078,3079,3080,3081,3082,3083,3084,3085,3086,3087,3088,3091"]


Nautical miles paddled: 18

Total Since Naples: 252.5

Current Location: 37.925801,15.733255

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day 78


It was raining.  I went back to sleep for another hour and a half, when I woke up it was still raining - raining hard.  I ate, packed my things up, and walked out of the warm house into the cold rain.

With a few spectators I put my drytop on, loaded my boat on the jetski dock, and launched.  The spectators watched from under an awning.

I paddled in the rain.  The cliffs climbed into mountains that climbed into the dark low hanging clouds.  Muddy waterfalls poured down them and colored the clear deep blue brown.

I passed a small stone house at the bottom of a mountain.  It looked as though it was only accessible by sea.

The chafing was fire.  With every stroke I was burnt with pain.  I had to stop and fix it.  If I couldn’t I would have to stop.

I tried releasing my skirt from the combing and paddling.  My sides still burned.  I unzipped my life jacked, and my sides still burned.  I unclipped the belt at the bottom of my jacket, and the pain was almost gone.

Around noon the rain let up.

I paddled towards the Strait of Messina that cuts the two mile gap between Sicily and mainland Italy.

There was definitely a current coming from the strait.

I pushed into it and arrived in Scilla.  It’s a small town with a small port. A few rowboats floated in the three sided stone square tied by long ropes to the sides.  There were no docks and the walls were high so I got out on a boat ramp.  I took a 10 minute break to gather some information and stretch my legs before entering the straight.

I had heard from people who were not boaters that the strait has strong currents, but nobody was sure how strong or which way they went when.

A fisherman in Scilla who spoke no English and was unable to understand my attempts at Itallian may or may not have told me that there was a two knot current in the center but if I stayed close to the sides I should be alright.

A  sign told me that Scilla was the most beautiful town in Calabria. The sign also told me that there was once a beautiful naiad who had been turned into a monster by the jealous Greek god Amphitrite.  The monster, named Scilla, was still in the strait.  I wondered if I would meet it and use my Great Kayaking Magic to turn the creature back into a naiad again.  I imagine such a shining example of immortal beauty would be extremely grateful.

I paddled into the strait.  At first the water was choppy and I employed intensive edging to stay near the shore, but once I was completely within the strait everything flattened out and I didn’t feel the current.

The day was getting on though and I was starting to get tired.  Fisherman told me that the town above me was not yet Reggio Calabrio, my destination but Villa San Giovani.

A set of tall waves rushed at me.  I turned sharply to face into them.  I suspect they were the wake of some enormous boat that passed earlier in the center of the channel.

I approached the mouth of a ferry and industrial port with a sea wall next to me and asked one of the fishermen above it if there was a nice sailing port I could pull up in.

No, there wasn’t, but I should be careful ahead. Lots of big boats come in and out of this port.

I had stopped paddling to talk.  The current was extremely strong and moving me backwards.

I crossed the mouth of a port.  When I was half way across the large opening, an enormous boat, the TOURISTIC, turned sharply toward me from my starboard side.  As I slowly pushed forward the ugly monster seemed to be turning its bow, always pointing at me, and churning closer.  I stopped so that she could keep on turning, but she stopped turning with me and kept on churning closer.  I waited a moment and she roared and continued her mush Dov course.  With what little strength I had, I sprinted into the current to escape the charge.

If that was Scylla, then she was beyond my powers.  Passed the mouth of the port the water was rippling a lot.  That meant the current was about to do something funky.  When I hit the ripples a powerful current (Charybdis?) thrust me towards the middle of the channel. Rather than end up in the freighter zone I sprinted directly into it, pressing south and towards the beach.  One inch at a time, a little bit and then a little bit more, my colossal struggle moved me forward.  And as I got away from the hot spot, the current lessened.

I was near the beach and while the current was still present, it had died down to a single knot or knot and a half.  I was spent and would end my day at the very next opportunity.

Ahead I could see a slightly sheltered beach with some sailboats pulled up onto it.  Eventually I arrived and Hung around for a little while trying to decide whether or not to make the beach landing.  The makeshift boat storage center was between railroad tracks and the strait.  Fishermen were hanging around and other people who seemed to be doing nothing at all.

I kept on going, tired as I was.  I asked an old man how far to Regio Calabrio and he told me just around the corner.  I went around the corner and saw it.  Not so near.  To my left there was a small bay and at the very end of it four kayakers.

Four kayakers!  I was saved!  Not only would they undoubtedly help me get off the water and store my kayaks somewhere safe for the night, we could share a true camaraderie.

They were farther away than I had realized, and as I got closer it began to appear that the tell tale up and down of the blades that gives us kayakers unique silhouette might have been misleading.

But it wasn’t, I could see better and I saw that they were taking out.  Oh no, what if I didn’t get to them in time?  What if I didn’t make it?  I was so tired and the day was ending.  They were my last hope.

One of them wasn’t getting out.  One of the kayaks was coming towards me.  We approached each other.  She was beautiful.  What were the odds?  Not only would I be saved by a kayaker, but that she would be a beautiful lady.

She took me to her club to store my kayak for the night, and then the four of us went to the central kayaking hub in Regio Calabrio.  I met the president and he showed me around.  I got to shower.

They have in the club an artificial kayak surrounded by jet pools to simulate and train.

They also have a gym with a modern dance class in the evenings.  I was waiting for my friend to pick me up.  Loud music was blasting out of the gym and a group of fifteen or twenty leotard clad ladies were rocking pretty hard.

I joined in the back trying to learn the steps and keep up.  After about 15 seconds the class stopped and the instructor looked at me in the wall mirror and spoke Italian. I’m not sure what she said and a few of the ladies turned around, then we resumed class.

I didn’t learn the dance we were working on, but I think by the end I was getting closer.  My bootie shaking skills definitely improved and I certainly warmed up.  I had to take a break in the middle to shed my fleece, wool hat, and long underwear.

When I had to go all the ladies smiled, waved and said goodbye to me at the same time.  Bucket list check.

I love the Regio Calbrio kayaking club!

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3047,3048,3049,3050,3051,3052,3053,3054,3055,3056,3057,3058,3059,3060,3061,3062,3063,3064,3065,3066,3067,3068,3069"]

Nautical miles paddled: 19

Total since Naples: 234.5

Current Locations: 38.178877,15.642141

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day 77


On Sunday my hosts dropped me off in Tropea so that I could start paddling early the next morning for the promised good weather.

The dock hands in the port were all happy to see me. I had definitely spent too long there.

For all that I wanted to kayak and progress in my quest, I had grown overly fond of sitting around in a house with a fireplace and pasta, fish, cake and above all, meat. In the morning, I dragged my feet.

Finally, at ten to 8:00 in the morning I was ready to go. One of the friendly dockhands helped my carry my kayak from the storage location, a concession building under construction in the port, to the water. My boat is heavy when it's loaded, so I guess I should be thankful he only dropped it once causing me to scream like a city girl with a bat in her hair.

The weather had warmed up from the freezing snow in the mountains hail and rain on the coast to t-shirt kayak weather.

As I paddled around the point, the water was a little choppy and I was taking the waves head on, but there was almost no wind. All told, the weather was wonderful. All that waiting brought me something that may have been worth waiting for.

The water was clear and I could see the sandy bottom far below with occasional colonies of seaweed waving up at me. The cliffs were a light orange sandstone.

Once I was passed the point I cut away from the land heading directly for Palmi. At first the sea was even more choppy than earlier, but as the day wore on it relaxed into slow glassy swells.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="2999,3000,3001,3002,3003,3004,3005,3006,3007,3008,3009"]

A ship pulled out of a port and seemed to be heading towards me.  I contacted them on my radio to make sure they saw me and wouldn’t accidentally repaint their hull with kayaker.  They answered that they did in fact see me, or at least, someone on the radio said something Italian that sounded like it might have been what I was looking for, and since this was the first time anyone ever responded to me on the radio, I was thrilled.

I arrived at the port in Palmi delighted that my belly chafing for the day was at an end. The port itself was crowded with fishing boats and even a few sailboats. A beach on the far side hosted row boats and an enormous double masted wooden sailboat that looked like it had been made before plastic and fiberglass was in dry dock. What there wasn't was any kind of office or potential shower.

When I pray to god I ask for some basic things: water, shower, electricity, wi fi, a supermarket and shelter.

I found a hose, then began walking towards the supermarket. The port was at the base of an empty mountain and the town proper a kilometer away. The main street had two shops open in the winter, a small minimarket and fishing supplies store and a pizzeria. Neither of them took credit cards and I didn't have any cash.

The cashier told me that I could find an ATM one town over, about five km away.

I found a campground. Like most campgrounds I'd seen, it was basically an RV parking lot. I walked in and met the owner whose house was on the property.

No, I wouldn't sleep out in the lot as though I were an RV. I'm not an RV. I would be a guest in his home. Was there anything at all he could get me? I met his wife and son. The young man spoke English and was able to translate the mother's question for me. Was there anything at all she could get me?

I lit my Chanuka candles outside.  They blew out a few times so I dutifully relit them.  My younger host asked me about them.

Hmmm... Why is it we celebrate Chanuka again?  Oh yah, we won a civil war against the Romans in Israel I told him.  Afterwards I remembered that it was the Greeks.

He even went with me back to the port and got permission for me to leave my kayak there overnight with Charter Line, a company that runs snorkeling tours in the area.

So if you find yourself RVing in southern Italy, check out Sosta Camper Prajola for a great RV parking lot experience right next to the beach and under a mountain. Then have fun snorkeling with Charter Line.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="2985,2986,2987,2988,2989,2990,2991,2992"]


Nautical miles paddled: 20

Totall since Napoli: 215.5

Current location: 38.390379,15.862739

Saturday, November 30, 2013



I haven’t had meat in months.  Kosher meat just isn’t available south of Rome.  I’ve been day dreaming about it.  Meat.

More bad weather.

For most of this week, the weather forecast for tomorrow was always good.  But when I checked it again in the morning, it would be borderline leaning towards bad.

This weekend however is terrible.  It looks like the only way I’ll make it is if I paddle on the borderline days.  It may not be fun like paddling on a good day, but it’ll be more fun than being stuck.

A Jewish family in Regio Calalbrio invited me to join them for Chanuka.  They drove for an hour to pick me up at the port in Pizzo.  

When they got there they called me, “Hi, we’re here in Pizzo!”

I walked a hundred feet so I could see the enormous sign at the entrance to the port - TROPEA.

They drove for another half hour to pick me up there.  

They took a large chunk of lamb out of their freezer for Chanuka and my visit.  Their house has a roof, and a shower, a toilet, a warm bed with a pillow, a wood stove, and lots of cake fresh out of the over.  

Behind the beach neighborhood are mountains, and on Friday I ran in them.  There’s some kind sharp thorny plant that grows all over the place and kept pricking my bare feet, but I would hobble a bit, try to pull the thorn out, and keep on going.

I ran through the mountains between big rocks and low scrubs. I jogged past a farm in the middle of nowhere that had massive herds of goats.  I ran along streams and through an abandoned village, and after an hour I turned around and ran back.

The streets and mountains are covered in fine black sand from an erupting volcano across the straight in Sicily.  In the morning after I arrived I heard it rumble. 

On Monday, the weather should be borderline again, so I’m going kayaking, and hopefully I’ll have a good time.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="2976,2977,2978"]


Tropea Forever


Yesterday was a bad weather day.  Today is a bad weather day.  When I woke up this morning it was 35 degrees out.  Last night it was hailing and now it’s raining.  The wind is coming from the south, so I’m not trying to kayak through this cold dreary day.

The zip tie holding my seat together tore just as I was pulling into port on Monday.  So I went out to buy a thicker zip tie.  I only wanted one, not a bag of a hundred.  I told the fellow behind the counter why it was that I only wanted one, and he gave me four for free.  But they’re too thick and don’t fit through the seat.  I used some good marine grade string instead.  It’s how I fixed the kayak I was training in over the summer when the seat broke in exactly the same way.

I wanted to paddle this morning.  I got mostly ready while I watched the occasional lightning bolt in the distance.  It wrecked me to be stuck in port again.  Again and again.  I’m spending more days walking around than sitting on my butt.

I’ll have to be patient.  If I only get to kayak two days a week, then so be it.  I want to make lots of progress, but it’s not to be.

I wonder, would I be going out in rougher conditions if I were a better paddler.  Ultimately what it comes down to is that paddling into a strong headwind is not fun.  I want to enjoy my kayaking so I wait.  Still, I wonder.


In the mean time, I sent a couple letters asking about work in New Zealand.  Would it be a terrible thing if I took a sufficiently well paying job south of the equator for a few months while the worst of the winter passed.  I wonder if there is such a job.

I had hoped that I could be in Greece before winter hit hard like this, but it was not to be.

Patience. Being angry at Nelo for delivering my kayak a month and a half late despite the expressed imperative of a timely launch and promises made, will solve nothing.  Patience.  This weather will pass, and I will kayak.  I will see great things and enjoy warm clear waters.  Good things come to those who...  Blech, who am I kidding.  It hurts, but I’ll persevere.  Somehow.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="2970,2969,2968"]

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Day 76


The weather on Friday was not as good as I had hoped, and the forecast for Sunday was dismal, so I got on a train and went back to Napoli to spend my sabbath with the Jewish community there.  I stayed in Corrado’s sailboat and washed my stinky clothing with Dr. Bronner’s, my strong all-purpose biodegradable compact soap.  I also wash my pot and beard with it, though not at the same time.

Refreshed, I took the train south on Sunday, constantly checking the weather on the way.  I checked five different weather models.  None of them seemed to agree.  But the Italian news channel and the various locals I spoke to all told me there would be a north wind.  That would be good.

Instead of going to Pizzo twenty miles away along the coast, I would cut across the bay to Tropea 24 nautical miles away.  It was only four more miles further, but the plan cut off the 13 miles from Pizzo to Tropea.  The risk was that, at the height of my crossing,I would be about ten miles out.  No problem, so long as nothing went wrong.

The morning was cold, it took me three hours to get ready.  I was on the water at 8:00.  Twenty four miles at three knots meant I should arrive at 16:00, earlier if I got the promised tail wind.

And I did! over the course of the morning three or four swells pushed me along nicely in the right direction for a combined 10 seconds.  Mostly though the wind and swells were pushing straight out from the bay, so I compensated by aiming my bow inland to hold my course to Tropea.

Ahead I could see lightning over the peninsula ahead of me.  But the dark clouds and rain beneath them moved off to the west.  My eyes followed them to a mountain island.  The island was soon obscured by the storm, though later I did see its silhouette  in a flash of lightning.

The storm was an enormous north south border of darkness.  It was a lucky thing for me that the wind was blowing it away, even though it seemed to be getting larger.  Not only was the wind blowing the storm out to see as it was me, but also the weather forecast that I was relying on said it should head south and not inland.

It’s true, the forecast is not always accurate, and it’s true that sometimes storm clouds up above move in the opposite direction of the surface wind, but I didn’t think this was such an occasion.

I admitted I might be wrong when I took out my radio to do a radio check, frightened by the dark sky above.  Nobody answered.  My radio has a supposed range of five miles.  Given the weather, it’s not surprising I was alone.  Still, the point of being a good kayaker is to have the wits not to get caught in a storm and the skills to get out when it comes.  I could change my course and paddle to Pizzo.  The direction would take me away from the front and cut two miles off of my day.  But I wouldn’t beat the clouds.  It was too far.  I held my course.

And then it was on me.  The waves rose in height and ferocity by a couple inches.  I was rained on in two spats, both lasting about five minutes. The sun came out and the storm passed.  There was lightning in the distance, but my fear of electrocution wasn’t realized.

After the storm the wind changed direction.  I paddled into a solid head wind and my speed dropped down to two knots.  At that rate, I would not arrive until late in the evening, long after my energy supplies were gone.

But I kept eating.  I had whole wheat bread crackers that tasted like stale cardboard and two Nalgenes with three ounces of chia seeds and a liter of water each.  The goal was to consume at least 200 calories an hour.  And my energy didn’t crash, so I kept on paddling into the head wind, patiently persevering until the wind died down and after.

At 16:00 I could easily make out Tropea only four miles away. I could also make out another front of storm clouds out to sea, shooting of lightning at every opportunity.  I decided I would try to beat them.  I didn’t want to risk another chance of lightning death.

I picked up the pace, struggling to maintain my speed at over four knots, sometimes getting up to five.  The head wind had died down, but would occasionally resume in short ferocious gusts.  I huffed and I puffed and I beat out the storm.

I was in the port a little before five.  It was almost dark and the skies let loose.  Shivering, I found my way into the ports office in my kayak clothing to escape the torrential downpour.

Yes I could leave my kayak there.  No I could not shower, the showers are closed.  No I could not have the code to their wifi connection to update my blog, it wasn’t possible.

Later a dock worker gave me the key to the showers.  He turned on the hot water heater for me and I dutifully waited half an hour for lukewarm water.

I began my shower cold, I finished it colder.  I put all my clothing on and the shivering stopped.  I got into my sleeping bag under an awning and dropped off.  

No dinner, blessed sleep.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="2960,2961,2962"]

Nautical miles paddled: 24

Total since Naples: 195.5

Current location: 38.680434,15.902901

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Oldest Profession


The oldest professions, is of course, kayaking.  Archaeologists have found evidence that Arctic peoples were hunting with kayaks at least 4000 years ago, and it’s possible they were at it long before that.  Probably not on days like Tuesday though.

Tuesday the weather was brutal and I stayed in my shack and read a book.  I told the captain of the port that the weather for Wednesday looked better and that I might be able to leave.

He tried to convince me not to.  I left it at “Maybe.  I’ll decide in the morning.”

Wednesday the weather made Tuesday look like a walk in the park.  Enormous waves heaved themselves over the walls of the port and lightning storms illuminated the sky far out at sea when they weren’t defining with thunder directly overhead. The captain of the port made fun of me all day because I had said I might go kayaking.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="2929,2930,2931"]


Today I got a ride to the supermarket.  There’s a supermarket a 20 minute walk from the port, but the fellow who was giving me a ride took me to the one an hour away.

While he was driving I asked “quanti kilometer [how many kilometers]?”

“Three kilometers.”  He told me.

When we arrived my smartphone told me it was five.  I bought some bread, beans, and cream cheese and began walking back along the two lane highway.

I held my hand out to hitchhike along the way.  Thank god, no one picked me up.

I could see the back of a woman holding a cigarette on the other side of the road facing oncoming traffic.  Maybe she was hitchhiking in the opposite direction.  From behind I could see that she had shiny black hair down to her waist over a jean jacket.

I kept walking and could see her better when the bushes were out of the way.  The woman was most likely in her 50s and was wearing only a thong below the waist.  She was probably cold.

I kept on walking.

Here and there along the road, wherever there was room for a car to pull over, there were women in outfits that left little to the imagination, and I suspect this was bad for their business.  It would have taken a good deal of imagination to want to see more.

The sea along the road glistened two distinct clear colors, brownish grey and farther out azure blue.  Whitecaps abounded.  A double rainbow arched out onto the near side of a mountain just ahead on my right.  The lower of the two rainbows was surprisingly close.


It started to pour.  The woman who happened to be next to me at this juncture went to get her umbrella and I put my pack down to get out my rain coat and pants.  I was putting the pants on when the middle aged heavy set blond wearing a miniskirt looked up at me from her low chair.

  I shook my head “no” so that there be no confusion.  I had stopped to put on my rain coat, not make a new friend.

I glanced at her.  With her knees up the way they were I saw she was not a natural blonde.  The movie Basic Instinct is forever ruined for me.

“Gana?”  She asked me, almost pleadingly.  It reminded me of Oliver Twist, begging for something so simple as a bit of food.  I don’t known what gana means and I don’t know if that’s exactly what she said.

I shook my head no.  She pleaded again.  “Gana?”

“No.”  I tried to say politely.  There was something very sad going on.  I didn’t intend to hang around and find out what it was.  I finished getting my rain clothing on and continued walking.


It was pouring.  I realized that in my flight I forgot to put the rain cover over my pack.

In the afternoon I used zip ties to fix my seat.  I paddled around the port and found that I can invert my spray skirt tube to get most of my body rotation back and move the chafing from my back to my belly.  I also practiced some rolls, but missed my hand rolls.  Eventually, practice will make perfect, I hope.

Tomorrow the weather may well be good enough for me to paddle to the next port, Pizzo.  But the first half of next week is supposed to be stormy again.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Day 75


I had to wait until 8:00 for the supermarket to open. So I went back to sleep and woke up at 7:30. It turned out that the supermarket was a long walk away, and once I was back and packed up it was 10:00.

I had 15 nautical miles to paddle. There was a storm out at sea and I could expect a stiff head wind coming from land. At least the water would mostly be flat and hopefully if I stayed close enough to the coast, I could steer clear of the wind. Hopefully.

A wizened old man asked me when I was leaving. "Tempo parte?" were words I understood.

"Adesso."[now] I told him.

He told me not to. He told me the weather was no good. He showed me how even in the port the wind was blowing ripples across the water and he pointed the clouds that were cartwheeling over the mountains. This sorcerer knew what he was about and nature itself was at his command to demonstrate to me its fury.

I explained that I would try to stay close to land. Beaches would line my entire route, so worst case scenario I could stop wherever. And besides lovely as it is, San Lucido wasn't exactly the Garden of Eden. I pointed to the spot where I had slept in the sandy litter strewn concrete port.

"Hai dormito qui? [you slept here?]" He asked me in surprise. Had he but known I could have slept on his fishing boat. He pointed to his fishing boat. It was not a yacht. It looked like the sort of place thousands of fish had been gutted and countless gallons of diesel spilled.

"Thank you, that's so kind!" But I think I'll try to leave today anyways. If things get rough, I can always turn around.

And when I started, things weren't rough. That came later.

I paddled just a few yards from the beach and the wind gradually grew stronger.

Two men were standing near the water and started yelling at me to stop. I thought they were fishermen so I aimed a little farther out to steer clear of their lines, but they kept yelling at me to stop, so I did. They spoke to me in Italian and I didn't understand.

"Quanti meter?" I asked. [How many meters?]

“Duecento [two hundred]” one of them told me in Italian. I looked out. There was a black flag at about that distance. I went to paddle around it thinking it would probably just be easier to paddle over there line, but not a good idea since I didn't want to set off a mine.

The wind continued to get stronger. Some of my breaks I was able to find shelter for and others I wasn't. I was washed hundreds of feet out to sea.

Into the wind I told myself. "It's hard, but I can do this. I will do this." The sea was still mostly flat so I pushed forward. My seat back broke off.

I had over the summer sampled an Inuk at the camp I worked at. The seat in that one broke also. The Nelo rep promised me the boat they would send me in Italy would have a different seat. It didn't, but the Nelo rep promised me a lot of things that never happened.

I tried to fix the seat, and my fix held for about five minutes before it broke again. The next time it only held for two minutes and after that I had a few 30 second goes, before giving up entirely.

I passed what I could only call a micro port. In good weather I could have taken out there as a sea wall protected the small bay from the sea, but today the opening faced the wind and provided no protection at all. It would not be an easy place to give up, and I wanted to arrive in the larger port at Campora San Giovani in a desperate hope they'd have a shower (They don't.)

I paddled without a seat back into the ever increasing headwind. I smiled and waved to fisherman who looked at me like I was crazy.

My back ached. My shoulders hurt. My progress was slow, but I kept at it, and eventually I arrived in a modern looking port crowded with motor boats and small fishing boats.

The captain of the port greeted me from the dock and before I could get a word in, told me I was welcome to stay for the night, where ever I was going, where ever I was coming from.

"Will you be leaving tomorrow?" he asked me in Italian?

"Oggi vento bruto, domani ..." [Today the wind is bad, tomorrow ...]

"Multi bruto." he completed for me. I could stay until the storm passed and shower with their hose. There was a small shack over there where I could dump my stuff and sleep. I was welcome to what little they had.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="2912,2913,2914,2915,2916,2917"]


Nautical miles paddled: 16

Total since Naples:  171.5

Current location:  39.055401,16.091937

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Day 74


I paddled to Santa Lucido,

I was exhausted through most of the paddle as I passed one beach town after another. Small houses dotted the mountains and higher up I saw villages with castles, towers, pastel painted homes and shops.

Down by the water the apartments were blocky and unpainted.  The stairs were on the outside.

Train tracks ran along the sea and a couple times an hour a passenger or freight train would chug passed.

My back had been chafing for a few days now. The first day it was really bad was the one after I camped out and hadn't showered. It had gotten a little better over the weekend, but now it was getting worse. The spray skirt and my shorts were rubbing my skin off with every body rotation and stroke. I needed to fix it. I released my sprayskirt from the kayak's combing.

The chafing was substantially relieved. There was another side effect: My forward stroke drastically improved. My spray skirt had been too tight and I only realized once I paddled without it. The key to a good forward stroke is body rotation. A good spray skirt is elastic enough so that rotation is free or nearly so. Once my skirt was off, I was rotating easily. I put the skirt back on again for comparison, and suddenly rotation was much harder.

I took the skirt off and resolved to leave it off, at the very least, until the chafing healed or I found myself approaching rough conditions. If I find myself in rough conditions without any warning, I'll have a problem, because I can hardly ask the sea to calm down for just a moment while I put my skirt on. Nelo provided the skirt for me with the boat, but despite their promises and my requests, not in advance giving me a chance to test it.

With the skirt off as I approached the last hour of my paddle I found my energy and started making four, four and a half, and even five knots, an enormous jump from the three I had been doing all morning.

Santa Lucido is a small town with a smaller fishing port and a group of old fisherman that hang around shooting the breeze. They were excited to hear I had paddled from Barcelona.

“Dove Sepermerkati?” [where is the supermarket?] I asked them.

The words in their answer included “Hogi chiuso, dominica.” [The supermarket is closed on Sundays.]

I had cooked the last of my pasta that morning. I would have liked to eat, but I guess it was not to be.

One of the fisherman told me to “vinire”[come] to “mea casta”[my house.]

We got in his car and went up the mountain. With great generosity, he and his family gave me pasta and bread and chocolate and chili peppers from the garden. I was even invited to take a shower.

Naturally I showered with my shirt on, since there was no other way it would get clean. My host let himself into the bathroom, undoubtedly to tell me something about the shampoo or some such helpful tidbit, and was shocked to see me wearing my shirt.

I was shocked to see him at all, and commanded him to leave, though my italian was limited I was entirely clear. “Ciao!” He left.

After the shower my host gave me a dry shirt and showed me his enormous vegetable garden, grape vines, fruit trees, cannabis plant, wine fermentation system, and frozen fish freezer from the fish he had caught.

Unfortunately, his wife would not let me stay for the night, so he drove me back down to my kayak. I slept beside it.

The weather for the next day looked grim, but it may be possible sticking close to the coast to make it to the next port some 15 miles away.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="2901,2902,2903,2904,2905,2906,2907,2908,2909"]

Nautical miles paddled: 21

Total since Naples: 155.5

Current Location:  39.313175,16.043418