Content warning - this post is not for the frail. Mom, you should probably skip it.
I packed up my things and was on the water by 7:00. I was expecting moderate winds to push me inland as I made the 24 nautical mile crossing to Agropoli. That was farther than I would have liked to go given the weather, but worse weather was coming and if I was going to get nailed down on account of winds, I’d rather it be a place with a shower.
At first, the wind and waves weren’t so bad and I made good time. They gradually got worse. The side wind evolved into a head wind slowing my pace.
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My breaks for snacks at the end of each hour got shorter and shorter as the risk of me capsizing while eating lunch increased with the wave height. I’m more than stable enough while I’m holding my paddle, that’s what skills are all about. But when I put my paddle down to eat, I have a problem. And as I ate less, I got more and more tired, and slowed down even more.
I had to pee. I keep a cut off bottle in my cockpit. I open my skirt, fill it up, and dump it out. Half way into the ritual a surprise wave hit me. I tried to scull with one hand on my winged paddle, but it only worked for a moment before the blades angle caught the water wrong and I capsized. Under water I admired the beautiful crystal blue shade of the sea around me.as my cockpit began to flood.
I rolled back up and took my pump out from under my seat. My pump requires at least one hand and that’s with some difficulty. Just as I finished getting the water out, with my skirt still open, another wave capsized me.
I repeated the process, noticing that I was at least five miles from land. I wonder how long I could keep this up before pressing my panic button. I had my skirt on as much as possible while pumping.
I finished and got my skirt back on.
I paddled for a while longer, losing strength with every stroke, when I realized I never finished peeing. Well, I had enough problems without needing to pee, and I certainly wasn’t going to take my skirt off in the worsening conditions that had been joined by occasional downpours and mounting gusts.
I peed in my boat while I paddled. I figured when I arrived at my destination I’d perform a wet exit and get everything good and wet with sea water. At least I was still unzipped under there from my previous efforts.
I was twelve miles out from Amalfi, I had 12 miles left to go. According to my GPS, at my current average pace, I would arrive at 16:30. If the wind increased as it had been doing all day, maybe later. I was only half way, and thoroughly exhausted.
I had another option. There was a river that went into the sea that I had marked the location of. Rivers can be good places to take out since they are often flat when the sea is rough. It was only seven miles away. I didn’t really know what to expect since I had saved the location on my GPS for an emergency take out over a month earlier. I was ready to get off the water.
I changed course. The last few miles were a struggle. I was thoroughly exhausted.
Rivers often create sandbars that result in bigger waves, and this river was flowing strong right up to the narrow mouth. As I approached an enormous wave picked me up and launched me forward. I edged my boat into the wave and executed a stern pry with my paddle to try to steer towards the mouth of the river. The sandy breaking frothing water passed under me and I was not on target, so I tried to sprint towards the river mouth before the next wave could throw me onto the beach.
I don’t know if I was imagining that my sprint was nothing more than a crawl, or if in fact I was so weakened by the day’s ordeal that my progress was just pitiful, but when the next giant hit, I wasn’t close enough to surf into the river.
I turned the boat so that it was facing towards the beach as the wave caught me. My stern went up. Around me was a wall of frothing chaos that heaved me forward. My bow went down, into the sand, and caught. My stern was hurled forward over me and I prayed that the water wasn’t so shallow I’d land on my head.
I landed in the water. I tried to roll up on the down wave side* unsuccessfully. Rather than switch sides, I wet exit. I figured I’d need to get out in a moment at the beach anyways.
I came up and looked around. I was farther out than I had realized. I began to swim through the surf towing my kayak. Even without swimming, the waves would most likely have pushed me towards shore, but I didn’t want to test the theory.
My booties were not zipped up since it was hot in the kayak, now in the water as I kicked hard I almost kicked them off. I put them back on, kicked some more, and almost kicked them off. I stopped, as the wild sea shoved me and my boat to and fro, and zipped up my booties.
A fisherman on the shore was getting ready to jump in and save me. I gave him the OK sign with my hands. I was doing just fine thank you very much, but not so fine that I could save a drowning fisherman and my kayak. If it hadn’t been such a long day, maybe, but it was so I did everything I could to communicate that he should not come in.
I finished swimming to shore and he grabbed my boat to help me drag it through the sand. I tried to stop that also as the finish was scratched right off, but to no avail. The man was, after all, a hero.
I stood still and rested.
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The man offered to let me use his phone, he assumed mine was bust. My phone was busted, it turned out, which was strange since it was dry, in a dry bag, in a dry bag that was tied into my cockpit and floating in the water during the take out.
I looked around. I guessed I would camp on the desolate garbage strewn beach. Then make the eight mile journey to Agropoli on the next day.
There was something on the other side of the river. There might be water there, or a bathroom. The river water was dark and moving fast, but at the mouth only fifteen feet across or so. I figured I could ford it without to much trouble.
I checked with the hero. He said it was impossible. The river was very deep. He helped me carry my kayak to a spot where the river calmly and gently eddied. He told me there was camping on the other side of the river. Camping was good and hopefully not expensive.
I paddled across to a small beach where another fisherman said ciao.
There was camping, a trailer lot with a few trailers and a couple of people wandering about. There was a shower, and an electrical outlet, and a wifi connection. There were nice dogs wandering about. I ate a couple of pomegranates off of a tree and my phone started working the moment I plugged it in.
I made myself comfortable.When the manager showed up a few hours later, I told him my story. He put me in a camper, told me I could stay until the weather was perfect, and he wouldn’t charge me] a dime. I was his guest. He was righteous. He gave me some shampoo for the shower.
If you're ever in this part of Italy, wherever I am, there’s a really nice trailer park here. A beautiful river goes out to the sea. It’s a good place for sunsets.
*The wrong side.
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Nautical miles paddled: 19
Total since Naples: 58.5
Current location: 40.481459,14.944098
Quite the adventure! Great that you came across the camp.ReplyDelete
I got really lucky to be nailed down in luxury. Tomorrow the wind dies down and the day after the waves, so I should be back on my way soon.ReplyDelete
happy to see you are back on the road... i mean water...ReplyDelete
love this post. definitely scary, but the kind of tale worth telling. and TOTAL score on the free and (relative) luxurious accommodations. well done.ReplyDelete
now stop fucking around and be safe out there! :oP
Thanks Josh, that's what's holding me up right now when every bone in my body is aching to get on my way.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much Dov, I liked so much you feel at home in my home because La Foce dei Tramonti il my home. Fair winds!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much for having me, it was a real pleasure!ReplyDelete
Started following blog. went to arzei. now yiot. know ur dad from shul. canoe alot on hudson, passaic, overpeck creek, and hackensack. Have read a few good kayak and raft exploration books at teaneck public. Looking forward to reading yours. :). So uve been at sea since summer 2010. Ive only read firs and last couple of blogs so far.ReplyDelete
Great, I hope you enjoy the blog. In February 2013 I arrived in Naples ending the first leg of my trip. After two years of grad school I'm taking a break from my studies, hopefully to complete the journey. Check out the book, it sounds like you'd like it.ReplyDelete