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


  1. Hey Dov, nice kayaking and blogging!
    But how will you cross the Adriatic? it looks like twice as long as what you just did.
    Also, why not do this in the summer?

  2. Nice post! Good that you met the dock worker who unlocked the showers for you.

    How is your energy level the next day when you skip dinner? I've read of athletes who fast during the day and only have one extremely large, extended meal at the end of the day.

  3. Thanks! I woke up so tired it hurt to chew.

  4. Thanks!

    It expect it will take me twice as long to cross the Adriatic as what I did here in this post, or less since I'll wait for good weather.

    People don't train for iron man contests by running iron man contests and they don't train for ultra marathons by running ultra marathons. The plan is to do a bunch of 20 - 25 nautical mile days so that I'll be in shape for a 45 nautical mile day. Hopefully it will work.

    I work in the summer. Though, at this rate, I'll still be out here next summer. Hopefully I'll get some breaks and manage to pick up the pace.