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.