Monday, January 20, 2014

Day 94

This blog lately has had a lot of downers. I want to remind my readers that I’m having an amazing time out here. Every time I paddle I enjoy the thrill of the sea. The problem is that if I keep on writing that I’m seeing breathtaking views, you guys, my readers, will just assume that I’m coming down with asthma. I’m having a great time out here, even if day 94 does begin with me trying to decide if I can paddle with only partially healed ripped hands.

Day 94

I was cold in all my clothing in my sleeping bag in my bivi sack. I wondered if all the use and tight storage had cost my bag some of it’s loft.

The sun rose and I packed quickly. I stopped to take a piece of glass out of my foot that I probably picked up a couple of days earlier. It hurt, but my tweezers and some alcohol, for the wound, put an end to it.

A fisherman pulled a struggling octopus out of the water with a line. I haven’t seen many marine critters in the water. The Mediterranean is substantially overfished.

I didn’t feel bad for the creature. I felt bad for us. The fisherman took something precious from the community for himself. I’m sure that his fishing was more than recreational and an important part of his diet, but I still felt bad.

That’s probably why I’ve never seen a dolphin in the Mediterranean. Dolphins go where the food is, and there’s just not that much around here. Dolphins are one of the most amazing creatures on earth. Aside from their nearly unparalleled hydrodynamic natural beauty, they are perhaps the only creature on the earth besides man that has has a multitude of languages.

Dolphins talk with each other, and if you take one from its pod and put it in another, it won’t be able to understand its new peers. Just like me here in Italy, it takes a while to pick up a new language

Douglas Adams, a renown marine biologist, writes this about those elegant creatures whose home we’re destroying:
“On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much - the wheel, New York, wars and so on - whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man - for precisely the same reasons.”

Poor squid. Poor us. Poor dolphins.

The sea was flat. I had a choice to make. I could cross directly to Sibari Marina, or follow the coast. Following the coast would be about four miles longer, the same distance a direct crossing would take me off shore.

My hands were not in good shape. If I was out and decided I needed to stop early, too bad for me. Of course, the farther I had to go to make the next Lega Navale, the more likely I would fail. A wind was forecast to come from the mountains off my port side. I would have to adjust my course, but I didn’t think it would slow me much. If I stayed near the shore, I probably wouldn’t feel it and if I did I could use the waves moving towards the beach to compensate.

There was a white lighthouse at the point where I had to decide. Two miles were behind me and my hand were doing fine. I began the crossing.

The sun shone and sparkled on the flat sea. Snow capped mountains ahead glowed in the light. To my left villages disappeared into foggy heights. And I made good time. I kept my speed over 3.5 knots and often over four. The same sorts of speeds I got with my winged paddle I was now making with my old spare.

I don’t know why. Maybe I just needed an adjustment period. Maybe there was half a knot of current with me. Maybe I just felt good. If I had my winged would I have been paddling at four and 4.5? I don’t know. But I did feel good.

That’s probably why I got to see the dolphin. My heart pounded. It had surfaced and gone back down just like a dolphin, but it was a ways off - and coming closer.

I saw it more clearly. Its two main top fins elegantly gliding in and out of the water a few hundred feet ahead.

Dolphins don’t have two fins. I’ve seen them in the everglades. This one seemed to. Maybe it wasn’t a dolphin after all. It was big.

It came closer. It was two dolphins, surfacing and diving in perfect tandem. One of them was small, maybe the size of a bread box. The other was probably a little bigger than me.

They simultaneously leaped into the air when they were about twenty feet away. My heart pounded. I sat motionless in a supreme state of awe.

The dolphins dived down and came up farther off. I paddled towards them and they dived again, this time coming up even farther away.

I watched them a little while longer as they swam farther and farther and then I continued on.

When I was two miles away from Sibari and about a mile off the beach a boat came towards me and stopped about 500 hundred feet behind me. I had resumed paddling and the boats motors roared as it came closer then stopped again. It was a Coast Guard boat. I paddled backwards towards it.

The captain explained to me, first in Italian and then in English, that I had to stay within three hundred meters of the shore.

“Okay, scuzi,” I told him. I suspect I sounded as sincere as I felt since the shook his finger at me saying I was naughty.

He said that was all so I continued on my way.

I saw the dolphins again. This time there were at least three of them, and one was big. Maybe as big as my kayak. I suspect there were four, but I never saw more than three at once. I stopped to watched until they were far away.

I passed the mouth of a rushing river that hurled me off course with hand freezing water. I had expected the current, but my preemptive compensation was not quite enough. Once I was through, the eddie, which I had also foreseen and underestimated, pushed me onto the beach.

The next river was my exit. Red and green posts indicated it was the entrance to the port. Only it was more of a stream than a river. The water rushed through the beach and and was only a few feet deep. I don’t think many vessels besides a kayak could have gotten through, but there was no arguing with the posts.

Once past the beach the current relaxed and the water deepened. Forest surrounded me. Ahead of me was an old industrial concrete building and to my left large steel doors in the water surrounded by concrete. Signs indicated one door was for coming and the other going. Maximum speed was two knots.

I waited. Nothing happened. I blew my whistle. Again. And again. I tried contacting the doors operators on my radio. Again and again. No luck. I got out, picked my boat up, and climbed over the wall. I got back in on the other side.

The water was decorated with slime, floating goo, and oil slicks. I used my paddle like a canoe paddle so that I wouldn’t get the filthy water on my hands. The port was much more that the standard mooring center. It was an enormous canal that spread between bunches of pink apartments closed for the winter. I found a dock in what seemed to be a centralized port area.

No one was around. The port office and a cafe were open. The office attendant gave me a key to the port’s bathroom and the lady who sat in the cafe confirmed that the town was empty and there was no supermarket, but she’d be happy to pick things up for me.

The port bathroom had a hot shower and a sheltered floor to sleep on, and for the sabbath, that was really all I needed.

Nautical miles paddled: 15
Total since Naples: 431.5
Current location: 39.729898,16.506667

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  1. I saw dolphins maybe even the same day you did! If you love dolphins and care for their well being and preservation, and want to be very angry, look up what the Japanese are doing in Taiji, and that they are planning a festival to celebrate the capture and slaughter of hundreds of dolphins.