Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Day 101


Yesterday I took my chart off my front deck and put it down next to my boat on the patio of the port's security station. I put my compass plate against it and measured a bearing of 128 degrees to Gallipoli.

Between then and when I began my 25 mile crossing the next morning, my chart was stolen, but that didn't stop me from setting out into the wild blue yonder. The forecast said I would have a force three north west tailwind for most of the day. Perfecto! The sea would be calm in the morning and calmer in the afternoon.

The direct line would take me eight miles south of the coast, but there was nothing to worry about since I would make great time in great conditions.

I felt the wind at my back and I was cruising. The wind strengthened. Great! The waves were picking up and pushing me along. Alright! The wind strengthened. Err, yay? The waves got higher and white caps were appearing as the taller waves collapsed under their own weight. Umm, maybe these slightly scary conditions were an aberration and would pass in a few minutes. The wind shifted to do north... or was it north east.

I had been paddling for two hours. If I was moving at my standard speed of three knots then I had 17 miles to Gallipoli, maybe less with the tail wind. I didn't want to paddle 17 more miles like these.  The extra speed was not enough to compensate for no snack breaks and the added effort of keeping me upright. Alternatively, I could head back to land. My chart was gone so I couldn't measure the distance on it, and my GPS had not yet recovered from its recent swim. How far was it back to the coast? 128 degrees … if the coast was east west, then the angel was 38 degrees. If I rounded that up to 45, not implausible with the strong north wind, then that left me with 2x^2=6^2➩ x^2= 18 ➩ x=2^(1/2) 3 ~= 4.5 nautical miles to land.

I paddled a little farther hoping the weather would pass. I much preferred to paddle 17 miles with a good tail wind than 4.5 into a head wind and not make it nearly as far.

The voice of reason spoke:

“Dov, so what if you don't get as far today? It's better to paddle a lot when you want to be paddling than 17 miles when you don't.”

I wanted to paddle to the town that I could see that was a little less than 30 degrees NNE of me - a 3:4:5 triangle (5/4)4.5 = 22.5/4~= 5.5 nautical miles. I turned into the wind.

Waves crashed over my bow. The soggy crackers on my skirt were washed away. I didn't have energy to feel bad about littering. Everything was being put into the fight. I felt like I was forcing my paddles through butter.

I was running out of energy. I was thirsty. I kept fighting into the wind.

A boat bobbed up and down distantly behind me on the starboard side. I could turn around and paddle to it, maybe a mile, and ask for help or continue on my way to the village on the distant coast. If the boat moved away before I got there, I'd find myself on a wild goose chase. I could radio it. For that I would have to put my paddle down and open my skirt, and I wasn't nearly that desperate. I continued struggling into the wind towards the village.

I was thirstier, so I relaxed my grip on my paddle just long enough to shove my drinking hose into my mouth, only I dropped it. I grabbed it out of the water and secured it between my back teeth to turn the nozzle. I felt the plastic crack. I relaxed my grip and drank some while paddling before returning the hose to the bungees on my deck.

I saw another boat, this one between me and the village. It was slowly moving to the west, or was the wind pushing me east? My shoulders ached and I was tired.

Gradually the boat grew closer and I could make out details. I tried waving my paddle in the air in a universal gesture of distress. I didn't want it to go away without noticing or caring about me. Before I could get any good waiving going on, I snatched it back down to scull and avoid capsize.

I put my all into reaching the boat.

The fisherman smiled and were happy to see me, though surprised at the direction I was coming from given the conditions.

“I'm coming from Barcelona.” I answered, only this confused them more, or at least suggested I was very lost.

I saw that it would be hard to get me and my gear up onto their boat. But the port they launched from was the town I was heading for and only two kilometers away. I could do two more kilometers. And I did.

The waves died down as I got closer to the shore, but the wind kept up until the moment I got out of my boat and stepped on land. The town made use of beautiful bay for a harbor. A dock with a Lega Navale sign over it jutted a short distance into the flat water.

The LNI was meeting for a function. They were happy to greet me.

Then they were gone. I walked around town looking for a wifi connection. One restaurant had, but they told me they didn't. They advertise that they are reviewed on Tripadvisor. I suppose I ought to give La Scogliera a bad review.

I was hungry. I found a bar/supermarket but it was closed. I asked at the ice cream parlor across the street if there was another supermarket around, and the woman walked me to the bar supermarket and opened it up.

We went inside. There were a few empty shelves in a dark room. On the far side was an empty bar and between the two cash registers near the door was a paddle boat. A layer of dust decorated everything.

There was one aisle in which the shelves were mostly empty instead of completely. I found a single can of lentils that was severely dented. There was canned meat, but no canned tuna. I bought some pasta and resigned myself to using my fuel reserve.

On my way back to my boat I passed a fish store. I like fish and I was hungry.

“How much for three of these?” They could have fit in a can of sardines and would make a nice addition to my pasta.

The fish man wrapped them up and gave them to me for free. He gestured that I should eat them the way they were, without cooking them … I think.

Maybe the fish man knew something that I didn't about eating raw fish. I bit one of their heads off since that was the part staring at me. It was salty, and not yummy. I finished chewing the fish head, waiting for the yumminess to come, but it didn't.

The remaining fish, scaled and gutted, went into my pasta.

As I sat a group of young people gathered around me and asked me about my trip. One of them gave me his bar of ice cream, a brand that I recognized as kosher. I was also offered ganja. Which is Italian for ganja. I liked feeling at ease with a group of happy people.

I walked around. A lake is connected to the harbor by a narrow canal lined with boats on either side. Behind the town is a wild flatland which eventually rises to low hills. I found the name of the town on a sign. I'm in Torre Colimena.

The Lega Nevale's security guard invited me to sleep over. He had a cupboard full of vegetables and potatoes. I sauted a bunch of good things in a olive oil and enjoyed a nice dinner – hold the fish heads.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3631,3632,3633,3634,3636,3826,3825,3824,3823,3822,3821,3820,3819,3817,3816,3815"]


Nautical miles paddled: 12.5

Total since Naples: 533

Current location:  40.297514,17.746492


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Day 100


I left my Dr. Bronner's in Policoro. But the campground caretaker was happy to provide me with an extra half used bottle of his. He also gave me salt for my pasta, which I cooked over the fire.

It may have been the first time he'd seen a camper cook over a fire. It was the sort of campground that pandered to folks who could bring their own kitchens.

The caretaker was a little concerned. What if I accidentally burnt his woodsy RV parking lot down?

“It's okay. I'm a ranger.” I told him, almost truthfully.

He visibly relaxed.

While it was likely this campground had never seen a fire before, it had certainly never seen an NPS federal law enforcement (almost) ranger before. I was a good guest to have.

Tuesday the wind was too strong and the waves too high. Wednesday the wind was ferocious and the waves rushed at the shore in packs of destruction. Thursday things began to calm down.

This morning I launched. I brought my gear down to the micro harbor. The caretaker opened the back gate for me and told me to make sure it shut behind me. He didn't want his dogs to get out.

I had gotten to know his dogs over the last few days. They loved the caretaker and followed him around. They didn't strike me as very smart. The dogs were really scared of me. When I offered to let them clean my empty tuna cans, they didn't approach. I left the cans and when I came back they were gone.

I made a number of trips down to the water, each time remembering to close the gate behind me, except for the last.

The caretaker came down to see me off. He noticed the gate was open and pointed it out to me. Only one of his dogs was with him, so he assumed the other had run away. He stood at the gate and hollered and whistled.

I had seen him try to call the dog the day before, with no luck.

I walked down the path between the campground fence and the water. I didn't see the dog. I walked down it the other way, and didn't see the dog there either. With a million new smells to stop and sniff, she couldn't have gone far.

I asked the caretaker if he had actually seen the dog leave.

No he hadn't, but I didn't need to worry about it. It wasn't my problem. He went back to calling and whistling.

“It is my problem.” I told him.

I went into the campground and found the dog. She was looking in the direction of all the commotion and seemed to be saying “You, call me? Ha, that's a laugh. If you want to talk to me you'll have to come here!”

With considerable cajoling I got her to follow me to the caretaker. He relaxed and took pictures of me while I launched.

The waves were forecast for about a meter and half in the morning and a meter in the afternoon. The wind force four in the morning and calm in the afternoon. The conditions were not great, but they were good enough to make it the 12 miles to Campomarino.

The shore was mostly lined with porous jagged rocks that rose a sharp meter out of the sea. There were lots of inlets, though none nearly as well protected as the campground's.

The waves were rough but tolerable.

After an hour I found and pulled into a little inlet naturally surrounded by chunks of the porous gray rock. There were six or seven row boats on the beach. The small natural harbor was well used.

Protected as I was from the unbalancing waves by the natural seawall, I peed, had a snack, and checked my progress on the GPS. The sea was too rough for me to be comfortable resting my paddle.

Sometimes near the shore the waves were twice my height if not more. Sometimes they broke farther out and I needed to decide if I wanted to try to go all the way around, or cut in between the breaking section and the shore. Sometimes I was a little scared, but not a single one of the large breaking waves hit me. Perhaps it was because I had a good eye for where they were, judged distances well, and knew when to sprint. Perhaps it was because I was lucky.

I headed in towards a castle to take a picture. I saw a small protected cove nearby. Porous rocks and a large slab of concrete formed a letter J shape. I was coming from the top of the J heading into the safety of the bottom.

I took a picture. A breaking wave was coming at me. It wasn't higher than my shoulders, but it was fast and angry. I dropped the camera and tried to sprint to the bottom of the J.

The wave pushed me towards the rocky shore and then passed under me. It was the one that came right after that completely took control of my boat and flipped me over into the down wave side.

I looked up through an underwater sandstorm towards the surface. My glasses were torn off my face. The water around me swirled and vortexed with whatever the wave could suck up from the bottom.

I needed to recover on the up wave side. I reached my paddles and body under the boat away from the surface and shifted my hips to switch sides. I sliced my paddle through the water to the new surface, then turned the blade 90 degrees and sculled it back for leverage. I snapped my hips pulling my kayak under me.

I popped up and finished paddling to the safe zone. My GPS and camera had both been on my sprayskirt and were not dragging in the water. My camera typically survived such swims. My GPS did not, but so far a night of sitting in my rice box has always fixed it.

I had a snack, checked my progress on my GPS – it was broken – and then moved on.

I paddled the last three miles along a beach. The waves were breaking far out so I paddled even farther.

A large fishing boat followed by a flock of seagulls headed into port. I was much closer so I continued, clearly having the right of way. The fishing boat was racing, but by the time I realized it I had won. The best way to get out of the way was to sprint forwards and then veer off once I arrived in the port. The fishing boat rode my tail and scared the willies out of me. I blew my whistle to make sure he knew I was there, but it was unnecessary. He knew I was there.

I finished passing through the port entrance and pulled off to let the fishing boat pass. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

I parked my kayak and looked around. There were some folk doing construction on a building and no one else. An officer left the locked coastguard building. He didn't look like he could help me with hospitality.

A car turned into the parking lot  and parked next to the security station. The driver and I became friends. He helped me move my kayak next to the security that was manned most of the time. The port does not have a shower, so I used a hose.

It looks like there's not much here in the way of accommodations for the sabbath, but a friendly fellow is a great place to start.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3624,3626,3627,3628,3630"]

Nautical miles paddled: 13.5

Total since Naples: 520.5

Current location: 40.298129,17.562682

Monday, February 24, 2014

Day 99


I didn’t have a forecast.  Yesterday morning I saw that today would have force four headwinds in the morning and possibly force five in the afternoon.  I don’t do force five headwinds and I’m not overly fond of force four, but before I could head back to Taranto and buy a new phone charger I needed to see the conditions around the point.

I hopped over the front gate of the beach club using the wall climbing trick I learned in the IDF.  Then I set out to find the beach around the point.

I followed the road to a military base.  I could see the water through the gate in between the lighthouse and another building, but not with enough detail to make a launch decision.  I followed the road around to another larger military base.  After that there were some walled houses between me and the sea and then a dead end.

I needed another approach.

I have experience with breaking into military bases.  But the last time I needed to do that I had all sorts of intelligence on guard stations and patrols.  Okay, it was my base and I was returning from a late night out.  But hopping over the fence without getting caught was real enough.

I went back to the beach club and walked along the jagged rock shore.  I arrived at a fence heading into the sea and climbed around it.  I walked in between the military base’s seaward fence and the water.  I kept a low profile and climbed from one rock to the next.  I passed another fence, and arrived at the point.

There were a number of fishing boats out there.  The breeze was not strong.  I looked at the surf.  It was not big.

It was late when I launched, but better late than never.  Around the point I paddled into waves and a headwind, but nothing scary.

There were a number of divers in the water.  Apparently I was paddling over a popular coral reef, though with the heavy clouds above, the water was dark and unrevealing.  I asked some of the people in diver support boats for a forecast.  Some were clueless.  One told me that in the morning the sea would be calm and the afternoon - maybe.

One fellow told me force five or six winds.  His shipmate corrected him; the winds would be 5 or 6 knots.

I passed the military base.  Building sized concrete embedded turrets big guns out to sea.

The waves gradually strengthened and the wind’s ferocity grew.  

I arrived at the cove I wanted to reach the day before.  In its relaxed waters, I hiked up my skirt and took a leak.

In ordinary conditions with my late start I could reach the next port, 12 miles away, around four o'clock.  In the current conditions, probably four thirty.  If they continued to worsen, who knew.

In the cove I found a natural harbor protected by a large rock wall.  Inside the water was flat.  I practiced a couple of rolls.  A hiker stopped to watch.

I landed and quickly changed out of my wet clothing.  There was a tennis court above me, but most of the hills around the cove were dressed with shrubs and trees.  An old bunker slept in the rocks on the opposite side, having long forgotten its mission to protect against an allied attack.

I followed some steps up to a road and found, with the hiker’s directions, an RV parking lot with trees and a sign that said camping.

For seven euro a night, down from nine, I have the entire campground to myself.  The showers are hot for almost 15 seconds and the mosquitos only mildly annoying.

The supermarket didn’t have bread, so I bought pasta, tuna, and cheese.  I made a cooking fire.  The fellow running the campground was little surprised and worried.  I don’t think anyone has made a fire here before.

“It’s okay, I’m a ranger.”  I told him almost honestly.  He visibly relaxed.

I’ll need to try that line out more often, or better yet, get a job so that it’s true.

Tomorrow the headwind and waves are expected to get worse.  But I don’t know if they’ll be seven euro worse.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3666,3604,3605,3606,3607,3608,3660,3663"]

Nautical miles paddled:  6

Total since Naples: 507

Current Location: 40.370228,17.309216


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Day 98


Force four headwinds were expected all day. I didn't know how strong I'd feel them in the bay around Taranto, but once I left it I would confront waves and surf at full blast. I figured I could make about five miles and take out on a beach in the safety of a cove.

I said goodbye to the really nice people in the port and launched. As I passed the Lega Navale's small port, the recent epoxy fix to my broken Nelo seat came out. I pulled in and restored the string that I had installed when the seat first broke, just a short time after I began using it.

On the water, I paddled as close to the shore as I could. When I crept farther out the wind and waves increased substantially.

I passed an enormous naval base with five or six war ships a good bit larger than me.

The wind came from the east. And when I was heading due south along the eastern shore of the bay, the water was flat and the paddling pleasant. Behind the beach and occasionally rocky shore stretched green suburbs of Taranto.

I passed the the lighthouse and the point that marked the end of the bay. The waves were about a meter high. They were very close together coming at me very fast. I spent about 15 minutes continuing towards that cove, every second making me more nervous than the last. I steered around submerged rocks and looked ahead to white caps spray.

I turned around and fled.

Back at the east end of the bay the water was still flat and the wind negligible. I pulled up onto a boat ramp, the first break in the rocky shore I found.

I found a beach club. The area was locked away from the outside world by a large fence. Plastic colorful drinks with straws and lemons littered surfaces. A restaurant was at one end and a pool at the other.

A sign said hot showers but there was no water. The bathrooms worked.

The back door to the restaurant was a little open. In the top right corner of the entry room was a white box with a red light. I wondered if it was an alarm. I let myself in, calling out to see if anyone was there. The bathroom was strewn with garbage. I found a kitchen that was cleaner, but nothing of substantial interest.

I left and walked towards the pool area. I was looking for a wireless connection on my phone and a nice place to sleep for the night. I found some couch chairs under an awning and a scuba diving shack.

I heard someone whistle back from the direction of the club. I went back and saw the fellow. I called out to him “Salve [hello]” and smiled.

Another fellow and two men with guns at their hips came from the restaurant. They were uniformed, but I didn't see anything like the word “police”. I don't like guns, especially when I'm the only person who doesn't speak Italian.

“Whoa there!” I said in English. I moved my hands away from my body in what I hoped was the universal gesture for “please don't shoot me.”

One of them spoke English. I told him my story. He was kind and everyone relaxed. I had tripped a silent alarm. What could they do for me?

“Can I have permission to stay here for night?” I asked.

“No problem, just know that those video cameras can see everything you do.”

Tomorrow the wind is supposed to be worse. Maybe I'll try to make it those five miles, maybe not.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3592,3593,3594,3595,3596,3597,3598,3599,3601,3602,3603"]


Nautical miles paddled: 7.5

Total since Naples: 501

Current location: 40.413642,17.202873


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Post Office


Bureaucrats have a lot of power.  When I first flew to Spain, I was scheduled to have a layover in Madrid and continue on to Cadiz.  Instead I wanted to go to Barcelona.  The airline charged me $100 to not get on the plane to Cadiz.  If I didn’t pay, they would send my baggage there without me, or so they claimed.  I paid because they had the power.

When my kayak arrive in Barcelona, I was charged almost 1000 euro in port fees.  I had already paid for shipping.  If I didn’t pay, I couldn’t get my kayak.  I paid.

Bureaucrats are necessary.  But when the revolution comes, I’m going to be going after a few of them.

I had new equipment.  To keep my boat’s weight down, I had to get rid of my old equipment.  

The Lega Navale here in Taranto seems to have a serious kayaking program, and while I wasn’t able to get directly in touch with any of the kayakers, I did leave my broken paddle with the secretary.  The parts could take a valuable role in future repairs of other paddles.

My dry top and Farmer John wetsuit I wrapped up tightly into a stuff sack and sealed it shut, ready for mail.

At the post office, all they had to do was slap a sticker on it and send it away.

But the bureaucrat behind the glass told me I needed to buy a box.  I couldn't mail a well closed tightly packed sack.  I had to pay four euro.

I didn’t like the idea, but she had all the power.  I wanted to mail my stuff home and I needed her permission.  If she had asked me to do the chicken dance I would have had no choice but to comply.

She pressed a button and a dirty glass door opened.  On the other side of the tiny cell, just large enough for a person to stand in, was another dirty glass door that was closed.  I put the sack on the floor between the doors.  The front door closed and the back one opened.  The woman removed the sack and put it in a box.

I filled out some forms.  She put stickers on the box.  It was time to pay.  They didn’t take credit cards and I didn’t have enough cash.

At the bank, I remembered that I forgot to pack my old spray skirt.  I ran back to my boat, got the skirt and returned to the post office.

No, they would not add the skirt to the box for me.  They would have to reweigh the whole thing and put all new stickers on.  Closing was in ten minutes.

I was shocked.  “Are you serious?”

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  They had the box, but I hadn’t paid yet.  Did they realize I hadn’t paid?  Should I say, “Okay, mail it the way it is?” and hope they didn’t notice.  Or should I explain just as I needed them earlier, now they needed me.  What if they kept the box but didn’t mail it?  Maybe they didn’t need me.

“I want my box.”  I said.  I wouldn’t try to trick them into mailing it without me paying, but with both my money and my box, all the cards would be in my hands.  I would be free of her power.  I could go to another post office and mail everything from there.

The far door in the cell opened up and the box was placed in the cell.  The far door closed and the near door opened.  I took out my box.

They wanted me to pay four euro for it, so I did.

They wanted the box back, to take off the stickers.  The stickers claimed the box had a certain weight, and I had added contents to the box.

“No, you can’t have it.  It’s my box.  But I’ll give you your stickers back.”  The box was power.

The box rested on a shelf on my side of the glass.  A tall wide shouldered Italian behind me picked it up and walked towards the glass security cell.

The near door was open and he placed my box in the cell.  I was right behind him, and put my hand on the box.

“You can’t have it.  It’s my box.”  I used my I’m In Charge Here voice.

For a moment, both of our hands rested on the box and we stared into each other.

If I had to, I would use my years of martial arts training to remove the box from the security cell and create a safe personal space around me.

He let go and I took the box.

I put it down on the shelf and removed most of the stickers.  I let go of the box to slide them under the glass to the waiting bureaucrat.  He grabbed it and removed the last sticker.  He relinquished my box.

I took it and went to another post office where I had no troubles.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3653,3700,3655,3658,3662,3665,3669,3670,3672,3674,3676,3678,3680,3682,3684,3686,3689,3693,3697,3698"]

Monday, February 17, 2014

Day 97


Wednesday was a bad weather day.  Friday was forecast to be a bad weather day.  I wanted to get to my host in Taranto for the Sabbath.  I had only one day.  I did nothing for a month.  Did I have alternatives to paddling 35 miles of coast, an enormous amount when I’m in shape and potentially catastrophic now?

The next port was nine miles away.  I didn’t know if I would find hospitality there and paddling only nine miles on a good weather day is a little bit of a waste.  Alternatively, I could paddle farther and camp Thursday night.  Then Friday morning I’d decide if I could beach launch in the conditions and finish what distance I had left to Taranto in rough weather.

I decided the last option would be best.  Early Friday morning the sea shouldn’t be bad so the launch might be doable, and once on the water I could paddle for two or three hours in rough conditions.  That’s what being a good kayaker is all about.

Once I decide what would be best, I measured a bearing of 54 degrees off of my chart and launched a direct 27 mile route.

For the first couple of hours, a good tailwind helped me more than sea’s choppiness hindered.  Still, I worried.  The route send me five miles off of the coast.  I had a radio but no PLB since it was stolen.  What would happen if I got too tired?  How much had I lost in my month of waiting for the mail?

The horizon that I set into was sea and sky.  I kept my compass line between the NE and 60 marks erring a little bit closer to the NE to accommodate the south west wind.

There was a low cloud straight ahead so I aimed my boat towards it, occasionally rechecking my compass in case the cloud moved with the wind.  

The cloud was gone for a few minutes, then came back.  After an hour or so I understood what I was looking at.  A smokestack occasionally released puffs of bright white smoke into the clear blue sky.  25 miles out, that smokestack was the only thing I could see of Taranto, and since it was a much easier guide to follow than my compass, I hoped it would keep on polluting away.

Q:  Dov, what’s a matter with you.  They’re destroying the planet.  You have to breathe whatever garbage they’re pumping into the air

A:  I hope they stop and come up with a clean environmentally friendly way of doing whatever it is they’re doing.  But in the meantime, I’m happy to take advantage of the beacon.

The tail wind died down and the water smoothed out.

I was halfway when the whining in my head about the distance being too far died down.  I was happy to be at sea again, and as tired as I was, I would not drown today.

Besides, I was hardly alone.  Fishing and pleasure boats were out on the sunny sea with me.  If I had any trouble my radio would be more than sufficient.

I was running low on drinking water.  In order to sweat less, and because I was hot, I carefully took off my life preserver and removed my neoprene jacket without capsizing.  The sun felt wonderful on my shoulders.

I made out skinny lines from the base of the smoke.  Something industrial that slowly turned into a line of smokestacks.  I could follow them even when there was no smoke.

To their right appeared three large vague shadowy shapes.  My chart said there were three lights off to the right, and I thought maybe these were their towers.  Oddly, the rightmost shape was taller than the other two as my chart said it would be.

Eventually they turned into Taranto’s tallest buildings.  I changed course back towards the stacks since I wanted to arrive on the western side of the city where I was expected.

I ran out of water.  I should have packed an extra bottle for the unusually long paddle, but I didn’t.  I had been eating whole grain crackers.  Half a cracker on minutes that ended with a five, 12:05, 12:15, etc.. and a whole cracker on minutes that ended with a zero.  I stopped eating the crackers since they dehydrate.

My energy levels diminished.

There was an island ahead.  It kept being farther away than it looked.  The island was connected to another off to the west by a sea wall that was in many places run down.  I passed over a hole in the wall with trepidation, hoping that submerged rocks wouldn’t scrape across my hull.

There were buildings on the island, and a hundred large rusty gas canisters.  I pulled into an old run down harbor.  The island appeared to be abandoned.  Lots of seagulls made lots of noise and fled.

I got out of my boat and explored. There were rusty machine gun stations and a fortress that had undoubtedly been occupied in one of the world wars.   Two enormous stone warehouses had train tracks coming out of them.  The tracks seemed to go nowhere, though a large rusty flat car sat on one of them.

I climbed around the fortress.  Someone had sealed the doors shut.

A large noble seagull lay dead.  Fishing line wound out of its beak.  I’ve lost some lures at sea, I hope they didn’t do anything like this.

I was hungry and thirsty. Maybe if I ate a can of lentils it wouldn’t make me thirstier because they’re so liquidy.  I checked the ingredients.  The water had salt in it.  Did it have more or less than my blood.  I remembered that was .9%.  The can didn’t tell me.

I ate the lentils.

As I paddled out of the harbor I saw a sign that said, I believe, “Closed military zone.  No trespassing.”

The last stretch of paddling was on protected waters, but tired as I was I didn’t like the low tightly formed fast moving waves at all.  At least they were pushing me in the right direction.

I passed the smokestacks.  Huge freight barges sat moored or cruised in the vast harbor.  Fishing boats of all sized scurried back and forth.  My head rotated around and around like radar to keep me from being run over.  The sun reflected off of the water directly behind me.  If a freighter set its mind to come at me from that angle I wouldn’t see it.  But I would hear it.

I pulled into the marina at the gateway to the inland sea.  My host had called ahead and told them to expect me.  I was welcomed warmly and my kayak was stored in their locked shed.

I showered and drank and discovered I was extremely sore and tired.

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Nautical miles paddled: 28

Total since Naples: 493.5

Current Location: 40.479207,17.226522


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Back At My Boat


I arrived at my boat.  It was beautiful, if a little the worse for wear, just as I remembered it.  I told the port’s captain I would be leaving immediately.

“That’s probably not a good idea.”  He told me.  The water was too rough.  Tomorrow hopefully it will be better.  

The port here is made up of canals that wind under bridges and between island blocks of houses.  I paddled through, under and around.  I tested both my recently arrived winged paddle and my recently power-sanded storm paddle.  They both behaved beautifully.

The water was cold.  I was wearing my new akuilisaq and recently arrived neoprene jacket.  I did a bunch of rolls.  I got cold, and water got in the boat, but I wasn’t nearly as cold as I would have otherwise been and the spray skirt didn’t chafe, not even a little.

I also enjoyed using my new hands.  They have almost completely healed during my absence.  I leap back into my adventure with renewed vigor.

I got a ride to the supermarket.  Yesterday when I was with the farmers I discovered how heavenly local fresh ricotta cheese is.  So I got some of that along with some bread and a bunch of 34 cent cans of legumes.

I walked back to my boat on a small road that passed through farm land and along a river.  The colors around me seemed unnaturally bright and vibrant  

Tomorrow I launch.  I’ve kept the sea waiting long enough.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3646,3649,3654,3659,3667,3677,3681,3687,3696,3701,3705,3706"]


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My Triumphant (I Hope) Return


A little over a month ago my chief logistics officer shipped me a package.  I paid a lot of extra money for the two to three day option.  For a month I waited in Naples.  Some of that time I was actively involved in trying to recover it.  I sent forms into offices and a lot of phone calls were made.  Most of that time I was waiting, assured that my package would arrive in the next day or two.  After a month, and 25 euro in taxes, it did.

I opened the package.  There was an old pair of five finger shoes in it.  I put them on.  The broken glass and bloody syringes in Naples scare me more than I like being barefoot.  My paddle was in there.  I’ve had it for years and it’s pretty beat up.  I was very happy to be reaquainted with my old friend.  And sorry I had left it behind for a newer shinier model from Braca which was a bad size and broken.  When one of my old shafts broke, epic was very helpful.  When my Bracca shaft broke, Bracca told me it must have been my fault.

I took my old Neoprene jacket, not as warm as the winter paddling clothing I had taken with me, but more comfortable.  The clothing I had with me was too warm.  That’s what you get for packing while your mother is watching.  Thanks for sending me the shoes mom!

And an Akuilisaq.  An Akuilisaq is a traditional style spray skirt, that will hopefully chafe less than the one Nelo gave me.

I hope this marks the end of the troubles that have plagued me since Day One.  I hope this is a fresh start.  After a month of sitting on my but, it’ll certainly feel like it in the bad ways.  

I didn’t do any running in Naples because I was scared of the glass.  I pulled it out of my feet twice.

Before I left Naples I dowsed it in gasoline and burnt it down on my way out.

Yesterday morning I was up at four to catch the 6:00 bus.  I didn’t pack my rain jacket and pants because I left them in the locked LNI building.  The building opened at 8:30 and I was at the station in time to catch the 10:00 train with a ticket in hand.

The 10:00 train was canceled.  A bus would take us to Salerno instead.  The bus was an hour late so I missed the layover.  I caught another bus from Salerno to Somewhere, and from there a two car diesel train to Metaponto.

A woman in a uniform was patiently trying to explain something to me.  Every time I thought I understood, she said something else that I didn’t.  While she was working at it a couple of railway cops came up behind her and stood imposingly.  I was worried my ticket wasn’t good enough because of all the changes from the original plan.

Eventually one of them translated the part of what the woman was saying that I did understand.   Apparently that was all there was to it.  He asked to see my passport.  I showed it to him and he wished me a good journey.  

There’s something insulting about being asked for ID when none of the cleancut people wearing shoes are.  I wonder if there’s any correlation between not having shoes and committing crimes.  If there is I’ll bet it’s only a reaction to oppression.People treating you like your less than them all the time makes a person spiteful.

Right now, if I could, I would probably hold up the guy who charged me 25 euro for my own gear which I’ll be taking out of the country with me as soon as I can.  I’d take my money back as part of the struggle against oppression.  You can’t keep us down!

But the last bus driver did.  He sent me to the back of the bus because I didn’t have shoes and tried to laugh at me with the fellow who boarded next.

A few days ago an Italian Israeli woman tried to set up kayaking lessons for her grandson in Tel Aviv.  She found my website and realized I was in the neighborhood.  I spent last night on an organic farm with friends of hers near my kayak, and I’ll spend the Sabbath with her in Taranto. The farmers have retired to this way of life from medical academia.  Their family has lived on this farm for over a thousand years.

In an hour or so, the farmers will give me a ride to the boat garage in the port of Policoro.  I really hope my kayak is there.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3643,3648,3651"]

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pictures from this round of Naples

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Weighed Down in Naples

Yesterday there was an unattached boat drifting in the middle of the harbor.  The motor was out of the water and running.  I watched it for a while.  Lots of bubbles hit the surface.  Apparently, the boat was not unattended.  There was a diver underneath.  I had seen him around.  A couple days earlier I was startled to hear the sound of the bubbles hitting the hull of my temporary home.  I climbed up to the deck and looked over the side. Bright green flippers kicked indistinctly in the depths

We made no progress at finding out where my package was.  It was time for me to resume my paddling.

I went to the supermarket and bought up a loaf of bread and three cans of peas.

I packed my things, cleaned up, and left the sailboat heading to the train station.  I passed a dumpster and tossed in a bag of garbage.  Half a block away out I performed a routine pocket pat.  Phone - check.  Wallet ... wallet ... wallet?

My wallet was not in the back pocket with the big new hole, and it wasn’t in the other one with the old hole. It wasn’t in any of my pockets.  I checked again and it still wasn’t there.

Recently I performed a major sewing operation on my pants, but the focus was on the groin, not the pockets.

I took my pack off and unloaded its contents onto a park bench.  My wallet wasn’t with me.  I returned to the boat scanning the path for a fallen wallet.*

My wallet was not in the boat.  I checked my pockets.  It was not in my pockets. When had I seen it last?  At the supermarket.   Or, wait, no, I loaded some business cards into it while I was packing. I was certain I did that after the supermarket, in the sailboat. How certain was I?

Did I put my wallet into my pocket after that?  Maybe I put it down somewhere in the boat.  I searched the boat.

I walked to the dumpster, took my bag of garbage out, and searched it for my wallet.  I went to the sailing club that I passed in the port and asked the gorgeous receptionist if she’d seen my wallet.  I left my number in case it turned up but skipped anything flirtatious because I’ve come to accept that pretty Italian ladies aren’t interested in guys that look like bums.

I asked a fisherman if he’d seen it.

I went back to the sailboat and searched it.  I went to the supermarket, and left my number in case it was returned.

I went back to the boat.  I searched the boat, and searched my pockets.

I checked my bank account on my phone.  No purchases had been made on my card since it disappeared.

I sat down and came to a conclusion.  One of two things had happened:  My wallet may have been stolen, either because it fell out of my pocket on its own and was recovered by a less than scrupulous fellow, or the hole in my pocket was cut there and it was removed, though I had no thoughts on when that may have happened.  Option two, while I was climbing from the boat to the quay, my wallet silently slipped from my pocket into the sea.

If my wallet was stolen I would have to cancel my cards and renew my license.  I didn’t want to start that until I’d looked more at option two.

It had been raining hard in spurts all morning.  The sky was cloudy and the water looked cold.  The water was also full of trash in all sizes.  It was gross.  Sometimes I can see clearly down to the bottom of pristine Mediterranean waters, but today, too much Naples refuse floated at all depths.

I walked into the Lega Navale and explained my problem.  They agreed with me that it was worth looking into.  Someone would need to go down there, into the cold water that had too much garbage floating in it.  I was hoping the diver I had seen around was in the water anyways and wouldn’t mind getting my wallet for me.

“Can you go down?”  Pasqualla, one of the LNI leaders, asked me?

“No problem.”  I answered.

Before I suited up, Pasqualla recommended I try to see it with this glass bottomed plastic orange cone section.  A friendly dock hand, his dog, and I got onto a motor boat and slid into the space between Corrado’s sail boat and the quay


I felt a little guilty taking the dock hand away from his other duties, so when I didn’t see my wallet through the scope in a few minutes, with all the garbage in the water, I was almost ready to give up.

I wanted to find my wallet because replacing the contents of a wallet is a pain.  It’s especially hard to replace the contents of an American wallet in Italy, I suspect.  I didn’t want to find my wallet because if I did I’d have to swim down into the cold garbage water on this cold day.

The dock hand and his dog waited patiently.  I searched persistently.  I saw it.  At first I wasn’t sure.  The brown shape rested on a dirty yellow orange rope growth.  After a few more minutes of examination I decided I could discern the zipper.  That settled it.

“I found it!”  I called to the dock hand and his dog.  I don’t think anyone expected that.

It was four or five meters deep, or for you Americans 150 feet depending on the viscosity of the trashy water.

Back in the LNI I suited up.  I borrowed flippers, a mask, and a heavy duty neoprene suit.  Pasqualla handed me a belt weighted with big metal chunks to help me dive faster.

I’m a fine swimmer and a fine diver.  I wasn’t worried about getting down nearly as much as I was worried about coming back up.  The league people assured me that I would be able to get back up.

I wondered if a rope could be tied to the belt so that I could use it to drop like a weight, then use it’s quick release mechanism to float back to the top.  I did not wonder out loud.  The sailors assured me that I would not be able to swim down against the neoprene’s buoyancy without the weights.

I persuaded them to remove a couple of the many weights.

We boated back out to the spot.   I hesitated a little, then hopped in the water.  With my suit, I was only a little chilly.  Before letting go of the side of the boat, I tested my buoyancy, keeping one hand on the belt’s quick release.

My flippers weren’t sufficiently tight.  I climbed back up and adjusted them.  Back in the water I dived down.  Nothing looked familiar, so I climbed to the surface.  The neoprene and weight combination made me a little less buoyant than I was used to for diving.  I liked it.

I adjusted my position to be closer to where I thought I dropped the wallet and dived again.  I saw it.  I grabbed it triumphantly from the scuz it was resting on and swam back to the boat.


After my shower I saw that there was more news from the Italian Mail Mafia Consortium (IMMC).  They denied receiving the fax we sent them a week ago, even though after we sent it they confirmed receipt over the phone.

We sent it again, and I’ll be staying in Naples because the package should arrive in a couple of days.

*Preferably one with cash in it, but I would have settled for mine.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Sailboat


I’ve been staying in my frind Corrado’s sailboat.  The boat is connected to the quay with a pulley system.  There is one set of pulleys attached to the boat and two sets of pulleys attached to the quay with a strong rope weaving through all of them.

By pulling the rope through the pulley I can bring the boat close enough to the pier to hop ashore.  Releasing the catch lets the anchor at the other end pull the boat back out to its regular position.  The boat can’t be kept next to the quay because the stress on the rope over time could cause it to snap.

I’m waiting for my supplies in a dirty city with lots of broken glass on the streets.  I’m spending a lot of time sitting in front of my computer screen.  I’m teaching it to play chess.  I had a working AI with a functional graphic user interface before I figured out how to increase the AI’s speed by 10% and plunged the whole thing into a cauldron of bugs, mischievous cheating algorithms, and infinite attempts to keep playing after the game is over.  The project is fun and hopefully keeping my mind sharp while I’m away from school.

I need electricity in the boat.  There’s an electrical cord that I take in whenever I leave the boat to protect against theft.  The local port people don’t seem to like it and occasionally turn my power off at the source.

The sea has been rough.  Extraordinarily rough. Great big waves come in at the mouth of the port.  They jostle and shove the sailboat I’m staying in.

As my world rocks back and forth at night I wonder about all  the force around me.  I wonder if I’ll wake up in the morning, climb onto a sunny deck to brush my teeth, and see nothing but sky and water stretching to meet at the horizon.

I pulled the boat up to the wharf to board.  I cautiously climbed on as it violently heaved up and down on its short tether.  I picked up the power cord and looked back at the wharf.  The idea of climbing back down with all the movement was a little scary.  I gripped the railing so as not to get hurled overboard.  I hesitated some more, and a rope snapped.


Throwing caution to the wind I hit the deck and grabbed the pulley, the rope and everything I could that might potentially fall into the sea.

One of the pulleys was still attached to the other side, the other, more substantial one, had come free.  In my mad scramble to keep from losing anything to the bottom of the port I had scooped it up with the rest of the rope.

I tied off all the rope I had.  The rope connected me to the quay, but much more precariously than it ought to be.  Without all the extra pulleys the rope would endure much more tension.  A physics student could tell you exactly how much more tension, but I dropped out of physics.  I only knew that it was a lot.

I climbed to the back of the boat always holding on to something to secure myself.  I found another rope and secured one end near the bow.  I threw the other end to a fisherman and he tied it off on the quay.

My first mission was accomplished.

I called Corrado and told him everything was fine, but if he had time it would probably be best if he came by because of an, ... incident.

For my next trick I would have to get everything fixed before he showed up.  I examined my pile of ropes and pulleys and began to straighten things out.  I found the torn culprit.  The rope that had snapped was the one that connected the large pulley set to the ring on the quay.  To fix it, all I had to do was tie it off again.

For that I would need to pull myself in without the pulley system.

I found a rod that I could use to pass the system to Corrado when he showed up, and set everything up to be ready to hand off as soon as he came.

I then set about pulling the boat in by wrapping the auxiliary rope around a bollard on the deck every time a wave shove gave the rope some slack.

Corrado showed up, as always, dressed tastefully for an evening out or a dockside rescue.  Without looking too closely at what was going on he tried to hand me a bag of food, bread and fruit and cheese and who knew.

Working on the bow felt a little bit like riding an angry bull.

“It’s not a good time for that.” I yelled over the crashing sea around me, bobbing up and down with the surf.

He looked at what was going on.  We set to work adding three more ropes to secure the boat to the quay.  I then used the rod to pass him the pulley system.

An enormous wave crashed over the sea wall drenching him. I ran down below and got a rain jacket which I also passed with the rod.

It took a few hours, but we got everything back in working order.  Only one more rope snapped.  Hopefully, the system is even stronger than it was before, and I enjoyed working at something that didn’t involve a computer.  I’ll probably head back to my kayak with or without my supplies on Sunday.  But I’ve said that before.  Naples is a trap.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Two Weeks of Naples and Counting

After I picked up my phone I learned that my paddle and Akuilisaq should arrive in a couple of days.  I waited a couple of days.  I waited a couple more days.  I went to the post office.

I waited in line, for about an hour.  The woman behind the counter told me to go outside, follow the staircase down, and come in through the entrance on the other side of the block.

I did.  There was a big line there.  I waited for about an hour.

I knew the address that the package was shipped to and the tracking number.  They were unable to find my package with the tracking number.  They looked around back for it, and didn’t find it that way either.

There was nothing else they could do.

I called my local hero Corrado.  He worked his magic and discovered that my package was in the hands of the Milano mafia - post office consortium.  I needed to fill out and fax a form to them declaring what was in the package: “used kayak paddle, used neoprene jacket, used shoes*, Akuilisaq.**”

The power was out so the fax machine wasn’t working.  I waited.

Once we sent it in and spoke to them, after many failed attempts with busy signals, they told me my paddle should arrive in a couple of days.

I’m waiting.

Meanwhile, I read this in the New York Times this morning.

Maybe I died out there on the water and god sent me here to suffer for my sins.

To end on a good note, my package will come, and I will kayak.  I will have a great time, just as I have for most of my time on the water.  I’ll have my trusty paddle that I’ve used for years and a new skirt that may resolve the chafing.  People might even be less rude to me if I wear shoes.  Happiness is just around the corner.  It’s coming back.  All I have to do is wait.

*My mom thought it would be a good idea.  I caved.
** Akuilisaq - a traditional style spray skirt that will hopefully chafe less than the current one.