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

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