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
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