Sunday, February 9, 2014

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.



  1. Great that you found the wallet! I hope you get your package soon.

  2. Got it. I should be paddling today!