Sunday, March 30, 2014
This morning I did not want to get out of my sleeping bag. So I didn’t.
I was on the water by 9:30. While I packed I chatted with some sailors who were about to embark with their 40 foot boat to England. They do about a hundred miles a day.
I headed due south. A field of crashing waves spread out ahead, maybe half a square mile. I could go wide around them, or cross through. I went through. I got hit twice and supported myself on the bursting foam until the wave underneath me lost its fury, then pushed on.
Past the surf zone two meter swells floated me up and down. Their low frequency made them intimidating but not challenging.
I could just make out the fort at the northern end of the Levkas canal. As I drew close I saw a green light. The rule is “red right return.” The red light is on the right side when you return to port. At least, that’s the rule in America, in Europe the rule is “the opposite of red right return.”
The light was green, which meant I had passed the entrance to the canal. Huh.
I looked back the way I had come and didn’t see any canals. A sailboat and a fishing boat were headed in my direction. I watched and waited. They passed me and disappeared around a subtle curve in the beach. I followed them into the canal.
A small harbor is built up against the fort. I paddled around the fort, a sunken 50 foot steam ship and under a drawbridge. On my right was a road and on my left, a low grassy sea wall that separated the canal from other water that may have been a swamp.
I paddled past a large port and the city of Levkas, which was celebrating Greek Independance Day loudly.
I continued down the canal. The island of Levkas and its towering mountains were to my right. The swamp and mainland Greece to my left. I saw a couple of herons fly off. I passed a broken old stone tower that jutted from the water and a small fort on a low rise adjacent to the water. I had an excellent current. At the end of the canal is a small bay and village. The bay is overlooked by a larger fort and populated by a couple of rusty sunken ships.
The inner sea beyond reminded me of British Columbia’s fjords. The water was flat and mountain-islands surrounded me.
I paddled off my chart. I looked at a map in the morning and had a good idea of where I wanted to go, but I asked a man working a fish farm just to be sure. He thought it was cool that I was going to Miticas and confirmed for me that it was at the end of big range. The set of mountains after that was an island.
“How far is it?” I asked.
“About an hour by car.” He told me.
The sea route was definitely shorter. I wondered how fast Greek people drive or how direct the roads are.
I began to cross the mouth of a bay. The current from the canal translated into a tail wind. I turned around. Ominous dark clouds with patches of doom were coming over the mountains. If I turned into the bay I could call it a day at Palairos, but that was in the wrong direction. I also didn’t want to waste the wonderful tail wind I was enjoying, so what if I got rained on.
Behind me Levkas was being enveloped by the storm. The wind jostled me along. The clouds got closer and began to pull ahead of me. Small whitecaps appeared everywhere and by sprinting from the troughs between waves I was able to catch and cruise them.
The clouds enveloped the peaks ahead and by the time I finished the crossing, the sun shone. The mountains got rained on, but not me.
A swarm of birds made shapes in the sky and chirped madly over the island across from Miticas. I pulled up to the village.
A few small docks extended from buildings on the water. I asked an old man if this was the port, or if there was a real port around the corner. I used hand gestures as much as possible, because I didn’t know if he understood me.
He made it clear this was the port. I pulled up on a small beach next to a bar and unpacked my things.
The old man indicated he wanted my help by handing me a saw and pointing to a clump of wood under the tail end of his beached boat. I got on my hands and knees in the water and did his sawing for him. He had no idea where I might find a free shower.
I asked in the bar, “Do you have wifi?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Are you speaking English?” The man asked me.
“Yes, WI-FI.” I tried again.
He didn’t understand. I looked around helplessly and saw a sign that said in English “Free wi-fi!” I pointed to the sign.
“Oh, wi fi, why didn’t you say so?”
After working on my blog for an hour I was asked to leave.
I found the port. They didn’t have a shower.
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4039,4042,4046,4048,4051,4053,4054"]
Nautical miles paddled: 23.5
Current location: 38.667845,20.943545
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Yesterday I found internet access in the center of town. I sat in front of a large house with a sign “We have rooms” and chatted with the owner, her mother, and her mother in law about my adventure.
“So where will you sleep tonight?” they eventually got around to asking.
“I don’t know, probably down by the beach. Sometimes people invite me over. I get all sorts of invitations. I’ve stayed on boats, in people’s houses, you know, all sorts of places.”
My potential hostess understood what I was hinting at, and shut up like a safe.
A five minute walk from my kayak I found a small drink shack near the beach that had been closed since last summer. The fisherman at the dock told me my boat would not be safe in the port overnight, so as the sun set I paddled my boat to the shelter and lugged everything up the hill to the safe spot.
It’s a hassle to load my boat up and get dressed again after I’ve finished my paddling for the day. When possible, I try to avoid it.
I was expecting force four headwinds this morning, and force five in the afternoon. The next port was five miles away. I could make it before the afternoon, and maybe I would find a hot shower there.
The waves, widely spaced, rolled in at a height of two meters. They’d pop me up and drop me down, and I continued on my way.
Preveza lies at the edge of the short channel that connects the outer Ionian sea to the inner Ambracian Gulf. Old derelict forts sleep on either side of the channel. Preza is on the north side, and an enormous marina and shipyard stretches in a veritable forest of masts on the south.
With the rest of the day maybe I could shower and fix the persistent leak to my front compartment. But would I be able to resupply from a supermarket on the south side of the channel?
I asked a fisherman in the middle of the channel. If not, I would first stop and go shopping in the city leaving my boat ready for launch, and then look for my shower in the port.
The fisherman smiled and nodded enthusiastically to my question as if to say “Yes, there is a supermarket by the port.” Or it was possible he told me “I don’t speak a word of English, but I hope one day to learn.”
I pulled over and unpacked my gear.
Ahhh, a warm shower. That felt good. I even washed my clothes.
But there was no supermarket. So I packed everything up and crossed the channel. The wind had grown considerably and even the short protected crossing was choppy, just enough to salt and negate the shower.
Back in the port I filled my boat up with water to see where it was leaking. Pouring rain. I guessed where the leak might be, and then hauled my boat to a sheltered spot.
The zipper on my rain shell doesn’t work anymore. I thought it was okay since it’s almost summer and there’s a lot less rain in the summer.
I brought some toilet paper from the bathroom to dry off the part of my boat I guessed needed the patch, but by the time I got it there it was wet.
I did the best I could to dry it and applied the epoxy. I think the epoxy has gone bad.
I was very cold and wet.
There’s a closed bathroom here in the port. I found a clean stall and set up camp. In the small space, I’m beginning to warm up.
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4035,4037"]
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Friday I found Gemini, a restaurant run by a couple of friendly brothers. They invited me to have whatever I like, fresh bread, cheese, and salad, and sleep under the awning next to the restaurant. There was a shed where I showered with a cold hose and a bucket of hot water. They gave me a tablecloth to use as a towel.
I paddled past two islands with churches on them, and many more without. Strange rock formations abounded and I could almost see faces in the stone. Mountains dropped staggeringly into the water. Caves bored into their sides. I found a dark chamber. The water had the slightest glow that let me guess at the dimensions. Near the entrance it was still bright enough to see the bottom far beneath me.
Outside the water was just as clear. Enormous boulders rose from turquoise depths not quite becoming islands. Schools of fish swam near fields of wavy grass.
Western Greece is a kayaking paradise, if you don’t mind the overweight sunburnt naked Greek guy on the beach.
I had a loaf of whole wheat bread with me. I ate a slice every 15 minutes. I got heartburn and felt gross. I took a break for half an hour and almost ran out of energy so I tried every 20 minutes that worked better.
In the afternoon a force three wind picked up from the side and the flat waters I’ve enjoyed for the last few days were replaced by something a little more aggressive.
Much fatigued I pulled into Mitikas’s port. There was no office and only a few boats. Men fished. One fellow swam. He was flailing a lot for pitiful progress. I spent the summer running a staff that taught people how to swim, maybe in exchange for pointers I could score a shower and a warm bed.
He took my pointers, but offered nothing in return. There’s a cold shower on the beach.
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4034,4036,4038,4043,4044,4047"]
Nautical miles paddled: 23
Current location: 39.000922,20.706685
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
I woke up this morning with a headache. Maybe I didn’t drink enough last night. I tried to make up for it.
I paddled the glassy smooth waters between the mainland and the archipelago. I crossed a bay, then continued under rocky precipi and forests. Small bays with sandy beaches broke up the rugged coastline, and as force four headwinds crushed my pace, I hugged the coast as tightly as possible. Any temporary escape from the wind was a good one.
The wind died down.
Yesterday I ate my last cracker package. I haven’t been able to find them in Greece, so I switched to whole grain toast-like bread. I ate one slice an hour, until I crashed.
I had no energy. Every stroke, even on the clear blue flat water, was a colossal struggle. One struggle at a time, I pushed forward. I increased my toast dosage by 50%. Slowly, some of my strength came back.
I paddled through rock gardens and in tight spaces between islands and the mainland. Tiny fish leapt out of the water ahead of me.
I was still really tired, so I paddled up to an anchored boat in a bay to ask how far. A canopy on polls covered the small fishing boat. Soothing Greek music floated over the water from a radio. A hefty bald man with a big white mustache slept in a chair, slumped against the closed door of the tiny cabin. I called “ahoy”, but not loudly enough to wake him.
I continued on my way.
With much relief I pulled into Parga’s pristine bay. I had only paddled 13 miles, but I was more than ready to call it a day.
I’ll be here for the Sabbath. I really hope I find a shower.
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4033,4041,4045,4050,4052"]
Miles paddled: 13
Current location: 39.281317,20.388068
Monday, March 24, 2014
Last night I slept under a restaraunt’s awning. I didn’t find a shower. At around midnight the bar next door decided it was a disco and there was loud music for an hour.
For the first part of the morning the water was as flat as I’ve ever seen the Mediterranean and it was a real pleasure to glide across it. The surface occasionally jumped up in a hundred small splashes when a school of fish applauded my good pace.
The bottom of the sea was grassy, and grew shallower until I paddled along the edge of a marsh. A flamingo stood in the water on long skinny legs. His head looked like an umbrella handle. As I drew close he stumbled through the water, then ran on it flapping giant wings, and took off.
He joined five of his friends farther up the shore. I didn’t want to get close enough to disturb them, but I did want to see them better. All six took off and headed into the marsh.
I paddled over enormous fishing nets stretched hundreds if not thousands of meters. One of them blocked the mouth of a river, which I hope is illegal.
A bull stood grazing on the last point before I cut across the outer bay of Igoumenista. Which brings me to the subject of the Greek language: I’m clueless. It is substantially harder for me than Spanish, French, or Italian. There’s a whole new alphabet, which I thought I would have a head start on from math school, but It’s no good.
Wind and current slowed my crossing. At least the sea was relatively flat, protected as I was by Corfu. A ferry approached from behind on my right. When it got close I stopped to let it pass. There was certainly no indication that the captain would honor my right of way and let me go first.
Towards the end of my crossing I cut inland and paddled as close to the cliffs as possible to catch the eddie from an island. On the eddie line the water changed from steady waves coming at me to general chop. Past that the sea went flat again, and I could see rocks, plants, and small fish clearly far below. A school of short fat fish kept jumping up, breaking the surface.
I saw a goat on the low cliff just beside me. I looked closely. There was a whole herd of six or seven goats less than twenty feet from me. One of them was a small kid. I’ll bet he’d taste real good if he were cooked on spit with garlic and onions.
Sivota is a Greek town on the mainland. It’s harbor is protected by an uninhabited archipelago of hilly forest islands. I got out and checked my front hatch. There was only a little water in it. The previous afternoon I covered about a meter of the bow keel with a thin layer of epoxy. Maybe I finally caught the leak.
Twelve miles remained to the next port. I just finished 15. I decided to push on. As soon as I was past the archipelago’s protection the headwind came back. That would slow me down and I risked not finishing until after dark.
I pulled over to a protected beach and explored one of the islands. The underbrush was too thick to get into the woods, but a few derelict trails let me scrape by.
I found an old well and a couple of mossy glades. I lay down and dreamed for an hour. I tried to get to the top of the hill, but the trail didn’t seem to want to go that way.
I paddled back to the town. The woman at the sailing club told me they didn’t have a shower and couldn’t host me. I hope I find one somewhere. The filthier I am the more trouble I’ll have finding hospitality, and besides, it’s gross.
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4006,4007,4008,4009,4010,4011,4012,4013,4014,4015,4016,4017"]
Nautical miles paddle: 15
Current location: 39.408996,20.239056
Sunday, March 23, 2014
My friend Nick not only found me a shower, he found me an apartment undergoing renovations that had a soft bed. I slept soundly.
I was on the water this morning by 8:00. Immediately I ran into a headwind and current.
Visibility was low. A mist that wasn’t quite a fog thickened through the morning.
Hills dropped into the water with short cliffs on the north eastern end of Corfu. I passed two sandy beaches. The woods behind them were colored with yellow and pink flowered trees.
The crossing from Corfu to Albania is about a mile. I pushed into the headwind as quickly as possible, not wanting to get squashed in the shipping lane on account of the low visibility.
The southern tip of Albania is almost empty of people. I passed some cows and a couple of pristine beaches.
I paddled along the edge of a marsh, where the water was just deep enough to properly plant my paddle. Seagulls sat on a low sandy beach and giant tree trunks littered the seascape, as though they came there to die.
A small Albanian island was surrounded by fish farms. The island had a dock, a shack and three men drinking coffee and smoking. The dock was high, but with their permission and encouragement I climbed an extremely rusty ladder to set foot on Albanian soil.
They spoke a little Italian and invited me stay for coffee. They lived on the island, which didn’t have nearly enough room for a game of ultimate frisbee, and watched the fish farms.
After another 10 minutes of paddling I was back in Greece. Big mountains climbed out of the water. Some of them had flocks of sheep.
Schools of fish swam beneath my boat. The rocks on the bottom seemed to support more plant life than their Italian counterparts.
The whole day I fought into the current. The wind died down, and the sea was flat, but I was exhausted from battling the current. I stopped to rest frequently.
I arrived in Sagiada, a small port lined with with cafes. The supermarket is a 1.5 kilometer walk from here, but the people there are really friendly. No shower yet, but hopefully something will turn up.
Meanwhile, the front compartment of my boat is still leaking so I tried applying a thin layer of a new kind of epoxy to a large section of the keel.
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3974,3975,3976,3977,3978,3979,3981,3982,3983,3984,3985,3986"]
Nautical miles paddled: 20
Current location: 39.624937,20.181294
Friday, March 21, 2014
Saturday morning I climbed one of Othonoi’s many mountains. The small island is packed with them. The steep valleys run with streams and a number of the few level places on the mountainsides are occupied by old stone huts.
The peak of the mountain I was climbing was covered with sharp stones. I cut my feet. One day, I’ll be tough - my feet will cut rock.
My boat was on the beach. In the night the wind blew. In the morning I found my boat full of sand and on a pile of sharp stones.
I found a hole and covered it with epoxy. I also added epoxy to the screw that held in the bow tip handle. The loose screw might have accounted for the water accumulating in my front compartment.
Tuesday morning I launched. The warm morning sun created a mist and I could not see the island of Corfu. I angled my boat so my compass read ~98 degrees and paddled. I passed a small village island on my right and left as well as a few smaller desert islands. Corfu gradually appeared in the mist and as I could see more and more of it I angled my boat to towards the north east corner.
Corfu’s heavily forested mountains aren’t quite as sharp as Othonoi’s, but are still a good deal more impressive than the east coast of Italy.
The sea was flat and I enjoyed an intermittent tail wind.
Albania appeared in the mist. Its brown snowcapped mountains dwarfed the island peaks. A few trees sparsely decorated the desolate wilderness.
I was wearing my t shirt instead of my jacket, and I was still hot. I rolled to cool off and felt wonderful. I passed a small bay with a sandy beach. A woman swam in the clear water. The rocks down by the water were black and dark gray. Above the surf line they were white.
I arrived in Kassiopi. It’s a small Greek town with a little harbor surrounded by shops and cafes. A large Albanian city sits across the strait.
I made friends with the fellow running the supermarket.
“Can I get you anything?” He asked. “You want a beer?”
“Maybe a shower?” I tried.
“I’ll see what I can do,” he told me.
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3991,3992,3993,3994,3995"]
Nautical miles paddle: 25
Current location: 39.790066,19.922794
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
I did not sleep well. I lay in my sleeping bag on the beach as the sun set. Cars pulled up and honked. Families played and little dogs approached and barked. I love dogs, but these miniature freaks of nature would probably better serve the natural order of things as ferret food.
At around 22:00 a different sort of visitor came. Two cars drove onto the beach. The music was turned on. It wasn’t just music, it was a speaker system so impressive that I felt like I had a front row seat at a Thunder Bash Sex concert. The ground shook around me and I was a little scared.
There was some disagreement, apparently not all the revelers liked that particular band. A moment later I was listening to Acoustic Anger, which while preferable to Thunder Bash Sex was also abandoned after a moment for the revelry of the Cat Slaughterers and The Cyanide Kings. They weren’t so bad, and just as I thought I could tune my sleepy dreams into the roar that was undoubtedly produced by a random number generator and a gorilla on ecstasy, the channel was changed again, and again, and again.
I did not sleep well.
They left right around 11:00 when I needed to get out of bed to kayak across the sea. The kayaker who welcomed me to the beach the day before showed up. He saw my blog. Had he but known I was coming he would have left a tent set up for me.
In my sleeping bag I was warm. I checked the weather on my phone. Damn, it was perfect. If I only had an excuse to wait for the rest of my gear. But I didn’t. If I postponed the launch, it could be weeks before I got another weather window like this one.
My friends from the escort sailboat showed up. They took all the gear I wouldn’t be needing.
Loading my boat presented some challenges. I was taking a 10 liter water bag instead of the usual three. I didn’t want all that weight high up on my deck, so I put it right in front of my seat. The 36 packages of crackers in a shopping bag also went with me in the cockpit. It was a little tight, but it worked. I wore headlamp over my neoprene cap and under my wide brim hat. It didn’t seem to consistently turn on when I hit the switch, but waving it around and flicking it fixed that. I had another light just in case, as well as some batteries and my backup gps in a dry bag between my shins.
Strapped to my back was the radar beacon cylinder. I had two paddle floats and storm paddles fastened down: One on my front deck and one on my back. If things went bad I could set them up as outriggers on either side and try to wait the situation out or rest.
My radio and GPS were in a flat dry bag on my front deck, pushed far enough forward so that they wouldn’t influence my compass, I hoped. Behind me were two nalgene bottles with chia fresca. My neoprene jacket kept me warm and my booties served the additional function of heel cushions.
I was as ready as I’d ever be. It was 12:30. By some miracle I managed to comfortably fit into my cockpit with all that stuff. I waved goodbye to my friends and set into the darkness.
Paddling out of the harbor, light from the village brightened my way. After that, it was the full moon and the stars. The night was bright.
I flicked my headlamp on to read my compass. I turned my boat to 104 degrees, facing the north beach of Othonoi 45 nautical miles away, and found the nearest star on the horizon. I turned my headlamp off and paddled to that star. My poggies kept my hands warm, but prevented me from reading my watch.
The plan was to start eating every five minutes after the half hour mark. I guessed and began at 35.
Off to my left was a lighthouse. Behind me, Porto Badisco. And to the right, the stinky sulfur town. As I paddled out to see the lights got smaller and smaller.
I was warming up and took my poggies off. I could read my watch by the light of the moon.
Stars move, they wander across the sky for the same reason the sun does. Every seven minutes I ate a cracker and turned on my headlamp to make sure my star was still good or find a new one.
Every hour I turned on my radio. “Securitay, securitay, securitay. Solo kayak crossing from Otranto to Othonoi. Current location - North [ ] degrees and [ ] minutes. East [ ] degrees and [ ] minutes. Repeating ... ”
A freighter came towards me from the north. It was big and loud and getting closer fast. Everything about its silhouette told me it was going to pass in front of me. I stopped and waited. One of the lights I saw was red. That’s odd, the red light should be on the port side. It didn’t make sense, until the giant ignorant mass passed behind me.
I learned a lesson.
The lights of the towns dropped below the horizon.
I checked the bearing on my gps. It had dropped from 104 to 100. I started trying to aim a little farther to the north. I checked again at the end of the next hour and it was down to 94. For the rest of the crossing I aimed my boat duen east and stayed on course. The sea was calm and the wind negligible, but what force there was must have been pushing me south. On top of that, my stars were moving south, and that was bound to throw me off even with my frequent updates.
The next freighter came from the south and passed in front of me. It felt close, though not as close as the first one. I didn’t see the red navigational light.
The moon set and the world got a lot darker. I couldn’t read my watch any more. There was blackness nearby and all around me. I was alone at sea in the night. Not even the moon lit my way, very far from the friends and family rooting for me. They were with me, encouraging me, cheering for me, telling me that I wasn’t alone.
A bright red star rose to the south east. Of all the celestial bodies in the clear black sky, only that one cast a reflection. A red river of light flowed from the horizon over black waters towards my boat.
My abdominal muscles were beginning to feel the distance.
Dawn light crept into the sky and the stars fled the horizon, but it was not yet bright enough to read my compass. I turned my headlamp on and left it on. I no longer needed to conserve the batteries.
The sky met the sea at the horizon all around me. I could not see the land I left, nor the land I was going to. There was nothing but the sea. And it was calm.
Far ahead and to the north there was a mist. Through a break in that mist I saw mountains - Albanian wilderness.
I was chilly. My pogies were in my cockpit. I could root around in there for them, but I prefered to just keep on paddling.
The sun began to rise directly ahead, and I got my first glimpse of the island. The tiny northern stretch of Othonoi was directly between that rising red sphere of flame and me. The left half of the sun rose cleanly from the ocean, but the right half was blocked by the silhouette of my destination on the other side of the sea.
A bright green seagull flew past my boat.
Once the sun was over the horizon I could no longer look into it, and the island disappeared into the mist. Albania was also gone.
The sun warmed me up.
The cockpit of my Nelo Inuk is and always has been a little leaky. I think most of the water that collects on the bottom drips in from the screws that bind the deck rigging. Occasionally I sponge it out.
I opened my skirt to take out another handful of cracker packages. The hose unscrewed itself from my water bag. It would be bad if I lost my drinking water to the salty sea sweat of my cockpit. There was still a long ways to go. But I held the waterbag in place between and under my thighs and I screwed the hose back on, tightly. Disaster was averted.
Someone said something in response to my position broadcast. But I don’t know if it was Italian or Greek. To save batteries I was leaving my radio on only for my broadcasts at the end of every hour and a few minutes after in case someone had something to say to me. And they did, but it wasn’t in English, so I turned my radio off.
My mouth was parched and my throat was dry and I was sick of those nasty crackers. I pulled a nalgene off of my back deck and for the next hour got my calories from chia fresca. I was bursting with energy. I picked up speed and sang loudly. “A whole new world. A new fantastic point of view. No one to tell us no, or where to go, or say we’re only dreaming.”
My go juice ran out, but I could now handle more crackers. And I could see the island. The blocky shadow was visible in front of the distant mist. It pulled at me, and I went forward.
I turned on my radio to make my broadcast, and someone was “Calling Kayak Dov. Calling Kayak Dov.”
Joy! My friends were coming. I was no longer alone.
“This is Kayak Dov!” I told them. I felt GOOD.
We switched to channel 72 and I gave them my gps coordinates. I couldn’t wait for them. If they went to the coordinates, and then headed straight to the island, we would undoubtedly meet.
I continued to feel the pull of the mountain island ahead of me. An enormous fish leapt out of the water directly in my path, disappearing as quickly as it burst out.
I saw the sailboat behind me and to the north. I called them on the radio. They could not see me.
What were my coordinates? I tried to read them, but the sun was bright and the GPS dry bag covered with water drops. I couldn’t make out the numbers without adjusting the contrast, and I wasn’t sure how to do that. I didn’t want to risk removing it from the bag.
I turned my boat around and pointed it directly at them. I subtracted 180 from the bearing and told them exactly where to find me.
It took a while, but eventually they told me they saw me and headed north, away.
I was hot and chafing kicked in the same place it had the day before. I tried lowering my shorts again, but this time it didn’t help. After more paddling, I stuck one of my storm paddles under the deck lines for added stability and took off my neoprene jacket. I felt pleasantly cooler and free, but the chafing did not go away. I unbuckled the clip on my life jacket belt below the zipper. The chafing went away. At least my wonderful skirt chafing had been cured a month earlier when I upgraded to an Akuilisaq.
I called the sailing boat and gave them a new bearing to find me. But they were having trouble of some sort.
“Dov, do you hear that sound we just heard?” If I was near the sound, they supposed, I must be near them.
“Forget it, just go south.” I told them. When they crossed the line between me and the island I could tell them to stop and I would meet them.
“Is the ferry to your right or left?” I saw the ferry near the sailing boat. They were to my left, but far away.
“To my left, but all you have to do to find me is go south. I’ll tell you when to stop.”
“We’ll stay here. You come to us.” They told me.
Fat chance. I was not going to paddle any farther than I had to. Forty five miles was enough, thank you very much.
“Just go south.” I tried one last time.
They wandered farther north “I think we know where you are.” I heard over the radio.
“Dov, are you okay?” They asked.
“Yes, I’m fine.” though maybe a little frustrated.
“Good, we’ll meet you in the port.” They had given up on finding me. Maybe they didn’t know where south was. Oh well. I had about five more hours and I was doing fine.
The forecast said that around 15:00, when I would arrive, there would be a force four tail wind. A bit strong for my state of exhaustion. I sulked for a couple of hours about how I had been abandoned before I had my second nalgene and the joy of a new wave of energy kicked in.
I was getting close to the island. The cliffs on the near shore were staggering. Only Fezzik was strong enough to get to the island this way.
But the last few hours were arduous. The island did that trick that islands sometimes do, where they creep away from me as I get closer. Why was I going so slow!
Maybe I’m sinking. Shit, what if I’m sinking? What if the repairs I made the day before didn’t catch the problem?
I carefully watched my bow. Was it lower in the water than it ought to be. Should I get out, swim to the front, open the hatch and pump the water out. The water was cold. To spend that much time in it I’d have to put my jacket back on. Would that be enough? It was stuffed into my cockpit. I didn’t want to fish it out.
I could be at the island in a couple of hours. I increased my speed to four knots. Calypso beach, next to the cave where Ulysses was held captive, would be the first safe spot for a landing. There was no road access there, but all I had to do was pull over and pump the gallons of water out of my cockpit.
I pressed on, and reached four knots, then four and a half knots. I took my GPS out of the bag to measure. If I was able to keep up the speed, then I couldn’t have been in that much trouble. The delusional panic passed, and I didn’t even have to go for a swim in the winter water.
For the last hour I was too sick of the crackers to eat any more. Next time, I want to have peanuts with me.
I paddled past the cliffs. I passed the white sanded Calypso beach at the base of an incredibly steep mountain. I saw the cave. There were a lot of caves. Above the cliffs, grassy slopes spilled into each other at sharp angles, and above those still more cliffs.
I was in Greece, and it was breathtakingly wondrous. A motorboat prattled along parallel to me. The captain cheerfully waved and I waved back. I didn’t remember Italian boaters being so friendly.
For the thrill of going fast I kept pace with him at five and a half knots for as long as I could. When we went around the corner of the island and I had to turn he pulled ahead of me.
Around the mountain I saw the harbor.
A throng* of people were waving to me and cheering. I pulled up onto the beach. A Greek flag waved in the air and a tiny village sat under the mountains just behind it.
I got out of my boat. My legs were stiff; I could barely walk. The time was 15:45, wait, no, I was in a new time zone. The time was 16:45.
“Is it safe to leave my kayak on the beach,” I asked as I hobbled towards a shower.
“Yes, of course. You’re not in Italy anymore.”
I wasn’t. Crossing the strait of Otronto was a personal record, an unprecedented personal achievement. I crossed the sea and found a new people and a new land.
I love you world!
Later, when I opened up my hatch I found about half a liter of water in the bow. My boat was leaking, just not dangerously.
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3966,3967,3968"]
Monday, March 17, 2014
I woke up at 2:00 AM. It was cold out and I didn’t want to paddle in the dark. I read the newspaper. I made pasta for breakfast. I was ready to launch as the sun came up around 6:00.
As I left the port, I heard a splunking sound behind me me. I turned around and saw nothing. I continued, and a moment later it happened again. And then a third time. For the fourth I was ready and saw it. A big fish was doing something funky with the back end of my boat. I don’t know what, but it seemed like the two of them would appreciate some privacy.
Immediately after the port there were three see caves. I paddled into one of the caverns and went around a curve and then a bend. There was light coming from the other end. I soon looked out one of the other entrances, though the water was obstructed by the rock. The cave was wide enough for me to turn around and head out the way I came in.
After I passed the end of Italy there was a head wind. It continued all day.
I passed at least a couple dozen sea caves. I explored some, but there were too many to visit them all. Some were large enough to fit my parent’s home into, others were more appropriately shaped to line up a school bus or two.
Inside the rocks were purple and green. Outside, the cliffs were red, orange, yellow, silver, gray, pink, and white.
A fishing boat that was off to my right chugged around a corner into a bay. I followed it in, but didn’t see it anywhere. It had vanished. There was a crack in the cliff face and after paddling through it I found the small hidden port. There was just enough room for the three of four moored fishing boats and a small sidewalk around the edge. Three sides were walled by the cliff and the fourth had a boat ramp and a parking lot. I stretched my legs, fiddled with the ropes holding my seat in place, and then returned to the sea and the headwind.
There was a little bit of chafing. I thought my belt was the culprit so I opened up my pants in the the cockpit and pulled them down.
I passed a town and asked some people hanging around the port how far to Porto Badisco. They told me “not far.”
“How far is ‘not far’?”
“5 kilometers?” I suggested.
“Oy.” I felt.
I paddled into the wind.
I turned around a corner and had a view of a blue bay surrounded by green hills with orange silver cliffs and big caves. There was a small town at the other end and a fisherman perched on a ledge told me that the town was Porto Badisco.
I paddled to the town. There was a sort of a harbor that might have been but probably wasn’t the port I was looking for. Some people told me I had arrived at my destination while more told me I hadn’t. Mostly the crash of the surf was too strong to get a clear answer.
The water there stank of sulfur. It was light blue and full of tiny swimming things that weren’t mosquito larvae.
I decided I hadn’t arrived yet and continued on my way.
A fisherman assured me I had passed it. He was absolutely certain, and close enough to the water so that I could be confident we were communicating well. There were no further villages at all between me and Otranto.
I didn’t believe him. I paddled on for another mile. I still didn’t see it. The land above me was uninhabited. I turned around and went back to the stinky water town. On land I unpacked my gps and saw that I turned around a moment too soon.
I got back into my kayak and paddled into the now formidable head wind. That last mile and a half was hard as I crashed over waves and fought into the wind, but I felt good and full of energy.
As I approached what looked like the port fisherman hollered at me from the top of a squat cliff. They waved their arms to tell me I was going in the right direction to escape the sea.
Porto Badisco is a long narrow natural harbor and I was relieved to glide across its crystal clear glassy water to come to a stop on the sandy beach at its end.
A man was there to welcome me. He was a kayaker and showed me the best part of the small beach to sleep on. Then he left.
There was too much water in my front compartment. Not a dangerous amount, but an unnatural amount. I needed to fix that.
I asked at the bar next to the beach if I could use their bathroom.
“No, we’re closed.”
I found another bar that was also the local supermarket.
“But we don’t have any bread” the owner told me. He thought I would give up and move on but I’m not so easily deterred.
“Do you have spaghetti?” I asked.
He was lying. There isn’t a single newspaper stand in all of Italy that doesn’t sell spaghetti. I walked past him into the shopping area and found the spaghetti. Most of the shelves were empty.
“What about this? You said you didn’t have spaghetti.” I accused.
He was unperturbed and said nothing.
“Do you have canned beans or chickpeas?” I asked.
I looked around and couldn’t find any. “What about tuna?”
I didn’t see that either. I didn’t have any protein. Oh well. There was none. Before I checked out I found the bathroom and cleaned my glasses. Armed with clean glasses, I found the canned tuna and checked out.
The next morning I was supposed to wake up at one. I had been really tired all week since I started the sleep readjustment plan, so I woke up 6:00. I felt good.
I went for a hike in the beautiful countryside around Porto Badisco. Shortly after, Roberto came to meet me. He took me to a shower which was important to ward of chafing during the crossing. He gave me epoxy to fix my boat. And he gave me cookies.
He also gave me a radar beacon so that he’d have an easier time finding me. He planned to leave at 6:00 AM. I was going to leave at 12:00, and we would meet in the middle. I strapped the metal disk pipe onto my life jacket.
Back at my boat I searched the front half for possible leaking wounds. I found a couple of unlikely suspects and epoxied them up. I’m getting pretty good at it.
at 16:00 I lay down to sleep.
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3937,3938,3939,3940,3941,3942,3943,3944,3945,3946,3947,3948,3949,3950,3951,3952,3953,3954,3955"]
Miles paddled: 22.5
Totall since Naples: 609.5
Current location: 40.081523,18.482747
Sunday, March 16, 2014
The story of my first big crossing begins in Leuca. I intended to cross the Adriatic, but I knew I would have to wait. I needed to replace my stolen PLB and deck lights, since the channel was full of traffic and I would be paddling at night. My parents were sending me a package.
The package also includes an Acme Thief Pulverizer. The idea is that I can remotely detonate my kayak and any thieves near it. I know, I know, it seems extreme, but I’m really upset that so much of my gear was stolen in Italy. The ATP also has an email tracking option, so that I can locate my stolen kayak before blowing up the enemy, if I have enough patience. The Idea was to track the package in transit and my progress crossing the strait.
I was hoping I could find a sailboat to escort me, just in case something went wrong. It wouldn’t be a solo crossing, which earns more pride, but I felt safety was more important than pride.
Most importantly, I needed a weather window. I had stayed in Leuca for a week and carefully watched the conditions in the Strait of Otronto. The strait was consistently inhospitable. I did enjoy some great kayak surfing during that week, but a crossing would have been impossible.
I needed to paddle the approximately 20 nautical miles to porto Badisco, my launch point.
I needed to buy crackers. I’ve found that whole grain crackers are a great source of energy while kayaking, and available just about everywhere, except for the supermarket near where I was staying in Leuca.
Sunday morning Federico, the president of the sailing club and my amazing host, had news. His friend Roberto intended to cross, weather permitting, on Friday.
I met with Roberto in his sailing boat. Traveling with me at three knots would not be a problem. We talked about emergency plans. He could take all of my unnecessary gear, like my sleeping bag and stove. We would remain in visual contact at all times, but I would receive no non emergency assistance beyond that. I should help myself to cookies while we talk. It was too good to be true.
There was one hitch. He could only go on Friday. He and some friends wanted to visit the island for the weekend. If the weather was too rough for me, they would leave without me.
The likelihood of one arbitrary day being calm enough for my 15 hour crossing was about as likely as pretty girl, who thought I was hunky and sweet on the first date, still thinking I was sane on the third. Launching with this guy was nearly impossible, but I would still try to make it work just in case the window magically appeared.
Leaving on a Friday presented an additional challenge. I had to arrive before sabbath started at sunset, and ideally with enough time to shower and prepare for the weekly holy day. I needed to launch around midnight.
I came up with a plan. Every day for the rest of the week I would go to sleep and wake up one hour earlier so that by Friday, I could drop off mid afternoon and be ready to start fresh six hours before dawn and 18 before sunset.
I walked to the supermarket near the church, hoping to find crackers. The man working there gave me an ugly look and asked in Italian “Can I help you?” as a way of saying, please do whatever it is you need to do an leave.
I looked for the crackers and didn’t find them. “Biscoti Integrali?” I asked.
“Try the tabachiara next door.” he told me briskly in Italian. He must not have understood me. Tabachiaras have everything except healthy food.
“Are you sure?” He was sure.
They didn’t have any next door. I went back into the supermarket. There was a woman working there who overheard the earlier conversation. She showed me where the whole grain crackers were. But they were cookies, not crackers.
The man gave me directions to another supermarket. “Go straight, that way.”
“Do I pass the bridge?” I asked.
“Yes.” He told me.
I walked until I passed the bridge, then I walked farther. There was no supermarket. I asked around. His directions were bogus.
I needed the crackers to make the crossing. It sounds silly, but I had tested them extensively. They worked. They were easy. It was not the time to start experimenting with something new.
I learned that there was one last minimarket in town. It wasn’t that far from the supermarket. There were two shelves and three short isles. They were polite and had crackers.
I estimated I would consume 36 packages with four crackers each on the crossing. It didn’t sound healthy.
I had instructed my parents that under no circumstance were they to send the package with USPS as the postal service had already failed spectacularly more than once, causing extensive delays and the loss of expensive equipment. Somehow, they ended up sending it with USPS.
My ATP was functioning and broadcasting its location from Paris. It wasn’t moving and the three to five day shipping time was long past. Something had gone wrong. In the unlikely event the weather window came through, I would launch without my PLB, head lamp, and deck lights. Hopefully, I would not miss them.
I needed a headlamp to read my compass. Roberto offered to lend me his. It was from before LED lights, but it would do the trick.
The weather window was more important than all other considerations combined. The final say would come Thursday night.
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Tuesday, March 11, 2014
I’ve been staying with the sailing school in Leuca. Leuca is a one or two day paddle from Porto Badisco. I intend to cross the Adriatic to Othonoi, Greece, from there.
I’ve used the last few days to resolve a number of logistical issues that have come up. I’ve made numerous repairs to my boat, some of which required multiple layers of epoxy.
Before I can make the crossing I need to receive a package from the folks. It includes deck lights and a plb to replace those that were stolen. It’s gear I should have with me for the crossing. We’re not using usps, so hopefully we’ll avoid the shipping fiasco from last time.
I’ll also need a weather window. It’s the wrong time of year for one of those, but this is where I try to trade in all the bad luck I’ve had up until now. It’s a good thing the universe works like that.
Yesterday I went paddling for a couple of hours to test out my repairs and explore the sea caves I passed last Thursday.
I left most of my gear behind. Without it, my boat felt a little unstable at first and turned better. I liked it.
The weather was sunny and the sea was being whipped up by a north wind.
I tried to catch waves and surf into the small beach near the port, but the wind was sending the waves the wrong way.
I followed the cliffs around and found the caves. There were a lot of them, and they were big. I went into four or five. In addition to being dark, they were full of mist as waves crashed in and shot spray up into the humid cave air. Tunnels disappeared into the hazy darkness and I did not follow. The caves were large enough so that I could get well inside and still have substantial clearance above my head. But without calm seas, a helmet, and a headlamp, I decided not to continue in to the inner smaller tunnels.
I paddled under an enormous stone arch.
I didn’t take any pictures since my camera broke. I’m hoping to find a donor to send me $250 for a new one.
When I turned around I paddled away from the cliffs where the wind was much stronger. I surfed waves. I edged into one of them strongly to stay on course. I edged too far and my head was briefly underwater. I scull snapped my paddle and tried to swing my head low over my back deck. I didn’t go down any farther but I only came up enough to get a quick breath before the wave tried to pull me back down. So I did it again, and on the third time I was up, secure, and paddling forward again.
This wasn’t exactly a roll since I never went down far enough to consider myself capsized; it was more of a late recovery.
With the wind at my pack I moved fast. I lowered my rudder to reduce the swerving, but it didn’t help since the foot pedals were loose. I’d have to fix that later with a hanger. It’s the second time that’s happened since I started with this boat; it’s the result of heavy tumbling. I raised the rudder back up.
I returned to the small beach next to the port. The first roll I practiced, my paddle got caught in the deckline that runs alongside my cockpit. I don’t know how that happened, but I sorted it out. That’s when I got this sudden feeling that I forgot to tie my glasses on. I rolled up without any trouble and tied my glasses on. The rest of my rolls went well and I practiced until my ears hurt.
After coming in I examined the hatches. There was water in them, but not so much that it couldn’t be attributed to leaking from the hatches and not the hull. Still, I examined the hull and found another spot that could use an epoxy touch up.
My new Akuilisaq continues to function exceptionally.
So I’m waiting again in a good place. Please, keep your snide comments to yourself, this time it will only be a few days.
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3914,3913,3912,3911,3910,3909,3908,3907,3906,3905,3904"]
Thursday, March 6, 2014
I paddled away from Torre San Giovani hoping to make it to Leuca, the end of Italy. Leuca isn’t actually my last stop in Italy, I have one or two more after before I arrive in Porto Badisco, my Adriatic crossing launch. But, at the very tip of the boot heel, it’s where most sailors make the crossing from. It is the end of italy.
At first I paddled in shallow water along a beach. A series of small islands separated me from the gradually worsening conditions at sea. Sometimes the water was too shallow to plant my paddle properly and I tip-toed around those sections.
Despite the conditions, I made steady progress. I stopped for a break in a sharp curve on the coast that was doubly sheltered by an island. A man called out to me from the shore. He wanted my help. The water was flat so I made an easy landing. I helped the stranger flip his motorboat upside down so he could work on the bottom.
He encouraged me to stop at the port around the bend for the day, since Lecua has strong currents. But I wanted to make it to the end of Italy, it wasn’t that far. If I had too much trouble I could always turn around.
I passed an old round tower that rose out of the water near a low angle beach. The top was collapsed at an angle and crowned with bright green grass. I didn’t find the port the fellow told me about, though on the map I now see that it was there. I suspect the entrance was mostly closed by sand.
The surf was getting rougher, and when I strayed too near the beach, breaking waves tried to take control of my boat and surf splashed over my skirt.
The next port I arrived in was Torre Vado. The squat cylindrical tower sat right in the port. I rested and asked a fisherman how far to Leuca. Nine kilometers, an hour and a half in good conditions, more today.
After Torre Vado the head wind really picked up - whitecaps became frequent and swells jostled me up and down. I pressed on.
I paddled into a bay. At the far end there was a smaller bay within the bay where I could find shelter for a break and maybe information.
As I cut around the corner a large breaking wave caught me. I skulled into it to support myself but was helpless to move forward or back. I was horrified as I flew over a set of porous jagged rocks and just narrowly missed landing on another. Instead, I crashed sideways into the washing-machine-sized-kayak-destroyer and dropped upright into the water. The way ahead, between the jaws of hull crushing destruction was clear, and I sprinted out.
I rested in the comparatively protected water of the inner bay. An old man and a small boy were playing on the beach. I got close enough to call out to him over the surf. I learned only three kilometers to remained to Leuca’s port. That was good since I was getting tired and the sea was getting mean.
A big wave came and sent me towards the rocks at the edge of the beach. I paddled hard port side and edged hard too, but not hard enough. The next wave dragged me over shallow sharp rocks, the wave after that shoved me over the not so shallow rocks, and the wave after that planted me half way up the tall sea fangs of doom.
I clung to rock to keep from being pushed even farther in as my hull ground and crunched against it. The sharp edges bit into my hands. Wave after wave, slam crunch, slam crunch.
And then a good one came. It lifted me up without pushing me in. I let go of the jagged rock and slid out to the safety of the sea. The old man cheered.
I was back in the center of the inner bay. I have never seen a boat take such a beating as mine just had, and it needed to be inspected. There was a boat ramp, but an exit in these conditions could easily involve swimming, and in the middle of nowhere, if I did find damage I wouldn’t be able to do more than tape it up.
I needed to get to the port. It was only three kilometers away. My boat didn’t seem to be sinking yet. If it started to, maybe I’d be able to pull over.
I paddled out of the bay. My boat didn’t noticeably sink, which is good since there was nowhere to pull over.
The cliffs were full of sea caves of all sizes that I had no desire to explore. It’s also not safe when the water is rough.
I passed a corner. On the high hill at the edge of the land was an enormous white lighthouse. Below it, in the bay rested the harbor. The town of Leuca was on all sides.
I paddled into the port. A man from the sailing school, Scuola Vela, greeted me. All the expedition kayakers stayed in his school. They had a bed for me, a hot shower, and a stocked kitchen. I had reached the end of Italy, and it was heaven.
I climbed a thousand old stone steps to the lighthouse at the top of the hill and had my first view of the Adriatic. It was covered in whitecaps. Wind blasted my face. And maybe, just maybe, I saw the shadow of Greek mountains on the other side.
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3852,3854,3856,3858,3859,3860,3861,3863,3865,3867,3869"]
Nautical miles paddled: 14.5
Total since Naples: 587
Current location: 39.798348,18.36017
We carried my boat from the water to the sailing school. It was unusually heavy. I opened it up, and found a suspiciously large quantity of water in both the front and back hatches. The hull and the gunnels were torn up. Some spots were just dented, in others, carbon threads roamed free and chunks were missing. There were no gaping holes, but it is possible I was slowly sinking. Fortunately, I finished in an excellent place to make repairs by covering the wounds with a layer of epoxy. Hopefully, there’s not some carbon epoxy ratio critical point, after which my boat won’t float anymore.
My clothing dry bag did not do its job. My teffilin also got wet. My electronics dry bag, with an end of Italy miracle, did just fine.
Monday, March 3, 2014
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3853,3855"]
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3853,3855"]
When my GPS broke a few days ago, I put it in my rice box as I had a number of times before. But after a few days, it still didn’t work. Maybe my rice had gotten to old and lost it’s magic. I bought new rice. After a day, my GPS was covered with rice dust, but still not working.
This morning I brought it to a nautical store that told me there was a chance they could get it fixed. I got to the store at 9:00 and they opened around 10:00. After walking back to my boat and getting my gear together, I launched at noon.
The day before my camera ran out of batteries before I had a good view of Gallipoli. Paddling away I tried to take a picture, only I couldn’t since my camera wouldn’t turn on. It still doesn’t. It doesn't charge either. Who wants to donate a new camera so we can have more wonderful photos!
The sun shone and there was a mild head wind. I began by crossing a bay for an hour. I only had about four hours to paddle today, but I was working with an extremely late start.
At the end of the crossing I found a tiny cove where I practiced a couple of rolls. My seat broke. When I first got my Nelo kayak, without the seat I had asked for that had been promised, the seat back was attached to the seat by two bolts. The first one came out a while ago, and the second one today. I paddled the rest of the day without a seat back, but I didn’t mind at all. I think my back has grown stronger.
I paddled along very low sand cliffs. I passed a few beaches and a lot of porous jagged rocks forming an abrupt shore line, maybe a meter high. Mostly, the ledge dropped away, sometime twenty or more feet deep, sometimes only a couple.
I could see all the way down. Rocks of all sizes sat and plants grew at the bottom. In other places, the bottom was sandy.
The water was so clear, that if a monkey dove off my boat down to the distant sea floor, and held up all eight of it’s fingers, I would be able to tell that it had lost the other two in a tragic accident involving a blender, a prewar can of tuna, and a power surge.
When I pulled up here in Torre San Giovanni I was immediately invited to stay in the Lega Navale, without any prompting from me. They don’t have hot water so I showered with cold. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a hot shower, but I think the cold ones are good for me. They acclimate my body to cold water and make me stronger.
The LNI here is one of those enormous square towers that used to guard the coast here. The ceilings are high, the walls are thick enough to withstand the cannon fire of the time, and the plumbing doesn't work.
On to Leuca. It looks like I’ll be arriving well before my care package from the states and I’ll have to wait for it before I can make the crossing from porto Badisco. I hope that will give me time to look for and find an escort.
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3862,3864,3866,3868,3870,3871,3872,3874,3883,3884"]
[gallery type="rectangular" ids="3862,3864,3866,3868,3870,3871,3872,3874,3883,3884"]
Nautical miles paddled: 14
Total since Naples: 572.5
Current location: 39.88651,18.113893
Sunday, March 2, 2014
In the night the port guard patrolled the docks with a trident and a super powerful flashlight. The water here is extraordinarily clear with various shades of blue and green. But near the Lega Navale, it’s just clear. So the night guard hunted fish.
This morning a couple of young fellows in similar orange jackets showed up while I was packing my gear. The younger one took some photos and asked me questions for his article. When the interview was over they boarded their Coast Guard motorboat and zoomed off to guard the coast.
I don’t zoom quite the way motorboats do, but I cruised across the small inner sea, leaving the Lega Navale behind.
The forecast said it would rain so I wore my neoprene jacket and hat. There were lots of clouds in the sky, but the sun shone through a gap and I was warm. I was not in a particularly great place to roll and cool off. The water was choppy and if I did end up swimming, something that has not happened in ages but remains burnt in my memory, I would have to climb up jagged rocks or swim a long ways to a beach. But there’s the rule - a good kayaker rolls without fear on a whim. I was hot and needed to cool down, that definitely constituted a whim.
I got so stressed that when I finally did roll it was a barely successful mess. I was in debt to the sea god for a good roll.
I saw the Coast Guardians in their motorboat towing an enormous buoy with a light on it. I paddled over to say hello, but they gestured to me to keep away. At least, I think they did. Gestures here in Italy, come here and go away, are different than those we use in America.
For a little while, while the scenery was less exciting, I fretted about my financial situation. If only my regular readers would help me out with five dollars a month in exchange for the entertainment I provide. If only the people that liked my blog would spread it by mouth and social media. If only the people who downloaded my book would come through with the recommended donations. They probably don’t realize how hard writing is. Oh well, the expedition was a good plan and if it fails because the financial side falls through, at least I’ll know I gave it my all. At least I had some support from a few wonderful friends and family. It’s not like I was asking to get rich, anything I raise over the price of the trip I have already committed to the Alliance for Climate Protection. Sigh.
I passed a couple more towers before hills came to the coast and the rocky shore turned into bright, tree-lined cliffs. Through the exceptionally clear water I saw rocks and small growing things far below. I poked my nose into small sea caves. And I found a pristine cove where the choppy water smoothed out.
I paid my debt and rolled. I tried one hand-roll, and didn’t get it, but my regular rolls all went wonderfully. I took pictures of myself underwater. Rolling well is exhilarating.
The clouds were gone, the sea was full of sunlight and the air sparkled.
I took a break in a bay that was guarded by a fort. I stretched my legs and approached an elderly fisherman sitting on the rocks to confirm my location on my new chart. The chart is not waterproof, so I can only take it out on land, but it’s better than nothing.
“Ciao.” I called to him as I walked up. He did not respond so I tried calling louder and again louder. I was now only a few feet away so I assumed he was deaf.
I tried one last time standing almost above him, “Salve”.
He said “GAR GASK Funk!” or something like that which sounded like it might mean “Get lost!”
“I don’t speak Italian.” I told him in Italian. I asked him if the town around the corner was the one on my map and he waved with his hand what might have been an affirmative.
I paddled past more small sea caves and four towers in a square that might at one time have been a castle. I paddled along a beach and got directions from a one armed fisherman in a row boat. Everything was perfect until the wind turned against me.
Fortunately I was near Gallipoli, my destination for the day. The first port I paddled into had dozens of living room sized boats on land and only a few smaller ones in the water. It had a desolate, uninviting feel. The next port I paddled into was populated by a bunch of sailboats, but no large capitaneria that might have showers. The third port had lots of million dollar yachts, nothing like Monaco, but the most I’d seen in southern Italy. It seemed like no one would steal my kayak there and I bet they had a place for me to shower and sleep too.
But the dock worker was perturbed by my presence, even after I told him my story. He brought me to the office and explained to the receptionist about the problem that just showed up. They found a Canadian to work as a translator.
I could leave my boat there overnight, but where would I sleep?
“Next to my boat?” I suggested.
“No, here you can only sleep in your boat. We’ll call the port next door. They have more room.” There was plenty of room, even a really nice couch that was not for me.
The port next door was not any more inviting, but who would be, the way I was introduced over the phone?
I got directions to the Lega Navale. I paddled under two bridges and found it sandwiched between a castle and a fortress. At first, they too were uninviting. I could not sleep on the dock. And that was the only space they had. Docks are not for sleeping on.
I could use their wifi connection to find a place to sleep. I also got directions to a place that could fix my GPS. I followed the directions. There was a nautical shop there and the man outside of it told me no one here could fix my GPS. After I walked half an hour back to the LNI I found out he was wrong.
Where would I sleep?
“In the parking lot.” I told the man who wouldn’t let me sleep next to my boat.
“Okay, you can sleep next to your boat.” And I slept well.
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Distance paddled: 17
Total since Naples: 558.5
Current location: 40.055515,17.97945
In fact, I loved it so much that I contacted the fellow who made it and set up a sponsorship deal. In addition to Akuilisaqs and Tuiliks, he also makes great instructional videos. So check out his site and make sure you followed the link here so he knows I sent you.
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Yesterday I used the smoke-filled Tabachiara in Torre Colimena to recharge the internet access on my phone. Tabachiarias are all purpose corner shops where anything can be purchased except healthy food.
But the internet on my phone didn’t work. The fellow who was there at 7:30 this morning didn’t know anything about phones. It was his daughter who helped me yesterday. 7:30 was too early in the morning for her.
“Come back at 9:30.”
By 11:00 I was on the water and on my way. Yesterday the forecast made today look like a no go, but this morning, that was no longer the case.
I used my new storm paddle and tried a new bungee system for stowing my winged paddle on my front deck.
I paddled along beaches and interesting porous rock formations. Above the beaches I saw houses and forests; above the rocks, big square towers.
I was paddling close to the rocks around a point. The waves weren’t very high, but they were spiking up and crashing, indicating the water ahead was very shallow and I best go around. I didn’t want to go around since that would take longer.
Instead I got hit by one of the waves and as I struggled to get free by turning into it, I capsized. I was using my storm paddle and had it extended on the port/down wave side for the most turning power. The wave sucked my starboard side under and I am not yet sufficiently skilled with the storm paddle to hand shift and scull. Instead, I sculled without hand shifting, my gut reaction to going down, and consequently, sculled without a paddle.
My elbow rested on an underwater ledge. I tried to use my hand to push myself up off of the bottom, but my hand was past the ledge. I set up for a roll with the back of my shoulder supporting some of the weight of the boat and me against the rocks beneath me. Sandwiched as I was, it was a new sort of roll, but it worked well enough.
My winged paddles slipped out of their front bungee binding and dangled in the precariously in the shallow surf.* I quickly twisted them around so that they were on my spray skirt, lest they get caught on the bottom, only they were too long. For the remaining 20 seconds of my flight from the surf, I paddled with the blades of my winged paddle in between my arms and arched my back sharply to keep them out of my face.
I was out of the rough spot. I fixed my paddles. I relaxed. I was wet so the sun ducked behind clouds. Steady paddling warmed me up.
Overall, the swells were moderate, and in the right direction. The area around Porto Cesareo is designated as a marine park, reason in itself not to skip ahead with the crossing I attempted the previous day.
There were a bunch of islands around the port and a healthy wildlife consisting mainly of scuba divers. Just as I pulled into the port, a perfectly sized cresting wave hit and I surfed it in hoping that my super cool moment had a witness.
The port was full of boats and in the center of town. It seemed like the perfect place to steal a kayak, so I asked where the Lega Navale was.
I paddled under a bridge and continued just past the edge of town to an isolated port with a guard 24/7 that was happy to host me in the room next to their office for the night. Friendly faces, internet, a port a potty, and a cold water hose shower are all this fellow needs to feel really great.
*In the Gulf de Lions I lost a paddle this way.
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Nautical miles paddled: 8.5
Tota l since Naples: 541.5
Current location: 40.253525,17.905493
Every supermarket in town is closed between 14:00 and 17:00 except for the one I waited patiently outside of. That one closes at 14:00 on Mondays for the rest of the day. I haven’t studied much WWII history, but I’d like to think the numerous bunkers in this region are in tact because the allies had enough sense to attack while every single Italian in the country was on break between 14:00 and 17:00.