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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