Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Day 123


George Karpathios invited me to stay at his home in Athens.  He runs a local kayak outfitter, and might like to paddle with me for a few days in his backyard, the Aegean sea.

To arrive at his home I had two options: I could paddle north of the large island of Salamina.  I’d pass several smaller islands, some undoubtedly fascinating coast, and see Athens from up close on protected waters.  Or, I could cross to the southern tip in a straight line, then pivot and take another direct bearing to my destination Gilfada.  The crossings would be shorter, less interesting, and into a potentially force four head wind.

I wanted instant gratification.  I chose the shorter route and paddled into the headwind.  I passed a turtle the size of a full grown ground hog just a few feet from the boat.  I paddled into more headwind and arrived at Salamina.

I considered calling it a day, for about half a second.  Briefly, I passed cliffs and villages and was then on to the 2nd crossing.

I pushed on, patiently, slowly, through a tanker field.  Long ago this water was the center of the nautical world.  And when the weather got bad, Greek ships would sometimes sink.  Slowly, they settled down to the bottom and the currents gradually blanketed them in silt.  Fish came to explore and spread their pollen.  Roots dug deep into the ground.  Over the centuries, these seeds of civilization sprouted and grew into the enormous shipping tankers moored around me.

The sky looked like a walrus with a hangover.  The wind was a mighty ongoing sneeze of warm air and spray off my paddles.

The air was hazy.  I headed due east, picking one tanker out on the horizon after another.  The wind died down, more or less.

The transparent dark blue water was packed with stars.  Bright glowing blue lights drifted far and deep in the most spectacular display of bioluminescence I have ever seen, and the only daytime vision.  I dropped my face into the water for a better look, shallow with caution of the unknown.  The lights were so bright.  I wondered if they were attracted to the tankers, or something that was leaking.

I entered the shipping lanes.  Ferries and tankers rushed at me from either side as I tried to judge whether I needed to speed up or slow down.  Do they see me?  Does it matter?  Is this the scariest shipping lane I’ve ever crossed?  Due east.  No slowing down, except to let the big boys pass.  This would be a lot easier without a headwind.

The mist parted and I could see my port.  Eventually, I arrived.  Enormous motor and sailing yachts made up the largest uber wealthy collection of boats I’ve seen since Monaco.  I would undoubtedly not be welcome here.

But my new friend, host, and temporary kayaking partner was happy to pick me up and throw my boat on the roof of his car.  His home has a laundry machine, hot shower and a warm bed.  It was a pleasure to make the acquaintance of local kayaker extraordinaire, George Karpathios.

It only took me ten hours, likely more than the longer route without the wind.

Nautical miles paddled: 27
Current location:  37.875521, 23.728894

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Day 122


Stephanos called me the night before.  He was a Greek paddler who wanted to paddle with me for a day.  He was coming from a long way off, but could arrive by 11:00.  It was Friday, so I had to finish everything before the Sabbath started at sundown.  Since I was close to Athens, I hoped to hop on a train and spend it with fellow Jews.  In other words, it was the worst sort of day for a late start.

While I waited, I walked to the booth over the bridge.  The fellow who operated the radio for the canal didn’t speak any English, but he put me on the phone with a woman who did.  She granted me permission to go through the canal.  The critical timing would be communicated over the radio.  She didn’t know what I was asking when I mentioned currents, and wished me luck on my journey.

Stephanos arrived at 11:30 and we were on our way at 12:00.  Two friends from Extremer's Base dropped him off and would pick him up at the end of the day.  They kindly hauled my camping gear for me.

For the last week I’d flown with fantastic winds.  The Corinth Gulf always has strong winds, either west (yay) or east (boo).  The winds blow for a few days, then switch directions.  It was clear that they had switched overnight.

After a short wait at the mouth of the canal for oncoming traffic to pass, boats lined up nearby and entered the canal one at a ttime.  Over the radio, we were instructed to enter last.  I had hoped to catch the wake of the boat in front of us, but we were not permitted to get close enough.

The current was against us.  The wind was against us.  And time was against us.  The boats ahead gradually pulled away and were gone.  Tankers and sailboats waited on the other side for the two straggling kayakers.  If it took us a long time, the canal oppertors would be less likely to let other kayaks through in the future.

For four miles, the canal cuts a 21-meter swath through the hills of Greece, and we paddled through it we marveled at the sheer cliffs climbing above us on either side and the short bridges far overhead.  The canal represented a milestone for me.  I was crossing to the other side of Greece and approaching the last major city.  Just a few days from the Aegean, with it’s strong winds and constant crossings, I was begining the most skill intensive part of my trip.  In short, my expedition was reaching its crescendo.

The Extremer's Base team took pictures from one of the bridges and cheered us on.

Exhausted, we emerged from the other end and paddled past the line of waiting boats.  I thanked the canal operators on the radio and they wished me a safe and successful journey.

Then we paddled into force three to four headwinds.  Blech.  I stuck close to the shore and hoped, in vain, that the wind would be gentler there.

Off my starboard there was a tanker parking lot.  Enormous vessels spread out for miles.

Stephanos paddled faster than I did.  I choose a pace that I can keep up all day, after having paddled yesterday and the day before, and that won’t leave me too sore to paddle tomorrow.  And he was zooming ahead.  So I tried switching from my storm paddle to my winged paddles.  My cruising speed with each of them is about the same, but I hoped that by switching I would go faster.  I didn’t, but the slightly different techniques for each paddle allowed me relax tired muscles and bring in others that were fresh.

We were running out of time.  I wasn’t sure if we would arrive at the next port with enough time to take the train to Athens for the Sabbath.  Stephanos assured me, with his local knowledge, that there was no problem.  Kineta, just around the corner, had a port.  Funny, I hadn’t seen one when I looked at the map.  He called the Extreme Base team and asked them to meet us at the Kineta port.

A big white buoy was in front of me and I turned sharply to avoid it.  Unfortunately, I turned into Stephanos.  Before we collided I swung my weight over to the other side of my kayak and turned hard in the opposite direction.  My winged blade dug into the water, and then dived in a way that I hadn’t planned.

I capsized, and rolled back up.  My pride was a little the worse for wear, so I tried to explain to Stephanos what had just happened in a way that didn’t make me look like a total idiot.

“So you see, what really just happened was this...”

I think he bought it.

Kinetta did not have a port.  But it did have a beach with some stairs and the team was there waiting for us.  We took out and got permission to leave my boat in the backyard of a local for the Sabbath.

They gave me a ride to the train station and I got to spend my day off with the Jewish community of Athens.  The Chabad house here fed me beef and many months of cravings were satiated.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day 121


Artvali and I threw my kayak on the car and headed to the port. He warned me that I may not be permitted to pass through the Corinth Canal that day as I had planned, and that a covert entrance would be absolutely impossible. If I had any trouble, I should call him. He could come with a kayak cart in his trunk to assist my portage.

I cut a straight line from Xylokastro to Corinth. Gone was the tailwind that hurtled me forward the proceeding days. The mountains turned to hills and converged at the end of the Gulf of Corinth in front of me. A sailboat glided effortlessly in the wind a few miles to my north.

They were headed toward the canal. I met the Australian sailors near the entrance waiting for the oncoming boats to pass and the canal’s traffic direction to change.

Under the assumption that I would not be allowed to enter under my own power, I hatched a plan. I would tie my kayak to a sailboat, with the captain’s permission, pass through the gate at the entrance, and then release the line and paddle under my own power.

The captain did not agree, but recommended I talk to the canal controller. I pulled out my radio.

“Corinth Canal this is Kayak Dov.”

“This is Corinth Canal, what is the name of your vessel?”

“Corinth Canal, my call sign is Kayak Dov.”

“What is your vessel type?”

“I’m a kayak.”

“Are you a motor yacht or a sailing yacht?”

“I’m a kayak.”

“Can you repeat? Are you a motor yacht or a sailing yacht?”


“Can you spell it?”

I rattled off “Kilo-alpha-yankee-alpha-kilo delta-oscar-victor.”

“Please repeat, slowly.”

Slowly, “Kilo. Alpha. Yankee. Alpha. Kilo. Delta. Oscar. Victor.”

“Please hold your position and wait for instructions.”

“Copy.” I replied.

I held my position and waited for instructions. I didn’t wait long; I decided to go talk to them in person. There was a lone two story house at the entrance to the canal with some antennas, on on the roof. The Australians thought that this was the Corinth Canal station location.

I paddled up to it. With an electrical robot noise, a video camera mounted on the edge of the roof changed it’s angle so that it was looking directly at me. I tried to communicate with hand waving that the person operating the camera should come out of the house and say hello.

The video watched me, but no one came out.

I pulled my boat onto the beach and walked up to the house. It was locked.

There were other people on the beach, and lots of dogs. There was a drawbridge two hundred meters inland along the canal with a booth for the conductor. Maybe he was Corinth Canal. I didn’t want to leave my boat unguarded with potential hooligans in the vicinity, but I did want to go the booth.

I went towards the booth. The dogs barked and snarled at me. I tried to watch them but they circled around me so that I could only see a few of them. As I walked, I radiated peace and love, and they left me alone.

I met the man in the booth. I explained how important it was that I be allowed through. The alternative was to paddle roughly 500 miles around through potentially terrible conditions. The canal was constructed in 1891; surely countless non motorized boats had passed through it in decades past.

The man told me I couldn’t go through the canal now, as the strong current would move against me. It changes approximately every six hours. I should return the next morning and maybe the current would flow in the right direction. The canal is closed at night. There are no current tables.

There’s a bar at the entrance to the canal with a patio on the water. It seemed like a perfect place to camp. I approached the bar. It was clearly closed for the season, but four or five people sat inside and chatted.

I knocked on a glass door. A woman approached and communicated with me in Greek that they were closed for the season. I still don’t speak any Greek, but I can get across the basics of “I kayaked here from Spain, can I please sleep in your porch with my boat for the night?” if only I’m given a chance. The woman wouldn’t open the door, and I couldn’t get my request through it. She walked away, uninterested in the crazy American outside, and then I, too, dejectedly returned to my boat.

I paddled a mile and a half back to the port and made camp on a long-deserted motor boat.

Current location: 37.941561, 22.936013
Nautical miles paddled: 22.6

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 120


A sailor told me that the Corinth Gulf is considered a rough sea. The wind is always strong. It blows a few days east-west, then changes for a few days of west-east. I wanted to make it to the end of the gulf before the wind changed against me and I got nailed down.

I pulled out of the port into the tailwind and flew.

Sunny snow-capped three thousand foot mountains shone over the gulf. Whitecaps rode the sea and the world was full of light.

Where was I? I took a bearing which did not match the spot where I expected to be. I took another bearing off a point behind me and was further distraught. I examined my chart and found a point that matched my bearings. It was almost twice as far as my initial estimate.

I found a fat bald swimmer and tried to ask the name of the town, but after he learned I was American he would only grunt at me. I waved my paddle and got the attention of some hooligans near the beach. They didn’t seem to want to talk to me either, but when I called out the name of the town they confirmed.

I paddled 33.5 miles in 8 hours. Never have I paddled so far so fast. I rolled for joy and pulled into the port in Xylokastro. I was greeted by a man who was excited to see a kayaker. He called his friend who makes kayaks.

Artvali showed up and invited me into his home. I showed off my own traditional paddles and had an amazing tour of beautiful Alution and Greenland skin-on-frame kayaks and paddles. His home was a temple to the paddle gods and a gateway to heaven. It also has a hot shower.

I inspected his boats closely; they are really nice. If any of you paddlers out there are ready for a new custom designed high performance paddle or boat, skin on frame or kevlar, at a great price contact Artvali.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4124,4123,4140,4139,4136,4135,4134,4133,4132,4131,4130,4129,4128,4127,4126,4125"]

Current location: 38.081431,22.62294

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Day 119


The tail wind grew stronger throughout the day.  Waves wooshed me along at fantastic speeds.  The sun made the world bright and hazy at the same time.

A fin emerged from the water ahead.  What was it?  Was it garbage?  Was it a diver’s flipper?  No diver would be out in this weather.  Could it have been a sacred dolphin?  I only saw the fin, if it was a dolphin I would have seen more.  Maybe it was a shark.  I looked around to see where the dolphin would next emerge.

A few moments later I saw it again in the same place.  It wasn’t a dolphin. 

Continuing forward at full speed I passed about 20 feet from it.  The agitation in the water made it hard to see.  It was probably garbage.  It was about 100 yards behind me when I decided to go back and investigate.  I turned into the wind and fought for every one of those yards.

For a moment, there were two parallel opposing fins angled away from each other emerging from the water a couple of meters apart.  Hovering just below the surface, sometimes slightly emerging, was an enormous sting ray.  A large eye opened for just a moment, only a few feet from me.

I held my position, difficult in the surf, and took care not to get any closer and risk collision.

The creature drifted slowly down and out of sight.

I surfed as many of the waives as I could and learned a new trick.  When my bow began to pearl I found that by dropping my torso weight onto my back deck I could pull out of it without losing the wave.  With my steering and forward strokes limited from the position, I sometimes lost the wave anyways.  But sometimes I held onto it, and I was really proud to have a new skill.

I paddled to Aigio, 18.5 miles, in four hours which was probably something of a record.  I’d been making great progress lately, and it was nice to have an easy day with a little bit of extra time to catch up on my writing.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4121,4120,4119,4117,4116,4113,4110"]

Current location: 38.261603,22.074267

Monday, April 21, 2014

Day 118


I woke up happy. I was clean and in a bed. I got out of bed and ached, a parting gift from the Headwind of Doom.

The marina had a community of sailboats. Happy sailors worked to update their sailing yachts from winter storage to summer sailing mode. Word had gotten around that the kayak that appeared yesterday on the dock had traveled very far, so I regaled enthusiastic fellow seamen with my stories of personal heroism.

The owners of the Gaia built their own 63-foot catamaran back in the 80s and invited me for a tour. It was a beautiful and sturdy boat. I wondered what it would be like to build a sailboat and sail the world. They could teach me. Maybe after my trip I’ll go find out.

After my stories and my tour and a trip to the supermarket, I had a really late start. But that was okay, the days are now sunny and long and full of joy.

I paddled out of the port down the two mile canal to the Gulf of Patras and then swung a left along the beach. Joy? More like ache.

Thirteen miles off, barely visible in the mist, were the four towers of the 1.5 mile suspension Rio bridge that separates the Patras gulf from the Corinth gulf. The bridge signified passing from peripheral Greece to central Greece.

I rolled through the clear water to cool down when I was warm. Despite the ache, I made good progress with a tailwind and current.

The towers were built like torches. The bridge was a victory arch. The enormity of the construction connected with the enormity of my adventure. The current carried me under the milestone and I celebrated.

I pulled up to a restaurant with a small dock and made camp behind. The owner was not receptive to my hints that I was open to additional hospitality. But I have water and am safe from weirdos. Tomorrow I’ll get an early start.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4103,4104"]

Nautical miles paddled: 23.5
Current location: 38.309037,21.788715

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Day 117


I didn’t have any food, so I couldn’t stay in the fishing camp. I decided to cross the red line and paddle into force five headwinds. Perhaps I could find shelter on the inland sea that paralleled much of my route.

On Friday I took out of shallow water after some gorilla scooting and laid my kayak for the weekend on the edge of an overgrown road.

Over the Sabbath the water crept away. Now that it was time to launch, I surveyed a mud flat.

My boat was loaded. I lifted it onto my shoulder and trudged forward. Two thirds of the way, I lay the boat down on the mud. I could not carry it farther.

I planted a leg on either side of the front of the cockpit, gripped the combing, lifted and swung the boat forward about half a meter. And repeat.

A flock of egrets took off and the sun watched my struggle on the flats as it climbed higher in the sky. I made it to some water, but it wasn’t deep enough. Rinse and repeat. Three inches, then four. The water was deep enough and I took off.

I paddled across a clear blue bay, under a mountain, and then around a corner into the wind. Waves broke onto the beach to my left. A thick, deep stream flowed from a break in the sand. It was my first access to the inland sea, and earlier than I expected.

My chart showed that the inland sea was separated by a series of islands. The Google satellite map showed a road between the inland sea and the outer along with several barriers that segregated the inland sea into possibly unconnected sections. It was hard to tell from the image.

Nautical charts are usually some combination of new surveys, satellite data, and old charts. Since old charts used similar haphazard methods, some mistakes have survived a very long time. That being said, the charts are sufficiently reliable so that if you stake your life on them, as those of us who do not rely on GPSs often do, you’ll probably be alright. Those of you who do rely on GPSs are building a world in which we will be ruled by robots.

I turned into the stream and punched through 30 meters of intense current. I hoped the conditions would be better on the other side.

I paddled inland for about five minutes before the water got so shallow I had to gorilla scoot. I was free for about five minutes then had to do it again. The head wind was just as ferocious inside as it was out, so I turned back the way I came.

But the waves were definitely calmer on the inside, and maybe the wind was calmer there also. I resolved to try again the next chance I got.

Some time ago I resolved never to paddle into force five headwinds again. And here I was, battling through a 22 mile force four - five cocktail of paddle grappling hat launching frenzy, because a small dog with sweet eyes managed to unzip my duffle and eat my uncooked rice.

I found another entry to the inner sea. I paddled under a footbridge and waved to a man overhead. He didn’t speak English, but effectively communicated that I would have to exit the same way I entered, since all the other ways out were sealed against small boats.

Frustrated, I turned around. The water along the beach became very shallow, but I stuck to it hoping that near land the wind and current would be less fierce. I was setting a personal record for most Gorilla scooting in one day.

The next two passages into the inner sea were blocked by fences down to the water.

I was at least three quarters of the way there when I got in. I saw the tiny houses of Mesolongi far off. The inner sea was very shallow. After I gorilla scooted for a while, the water was still not deep enough to paddle properly, so I swung my arms forward, grabbed the sand, and thrust my hips. I am sorry to say, my hip thrust muscles are not as developed as my arm muscles, from kayaking.

A couple of enormous fish, taller than the water was deep, waddled off and vanished into the shallow murkiness. In the distance I saw white caps. The water was deep there, so that’s where I went.

After another half hour of fighting the wind, I came to a fence jutting out of the water and crossing the sea. The first gap I tried to fit through was a little too small. I paddled along it for another hundred meters and found one that was large enough after I nudged the posts a little. The other side of the fence was only half built.

I wondered what would happen if the wind got any worse. Would I get out and walk? Though I was at least a couple of kilometers from land, the water was only a couple of feet deep.  The wind did not get worse; it got better.

I arrived near the port. Masts rose from just behind the forest. Next to land, I was sheltered and the water was calm. A woman herded sheep along the shore and I asked her where where the entrance to the port was.

I paddled up a strong stream and around a couple of corners between houses. I found a wide canal with a larger entrance of to my left. Along its banks were tin shacks and ramshackle boathouses, some half sunk in the canal. This is how I imagine a port might look in Raganda.I paddled to the intersection with another canal.

The whole area was enlarged on my chart, excluding the stream, so I knew where to go to find the very nice marina. “There’s a kayak club right over there,” the dock worker told me after we introduced ourselves and I was out of my boat. All I had to do was paddle another 200 meters.

I would sooner shovel shit naked on the tundra. I paddled 22 miles in ten hours of soul crushing weather. I ran out of food three hours ago. I ran out of water an hour and after that. I was done paddling for the day. I hobbled to the kayak club where I met the goddess Kalliope. She manages the grounds and is a beautiful energetic sprinter.

Kalliope told me how happy the club was to host the Serbian olympic kayaking team last week and how happy they were to host me now. After a hot shower, a soft bed with clean sheets waited for me.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4094,4092,4093"]

Nautical miles paddled: 21

Current location: 38.360486,21.416813

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Day 116


It was time to leave Kalamos. But the epoxy patch from the day before was not dry. The instructions said it should take three hours. I had left my kayak in the shade and epoxy dries faster in the sun. I slapped some duct tape on it as well as on another spot that looked suspiciously like a leak.

The sun was out and shining on me, so I put on my t-shirt and packed my neoprene jacket in the hull.

I launched and it began to rain. With sharpness, soft rain became ferocious, then stopped. The wind blew from the south as I headed southeast. In the middle of the 8.5 mile crossing from Kalamos towards Astakos the sea calmed. I aimed my boat towards the narrow space between an island and a peninsula. The view was momentarily obscured by fog.

I heard the sea crashing ahead. Then I felt the south wind. It was stronger than ever. I fought into it. I fought into the surf that crashed around the point and turned east. The wind was stronger than ever. The waves were larger. They bounced off the cliffs and clapped me in their thunder.

Slap. Woosh. Whoa! I started to capsize. I accepted the idea and prepared to roll up on the other side. “No!” my inner voice screamed. “Fight it!” I heard from somewhere inside of me.

With my left shoulder submerged, I sculled my paddle back and halted the downward momentum. I sculled it forward and took control. I sculled it back once more and came up.

My water bottle was tied on behind me, but no longer secured by bungees and dragged. I managed to twist around and fix it without capsizing. I had three more close calls and both my shoulders were in the water before I reached the shelter of the islands.

My goal was to reach Oxia, a beautiful desert island, by 17:00 in order to have time to set up camp for the Sabbath.

I passed an industrial port. A series of huge cranes towered above the water. Stadium size warehouses and fields of concrete stretched out behind the wharf.

The storm hit. Torrential rain drenched everything in the sudden darkness. Lightning cracked the sky overhead and thunder pounded between the cliffs and the islands. Gusts thrust me towards the port, and I fled with them.

I found a boat ramp wide enough for five kayaks to line up against and got out. My cockpit had been warm and my shorts dry(ish). Now I was soaked to the bone and cold. Beyond the parking lot I saw an office. Tired as I was from my difficult crossing and with lightning flashing overhead, I intended to ask to stay the night.

I chose not to put on warm land clothing. If I was not allowed to stay, then I would need to put my rain-wet land clothing into a dry bag and be stuck with it in the evening.

I ran across the parking lot. I saw a fence between me and the office. I smelled “high security zone.” I decided not to jump it. I ran to one of the warehouses as buckets of water continued to be unleashed by the tempest.

The warehouse was closed. I found shelter in a doorway. I stood, shivered, and waited.

A company of men in bright orange jumpsuits approached me. They smiled and welcomed me into their small, warm, smoke filled office. Was there anything they could get me? Was I okay?

The port’s security showed up.

“Stay here,” I was commanded.

I stayed. I sat near the door to breathe less cigarette smoke. It was cold there.

Another guard came. This was a private port. I was not allowed to be there. They interviewed me. My answers were not entirely believable, though I did get points for creativity.

I was instructed to get into the security vehicle. We drove to my kayak and I got my passport out. Now that they’d seen my boat I was making progress. I also changed from my t-shirt to my neoprene jacket which cut back on the shivering.

My passport was examined by the head guard. “You are in this country illegally,” he declared.

My US passport was recently issued in Italy. It had no stamps in it.

“I paddled from Italy to Othoni. They don’t even have police there, let alone someone to stamp passports.”

“You should have gotten it stamped in Korfu,” he told me.

I suspect that would have been a considerable detour. I realized that I didn’t need my passport stamped in Greece at all, since I paddled from Italy which is an EU country!

“Only Europeans can travel freely in the EURozone. Americans still need to get their passports stamped,” he insisted.

I could not stay in the port. I had to leave as soon as the weather was good enough. He would take my passport to the authorities before returning it to me while I waited in the office.

In the office they offered me milk and cookies. It was nice and warm. They fellow who was watching me was impressed by my blog.

“Do you have a fever?” he asked me. “We have a doctor. Would you like to see a doctor?”

I explained how in my kayak I was working hard and warm and my patheticness was temporary.

The head guard came back and confirmed my passport was real. The storm had passed so it was time for me to leave.

A marsh stretched out between the mountains and reached for the islands, leaving a narrow channel. A flock of egrets took flight.

A fence protruded from the water and blocked my path. It looked like it connected the marsh to the island. I did not intend to turn back and go all the way around the island. I paddled along the fence. Branches and steaks were connected by a plastic fence.

I found a gap and paddled through it. A dog barked. I heard a motorboat. Behind me and to the right was a small shack built over the water next to the fence. The dog barked there and the motor came towards me.

I continued on my way. They would catch me eventually. The water was smooth and flat. I was able to maintain about four knots. The man at the motor gradually realized he would not catch me eventually and hollered and hooted to get me to stop.

I waited and when he caught up with me we learned that we didn’t have a mutual language. But he managed to communicate to me where the exit gap in the fence was up ahead so that I wouldn’t feel I needed to go back and around when I discovered I was trapped.

Goats grazed on the largely desert islands just a few feet above me. I passed two small skinny cows that looked at me and wondered.

It was 17:00. I saw Oxia in the distance, but I didn’t want to cut my arrival too close to the Sabbath. My excursion in the port had cost me too much time.

A small hut was built half on an island and half on a deck over the water. A boat was tied up the the tiny dock. The walls were plastic sheeting bound by a pipe frame. Wherever I stopped, I would need water.

I guessed that whoever built this place, if he ever came around, brought water with him.

I continued on. A small group of houses sat on the other side of a bay above the marsh. I paddled towards them, making my way through a maze of streams and grasses. Frogs croaked.

The houses, built on ground that was barely elevated above the mud, were mostly shacks with fences. A dirt road wound between them. I wandered through the permanent fishing camp looking for water. Most of the homes were empty. Little dogs wandered about and barked at me. I found a small house with a well tended garden. An elderly matron was happy to offer me water and welcome me to her camp. She handed me a bag of tasty oranges.

I found an abandoned sheltered porch and cooked for the sabbath. I couldn’t charge my gear since the camp had no electricity.

I had a view of island and the beach the camp. The little dogs decided they liked me. I had water and shelter. I was in a good place for the Sabbath, or so I thought.

Nautical miles paddled: 20
Current location: 38.368545,21.100248

I had two and half loaves of bread for the Sabbath and my Sunday paddle. The little dogs got into my duffel bag and ate the half loaf. I put the other loaf on top of a high beam. But when I returned to my spot from exploring the village, they had somehow gotten that too.

They also found an opportunity to eat all of my dry rice and peanuts. My lentils had clearly been tasted and not liked. My last loaf of bread was safe in my kayak hatch, and would hopefully be enough for a full day’s paddle. I ate my lentils for dinner Saturday night.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How I Struggle with Being Jewish


Today was a bad weather day. The forecast showed force seven headwinds and thunderstorms on my route.

I found some bricks, and together with my mattress, set up a kayak stand. I filled the front compartment with water in my 34th attempt since Leuca to find the mischievous leak.

The idea was to see where the water dripped out of my Nelo Inuk and patch the spot.

3 ... 2 ... 1 ...

It started to rain. Water covered the boat.

It had not rained earlier. It has not rained since.

Maybe I found the culprit and maybe I didn’t. But I sanded down an old patch and applied a new layer of epoxy, generously provided by a wonderful German couple from the only sailboat in the port.

My religious readers may note that this is not the first time rain has interrupted the fragile repair process. Which brings me to the subject of religion.

I am a practicing Jew, and as such I believe כִּי אֵל גָּדוֹל יְהוָה; וּמֶלֶךְ גָּדוֹל, עַל-כָּל-אֱלֹהִים. [Because God is a big god. He is bigger than all the other gods.]*

I think there’s a little god out to get me.

* psalm 95 - It sounds more poetic in Hebrew, or perhaps when subjected to a better translation than my own.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Day 115


Last night I slept under a restaurant's awning. The tent provided a canvas roof and no walls just a few feet from the water. It was supposed to protect me from the rain. In the night it poured. The concrete slab my mattress was on turned into a puddle. My sleeping bag was wet, but luckily I was protected by my computer which soaked up most of the water like a sponge.

In the morning I was cold and wet. The sky was dropping buckets. A woman took pity on me and told me to come into her bar to warm up, but everyone was smoking and I couldn’t breathe.

The man who I sawed for yesterday gave me an orange and helped me set up a clothesline in the tent to hang my stuff up to dry.

At around 12:00 the sun came out and a strong west wind blew whitecaps across the water. It was 15 miles to the Astakos, and with the tail wind I could make it before dark.

Only it wasn’t really a tail wind. It was a north wind, but protected as the village is by the island Kalamos, it was behaving like a tail wind in my immediate vicinity.

As soon as I was around the corner of the island I learned the wind’s true nature. I struggled into the headwind for about half an hour. My body still ached from the day before. I began to worry that I would not make it before dark.

I turned east and headed for the small village on Kalamos. The man in the internet bar told me there was no way I’d find a free shower this time of year. I think it has to do with me being here right before the tourist season. If it was winter then people would think of me as a man on an expedition and I’d be welcomed into homes as I have been many times. If it was summer they would think of me as a tourist. Right now, I’m an early tourist. No accommodations are available yet.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4068,4069,4070,4071,4072,4073,4074"]

Nautical miles paddled: 5
Current location: 38.623187,20.931194