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.


  1. Read this post out loud to my 6 yo son. He was spellbound and wants to hear the whole thing. Shavua tov.

  2. Sounds to me like your son has great taste!
    Some of the posts come out better than others, I'm glad you guys liked it.

  3. You don't need a stamp to travel within EU countries...even if you have US passport. EU has no borders within.