Sunday, May 18, 2014

Day 137

Day 137
The sea was forecast to resemble a rabbinical sermon: so calm it would put your average layman to sleep.
I paddled south and began a nine mile crossing to the tip of Turkey.
An unforecast west wind began to pick up just as it became clear that a tanker in the distance was coming at me head on. I used the fresh waves to surf out of the way before it was near.
A dozen sailboats were out there with me and when they got close sailors waved and smiled. I tried catching one of their wakes, but the boat was to fast.
The island off to my right apparently had an active volcano with exciting hot tunnels, but it was too far out of my way.
The wind continued to get stronger, and when I arrived in Turkey I was ready for a break.
The port of Knidos is enclosed by two ancient Greek walls, still in good repair. Above, I found two small broken down restaurants and a fence with a ticket booth. Beyond the fence lay a field of Greek ruins.
Uranus and Gaia were the first two gods and they had children. And those children grew into teenagers, and got grounded. Damned to Tartarus, the bowels of the earth, they were lost.
Gaia took pity. But it was not enough to redeem them. Their fate must never be repeated. She only knew one sort of birth control; Uranus would have to be neutered.
She freed her youngest son, Cronus, and gave him an adamantine sickle.
Cronus hid in the closet. The next time his parents went at it, and it didn't take long since there wasn't yet much else to do, he burst forth.
Uranus tried to cover himself with a pillow, but it was no match for the +5 sickle. Cronus hurled his father's severed manhood into the sea, and it landed here in this harbor.
The sea frothed and bubbled. It churned and heaved. And the goddess Aphrodite was born. She is patron to women, sailors, and men who want to get laid. Knidos was an appropriate place for me stop on my pilgrimage to the path less traveled.
But I couldn't stay there for the Sabbath since there was no way to resupply.
As I went around the corner, the east wind became a tailwind and excepting a couple shallow cave exploration breaks I made good time to the Turkish village of Le Jardi De Semra.
After I took my boat out I looked up and saw a sign that said free showers and wifi. I think Turkey is going to work out alright.

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Nautical miles paddled: 25
Current location: 36.669245,27.502314
A kind young fellow was working on a yacht in the harbor. He arranged for me to have permission to sleep there and we chatted some. The self described fanatic showed showed me his tattoo, the name of his favorite politician and religious icon.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Day 136

A combination of weather and weariness let me take a day off.  I checked my broken radio and found that it now worked.  I checked my emergency pfd light and found that it didn't.
Since I fixed the leaks on the floor of my cockpit my kayak began to develop a sea sweat odor.  I filled all three of Icarus's compartments with soapy water and then rocked it.  I found two leaks in the front compartment and two more on each of the gunnels.  I repaired them with my epoxy.
I mended the enormous holes in my back pockets, though one of them is now crooked.
Day 136
I had been hanging out at a taverna.  The owner insisted the weather was good and that I should part.  The weather was not good.  I needed to paddle east and there was a force five northwind forecast.  It was sufficient.  At 15:00 the wind might start to climb to a gale, but I would arrive before then.
At the end of my crossing a wide green valley descended from the mountains to the sea, then dropped to a beach with ten foot cliff.  Half of a church stood at the edge of the cliff.  Someone built a newer one 50 meters inland.
On the water I found that the wind blew from the northwest.  It was fantastic.  Waves turned to foam at their crests and drove me forward.
I took my first snack break in the lee of a one acre island towards the end of my crossing to Pserimos.  With my left hand I clutched a jagged rock to keep stable.
I paddled south close to the shore.  Ahead of me a large double masted sailboat motored north.   He too was close to the shore.  I tried to get close enough so that he wouldn't hit me even if he didn't see me.  As a kayak, I could get closer, I hoped.  Before we collided the sailboat turned sharply right into a hidden bay.  Other sailboats in the area were also heading in.
I followed them to the port village of Pserimos.  With so many boats returning at once I worried that there had been a sudden change in the forecast.  I asked a sailor.  He told me the wind might get up to a gale.  I knew that. I still had until 15:00;  I hoped.
I paddled in the shelter of the southern side of the island on flat water.  At the very tip sat a handful of entirely boring cheap rectangular buildings on a steep hill.  It was time for a break, and a dock at the bottom seemed like a good place.
A man came down the hill as I approached.   He had the silhouette of a man with a rifle slung over his shoulder in the American military style.
As we drew closer I saw he was in uniform and signaling me not to stop at his base's dock.  Okay, I went a little past it before pulling out my chia maca gogo juice, one of the three sources of my super powers.*
As I drank and renewed my strength, someone was calling to me.  But I was busy, so they waited. 
I turned around and approached the commander yelling to me from the dock.
He was shocked to learn that I would be making the five mile crossing to Kos.  He wanted to make sure I could contact the coast guard if I had trouble.  Sure I could; my radio had miraculously begun working the day before.
He insisted that I call the coastguard.   Damn.  They never answered when I called.  I was in the nook of the island so I was not optimistic.  They didn't answer.  I assured the soldier I would be fine.  "If I have any trouble, I’ll come back."
I set out and he used his phone to call Search and Rescue.  Three boats were activated and one of them found me three miles into my crossing to Kos.
I told them really I was fine.  Thank you for asking.  How are you?
They followed me for a while. When the spit around which I would be sheltered was only a mile away they ordered me to make a beach landing.   The surf zone looked brutal.   It was stupid to land there with shelter so close and a port only a mile after that.  I took out my radio to explain that they were actually making things more dangerous for me.  They weren't interested,  they had to rescue me.  It was an order.
Despite my complaining about the surf zone, I caught a wave, surfed to shore,  and made a perfect beach landing.  Considering the conditions, it may have been my smoothest ever.
An officer met me on the beach next to a dead seagull.  After triple checking that I was fine and didn't need to be hospitalized he interrogated me and examined my passports.  I arrived in Greece legally a couple of weeks earlier from Israel.  However, my passport showed no stamp.
"Why is there no stamp here?" the officer asked me after I explained my most recent entrance to Europe.
"I don't know." I told him.
"Maybe because you are here illegally?" he suggested.
"No, I'm not."  I told him.
"Then why is there no stamp?"
"I don’t know."
"It is because you are here illegally. "  he told me.
We waited for orders for an hour, until after my 15:00 deadline.
"You're free to go."  he told me.
"That's it?  May I kayak?"
"All we're allowed to do is inform you of the weather and offer assistance. "
No, he couldn't help me find a free place to stay.  He left.
I walked along the beach until I found a bar.  I checked the weather.  The forecast had improved.  The wind would remain force five tailwind for the rest of the day.
I was only two miles from the port.  I launched into the sunny fun.  Ten minutes in I was slammed by a breaking portside wave and knocked into the sandy water.  I summoned my super powers to keep my glasses on my face and rolled up in style.**
The marina in Kos is a beacon of hospitality and kindness.   They also have exceptional showers,  just don't try to wash your dishes in the bathroom sink.  It's not allowed.
*My dedicated readers will recall the other two: Ikarea's hot spring radiation and the Aegean resonating in my bones.
** They're tied on, but it's annoying to have them dangling.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4753,4752,4751,4750"]

Nautical miles paddled: 16
Current location: 36.891175,27.302002

Day 135

This time of the year the Aegean usually has north winds.  I don't remember the last time I had a north wind, probably on the east coast of Italy.  Today the north wind blew.
I made three crossings and paddled alongside four major islands and countless minor ones.  On the island of Laki I passed an enormous fortress that overlooked a town.
While I looked up at it on a mountain peek, a McDonald's size motor yacht came at me.  I paddled out of its path, and it turned towards me.  I accelerated to the fastest fear inspired sprint I know, and aimed at the cliffs where it could not follow.
The captain veered off.  I think he just wanted a closer look at me and didn’t realize how scary the sight of his racing behemoth looked from my seat.
Arki did not have whole grain bread, except for forever toast.*  My stomach was not pleased. I ate less and my energy ran low.
Rock climbers ascended the cliffs of Kalimnos high above me.  I waved but they weren't looking down.
By the time I was near Vathi, my destination, I ached.  The village was in one of the narrow inlets up ahead, but which one?  I called out to a fisherman on an oncoming boat.
"Vathi?" I asked.
He didn't understand my accent.  I tried a couple more times before he gave up and zoomed away.
I found it up a 1.3 kilometer fjord.  I paddled 33 nautical miles over 10 hours, mostly with a tail wind.  That last stretch was the hardest.  I fought for every inch against a brutal tireless headwind, amongst the strongest I have ever faced.

* Toast sold in a plastic bag with no expiration date.

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Current location: 36.974774,27.026815

Day 134

I have now used my radio twice to fail to contact Greek SAR.  I tried to test it with a local fishing boat, it didn't turn on.  Changing the batteries didn't help.

Day 134
I began the 12 mile crossing to Arki.  A little bit closer than my destination,  I could easily make out the island of Patmos.  Along my own bearing their was only a subtle shadow in the haze.  The wind came from the southwest, and my crossing was starting off a little rough.  The failure of my Ikarea crossing was still fresh, along with the associated fear.  Gradually conditions improved and by the end of the day the wind was helping me from the northwest. 
I set a ferry angle that was a little too strong, and was too lazy to correct it with back bearings.  After all, it was only 12 miles.  That's a piece of cake, right?
A number of islands appeared on my general heading, more than my chart showed. After ruling out the islands that were way off, Agathonisi and Farmakonisi, I set out for the eastern most of the set. 
As the horizon moved farther away, islands coalesced into mountains separated by valleys and I wished my chart provided more topographical information.
I sang loudly, comparing a girl that I knew to pickle brine, when a flock of a hundred shearwaters flew directly at me from Patmos five miles of my starboard.  They flew five tight circles around me and then headed north.  Sometime during the excitement I stopped singing.
I followed a motor boat into a deep narrow bay and around a corner to the village of Arki.  The village has two restaurants over a stone paved yard on the harbor and a handful of houses.  The summer time population of the island is 34.
A taverna owner was kindly able to arrange a shower for me.  I sat and ate my dinner in the half friendly half Israel-antagonistic company of Welsh folk who insisted they were not English.
It felt appropriate to be responding to their anti semitic views with a personal reality check.  It was Israeli independence day.  They also had a bone to pick with Jewish ritual animal slaughter.  I talked about tradition and respect for my ancestors
It's a good thing I'm going to Turkey and not Britain.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4711,4710,4708,4706,4704,4702,4707,4701,4700,4698,4690,4697,4699,4691,4692"]

Nautical miles paddled: 15.5
Current location: 37.381957,26.736377

Day 133

After two bad weather days and a good one that was on the Sabbath, I was ready to go.  I viewed three separate forecasts, all very different from each other.   At least two of them were wrong.
HNMS called for a force six south headwind.   While they're the official Greek forecasts, I don't think they're more accurate than any of the others.  They are however the ones that make the news.
The locals were shocked that I was going to paddle into a force eight headwind.   I told them what I often say under such circumstances, "I'll launch.   I'll see how I feel.   If it's no good, I'll turn around."
I launched.  The harbor is in an archipelago bay facing north.  To the south there are two gaps between three islands.  The most convenient for me was a shallow four meter wide space between low cliffs.  As I approached it, waves charged through and spilled out only to dissipate into ripples on the flat bay.
With trepidation, I entered the wild sea.
While paddling south along the main island I wondered if it was force six.  I didn’t think so, probably four with frequent mean gusts.  It was however, not good weather for a crossing.
I jolted and lurched past cliffs and bays until I reached the island's southwestern inlet.  I took out from flat water on a small beach at the bottom of a long set of stone stairs.
I worried that if I left Icarus on the beach, she might try to leave without me.  I lugged some of my gear to the top, then more of it, then the rest of it, and finally Icarus.
At the top of the stairs was a small deserted white concrete hut with a stone walled yard.  The yard was divided into sections and shelters for absent animals. With the hut locked and the possibility of rain I used a handful of stalky bushes to sweep out the cleanest of the stalls and made camp.
I set out back to town. I climbed a small road that snaked along the ridge and saw the sea misbehaving on either side of the island far below.  I passed big gardens, a tiny village, bee farms, and olive trees.
After forty minutes I got a ride.  I had more yummy salad with the coast guard, worked on my blog in the company of my new friends at the bar, and rested.
One of the locals, when I asked if his family had been on the island for many generations, told me "Don't ask about family history on this island. We all used to be pirates."
An old man, perhaps a retired pirate, gave me a ride back to my boat.
On my previous nights on Fourni sleeping on the beach in the center of town I seemed to wake up every hour from the guy who rode his loud motorcycle all night, or kids playing, or the enormous alien abduction lights of the ferry seemingly on top of me.
Out at the end of the island in my goat shack I slept like a lamb.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4686,4685,4684,4683,4682,4681,4680,4679,4677,4678,4674,4673"]

Nautical miles paddled:  3.5
Current location: 37.53459,26.502741

Friday, May 16, 2014

Day 132

Eichenhain sends me supplies as often as I can arrange to pick them up.  The last package included chia seeds, perfect for energy on the go, Dr. Bronner's all purpose biosoap, and four metallic bags with German writing on them.  I opened one of the bags and found dark chocolate.   Yesterday, while inviting my friends to sample my chocolate, I somehow lost the bag.  When I opened the next one, I found a jungle fragrant powder that wasn't even a little chocolaty.  The Internet told me I had a bag full of maca powder, which apparently is the solution to all of life's nutritional problems.  All I had to do was add some to my chia drink.  In bag number two I found hemp seeds, THC free.  And in bag number three, more chocolate.   It's so dark that I can feel the new hairs braking surface on my chest.  Healthy living, here I come.
Day 132:
In the bay of Thermos there is a shallow red cavern, little more than an overhang.   The radon red rock is warm to the touch and occasionally bubbles rise through the clear blue water from the pebbles on the floor.  A hot spring climbs out of the earth from far below and it heats the sea all year round.   I rolled the Icarus in the hot spring of Thermos, and reveled in my adventure.
Emanuele,  a fellow lover of adventure,  kindly came to see me off, so I rolled once more for his benefit, waved, and left the port into the relentless south wind.
My crossing was only six miles, but it was not easy.   I waited to complete it and find shelter on the Fourni coast before opening up a Nalgene and trying my new maca chia energy drink.  With the vibrations of the Aegean now resonating deep in my bones, and the radiation from the spring still clinging to my skin, I was transformed into Captain Kayak, a neo mythical Greek hero with extraordinary powers.
Asides from my fantastic good looks, charm, exceptional hair, and outstanding paddling and endurance skills, I see dead people.
He was sprawled on small stony beach in a tight bay behind a boulder.  I never would have found him if I hadn't tried to get a picture of the crying goat on the ledge above.
I yelled at him.  Maybe he was only sleeping on rubble with a giant log across his back.  He didn't wake.  The only exposed skin seemed to be his skinny black ankle.   I didn’t look closer.
I backed up and wondered how to be respectful.   Did he fall off the cliff or wash up from the sea?  Where were his people?
I took out my radio on 16 "Pan. Pan. Pan.  This is Solo Kayak on the inner side of the western Fourni island requesting search and recovery.  I found a body - bravo, oscar, delta, yankee.  Repeat ... over."
There was no response.  A fisherman who chatted with me earlier was crossing the bay.   I paddled out to him taking brief breaks between sprints to wave my paddle and blow my whistle.
"What's wrong?" He called out.
"I found a body."
"A body?" He asked.
"A dead body?"
"Yes." I answered.
"Holly shit!"
The fishing boat followed me back to the body.  Though small, the boat was too clumsy and in need of deep water to get to a spot where the body was visible.  I worried that so long as I was the only person who'd seen him, he wasn't real. 
The fisherman called the local coast guard on channel 12.  They don't monitor 16, that's only for emergencies.   We waited.  The ferry carried people between the islands of the archipelago.   When the last of the passengers disembarked, the coastguard commandeered it and came to investigate. They could not get the ferry close enough to see the body, but they called a civilian boat that was smaller and we waited longer.  I wanted to see how they do tricky recoveries here.
Eventually, a fellow managed to get his boat close enough to leap onto some rocks nearby and with a little bit of climbing confirmed for me that the body was real.
Also, that it was on land and consequently a police problem and not a coast guard one.
After I took out the police needed me for a statement, only the fact that I was American would be a problem.  So I waited in the two room station for a couple hours before I got permission to wait elsewhere.
In the evening a coast guard officer found me.  The case had been dumped back on them.
They recorded my story and read it back to me. 
"What religion are you?"  The officer asked me as he took out a book with a cross on the cover.
I was surprised and didn't see the relevance.   "I choose to withhold that information."  I said.
"We need you to swear," he told me.
"Oh, well that's easy.  I'm Jewish and we don't swear."
He didn't know what to do.
"I can affirm for you that I told you the truth."
"Okay, please do that. "
I solemnly stated "I affirm that everything I told you is true."
We were done for the evening and the wonderful officer invited me over for a shower.   His wife made me a salad with cheese from her parent's farm and olive oil from his.  I did not eat it in the shower.

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Nautical miles paddled: 10
Current location: 37.57782,26.479757

Day 131

I arrived at a small port on the southeastern end of Ikaria.  Pulling up I passed a small group of onlookers, no doubt shocked that anyone would be kayaking on that sea.
I took out and wandered up to one of the town's two restaurants.   A malnourished wobbly drunk became my first new best friend.  He introduced me to others and told them my story.
One of  my new friends would even be happy to host me for the night.   The friendly drunk went and got a chart from behind the bar.  He wanted me to see where I'd been.  Funny, he had the same chart I did.   It was even folded the same way I had folded mine for the day's crossing.   He followed me down to my boat and good naturedly promised me that it was the only thing he stole.
The next day I didn't want to paddle, and the forecast justified my hope.  My host brought me an enormous bag of fresh fava beans from his garden.  I briefly fried them in lots of oil, added salt and pepper, and enjoyed immensely.
A few years ago there was an article about Ikaria in the New York Times.   The island is home to the most centenarians in the world.   I didn’t meet any.  My friends for the day were the young crowd in the village - in their 80s.  And they did seem young.
The secret, they told me, was to take it easy, and goats.  One of the women invited me to her ranch.  I got to milk a goat and drink fresh milk.  According to the FDA I was 13 times more likely to get sick than if I'd boiled it.  I feel like live bacteria is probably nutritious and yummy.
I also got to enjoy fresh unsalted feta.  Life here on the island is good.  My hostess also showed me the cave that the they used to go make out in when they were young.  The youths today don't use it any more.
I wish I had room in my kayak to take a friendly goat with me.

Day 131:
Before I launched I retied my rudder system so that I could pull it in without a swim if it pops out again.
I paddled along the island's rocky shores and cliffs with a firm but not overpowering tailwind.
I explored a small cave and took pictures of large rocks that looked like people.  Streams flowed off the mountains over low cliffs into the sea.
I arrived at a small village with a port that roughly marked the day's midpoint.
The rock face on the west side of the port was smooth and gently curved with bulbous round stones protruding,  as if from a natural concrete, to create an alien landscape.   The other two sides of the port were high concrete piers.   The swell came from the open end, leaving the port unsuitable for a landing.  I saw no boats.  I headed farther in, around a hidden corner was a port within a port.  A few fishing boats floated gently on flat water next to a quiet stream and a tropical feeling bar.
I munched on cereal,  the last town had no whole grain bread or crackers, and rested.   The owner of the bar was working hard to get it ready for the coming season.  When he saw me he called out "Coffee?"
"I don't like coffee,  but I'm happy to come up and sit with you."
I did and we chatted.  He showed me his banana and fig trees.  I told him my story and he invited me to stay the night.   It was too early in the day to stop, so he called ahead and got me a free room in a hotel at my destination town Thurmos.
There I met his friends Nick, Emanuele, and Nick who warmly welcomed me and invited me to stay as long as I like. 
The next day, when the weather was bad, they practically bought out the bakery for me.  They also got me everything I needed to find and repair four of the leaks in my cockpit.

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Nautical miles paddled: 17
Current location: 37.62267,26.305148

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Day 130

I had a restful Sabbath alone on the island.  One motor yacht did come close to my beach, so I sat behind my kayak to cover my nakedness.

Theseus slew King Minos's minotaur step son.  And he got away.  Minos was furious.  How had the boy done it?  Only one man knew the labyrinth's system: Daedalus.  He gave Theseus the clew - a ball of yarn to help him find his way.
Minos hunted Daedalus, and imprisoned him and his son in the very Labyrinth Daedalus built, because ironic revenge was the Cretan way.
The labyrinth was sealed forever.
Daedalus and his son Icarus were trapped.   Daedalus well knew that scaling the walls was impossible. He was forlorn.
Icarus was confident.   "Did we not build this labyrinth, the only structure that could contain the Minotaur?  Are we not the finest craftsmen in the Aegean?"*
Daedalus was encouraged.   If the only way out was to fly, then they would fly.  He captured every errant feather from the carrion birds that still cast a hopeful eye over the labyrinth's paths.   He scoured the ground for each drop of wax that had been left by those sent to wander and feed the beast.
And he worked meticulously, tirelessly, and perfectly to fashion two sets of wings.  They would work - unless the wax melted.
"Boy," he said. "Don't fly near the sun."
They launched.  The freedom was exhilarating.  There were no walls, only the wind and the sea below. 
Icarus's fate was sealed.  He flew near the sun and went down over the roughest part of the Aegean.  The nearest island, Γοατσιτ was renamed in his memory, and the people rejoiced.

*This was only a few months after King Aegeus killed himself,  but the name was generally well accepted.

Day 130
I checked the weather on Friday.   In order to get reception, I had to climb half way up the cliff.  There were lots of thorns, and the rocks crumbled and slid under my weight.  I didn’t want to climb up there again, especially just before one of my longest crossings.  I'd be fine.  Like Icarus, I had mad skills.   I could practically fly.
Friday’s forecast called for a force four beam wind in the morning and force two in the afternoon.  Conditions sufficient to make the crossing.  I lacked the supplies to stay another day, so had I decided not to cross, I would have had to paddle six or seven miles in the wrong direction.  I work really hard for every mile and try to avoid paddling backwards.
The sky was overcast and drizzled while I packed up my things.  Naxos, about ten miles to the south, was shrouded in mist and darkness.  Ikaria was twice that distance, which meant I couldn’t hope to see the end of my crossing until I was more than half way.
I took a bearing of 70 degrees off my map and set out.
The wind felt stronger than force four.  But if I didn’t go forward, I would have to go backwards.  Seventy degrees magnetic was the direction I needed, but to compensate for the strong beam wind I would have to paddle at a ferry angle, so I set my bow into the wind and my deck compass at 85.
The wind seemed to be getting stronger, but I had faith in Friday’s forecast.  It would die down around 11:00.
I set my boat back to 70 degrees and took a back bearing to verify that my ferry angle of 85 was sufficient to keep me moving at 70.  The island looked like two enormous rocks, one red and one black.  I had launched from the south end which should have been but was not (70 + 180 = ) 250 degrees magnetic.  I had drifted south.
I raised my ferry angle to 90 and after more paddling, a continued escalation of the winds, and another check, again to 95.  That seemed like it ought to do the trick.
At least, I hoped it did, because I couldn’t see the launch island anymore. The sky was dark, the waves were big, and the wind was strong.  It should have died down an hour ago. My rudder popped off.  The last time that had happened was when I was surfing in Leuca, a lifetime ago.
I needed to get out of the boat and swim to the back to reinsert the rudder.  My choice was between paddle float, and reentry and roll.*  A reentry and roll would be simpler, but then I’d have to balance a boat with water in it while I used both my hands to pump out the cockpit.  I keep a paddle float behind my seat.  I used it to set up an outrigger with my winged paddle.  Using different bungees I secured my storm paddle for support on the other side.
A look in the the heaving sea revealed no sharks or man-eating jellyfish.  I prayed.  I hopped into the water in the middle of the sea.  Without letting go of the boat, I worked my way to the back as waves bobbed me up and down.
I could not reinsert the rudder.  One of the lines was tangled on my storm paddle.  The water was a little chilly.  I worked my way back towards my cockpit, freed the line after dunking under the paddle, then returned to the back and reinstalled the rudder.
I climbed back into the cockpit, only a little water spilled in with me.  I deflated the bag, shoved it between my legs, returned the storm paddle to its regular positions, and resumed paddling.  My swim left me chilly and a little tired.  I did not know how far I drifted.  Probably not far - probably.
I saw a sailboat to the south.  As it approached I considered using my radio to ask for a ride.  But if they took me forward to Ikaria then I would have to paddle back out here to the middle of the sea so as not to skip anything, and I certainly didn’t want them to take me back.  I was here, I might as well finish what I started.  The boat was gone.
What if my ferry angle was wrong?
For a brief moment I considered turning around for the tenth time.  I looked back.   By some magic, Khatapodia, the island I launched from, had reappeared as a shadow in the mist. 
There was also a storm coming.  The island called to me “Safety ...”   I did not heed it.  I continued into the darkness.  If I headed back the storm would catch me sooner, if I continued forward it would catch me later.
My rudder popped off again.  This time I didn’t hesitate for as long.  I set up my float, hopped in and swam to the back.  I returned to my cockpit with my rudder and shoved it under the bungees.  Back in my boat, I was getting colder.
Lightning flashed behind me.
How far off course did I drift the second time?  How low was visibility?  How strong was the wind?  Would I hit Ikaria, or would I paddle past it into oblivion.  How strong was the storm.
I should not have come out today.  I needed to get off the water.
I took out my radio.  “Pan. Pan. Pan.  This is Solo Kayak crossing from Khatapodia to Ikaria, approximately ten miles from Khatapodia.  I require non emergency assistance.”
Νο one answered my call for help.  I tried again.  Nothing.
I kept the boat at 95 degrees.  The storm was almost on me and lightning flashed illuminating it’s dark heart with terrifying death.
I saw a freighter ahead of me and broadcast another call for help “Pan. Pan. Pan.  This is solo kayak.  I am 280 degrees and approximately three miles from a freighter between Ikaria and Khatapodia.  I require assistance.  Repeat.  Pan. Pan. Pan. ...”
There was no response.  I heard other people on the radio, so it definitely was partially working.
I passed two moored battleships, and panned them also, but no one answered me.
In the distance to the south I saw an Island.  I took a bearing and estimated that I was two thirds of the way into the crossing.  The wind had evolved into a headwind, so the going was slow.
I saw Ikaria!!  My heading was dead on.  I rejoiced.  It was still a long ways off, but I saw it.  It existed.  It was real.
“Τhis is solo kayak.  I am downgrading to a Securitay.  Securitay.  Securitay.  Securitay.  Please be advised that a solo kayak is crossing from Khatapodia to Ikaria.  Currently approximately eight miles from Ikaria.
The lightning started.  In front of me.  Behind me.  All around me.  The surf was huge.  The wind changed to a tail wind.  I fought like a cornered badger to keep my kayak on course.  I wished my rudder was working.
The sky lit up again and again.  Just overhead.  I counted seconds.  Electrical death was only a few miles off, and always seemed to be getting closer.  Better to call for help before I got hit by lightning, than after.
“Mayday.  Mayday.  Mayday.  I require immediate assistance.  Solo kayak located approximately five miles and 250 degrees from”  Ι looked at my chart.  The tip of the island had the words Ak. Papãs written next to it. “Alpha, kilο, Papas.”  Τhat would sound like AKP.  Hopefully it was clear enough.  I repeated the message.  I hoped no one would rescue me because I wanted to finish on my own.  I hoped I would not get hit by lightning.
I saw at least two freighters that should have heard my message.
The lightning continued.  As far as I knew, I was not yet dead.  Between my swims, the spray, and the rain, my hands were numbing.
Ikaria disappeared as visibility dropped with the storm.
I passed over the spot where Icarus drowned.  I kept forward.  I kept fighting to keep my kayak on target.  The island reappeared. 
It was not far away.  Then it was close enough so that the lightning was hitting the mountains rather than the sea, and me.  I named my boat Ikeras.
One last radio announcement.  I was OK.  No one ever responded.
A mile and a half past the headland, I pulled into port.  I found a warm bed, a hot shower,  and new friends.
I looked back at the sea.  I had been foolhardy to be out there.

*Setting up  temporary outrigger vs planning to reenter the kayak upside down and perform an Eskimo roll.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4559,4558,4557,4556,4555,4554,4553,4552"]

Nautical miles paddled: 23
Current location: 37.516668,26.020609

Day 129

The wind was too strong to kayak, so I got some bleach and killed the life forms in my water bag tube.
Day 129
My first crossing was from Tinos to Mikonos.  A southwest wind flowed over the region,  but a small archipelago protected me from the south and so I enjoyed a calm tail wind.
My drinking water tasted strongly of chlorine.  I had rinsed the tube many times, but I guess not enough.  There was also dead scum in the tube.
Zeus battled the Titans on Mikonos.  I paddled past boulders that, legend has it, are the petrified testicles of the giants slain there.
Up ahead, in a small bay, I made out two or three large ships.  I got closer and started taking pictures.  The largest ship, with big letters written on the side, declared "rescue zone."  A  smaller vessel, with a crane and other heavy machinery, reached out to the half sunken tanker with a ramp.  It appeared as though I had wandered onto a modern salvage site.
I was fairly close when a worker on the shipwreck noticed me.  He called to the guard on the motorboat with the flashing lights who turned around and stepped on it to make up for not paying attention earlier and letting me get so close.
The motorboat skidded to a stop about 20 feet from me. 
"You can't be here,"  the guard told me.
"Okay,"  I said.
"You can't take pictures."
"Okay." I had all I needed.
"You must go very far from here."
"Okay."   I was already on my way.
From Mikonos I crossed to Dragonisi.  A light shone from the island's cliffs near the water.  Maybe it was a large white sheet suspended from a rock, or a mirror?
I paddled towards it and discovered a sea tunnel cutting through the island-mountain.  I have made many crossings, but this was only my third serious passing.
From the other side of the island I was able to make my third and final crossing for the day to Khatapodhia.
Without any sheltering land to the south, I paddled the last five miles into a headwind.  I passed a tiny island just off the small one before I began looking for a place to land.
A church, about the size of two horses and the only human structure on the empty island, sat just above some low flat rocks.  I wondered if there were sacramental cookies in there.
I could try to make a landing, but I decided to look further.  Around a couple more headlands I found a small beach and landed.  The beach was surrounded by cliffs.
"I declare this place a clothing optional utopian kingdom of one!"  I called to the rocks.
I tried climbing the cliffs, but could not make it all the way up.  I found a tiny stream and just enough cell reception to get a forecast for Sunday.
Friday night I lay in my sleeping bag.  My eye was stinging, probably from salt.  I tried to blink it away.  The sting got worse.  I blew my nose a bunch of times.  Tears rushed down my face and I had trouble breathing.  I recalled chemical warfare training.  I got a grip on myself and slowly the attack subsided.* 

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4444,4449,4455,4453,4465,4474,4450,4472,4467,4517,4471,4470,4475,4476,4477,4479,4481,4531,4534,4484,4458,4490,4525,4501,4511,4537,4541,4543,4542,4544,4545,4546,4547,4548"]

Nautical miles paddled:  21.5
Current location: 37.409284, 25.565861

*I have a theory as to what caused it, as in other places where I have theories, all the clues I used are in the text. I am not allergic to pollen, bees, or even poison ivy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Day 128

After returning to Siros by plane and then ferry, the nautical club there was happy to put me in a hotel for the night.  After dropping me off,  I had a warm bed and a hot shower to myself.  Only, the lights didn't work.  There seemed to be no electricity in the room, except for the refrigerator.  I unplugged it and tried to charge my phone from the same outlet, only my phone plug wouldn't fit.
I ate dinner on the floor in the hallway.  A neighbor opened his door, looked at me, and then  quickly shut it.  I wondered if he could help me.
Stranger Danger was shocked to learn that I was a guest of the hotel, but once we were past that, he showed me how to insert the key-card into the slot on the room's wall and activate the electricity.

Day 128
Force four beam winds were forecast, so I set out.  I measured my bearing off my chart before I began the 12 mile crossing, but that turned out to be unnecessary since I could see Tinos from Siros.
I took a snack break at sea and turned around to see a large ferry coming at me fast.  It too was going from Tinos to  Siros.
I paddled to the side and waited.  Passengers waved to me from the upper decks.
When I pulled up in Tinos and took out in the port, I was exhausted.  I lay down next to my boat, life jacket for a pillow, and rested.  I guess I was out of shape from my week and a half break.  The 12 miles took me six hours.
A man asked me how far I had paddled to get here.
He was thoroughly unimpressed.  I had no right to be so tired.
"There was a headwind."  In the port we felt no wind.
"Barcelona?"  I tried.  He was no longer interested.
Eventually, I got up.
Mr. Alimonos was the head of the Tinos sailing club, but all our efforts to reach him before my arrival failed.  I asked random people if they knew him and they did.  I followed directions to his hotel and was warmly welcomed and invited to stay the night.
I learned that I had paddled for half the day into force five headwinds.
The next day was similarly rough and I enjoyed more of Mr. Alimonos's  hospitality.

[gallery columns="3" ids="4437,4436,4435,4434,4433,4432,4431,4430,4429,4428,4427,4425,4424,4422,4423,4421,4420,4418,4419,4417"]

Nautical miles paddled: 13
Current location: 37.5326883, 25.1650482

Monday, May 12, 2014


Passover is one of our most ancient and sacred festivals.  It is seven days long, and above all else a celebration of nation, friends, and family.  I needed to see them, so I boarded a morning flight to Israel.

To some extent, this time stands outside my quest.   But it left me with stories and this is my platform.  More than that, my quest is intertwined with my identity, and I did not leave that behind in Greece.


I checked in at an electronic station in the Athens airport and carefully read the list of dangerous items I was not allowed to bring on the plane.  Lighters and many other things were not allowed but the list did not include kayak paddles, which was a good thing because I had one of my storms with me.

The next step was to check at the information booth.
"Hi, if I bring this with me through security, will they confiscate it or just tell me to check it?"

The woman told me that security is after I get my passport exit stamped, so there would be no way to check it at that point, but I could check with the head security office only ten steps away.

I went into the office.

The squat officer told me, "No, you cannot bring that on the plane.  You have to get permission from the airline."

"It's a hand crafted, custom designed, traditional Greenland storm paddle.  It's very delicate," I lied.

"No.  Ask the airline."  She insisted.

"So if the airline says yes, then it's okay?"

"No.  You still need permission from us, which we won't give.  But you should ask the airline."

I went to the check in counter.  To check it would cost thirty euro.  They called the on board staff and I got permission from Helen, the boss.

I returned to the security station and asked for permission to bring my "hand crafted, custom designed, traditional Greenland storm paddle.  It's very delicate," on board.  Short Squat didn't believe me.

"Call Helen.”

She did and I got confirmation.  Still, I couldn't bring the paddle on the plane.  Rules were rules.

But I should try, she told me.

I tried.

At the passport stamping booth, the officer looked at my book.  Since it was issued in Naples, there was no EU entrance stamp.

"You entered the country illegally,"  the officer told me.  He glanced at my paddle then looked back at me.

"No I didn't."  I explained about Naples.

"So you live in Naples?"

"No, I don't."

"How long have you been in the EU?"  Had he checked the issue date he would have seen that I long overstayed the three months allowed to tourists.

"Not sure, maybe two months, maybe a little more?" I offered.

"Three months?"  He probed.

"Can't say.  Maybe a little over two."  Five months is a little, right?

Grudgingly, he let me leave Greece.

At the security terminal I explained about my "hand crafted, custom designed, traditional, Greenland storm paddle.  It's very delicate," and the officers x-rayed it slowly.

No problem.

The Flight:

My knees rested against the back of the empty seat in front of me.  I reposed in an aisle seat and hoped that none of the folk still boarding would occupy the seats to my right.

I settled into a book and explored the universe.  A man in a sports jacket vocally grimaced at me.  He didn't think people like me should be allowed on planes.

I got up and he and his lady squeezed into their seats.  The emergency exit row in front of me was empty.

The stewardess passed me.  Some airlines seem to have equal hiring policies.  Others only make uniforms for slim twenty somethings.

"Excuse me, Slim Twenty," she stopped and flashed a big smile that melted my soul a little.  "May I move up?"

"Those seats cost fifty more dollars," she told me apologetically.

I returned to outer space and the ironic punchlines of great science fiction.

"Excuse me, miss," the man to my right caught Slim Twenty's attention.  "Can we change seats?"

She explained about the price tag and apologized for the heat, which would be resolved once we took off.

"It's not just the heat," the woman in the seat next to me complained.  "It's the smell."

Hey!  I showered last night and my clothing was recently washed.

Passengers were shuffled and seats were found.  I wasn't convinced I smelled bad;  I think it was pesody.  I  stretched out over the whole row and woke up when we landed in Tel Aviv.


Seated behind me in the rear of the aircraft was a red haired six foot 250 pound retired boxer.

I chatted with him at the departure gate and he didn't seem like a terrorist.  Still, it freaked me out that he was playing with a lighter as we waited for the doors to open.  I stood over him.  If he tried to light anything on fire I would pounce.  No hesitation. 

I spoke loudly. "I can't believe they let you take that on the plane."  Slim Twenty was on the other side of a curtain. I wanted them to hear.

"It's not allowed?" the Greek giant asked me.

"No, it's not," I said firmly.  I was still ready for a lunge.

He put the lighter away.  We exited the aircraft and nothing went kaboom.  But two Israeli security guards stepped in front of me and blocked my path.

The giant stepped around and left.

"Security, can we see your passport?"

I showed them my Israeli passport.  Surprised that I was native, they asked me in Hebrew about my paddle.

They welcomed me home, and I was pleased to be there, however briefly.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Day 127


I packed my boat and couldn’t find my Nalgene.  I searched the prison.  I searched the beach.  I searched my boat, and I did not find it.  I must have lost it during my reentry and roll.  Everything is supposed to be tied in, but sometimes I get sloppy.  Too bad, I was using it every day for my chia drink.

We left the island and crossed to Siros.  We watched a ferry approach at an angle from farther away.  As the ferry got closer, the angle remained the same, a sure sign that we were on a collision course.  George and I stopped to let them pass.

Something rolled between my feet.  It felt like my Nalgene bottle.  Yay!

As we arrived at the island we paddled over crystal clear water.  Plants and rocks populated the seafloor.

I switched to my storm paddle and George started paddling faster.  I kept up so he increased his speed even more.  We paddled for a little while at almost five knots before I realized we were racing.  I stuck with it a little longer, then dropped back to a normal speed.  I don’t like to race.  But I did discredit George’s theory that Greenland paddles are silly, which I was happy to do.

When we arrived in port ,Stavros from the Nautical club was happy to greet us and congratulated me for making it this far.

I showered, stored my boat in his club, and got on a ferry to Athens.  From there I flew to Israel to be with some of my dearly missed friends and family.

[gallery columns="3" ids="4354,4355,4353,4352,4198,4200,4199,4197,4336"]

Nautical miles paddled: 16
Current location:  Siros port

My phone cable had stopped working a few days earlier. I found a man selling them off of a blanket on a busy sidewalk in Athens.

“Three euro.” he told me.

“ Fifty cents.”  Hi offered.

He looked at me like I was crazy.

“Okay, one euro.”  I tried.

“Three euro.”

I began to walk away.

“Two Euro.”  He called after me.

I bought the phone cord.  It never worked.

[gallery columns="3" ids="4252,4235,4237,4236,4211,4210,4209,4207,4206,4205,4204,4202,4203,4201,4200,4199,4177"]

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Day 126

Day 126

The goal for the day was to make the 15 mile crossing to the desert island of Giaros and then paddle around to make camp on the beach on the far side.

The forecast for the morning was calm, for the evening terrifying.  And in between, the winds would incrementally strengthen from the south.  We set out early and the weather, fortunately, came late.

The island's walls were gargantuan gray cliffs.  The lines separating the layers of stone squiggled and bent as though the rock had been folded over on itself and twisted a thousand times to build the mountains.  In a cove I found the uprooted trunk of an ancient redwood.  I felt it, and felt stone. 

A half pipe just wide enough for my kayak seemed to have been carved out of the rock and climbed hundreds or even a thousand feet up from a small beach.  Lines in the rock marked off  more centuries than strokes I've paddled and so close together that a mouse would have felt constricted in their maze.   

A stream trickled out of a low cliff and goats subtly watched our progress.

The beach was sheltered beneath an old brick prison.  The water was clear and I felt good, so I wet exit* to swim the last 20 feet to shore, then changed my mind and performed a reentry and roll. 

After landing, George and I set out to  explore.  I walked barefoot through the grass and gasped in pain as though a thousand tiny needles pierced my foot.  This was because a thousand tiny needles had pierced my foot.  I inadvertently brushed them off of a small plant that stood out no more than a mime in Paris.  I hobbled a bit, massaged away the pain, and walked it off - until I was struck a second time.  I learned to beware of the mimes.

I found a well with water in it.  I wondered if it was potable, but decided not to find out.  Goat skulls littered the island, oddly the remaining remains of the long gone goats were less frequent.  Shotgun shells may have provided an explanation.

The abandoned prison was on the hill over the beach.  It was easily large enough for a couple hundred inmates and apparently in its heyday had housed 5,000.  Graffiti yelled "Never again."  We wandered its halls and its cells.  We found kitchens, auditoriums, yards, and even a stable.  In some places the ceiling had collapsed, in others the walls had holes, but mostly the jail was intact.  Even some furniture had been left behind.

Most importantly, we found showers.  But they didn't work.

Bunnies were outside and their poop was inside.  In one guard tower the poop was easily three feet deep and half buried a goat skeleton.  My only theory involves a herd of bunnies uncovering an abandoned sack of beans while a poor goat was drunk on overripe figs.

George introduced me to some of the edible plants on the island and we lightly boiled them for some cooked greens.

The storm came in time for bed.  George holed up in his tent and I took refuge in the prison.  The only section with no bunny poop had tiny cells and big iron doors.  I wonder if it was used  for solitary confinement.  I didn't want to spend the night thinking about it.  I found an auditorium where the bunny poop was near the walls and made my camp in the center.

The wind blew overhead and the rain came down, but the poop and I were warm, settled, and dry.

*Swam out of the kayak.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4351,4350,4349,4348,4347,4346,4344,4343,4342,4345,4341,4340,4339,4338,4337,4336,4254,4234,4233,4223,4222"]

Nautical miles paddled: 18
Current location: 37.600245,24.735761

Monday, May 5, 2014

Day 125


The sun rose and so did a fire on a nearby mountain.  Was it controlled?  Was it spreading?  Bright flames leaped out of the woods about a hundred meters from a mansion overlooking the sea.

George called the fire department, twenty minutes later an engine rushed past us to put out the flames and potentially fine the arsonists.

A motorcycle showed up on the beach.  The man wore a black leather jacket and a helmet that completely obscured his face.  He watched us for a while.  I said “Hello.”  He said nothing, and wondered if we were the ones who broke up his arson.  Would he have to order a hit on us?  Maybe.

We launched.

The king of Crete, a big southern Aegean island, had a minotaur.  The creature wandered its maze and killed people who were foolish enough to bump into it.  This amused the king, and since hay gave the minotaur gas it was really better all around.  So the king made the people of Athens send men and women every year to wander the maze and feed the minotaur.

Theseus , son of king Aegeus, from Athens wasn’t too bright, and volunteered to go.  Despite the boy’s shortcomings, his father loved him all the same.  “Theseus,”  the king said, “do not make me wait to learn your fate.  I’ll wait here in the temple, and when your ship returns, hoist a white sail to tell me you live.”

“Don’t worry about it, Dad, I know what I’m doing.  I’ve been practicing on bulls for a quite a while now and I’m basically invincible.”

Theseus went to Crete.  And he slew the minotaur.  And felt pretty badass.  He only needed to remember to replace the black one with the white one when the got to Athens so his dad wouldn’t worry.

But King Aegeus wasn’t in Athens, he was waiting in the Temple of Posidon, which George and I now paddled under.  When he saw the black sail, he threw himself from the cliffs above us and went kersplat on the rocks below.

We entered the sea named after grief struck king.

With a nice tail wind we were making good time so we decided to stop and investigate the ruins on the first island we passed.  A small community of communists was jailed there back when Greece had a dictator in the sixties.  They left a church, a few houses, and some goats.  Some of the goats had been penned in a house.  Apparently people come here from time to time to take care of them.  We climbed up a hill where we had a nice view of a theatre and some mountains, then resumed our paddle.

After the second crossing of the day we arrived in Kea’s port.  The supermarket sold fresh eggs for only a fraction more than regular eggs, so I bought two fresh eggs and six regular.  I also got supplies for two days and two nights and loaded my boat.

We paddled around to the other side of the island, so that tomorrow’s crossing would be over before the afternoon storm came.  We passed numerous caves and steep twisted cliffs as the sun set and the moon rose.

We made camp on the beach.  A kindly drunk approached us and offered me a bed and a shower.  The bed was in the kitchen of the bar he was getting ready for the summer, and the shower was outside, but it was everything I needed to be happy.

I boiled all eight eggs together.  I could not pick out the two fresh ones.

[gallery type="rectangular" ids="4333,4332,4327,4326,4325,4324,4323,4322,4321,4320,4315,4314,4271,4189,4188,4187,4171,4170,4168"]

Nautical miles paddled: 24
Current location: 37.646842,24.40159

Friday, May 2, 2014

Day 124


I had finally arrived in Athens, and not moment too soon. My package of emergency gear waited for me at DHL. George and I hopped into the car and drove to the warehouse.

We couldn't pick up my gear, not yet. First we waited in line for a while, or at least George did. I wandered around in a way that I hoped would randomly take me to my package, but a security man was soon casually following me, and when I took a picture of the inside of the warehouse he was quick to insist that I delete it. I pretended to comply.

We paid 35 euro for the paperwork I needed in order to pay 300 euro in VAT. I can't afford 300 euro, but it was okay, I would get the money back when I left the country.

At the customs office I explained that I was going to visit friends in Israel for passover. "My flight leaves on Sunday and I'll be paddling until then. How do I redeem my 300 euro?"

I couldn't, the office is closed on Sunday and money could only be redeemed on the day of the flight.

"I'll be kayaking from Rhodes to Turkey, can I redeem my money in Rhodes?"

"You can only redeem your money in the same office you paid it, so no."

I decided to ask DHL to forward the package to meet me in Israel and returned to George's home crestfallen.

A few days later we found out that would cost 130 euro, more than what it would cost to mail from the States. Enough time remained to return it to America and have a friend of a friend take it with him to Israel for Passover, only DHL sat on it for a week and we lost our last chance. The package is now in America, and will likely stay there.

There were no shortage of logistical issues, including plane tickets and boat repairs to keep me busy for the rest of the day. George and I also made plans for four days of paddling together.

The next morning we set out on flat water with a mild tailwind.

The air was warm and I had a friend to bail me out if something went wrong, so I rolled frequently and with vigor. Unbeknown to me, water silently crept into my boat, slid into one of my old leaky dry bags, and took a death lunge at my computer while it slept. It never woke again. Replacement dry bags had been in the package.

We passed an island and a slice in the rocks that I never would have noticed, but George knew its secret. We paddled through a meter-wide arch to a hidden lagoon surrounded by steep cliffs on all sides. The water was deep and clear. Shellfish lived in abundance on the rocks. George ate a few.

We left Athens and paddled around more islands. George told me a story:

When he was a young Greek bouncer in London he was had trouble getting tail. In Greece it grew on trees, but in London famine waisted the land. So when a young lady promising discretion approached him, on account of the fact that he was good looking, he decided to oblige her.

Soon after, he reclined in a hotel room. The preliminaries were behind him and he was ready to do the deed. But his new friend, in her excitement remembered "We forgot to pay for the room!"

So he handed her cash and she, being slightly more suited to walk about the hallways then he was, left the room with his money and pride.

An hour later, George pulled his pants up and went to retrieve both, neither being readily available in the London slums that were his life.

He searched the streets. He searched the alleys. He searched the cat houses. He searched the bars. And he found her, with her manager who was rather large.

With awesome fury, fiery eyes, lots of yelling, and some threatening, he got his money back. As the sky took on the colors of dawn, he found his way past the pushers and the pimps, to collapse into his bed.

We arrived in port Sounion. We found a small room with a drink machine and some tables where old men played cards.

No, I could not sleep there for the night. A guard would come at ten and maybe he would let me sleep in the port and maybe not.

George and I played chess, then he went to sleep in his tent on the beach.

The guard woke me up at 10:00. He said I should sleep inside and gave me cookies.
[gallery columns="3" ids="4319,4318,4329,4331,4330,4334,4335,4317,4316"]

Nautical miles paddled: 20
Current location: 37.662438,23.992676