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

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