I paddled away from Torre San Giovani hoping to make it to Leuca, the end of Italy. Leuca isn’t actually my last stop in Italy, I have one or two more after before I arrive in Porto Badisco, my Adriatic crossing launch. But, at the very tip of the boot heel, it’s where most sailors make the crossing from. It is the end of italy.
At first I paddled in shallow water along a beach. A series of small islands separated me from the gradually worsening conditions at sea. Sometimes the water was too shallow to plant my paddle properly and I tip-toed around those sections.
Despite the conditions, I made steady progress. I stopped for a break in a sharp curve on the coast that was doubly sheltered by an island. A man called out to me from the shore. He wanted my help. The water was flat so I made an easy landing. I helped the stranger flip his motorboat upside down so he could work on the bottom.
He encouraged me to stop at the port around the bend for the day, since Lecua has strong currents. But I wanted to make it to the end of Italy, it wasn’t that far. If I had too much trouble I could always turn around.
I passed an old round tower that rose out of the water near a low angle beach. The top was collapsed at an angle and crowned with bright green grass. I didn’t find the port the fellow told me about, though on the map I now see that it was there. I suspect the entrance was mostly closed by sand.
The surf was getting rougher, and when I strayed too near the beach, breaking waves tried to take control of my boat and surf splashed over my skirt.
The next port I arrived in was Torre Vado. The squat cylindrical tower sat right in the port. I rested and asked a fisherman how far to Leuca. Nine kilometers, an hour and a half in good conditions, more today.
After Torre Vado the head wind really picked up – whitecaps became frequent and swells jostled me up and down. I pressed on.
I paddled into a bay. At the far end there was a smaller bay within the bay where I could find shelter for a break and maybe information.
As I cut around the corner a large breaking wave caught me. I skulled into it to support myself but was helpless to move forward or back. I was horrified as I flew over a set of porous jagged rocks and just narrowly missed landing on another. Instead, I crashed sideways into the washing-machine-sized-kayak-destroyer and dropped upright into the water. The way ahead, between the jaws of hull crushing destruction was clear, and I sprinted out.
I rested in the comparatively protected water of the inner bay. An old man and a small boy were playing on the beach. I got close enough to call out to him over the surf. I learned only three kilometers to remained to Leuca’s port. That was good since I was getting tired and the sea was getting mean.
A big wave came and sent me towards the rocks at the edge of the beach. I paddled hard port side and edged hard too, but not hard enough. The next wave dragged me over shallow sharp rocks, the wave after that shoved me over the not so shallow rocks, and the wave after that planted me half way up the tall sea fangs of doom.
I clung to rock to keep from being pushed even farther in as my hull ground and crunched against it. The sharp edges bit into my hands. Wave after wave, slam crunch, slam crunch.
And then a good one came. It lifted me up without pushing me in. I let go of the jagged rock and slid out to the safety of the sea. The old man cheered.
I was back in the center of the inner bay. I have never seen a boat take such a beating as mine just had, and it needed to be inspected. There was a boat ramp, but an exit in these conditions could easily involve swimming, and in the middle of nowhere, if I did find damage I wouldn’t be able to do more than tape it up.
I needed to get to the port. It was only three kilometers away. My boat didn’t seem to be sinking yet. If it started to, maybe I’d be able to pull over.
I paddled out of the bay. My boat didn’t noticeably sink, which is good since there was nowhere to pull over.
The cliffs were full of sea caves of all sizes that I had no desire to explore. It’s also not safe when the water is rough.
I passed a corner. On the high hill at the edge of the land was an enormous white lighthouse. Below it, in the bay rested the harbor. The town of Leuca was on all sides.
I paddled into the port. A man from the sailing school, Scuola Vela, greeted me. All the expedition kayakers stayed in his school. They had a bed for me, a hot shower, and a stocked kitchen. I had reached the end of Italy, and it was heaven.
I climbed a thousand old stone steps to the lighthouse at the top of the hill and had my first view of the Adriatic. It was covered in whitecaps. Wind blasted my face. And maybe, just maybe, I saw the shadow of Greek mountains on the other side.
Nautical miles paddled: 14.5
Total since Naples: 587
Current location: 39.798348,18.36017
We carried my boat from the water to the sailing school. It was unusually heavy. I opened it up, and found a suspiciously large quantity of water in both the front and back hatches. The hull and the gunnels were torn up. Some spots were just dented, in others, carbon threads roamed free and chunks were missing. There were no gaping holes, but it is possible I was slowly sinking. Fortunately, I finished in an excellent place to make repairs by covering the wounds with a layer of epoxy. Hopefully, there’s not some carbon epoxy ratio critical point, after which my boat won’t float anymore.
My clothing dry bag did not do its job. My teffilin also got wet. My electronics dry bag, with an end of Italy miracle, did just fine.