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Day by Day - Sea Kayaking Along the Cretan Coast
An "exercise" off Frangocastello
Day Six: The water is rougher and the rumors of strong storms continue, but at the bay of Loutro it dawns clear and sunny for our morning launch, and my fears of bad weather are easy to put aside. This is the 25-mile paddling day, broken into several sections. For this segment, I'm sharing the pook with Mike. The first stop is at Sweetwater Beach, where a taverna built out over the water offers cappuccino. Nearby, a decorated grotto celebrates the fresh spring that gives the beach its name. Once again, the usually-nude beach is almost empty, with a just a few fully-clothed hikers and of course, our troop of kayakers.

We head on toward the ancient Venetian fortress of Frangocastello, built in 1317. The swells are growing a little bigger than before but are still easily manageable. We pull into a protected little cove and walk over to the imposing fortress, where Georgiou and the hikers and van riders join us. We wander up the beach to the the Venetian fortress and then grab ice cream at one of the tavernas. Along the shore, I find a fouled anchor, said to be a mariner's symbol of good luck, but it feels ominous to me. But then, still in sunshine, we launch again.

For some reason, I take special care in tying my gear down, including a bag I hadn't bothered to tie down before. In the distance, clouds gather, break up, then gather again. There's a choice to stay fairly close to shore or go father out, beyond a point of offshore rocks, and the decision is made to stay closer to the shoreline.

 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Quick Look at the Tour
• Part 2: The Destinations - Coastal Villages of Crete
• Part 3: The Sightseeing - Beaches, Fortresses, and Minoan Palaces
• Part 4: Crete Photo Gallery
• Part 5: My Sea Kayaking Journal
 
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Suddenly the swells, which were mild, increase in size and the angle of the waves is such that they are coming at us from the side and from behind. We don't have our spray cover on, and abruptly, a large wave breaks over our kayak, half filling it with water and tilting us over on one side. I do a bracing stroke - "you'll never tip over if you've got good bracing strokes!" I remember from the orientation - but a second wave smashes into us. That's it.

Insanely, the phrase that runs through my mind at that moment is that we're "taking on water amidships", surely a half-remembered line from some late-night tall ship extravaganza. But we're not taking on water; we've taken on as much as can we can hold and, um, technically, I think the term here is "submerging". As in "sinking". I hold my paddle straight up and down as instructed as the "come to us" signal. I may be simultaneously screeching - I mean, hailing, in a clear calm loud voice - for Adam who is in a kayak about fifteen yards ahead. I see him turn around as Mike behind me says "Get out - now!" and just as rehearsed the day before, I twist out as the kayak is turning over. I was going into the water, fifty yards offshore in increasingly turbulent surf, and the pair of waves that had filled us with water has a bunch of brothers and sisters coming at us in quick succession.

A couple of the other kayakers nearby try to reach us but can't. "Don't let go of the boat!" Mike shouts, needlessly as I had no intention of letting go of anything that seems to be floating, which, amazingly enough, it is. He tells me that he can touch bottom; I'm not sure if he said it to keep me calm or if it was true - at that moment, all I knew was that I sure couldn't.

The kayak is now just under the surface of the water but, as promised, it is not actually sinking as the air bladders front and back will keep it floating. Waves are hitting us hard from behind as we try to get closer to shore. I'm still looking with my feet for the promised "bottom" which I either don't find, or, worse, I succeed in finding the tops of jagged rocks. I keep trying to reach down with my feet to find the bottom but I finally realize that this is a pretty useless activity at this point and that hanging on to the kayak and kicking with my feet to help propel us forward toward shore is a much more helpful thing to be doing.

Maybe I won't end up being that annoying person screaming in the corner in the midst of a crisis. Or, then again, maybe I will. Read on....

Next page: > Beyond Frangocastello >

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Photos by deTraci Regula, courtesy ACFP. Text copyright 2003 deTraci Regula and About Inc; all rights reserved.

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