Expedition Journal Day 53

Waking up at around 6:30, I check my weather forecast on “Pocket Grib” and see that the wind is predicted to fairly strong until about 9:00am that day. Emerging from my tent, I decide to kill some time and seeing a convenience store in the distance, I decide to partake in the breakfast of champions; a liter of milk and a snickers bar with a special addition of a rice ball packed with some grilled salmon.

Walking back to my kayak, my mind carries itself beyond this wind and into the future, into Tokyo bay and landing on the beach behind Haneda airport, yet only for a second as the advice of Koji, my kayaking/life guide echoes in my mind; “You have to focus on the paddle, anything could happen.” This was advice given on the final leg of our Japan to Korea crossing, only 6 hours from our final destination. As my emerges back into the present, with the wind still gusting at about 5-6 meters per second, reinforcing Koji’s warning, I decide to focus on packing my kayak and getting into the water for yet another day of paddling.

Stepping off the pavement and back into the sand, I walk over to my kayak and being the methodical process of packing my kayak; heavy gear centered either behind my seat or against the rear bulkhead, lighter gear to the ends of the kayak. As I’m packing my kayak, I notice a minivan pull up and out comes two guys who find what I am doing very interesting, judging by how much they are shooting glances over in my direction. I catch this glance which suggests he wants to talk but I don’t have time to return his glance yet the only thing on my mind is paddling. Just then I see Masami San running over, noticeably excited. She tells me Shiojima San is here and we walk over to meet. It feels great to see them both again. Before I depart, she gives me an apple and a piece of cake.

When I return, the people near the minivan look over once again. This time I return their glance and give a nod, at which times he comes over and introduces himself. He tells me they are from a non-profit that brings children to the beach and teachers them about the environment. He also tells me that they are getting ready to have a picnic and are waiting to be joined be a few more families. I share some information about the expedition like where I’ve come and where I will be going. They are noticeably surprised and I must admit, I do feel a little hint of pride in the fact that the feats I’m involved in are considered interesting to someone else. As reflect on this feeling, we shake hands and he offerers to help me push my now fully laden kayak down a small sandy slope to the waters edge. At first I don’t understand what he is asking but he gestures a pushing motion, and I nod…down the kayak goes. Just as I start to paddle, I reflect on this expedition. How long I’ve wanted to lead the life I am leading. I remember as a little boy seeing people riding bikes on the side of the road laden with gear thinking to myself “I bet they are going somewhere cool,” as they neared the edge of my sight and disappeared from the view of the car window, I distinctly remember thinking “I want to do something adventurous. I want to be the one of the other side of the window.”

Paddling only a few kilometers from shore, I catch a glimpse of what I believe to be a number of kayaks out for some kind of tour. Excited that I can meet some fellow kayakers, I paddle over and quickly notice that they are not kayaks but very small dingy fishing boats. Slightly disappointed, yet having little desire to change my direction to avoid this bunch of anglers, I paddle towards the middle of their group. As I’m pushing past these boats, I catch a few glances, nothing that would be even remotely construed as friendly so I respectfully nod at one man in particular, with a cigarette hanging out his mouth staring at his rod. He retorts, and with only enough time to look up and accept my gesture, he gives me a what I would classify as a half-nod, barley making the effort himself. This is not my crowd…I paddle on towards Odawara and my next goal.

As I face Odawara, the coastline barley visible in front of me, I’ve have a only vague idea where my kayak will strike land along this long sandy coast. As I paddle, I think of the strategy I’ve developed over the past few months which is to pick a compass bearing when I am able to identify my current position, follow that bearing until I am able to locate a second position, and modify that bearing once again. This strategy has gotten me across some open water crossings yet requires that your current bearing is kept under a watchful eye, being that you are on a moving ocean and even a small margin of error will could result in missing your destination by a few kilometers.

As 5:00pm approaches, I’m bering down on the Odawara coastline and I see that most of the beach is under a highway; almost guaranteeing little to no sleep due to the constant noise of traffic, at all hours. Because sleep is one of the most important aspects of this expedition, I decide to paddle a little further down the coast and find a spot that is set away from the noise of tires racing back and forth on the highway. With the sun receding further behind the horizon and fisherman lining the beaches, I see a small gap between two lines that have been casted in the water and head for shore. As the nose of the kayak digs into the sand, I immediately jump out, grabbing the cockpit combing on the way out, to ensure the kayak does not go back out with the receding tide. I give the kayak a few more tugs up the sandy embankment and am approached by a curious bystander. He asks if I’m touring and I tell him that I’m on a 1000 kilometer expedition from Yamaguchi to Tokyo. He is predictably surprised and after a brief pause, I ask him where the closest convenience store is, in preparation for my morning breakfast.

After peeling off my damp drysuit and placing it, with my PFD, on a pile of rocks just behind my kayak, I’m mentally and physically relax. I take my time to set up my tent and after realizing that a campfire will be prohibited, I ready my immensely corroded camp stove and take out my food bag.

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