ANNAPOLIS -- When Dan Eisaman got to Sandy Point State Park Sunday morning to make his latest attempt at a big-water crossing, small-craft advisory flags already were whipping in the breeze.
But it never occurred to him to delay his planned passage across Chesapeake Bay in a 15-foot canoe powered by a 16-square-foot kite.
"Hell, no," said the 56-year-old unemployed technical writer with the bushy white beard. "The smaller the boat, the better off you are out there. Anyway, the wind's from the west -- the perfect direction."
So with little fanfare and without telling anyone in authority lest they block his way, Eisaman headed out toward the rising sun, ran his kite out on a 100-foot tether and was off into the great, watery unknown, dodging freighters in his tiny tin boat and puffing contentedly on Winston 100s as he bobbed east over the cresting whitecaps.
Ninety minutes and five miles later he fetched up safely in a wind-swept cove at the eastern end of the Bay Bridge, mission accomplished at the expense of almost no physical labor. He gathered in the kite, stowed it and grinned. Another conquest!
It was Eisaman's easiest crossing, by far. The first time he tried Lake Michigan three years ago, he was 37 miles from Kenosha, Wis., when the ore carrier, Charles M. Beeghly, ran him down in the dead of night, tossing him from his 8 1/2-foot inflatable dinghy into the icy drink, he said.
Eisaman hollered as he went over the side and happily, the Beeghly's skipper heard the shriek, stopped and plucked him out to try again. Next time, Eisaman tied Mylar strips to his kite string as radar reflectors and went unscathed by ship traffic for two days.
The westerly breeze held too and he fetched up 15 miles north of Whitehall, Mich., 135 miles from his starting point in Chicago.
That was the first notch in his passage-making belt. Since then Eisaman, who moved to Rockville from Detroit this summer when his wife got a job here, said he has crossed all the Great Lakes by kite-powered small craft except Superior, which he tried twice. How does one of his trips end when it is unsuccessful?
"Same as it does when it's successful," chuckled Eisaman. "You wash up on somebody's beach. It's just that it's on the wrong side of the lake."
A member of the self-proclaimed genius club Mensa, which demands that you prove the IQ of a wizard to join, Eisaman said he was lured into kite-powered watercraft four years ago when he bought his wife a parasail-type kite, then read over the instructions and found it required a 150-pound test line to control.
"I thought, 'That's a lot of power. If you were on something movable, it ought to pull you right along.' "
So Eisaman, who is too old for a skateboard, hooked the kite to his little inflatable one breezy day and went for a sail on Stony Creek near Detroit.
"It popped me right along," he said. "Of course, I've never had a boat that didn't make me think about faraway places with strange names."
He even made one attempt at a transatlantic crossing. That was in 1986, he said, when he set off from Ocean City, Md., in a 16-foot Hobie Cat aiming for Europe. The Coast Guard stopped him 30 miles out, told him the plan was unsafe and hauled him back in.
But now that he is living in the East and has refined his kite scheme, Eisaman said his thoughts are turning again to the possibility of a transatlantic crossing by kite-powered craft.
He read "Adrift," sailor Steven Callahan's astonishing account of life at sea in a life raft after his sloop was holed and sunk in mid-Atlantic. Callahan survived 2 1/2 months with nothing but a bit of fishing line and a balky little gadget that made fresh water from salt water by condensation.
"With a kite it wouldn't take me 76 days to get across, that's for damn sure," said Eisaman. And he could take plenty of food and water, along with a reverse-osmosis watermaker he could pump salt water through to make his daily ration of fresh water if his stores ran out, he said.
Eisaman favors kite power over conventional sails because it frees him from having to steer. "The kite will yaw a bit," he conceded, "but basically, you set the thing and poof! It's read-a-book time."
He figures a hard, unsinkable boat made of flotation material -- perhaps big PVC tubes welded together -- would tow easily enough behind one of his three kites, which range in size for varying wind conditions. If the wind dies, he said, he is content to bob around and wait for it to pick up again.
And when he is underway, Eisaman said, life is sweet. "I sit there and watch the kite and listen to the string humming."
"What do they want me to do, anyway," asked this Gyro Gearloose of the high seas: "Sit home and watch the ads on TV?"