I am a grandmother paddling alone over 2,500 miles from Maine to Guatemala. Along the way I will be:
- telling the story of the children who live in the Guatemala City garbage dump community
- honoring their entrepreneurial mothers
- talking about the success of the Safe Passage model school and
- raising funds for additional grades for the school.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Amelia Island: Landfill Art and Kayaking Disaster

Chris taking photograpghs at Ferandina Beach Rotary Meeting
When speaking at Rotary meetings, learned of interesting landfill art.  Visited the spot of one my worst kayak disasters from years past.
The Rotarians in this area have been great in providing many places to share the stories of Safe Passage children.  And it has been wonderful to stay with Art and Theresa Schuster in their Little Piney Island home.  (We heard from their colleagues that the definition of the word "mensch" is "Art Schuster".  That's some testimony.
Deb and Art
Amelia Island has a great feel from all of the live oak trees, the working waterfront and the artsy historic district.  Our first Rotary meeting was in the historic district at the Florida House Inn, with the Fernadina Beach Rotary Club.  There I heard a great story from a US landfill.  Whenever I mention the garbage dump in Guatemala, folks also share stories of landfills here at home.  This story was about how a supervisor at a landfill in the midwest was having trouble getting his employees to work together as a team.  So one day he started welding together items from the land fill to make model garbage truck.  The employees jumped right in and started looking at the items dropped off in a new light, and started collecting all sorts of pieces they thought could be useful for that and the other models of equipment they started building together. models.  Soon they were working together to make lots of landfill art.  Not only did they now become a team on the job, but they rescued many pounds of items from the landfill.  It reminds me of the mothers at Safe Passage and the items they create from the garbage: lovely jewelry from paper, fabulous handbags from plastic bags, industrial wipes from cotton tee shirts and towels, and much more.  What creativity!  What an environmental service!  One side effect of my expedition has been the many shops in the US who have contacted Safe Passage wishing to retail the CREAMOS jewelry.

Jewelry made by Safe Passage mothers
We also meet with the Amelia Sunrise Rotary Club, where they presented a generous check to Safe Passage.  Thank you from the children at Safe Passage!
Theresa and Deb at the Sunrise meeting.
To attend meetings in Jacksonville, we had to drive along Little Talbot Island.  When we passed the Kayak Amelia put-in, I was reminded that I was near the site of one of my worst kayaking disasters.  About 15 years ago I was attending a professional conference in Jacksonville.  I was training for my next solo arctic trip, and couldn't paddle at home in the winter, so took along my folding kayak to Florida.  One day I had no sessions until the evening, so headed over to Little Talbot Island to do a little loop kayaking through the marshes.  I had a wonderful few hours paddling through the marshes, being aware of the time of the tides so that there would always be enough water to paddle on through the little twisty creeks.  The tide was going out and I arrived with lots of time to spare at what I thought was the highest point - where the water would be flowing out in two different directions.  But the water wasn't behaving as I predicted.  So I tentatively carried on.  Eventually I found that point, but too late.  The water was flowing out more quickly than I could paddle.   I ended up being left high and dry in the pluff mud.  What to do?  I couldn't walk out on the pluff mud, as I would just sink in too deep.  I could just sit and wait in the sun for the tide to turn.  I had water and snacks with me, but I needed to be back at the conference for the evening session.  Of course, there were no other boaters on this little, now dry, marsh creek.  I had my vhf radio and I could have called the coast guard for a rescue.  But that seemed ridiculous.   I wasn't in any danger and wouldn't want to waste tax payers money.  I would also be mortified to have to be rescued.  I gazed longingly at the little hammock of pine trees.  That would be solid ground I could walk on.  My chart suggested that the hammock would extend up to the road.  That had to be my way out.  So the only remaining problem was the long expanse of sticky, black, smelly mud I would have to cross.  Well, not quite the only problem.  The between the open mud and the hammock, was a wide are of sawgrass I would have to get through.

Spot near the location of the kayak disaster, but during a time with higher water!
I looked over the clothing and gear I had in the kayak to see what I could use to get me over to the hammock.   But how could I get over the mud?  Of course!  I had my spare paddle!  It's two pieces of flat plastic blades and long aluminum shafts would made decent snow shoes, or in this case mud shoes.  I had water shoes for my feet, but only shorts for my legs, so even if I made it to the saw grass, it was going to be painful thrashing through.  I couldn't think of another option, so I set off.

I threw one half of the paddle out of the kayak, and gently steppe onto it with one foot.  Then I threw the second half out, and stepped onto it.  By throwing them in turn, one in front of the other, I was able to walk across the mud, dragging my kayak behind me.  It wasn't too bad until I had to go through the sawgrass.  Then my calves and angles were repeatedly cut and blood was pouring down my legs as I slowly made it through the sawgrass and up onto the hammock.  Under the pines I no longer needed to walk on the paddle halves, but the tangled brush make it harder to drag the heavy folding kayak behind me.  With a lot more effort of hauling the kayak up and over obstacles, I arrived at the road.  It was too far to walk back to my car so I tried hitching a ride.  The cars were just zooming past.  Who would want to stop to pick up a sweaty, bedraggled woman with blood streaming down her legs?  Finally a car stopped.  A police car.  He kindly gave me a ride back to my car.  I managed to drive back, pick up the kayak, and get back to the conference in time for the talk I was giving that evening.  I was so glad I had packed the pants as well as the skirt of my suit, as my legs were not presentable enough for a skirt for over a week.  Lesson learned.  Get more local advice not just about tide times, but the exact locations where tides coming from different directions meet.  That lesson has served me well on this expedition, where the issue is more often the direction and speed of the currents, rather than running aground.  But it's the same lesson.  Now I look at pluff mud I little differently.

1 comment:

  1. Most places don’t care and charge you for a lot of the things that guys at this place were willing to help us out with. The food at gallery space for rent NYC was amazing and my family is still raving about how great it was.