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.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Getting ready to Sail to Guatemala

SV Polaris - my ride to Guatemala
Switching gears from rehabilitation to preparing for the sailing portion of the expedition.
Bernie Horn graciously agreed to sail me and my kayak from Florida to Belize.  It was that offer that made the Maine to Guatemala Kayak for Safe Passage Kids expedition possible at all.  For many years I had been considering kayaking from my house in Maine to the homes of the Safe Passage children in Guatemala.  In terms of navigation, it would be easy.  Just keep land on starboard and you can get there: down the Atlantic Coast, up around the Gulf of Mexico, and then along the coast of Central America.  But the problem is with certain stretches of the Mexican coast.  The high surf, with few inlets to land in is problematic, but not impossible.  It is the information from my Guatemalan friends about the drug cartels that control some sections of the Mexican coast that was the deal breaker.  As they said, "If they see you seeing what they are doing, they shot you."  Now I'm a risk taker, but that is way too much risk!  So I gave up on doing the trip, until I heard that Bernie was willing to sail from Boston to Guatemala, picking up me and my kayak in Florida, and dropping us off in Belize, so that I could kayak the remaining 200 miles of the 2,500 mile kayaking portion of the expedition.  Bernie's offer made the whole trip possible!

But when I became injured after kayaking just 1,507 miles, the plans changed.  I had to have emergency spinal surgery, and was told if would take six to nine months to recover.  There would be no more kayaking for quite some time.  What I wanted to do then, was to just go home, crawl under a rock and slowly heal.  But I thought about the grit and determination of the children and their parents working in the huge Guatemala City garbage dump, and I knew I had to find a way to carry on - like it or not.

The goal of the expedition was always to sit in my kayak and paddle along, stopping along the way to share the stories of the Safe Passage children.  So I talked my husband, Chris Percival, into driving down from Maine to meet me.  We put the kayak on top of the car, and I continued with the speaking engagements.  It was just the same as before, but instead of me sitting in the kayak as I traveled down the coast, I was now riding underneath the kayak.
Deb now riding underneath the kayak.
While some of the media stepped back from covering the story of the expedition, many did remain on board.  The Rotary Clubs, churches, kayak shops, friends of Safe Passage and libraries set up speaking engagements.  Hosts now took in not only me, but also Chris.  Our reception has been marvelous.  Everyone has been so supportive and us, and especially generous to Safe Passage.  

Now I will sail not just to Belize, but all the way to Guatemala on SV Polaris.  I've never really sailed before - expect for a few day sails and coastal weekends.  Now I'll be on a blue water voyage, and I'm very excited to see what that will be like.

What is very exciting is that the folks at Bernie's firm, Polaris Capital Management, are contributing lots of school supplies for the children at Safe Passage.  We will be taking all of those down on SV Polaris on this trip!

I mapped out what I thought a route might look like from Florida to Guatemala.  I used only a chart of the currents and a chart of water depths.  So my route is really just a very rough estimate by a complete sailing novice.  There is no consideration of wind speeds, etc.  You can see the route on the Delorme expedition website.
Here's my rough guess as to a route.
I was surprised to see that the route was 1048 miles.  With the 2,500 miles of kayaking, that makes the whole expedition over 3,500 miles!   But those are stature miles.  The sailing portion is only 910 nautical miles.  I figure that could take 5 and a half days if we average 7 knots.  But Bernie and his crew covered a similar distance with only 4.5 days on the water going from Norfolk to Miami.  The Polaris is a Shannon-58-HPS with a very fast hull!  It is designed for "FOR SAFE PASSAGEMAKING".  How appropriate is that!

Many folks say that once I get to Guatemala on board Polaris, that should be it.  I've kayaked over 1,500 miles, done the speaking tour and gotten myself to Guatemala.  I've already raised 95% of the fundraising goal.  Shouldn't that be enough?  I'd like to think so, but in my mind it doesn't properly respect the grit and determination of the children and parents at Safe Passage.  When I am healed, and back in extreme kayaking fitness, I need to go back and paddle the remaining 1,000 miles of the expedition.  Folks all along the coast of Florida are already planning for big events for when I return.

I may use my folding kayak for the Belize and Guatemalan portions of the expedition, so that I don't have to figure out again how to get my kayak to and from Central America.  Or I may rent a kayak there.  Stay tuned to see what happens.

But for now, the big excitement is the sailing venture!

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