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.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sailing Adventure of the S.V. Polaris

S.V. Polaris - what a beauty!
Here is the long awaited story of the adventures from Florida to Guatemala aboard Bernie Horn's S.V. Polaris.  It will take a few posts to cover all the action, so stay tuned!

When I first considered kayaking from Maine to Guatemala, I decided it was not possible.  Most of the route would be pretty straight forward.  Leave Maine, and keep land on your starboard, and you will arrive in Guatemala.  But that requires paddling up around the Gulf of Mexico.  Not too bad, until you get to certain stretches of the Mexican coast where there is large dumping surf, which would be very difficult to land in.  In those sections there are very few inlets that could make landing a little easier.  But the biggest problem is that those stretches of coast are controlled by various drug cartel families.  I've heard of paddlers being held up a gun point there, and others being shot.  I'm a risk taker, but those risks were just too high, so I gave up on the idea of kayaking from Maine to Guatemala.  

Then Rich Howe told me he had a friend, Bernie Horn, who might be willing to sail from Boston to Guatemala.  That was the answer to my problem with Mexico.  I was excited as I could now plan on undertaking this expedition!   But I was a little hesitant at first, because I thought that once Bernie realized just how much effort there would be on his part, for him to get crew together, and take the time to get Polaris south, and then sail me and my kayak to Guatemala, and then get the boat back... he might change his mind.  

Chris and I visited Bernie in Rockport, Massachusetts.  On a windy night, he took us out to see Polaris, where she was moored in the waves.  I have never sailed before (except for a few weekend schooner trips in Maine), and even getting onto Polaris was a challenge for me.  The outfitting of the boat was fabulous, with loads of beautiful teak, and lovely accommodations for seven.  But I was distracted by the rolling in the waves, and trying to find a place we could put my 18 foot kayak.  In the end Bernie choose to put the kayak on top of the inflatable dingy.  Since the kayak is longer than the width of Polaris, we realized we may have to move it before coming into dock if there were tight areas to get through. 

It was great fun over dinner getting to know Bernie, his wife Lorraine and his brother Steve.  Bernie shares my love of reading about the arctic, so we spent a happy dinner talking about our favorite arctic adventures.

One of my favorite books, Trial by Ice, by Richard Parry, is about the voyage of the Polaris making a quest in 1871 to be the first to reach the North Pole.  That expedition did not end well, with Captain Hall being murdered, part of the crew being separated and having to survive for months on a drifting iceberg, and the boat being scuttled while the rest of the crew awaited rescue on land.  

Polaris, from a wood engraving published in Harper's Weekly1873
Both Polaris's were motor sailers, with powerful engines to help when the winds are adverse.  Both were extremely well outfitted with all the latest navigational equipment and huge quantities of food and supplies.  I hoped the similarities of the voyages would end there.

I had two worries about the sailing portion of the expedition.  First, I was just recovering from the spinal surgery, and was only halfway though the physical therapy.  I was not supposed to lift weight, and was warned about activities that could be harmful to my still weak neck.  But I decided to take along a neck brace, and use it if conditions got extreme.  So that was not much of a worry.  My bigger worry was about sea sickness.  I had had a bad time for just the half hour I was onboard Polaris in Massachusetts.  What would it be like being aboard for days?  Fortunately Bernie and Steve sent me a great article on how to deal with sea sickness, and I acquired all the drugs and do-dads that were meant to help.

Bernie had spent time getting Polaris first to Norfolk, Va (where I unknowingly passed within a mile or so of her), and then to Miami, and then up to Fort Lauderdale.  Finally it was time for me to join the crew, which consisted of: 
Captain Bernie, with his wealth of navigational knowledge,
His brother Steve, who is the Mcgyver of engines and machinery,
Jamie, who is an emergency room physician's assistant, and great diver,
Anne, who can trim sails like nobody's business,
Beth, who has the most blue water experience of the crew, and
Deb, who can navigate a kayak, but can't lift anything!

We met on April 1st, and I helped Beth spend several hours clearing out old food and cleaning the galley.  Chris took Beth and me to the grocery store to provision the trip.  Beth had created a big list, with advice from all, and we filled two grocery carts before we had to stop so Chris could pick up Ann, Steve and Bernie from the airport.  They completed the grocery shopping on the way to the boat, and the crew finally all met each other!  We spent the night on board and planned to head out the next morning for our adventure to Guatemala.
Steve, Bernie, Anne, Deb, Beth and Jamie

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