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.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Paddle Day 28: Wildlife of Mosquito Lagoon and Paddling Failure

Manatee on the run!
First day of the fully supported expedition!  Only the forth time in nine months of paddling that I wasn't able to paddle to my intended destination.  Enjoyed the wildlife in Mosquito Lagoon.
Chris drove me from our campsite to the waterfront restaurant where I had left my kayak overnight.  The first guy to come and watch me launch said: "I'd never leave a boat here.  Too dangerous.  Surprised it's still here."  I do wonder sometimes.  But there is not much resale value of a bright yellow, wooden kayak covered with sponsor logos.  I always ask permission to leave it, and then lock it something immovable.  The chin of my cable lock could probably be cut with a hefty pair of nail clippers, but I figure it's a good enough deterrent for kids who might take out the kayak and drown themselves.

One question I had about moving to a fully supported mode, was whether that would mean fewer donations to Safe Passage.  The next person to drop by was a women who got so excited about the stories of the children at Safe Passage that she called over her husband (and his wallet) to make a very nice donation.  There is hope of engaging even more people this way.  Chris carries my cards to give out wherever he goes too!

Soon after I left the restaurant, I came across a sunken sailboat with an odd, disintegrating craft tied up to it.
ActionTeamFamily "vessel" slowly sinking into the sea.
I checked out this "ActionTeamFamily" online and read about a father and his two children living in a trailer they were transforming into a boat by strapping 50 gallon barrels underneath.  A newspaper article told the story of the children being taken into care despite the statements by neighbors that the children were happy and had a great Dad.  The authorities seemed to think that having no electricity or running water trumped having a "great Dad."  Sometime later the children were back with their Dad, living on the houseboat and making little videos for Youtube.  When the motor on their boat died, they tied up to the sunken sailboat.  I wonder what was the final straw that made them desert their craft and their watery adventure.

As happens frequently when I encounter tough paddling conditions, I too wonder about giving up my adventure.  Why am I battling against this headwind and current that is slowing me down to a mere 3 mph?  I realized I could not make it at this speed to the Titusville take-out point in time for us to make it to the scheduled maintenance appointment for our truck.  I sent one of my preset text messages, "Delayed, but all is OK."  I figured Chris would understand and either change the appointment or go without me.

My day's route took me through Mosquito Lagoon, and I was glad that my numerous wildlife sightings did not include a single mosquito.  Despite the slow speed, I was having a good time watching the wildlife and finding a route through the shallow waters.  I wanted to be as close as possible to shore to hide form the winds, but had to be far enough offshore for the water to be deep for efficient kayaking.
Where is the deep water?
In addition to lots of birds and jumping fish,  I saw what I thought was a manatee.  Or was it just a rock sticking out of the water?
Rock or Manatee?
So often in the Arctic I would think I saw a muskox along the shore in the distance.  But when it never moved, I realized it was a "Muskrock" instead.  So was this just a rock?  Could be if I was back in Maine, but there are no dark grey granite-looking rocks like this here in Florida.  I sat quietly and looked more carefully.  Then I about jumped out of my skin (and boat) when the rock moved slightly, turned into a manatee, saw me, and executed an extremely loud and fast exit from the scene.  Other paddlers have stories about watching the manatee graze, and reaching over and petting them.  My experience has always been the opposite: violent reactions on seeing me.  Maybe I paddle too quietly?  Maybe I ran over manatees in a previous life?

This morning I was asked how long I had been paddling from Maine.  When I answered, "Nine months," I realized I could have grown a baby in that length of time.  (Well, not any more...)  Then I thought about the total number of months paddling before I reach Guatemala - thirteen months!  Oddly enough, that's the gestation period for a manatee.

Another sighting was another first for me: a fisherman poling his skiff in the shallow waters.  I like to pole a canoe up rocky rivers, and this flat water poling looked like fun as well.

Poling along in the shallows
As it got later in the day and I wasn't getting any faster I pulled ashore on one of the islands I had been planning on camping on, and dug out my phone to call Chris.  He was on his way to a viewing platform for manatee - just a mile or so from me.  We agreed I should meet him at the nearby boat ramp and give up for the day.  I figured I could make up the missed six miles easily enough the next paddling day, as surely the conditions would be better.

The next day was a planned get together with neighbors from our road in Maine.  We watched the manatee in the clear spring water at Blue Springs, and had a fun lunch as a fry your own pancakes restaurant.
With Lorren and Kent and Chris at the Spanish Sugar Mill about to cook our pancakes
Gratitude List:
  1. Manatee encounter
  2. Seeing so many birds and fish
  3. No mosquitos
  4. Good time with neighbors
  5. Chris!!
Date: December 16, 2015                                             Restart Paddle Day: 28
Start location: Oakhill, FL                                            Launch time: 9:30 am
End location: Haulover Canal                                       Land time: 1:40 pm
Average speed: 3.1 mph                                               Max Speed: 4.3 mph
Miles: 12
Total expedition miles with kayak: 2040                      Motor-portage miles: 397
Kayak Storage:  Manatee Hammock Campground
Host: Chris Percival

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