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.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Adventures of Patito Amistoso: Chapter Seven

Dear Safe Passage friends and children everywhere,

I am so excited to share with you lots of great news!  First, people are asking me what I did back in Maine when it was so cold.  As you know ducks do not stay around in such cold weather.  They fly to warmer areas.  But I wanted to stay with Deb, so I adopted very un-duck-like behavior.  I hibernated.

Not having hibernated before, it took me a long time to come out of my stupor when Deb brought me south again.  But I am now wide awake!

First news!  I have a new traveling partner, Patia Amistosa!  She is such fun to talk with.  She talks all the time, as you can see from the photo.  Since she is from Virginia (like Deb) she tells me all about life in the U.S.A.

me and my new friend, Patita Amistosa
Our vessel has run into some problems.  It has been through many difficult times.  Deb drags it up onto sand beaches.  That has gradually sanded away parts of the bottom of the kayak.  We thought it had sanded all the way through the keel skid plates Joey built onto the boat, and through the fiberglass and carbon fiber of the hull so that bare wood was showing.  We hauled the kayak up onto a picnic table to inspect the damage.

Kayak on the operating table.
Fortunately, the skid plates were so thick, that there was no wood showing through.  Not yet, anyway. Unfortunately, at some point someone dropped the kayak and a gash went through to bare wood.   Fortunately, Deb has a repair kit.  Some new things specific to this kayak like rudder cables and the right size allen wrench were in the kit.  But much of it was from old repair kits Deb took with her to the arctic and other locales.  Would the epoxy resin repair putty still work?
Contents of Deb's repair kit.
To make sure the putty would stick, Deb sanded the area around the repair...with a handful of sand. You know, I think the whole bottom of the kayak had already been sanded enough over the past many months.  Deb crafted several nice patches: one on the gash, one on the point of the bow, and another tiny pinhole on the hull.  Then we had to wait for the epoxy to set, so we all went to visit the Everglades.

I saw another alligator there, but it wasn't as scary as the others we had seen since we were on a dock looking down, instead of being in the kayak and looking sideways.
Baby alligator jut hanging out in the water.
We learned about the Everglades and how the habitat is threatened from all the development in Florida, and what people are doing to protect the huge prairies of freshwater and saltwater marshes and hammocks and all.

Patita and I had a chat with two wood stork chicks.  They told us how it is getting harder to find the right places to catch the fish they eat and good places to build nests.  There used to be over 20,000 nesting pairs of wood storks, but now there are only 5,700.  But the scientists are studying where the nests are most successful and working to protect more of the right habitat for them.  They are so cute that we hope they will grow up to become mothers and fathers of their own cute chicks.
Talking with the wood stork chicks
We played on a map that showed the entire Everglades area.  Patita sat on the spot we had last kayaked.  I sat on the spot where we were exploring the Everglades.  We could see all the way to Key West, where we will finish our North American leg of the Expedition.  We are getting so close to the finish!
Map of the Everglades that also showed the chain of Keys reaching down to Key West.
While we were working on the kayak, we were thinking about giving it a name.  The Titanium Level expedition sponsor had the right to name the kayak.  We thought he would name her "Polaris", or "Little Polaris" or something like that.  But he didn't, so we get to name to the kayak.  We really liked "Polaris" as that is the name of the north star that has guided sailers and boaters for centuries.  But we also wanted to honor the children at Safe Passage.  The children had named me "Patito Amistoso", and you have to admit that "Duckie" or "Duck" would be a good name for a kayak.  Especially this kayak.  Remember the two little girls in Virginia that gave us their special duckie sticker they had purchased at a museum when they saw the giant inflatable duck there?  

Nora and Miera with Deb back in Virginia
They put their sticker right on the bow of the kayak, and it looks great.
The Duckie sticker on the bow.
So we started thinking up names with "Polaris" and "Patita" or "Pata".  How about "Polaris Duck?"  Deb thought that in Spanish that would be "Pata de la estralla norte".  But that's sort of long.  Also, I explained to Deb that in Guatemala we don't call that star "Polaris" or "the North Star".  We call it "La Estralla Polar".   We decided to shorten the whole name to "Pata Polar".  That name honors Polaris Capital Management,  our largest donor, as well as the children of Safe Passage (since they named me Patito) and Nora and Miera who put the lovely sticker on the kayak.  And it is perfect for Deb too, as she loves to kayak in the polar regions.

Welcome the newly christened kayak, "Pata Polar".

Fortunately, after a day a of paddling, we found that the kayak patches worked great.  We are back in business.

Your good friend,
Patito Amistoso


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  2. Great naming exercise Deb! The children of Safe Passage will smile.

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