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.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Paddle Day 46: New Challenge and Rescue in Biscayne Bay National Park

Leaving the Deerling Estate for Biscayne Bay National Park
Left the metropolis of Miami and entered the more wilderness area of Biscayne Bay National Park.  Didn't feel like the expected tropical paradise on a cold and dreary day.  Impromptu rescue (is there any other kind) along the way, and then a new challenge appears.
For months I had been looking forward to paddling in Biscayne Bay, a tropical paradise, but it was cold and dreary as Chris helped me put in.  I was so glad I had my longsleeve NRS Hydroskins and neoprene gloves, as well as my tall SealSkinz waterproof socks to keep me toasty.   I remember edback to when I paddled the Watertribe Everglades Challenge one March many years ago.  The others in my group were envious when it got quite cold for Florida, and I pulled out my neoprene hat and gloves.  With  warm head, hands and feet, everything feels so much better.
Chris bundled up as he helps launch Pata Polar.
Folks ask about paddling in the rain.  My answer is that I'm always wet, the only difference is whether it's salt water from the sea or fresh water from the rain.  When I'm kayaking I feel like a duck, where rain doesn't matter.  Great too for a kayak called "Pata Polar."  Both of us are ducks.

I had just read a local newspaper article about recovering the body of a kayaker from Biscayne Bay.  So when I saw a flash of bright orange back in the mangroves I had to check it out.  I reached into the mangroves and gave it a tug, but nothing happened.  Bad sign.  Maybe there was a body caught in the branches and roots of the mangroves?  After some untangling I was finally able to I was finally able to rescue the PFD.  I was so glad that there was not a body attached.

Rescue in the mangroves
Navigation in this area reminds me of the Everglades.  There are no landmarks and just miles of low mangrove covered shores that all look alike.  My good friend, Dick Gill, took me to the Everglades many years ago to teach me navigation, as you can't cheat in such a uniform environment (unless you have a GOS, but that was in the days before hand held GPS).

The mangrove covered shore means there is nowhere to land - just an uninterrupted solid green.  It was a longish paddle and I had drunk two cups of tea at breakfast, not to mention all I had drunk on the water.  I was so excited to see a little white at one point.  Maybe a beach I could land on?  No, just piles of white coquina rocks.  In the end I found a spot without many waves and stepped out onto one big underwater rock and held the kayak steady as I relieved myself.  Awkward.

As I studied my navigational charts for this area, I came across a symbol I didn't know.  Guess I'm not as much of an expert as I hoped.  In the car I had done a quick perusal of NOAA Chart 1 that lists all the symbols, but couldn't find it on my small phone screen among the 132 pages of Chart 1.  Maybe a tide station?  I asked the dock master at a fancy private marina who had years of experience captaining a vessel in these waters.  He didn't know it.  His comment was, "Since you passed right by it and it didn't et you, it must be okay."  I'm still pondering this one.  Do you know it?
Mystery symbol on my nautical charts
Despite the rain I enjoyed spending some time exploring the little creeks among the mangroves.
When I entered one I noticed a high hill in the background.  The hill was too high to be natural in the flat, flat land of southern Florida.  The shape was also too regular.  It also had lots of vultures circling over it.  Oh!  A garbage dump.  Once downwind, it smelled just like Guatemala City's garbage dump, and took me there so immediately as odors have the power to do.  I know why I am doing this.  So that many children will not have to small that odor all of their working lives.
Garbage dump in the distance when I paddled into a little creek
Despite the smell it was fun exploring the creek, until I realized it was too easy.  The tidal current was zipping me along without any need to paddle.  Oops!  I quickly turned around and fought my way back out the creek before the currents became so strong they would overpower me.

There were a few landmarks that helped with navigation: the odd key, points of land and the Turkey Point nuclear power plant.  As I looked for my landing spot, I noticed that the line between the stacks on Turkey Point and the tip of Black passes right through my landing spot.  I figured the compass bearing needed from my charts.  To double check, I paddled to Black point and took a bearing to the stacks.  The bearings were identical so I confidently paddled right to my landing spot.
Sighting the stacks at Turkey Point from Black Point.  Home free!
Well, not quite right to the spot.  I had used the Delorme mapping software to plan my route and had picked out a county marina to land at.  But when I was getting close, I noticed what looked like a little beach perfect for landing a kayak.  I decided I would land there and phone Chris to tell him I was not at the agreed upon spot.  Then I noticed a small figure on shore waving two big bright orange signal cones like they use at an airport to help jets to pull up to the gate.  The cones directed me to the little beach.   It was Chris, using two traffic cones he had borrowed from a road construction site for this communication.  Perfect.  Turned out this spot was a Biscayne Bay National Park ranger station, which I hadn't noticed on my DeLorme maps.  (After getting back the campsite and my computer, I looked over the NOAA Chart 1 to find that pesky symbol I talked about earlier.  There it was under "Supplemental National Sysmbols" on page 104.  What does it mean?  "Park Ranger Station!"  I should really be using my nautical charts to plan my routes!)

Met a fellow kayaker, Ken Weyand, at the beach and he showed me some interesting places to kayak down in the Keys.  One spot was Lignum-Vitae Key, where there are lignum-vitae trees with wood so dense it is used to make bearings for machines.  He also told me about his book, "Lost in the Everglades and other Florida Kayaking Adventures."
Getting advice about the route from Ken Weyand
Chris also introduced me to one of the park Rangers, Yelitza Sepulveda.  She is organizing the
Florida National Park Service Centennial Paddle Challenge, and wanted to recruit me to be the first person to finish the challenge.  2016 is the centennial year of the National Park Service, and Florida is celebrating with this challenge.  Paddle at least 100 miles in at least three different Park Service properties in Florida during 2016 and you get a patch.  Yelitza is also a kayaker, and one with the same injuries as me: shoulder problems and a herniated disc in her neck.  She was so glad to hear that I was back to paddling and is anxious to try out the Inuit paddle that is much more gentle on the body.  Yelitza inspired me, so now I will try to paddle 100 miles in 2016 in 3 Florida national Parks.  Another challenge!  Yelitza said to just paddle on the inside of the keys, as that would put me in Everglades National Park.  I already have miles in Biscayne Bay National Park.  Too bad all of those other Florida national parks I paddled in in November and December don't count!  Just need one more park, hopefully before the Jan 23rd formal kick-off event.  Yelitza, you are giving me quite a challenge!
Yelitza, Deb and another rubber duckie.
Gratitude List:
  1. Cormorants trying to poop on me and missing
  2. Dick Gill's patience in teaching me navigation
  3. Chris's resourcefulness with traffic cones
  4. Meeting Yelitza
  5. Ken's kayaking stories
Date: January 12, 2016                                               Restart Paddle Day: 46     Paddle Day:133
Start location: Cutler, FL                                            Launch time: 10:13 am
End location:  Homestead                                           Land time: 2:34 pm
Average speed: 3.6 mph                                             Max Speed: 5.6 mph
Miles: 11
Total expedition miles with kayak and bike: 2351        Motor-portage miles: 404
Kayak Storage:  Miami Everglades Resort
Host: Chris Percival

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