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, February 10, 2016

Paddle Day 57-144: Expedition completed!

Made it over 2,500 miles!
Had to wait two days for the wind to lay down, but found a perfect day to glide onto the beach after over 2,503 miles of the Kayak for Safe Passage Kids expedition.
High winds from the south caused nice surf along my final route and the landing spot at Higgs Beach.
Days earlier at Higgs Beach
But finally the winds shifted to the north, the waves died down, and I set out for the final day of the expedition.   It was a little sad to realize I was packing my kayak for the last leg.
Packing to launch for the last time
The paddling was easy and uneventful.  The most excitement was talking with two guys trying to get their sailboat unstuck from the muddy bottom.  The toughest part of the day was paddling slowly enough to not arrive at the beach before the the media would arrive.

Great fun paddling slowly along the bike path in Key West.  Bikers would stop and wave, saying they were heading done to the beach to see me arrive.  The local radio station did a great interview with me the night before, and kept reminding folks through out the day to go and welcome me at the beach.  There kooky people in Key West who love this kind of crazy expedition.
Photo of me from a biker on shore
As I passed one breakwall, I was flagged down by a woman scrambling out over the rough rocks.  I paddled over to talk with her.  She had heard about me in the paper back on Saint Simons Island in Georgia, then followed my blog and had made their way down to Key West to be there when I landed.  How touching!

It was a much larger crowd than I expected when I landed.  (I expected 4 people.)  The photographers and reporters were great.  And our host, Ruth Montegue, had the idea of the champagne and flowers.
Deb and Ruth, after the event
The next day, as I rode my bike around town, too energized to relax, folks recognized me from my picture on the front page of the Sunday paper, and asked to pose with me.
Loved the headline, "You Go Girl!"
Celebrated on the big Rotary Wheel painted on the end of White Pier.  Fun to see that they stated the location of their Rotary Club at "The Conch Republic".  Key West tried to secede once, but was basically ignored by the US government, so nothing politically came of the Conch Republic.
Rotary Wheel on White Street Pier
The other celebration point was the end of Route One, a little away from where I landed.  I started the expedition eighteen months ago at the Yarmouth town landing on Route One up in Maine.
End of Route One
When I started this expedition, my goals were:
  1. to get from Maine to Guatemala
  2. to use a sailboat to cross from Florida to Belize
  3. to kayak over 2,500 miles
  4. to stop along the way to tell the stories of Safe Passage and
  5. to raise friends and funds ($150,000) for the Safe Passage school
So how did I do in meeting those goals?  
  1. I have covered the entire distance from Maine to Guatemala. Check out all the blue dots on my DeLorme website that shows that the entire expedition.
  2. After I had to stop kayaking in SC to have spinal surgery, Bernie Horn generously took me on his S/V Polaris from Fort Lauderdale all the way to Guatemala, and we had a huge celebration with the children and parents.  Folks said I had completed the expedition and should stop, but I had only kayaked a little over 1,500 miles, so once recovered from the surgery I returned to SC and carried on paddling.
  3. I have travelled over 2,503, mostly by kayak.  When the weather was too hazardous to kayak I biked or motor-portaged. 
  4. I have told the stories of Safe Passage to hundreds of people along the way, and thousands more have had access to the stories through the hundreds of media stories covering the expedition.
  5. I have raised over $425,000 for the Safe Passage school through small donors, large donors, Rotary Clubs, churches, corporations and The Rotary Foundation.
The expedition has been a huge success!  That's a lot of dollars! That's a lot of miles!  It seems even longer now that I have finished the expedition.

I could not have done this without the support and inspiration from so many people.  First, the children, parents and staff at Safe Passage were my inspiration and kept me going day in and day out.  Rich Howe, past president of the Safe Passage board was my original co-conspirator and helped me overcome so many obstacles to make the expedition a success.  Gene Pfeiffer, the past president of my Rotary Club, had a full-time job contacting Rotarians all along the coast to host me.  Bernie Horn spent much time and treasure getting his boat to Florida and then taking me to Guatemala, teaching me much about sailing along the way.  Chris Percival, my husband, not only supported this venture over the past four years, but came to Florida to serve as my support crew for the last legs in Florida.  Then there were the hundreds of supporters all along the way who met me at a marina or a yacht club or a boat ramp and took me home to hot food and a comfy bed, as well as arranging media coverage and opportunities to tell the stories of Safe Passage to folks in their community.  And so many others who helped out in a myriad of ways over the past 18 months.  I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.  The children of the Guatemala City garbage dump thank you as well, as your contributions are making a huge difference in their lives, and helping them to break the cycle of chronic poverty.

The expedition may ne a success, but Safe Passage is the true success.  For the past 17 years, Safe Passage has worked with the children and families of the Guatemala City garbage dump.  While almost 50% of Guatemalan children aged 5 and under are malnourished, the rate at Safe Passage is zero!  Parents and grandparents are learning to read and write and some are starting small businesses so that they no longer have to scavenge in the garbage dump to support their families.  In Guatemala only 10% of the population has graduated from high school, but at Safe Passage 40% are graduating.  Our graduates get good jobs and earn five times the average family income.  Through education, it is possible to break the cycle of chronic poverty.  Thank you Hanley Denning for your wisdom and persistence in founding such a remarkable organization!
Date: January 26, 2016                                               Restart Paddle Day: 57    Paddle Day:144
Start location: Big Coppitt Key, FL                              Launch time: 8:00 AM
End location:  Key West                                              Land time: 1:00 PM
Average speed: 3.1 mph                                              Max Speed:  5.1 mph
Miles: 12.4
Total expedition miles with kayak and bike: 2503        Motor-portage miles: 404
Sailing Miles: 1025                                                      TOTAL Expedition Miles: 3528
Kayak Storage: Chris Percival
Host: Ruth Montegue


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  3. Wow😆so proud of you! It was awesome meeting you in the Sapelo Sound in Georgia. You are an inspiration that we can all be the face of change. Grateful that you stopped by Bird Island and worked so hard for others - surpassing your goals.

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