By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,157)
Kayaker Deborah Walters walked beside her 18 ft. kayak as a group of supporters carried it under a Paddle Guard of more supporters stationed on the boat ramp at the East End beach. She was about to begin the first leg of her solo voyage to Guatemala from the East End Beach this afternoon under bright sunny skies and a breeze that some times gusted up to 20 miles an hour. A cheer went up when Walters got into the kayak that she and her son made from a kit. Her mission to bring the plight of children of the Garbage Dump to the attention of those able to assist her goals to improve their lives had begun. The current project is to build a school for the “Children of the Dump.” Perhaps because of a small craft advisory on the waterfront beginning at 2:00 pm., Walters first port was to have been Bug Light – where there was a fundraiser on behalf of Safe Passages – the non-profit that is benefiting from her voyage.
Walters, 63, and a former administrator at Unity College, will paddle her way down the coast to Key West, Florida. Along the way she will be relying on the kindness of strangers to host her at different points. DeLorme Publishing, Yarmouth, provided her with a 2-way satellite communicator – an “Inreach Explorer.” It’s greatest value to Walters could come if she needs emergency help – she can send an SOS message via the hand-held device. The SOS goes directly to GEO – an emergency response service for both land and water that is based in Texas. It’s response is immediate. When she arrives in Florida, she will be met by Bernie Horn, on his 53 ft. sailboat who will sail her to nearby Belize – the country next to Guatemala. There she will have to paddle in her exotic wooden & fiber glass kayak about 250 miles up a river to Guatemala – her final destination. The entire trip is expected to take about a year and is over 2,500 miles in length.
Chris Percival, Walters’ husband of Walters said in part: “This is a sad moment. But she’s always looking for an adventure. She’s been thinking about doing this for a number of years now,. It just happened to work out today,” To help mitigate the long separation, however, family reunions have been planned along the way Percival said. He plans on going to Boston, North Carolina and Virginia at the least to see her. “Today,” incidentally is the couples’ 29th wedding anniversary as well. “Every day she does the Royal Canadian Air Force fitness program to stay in shape. I’m usually reading mysteries while she does it,” Percival said grinning.
Many will remember the dynamic Hanley Denning who brought the plight of the “Kids of the Garbage Dump” in Guatemala to the attention of Mainers. Denning, a Bowdoin College graduate, died in a car accident near the dump in 2007. A group was formed to continue her work. It’s Safe Passage, Dave Holman, Outreach and Communications Coordinator, Yarmouth. www.safepassage.org
Walters is expected to blog about her journey to Guatemala every several weeks at: KayakForSafePassageKids.blogspot.com