News Release: Florida Department of Environmental Protection
TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection congratulates kayakers Marc DeLuca and Jim Windle for finishing the entire 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, as mapped and developed by the Department's Office of Greenways & Trails. The two retired police officers from Charlotte, N.C., began their four-month journey Nov. 2, 2013 at Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola and finished March 1, 2014, near Fort Clinch State Park just south of the Georgia border. They are the 12th and 13th paddlers to complete the entire trail since it opened in 2007.
“While thousands of people paddle short segments of the trail each year, we can appreciate the few who have the time and fortitude to paddle the whole thing,” said Donald Forgione, Director of the Florida Park Service, “It’s a huge accomplishment.”
The two men faced extreme weather, large ocean swells and some health scares. On day three, DeLuca’s kayak almost sank in rough seas due to a leaky rear hatch cover. They battled a case of influenza near Miami, and a serious foot infection requiring hospitalization almost sidelined Windle in St. Augustine. The two pressed on, vowing not to give up.
Despite the hardships, what they remember most is the coastal beauty and acts of kindness and hospitality along the way. “People opened their homes to us, offered food, and helped out in various ways,” Windle said. “You find out how important the little things are like a hot shower or clean clothes.”
DeLuca added: “We saw some of the most stunning coastal scenery in the country in a way few others have. Pods of dolphins escorted us almost every day.” A multi-media blog capturing their experiences can be seen at http://KayakAroundFlorida.wordpress.com/.
Designated as a National Recreation Trail, the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail educates paddlers about Florida’s rich history and fragile coastal environment. Following the Florida peninsula from Pensacola around the Keys to the Georgia border, this 1,515-mile sea kayaking paradise is often described as the saltwater version of the Florida National Scenic Trail. The trail highlights 37 of Florida’s 41 aquatic preserves and offers paddlers access to numerous state, national and local parks, seashores, wildlife refuges, marine sanctuaries and historic sites.
For more information on the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, visit www.FloridaGreenwaysandTrails.com.