Wednesday, 27 August 2008

2007: Environmentalist pedals across Guanabara Bay

Pedal Joe (Zé do Pedal), adviser for the environment to District LC12 and of the Lions Clube of Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil, carried out on Sunday, the 21st of October 2007, a very particular journey in the history of navigation: to cross the Bay of Guanabara on a pedal boat, entirely constructed with plastic bottles (PET).

The environmentalist was thus returning to the waters, exactly 2 years after having been forced to interrupted his project "From Liberty to Christ-the-Redeemer", a trip that began March 2004 at the feet of the Statue of Liberty, New York City, and ended 18 months later in front of the Mexican city of Dzilan de Bravo after his boat, pedal powered, was destroyed following the ravages of hurricane Rita.

His first attempt at crossing Guanabara Bay, on the 30th of September, was short lived. Pedal Joe's boat's pulleys broke, putting and end to the project a mere 3 km after the start of the event. When the adventurer was going around the airport of Santos Dumont, the axle that was moving the boat broke. With the help of GEMAR-RIO, responsible for the logistics of the event, the boat was taken in tow back to Marina da Glória.

The boat built by the metal craftsman Ademar Soares in the city of Viçosa, Minas Gerais, where the environmentalist lives, was constructed with 240 plastic bottles of 2 liters (if put in a straight line, one after the other, they would cover almost 1 km), donated by a company dedicated the recycling of paper, metal and plastics. The rest of the material was purchased with small donations. The total cost of the boat was a thousand reais, and the environmentalist was fortunate to obtain the support of the following businesses of Viçosa: Posto do Beto, Casa dos Parafusos, Ademar Serralheiro, Célio Grossi e Localiza Rent a Car, besides the press and public relations help of Ana Pereira and Fabrício Menicucci, who produced a film documentary about the unusual crossing.

Second attempt... In spite of the sea being very agitated at the entrance of Marina da Gloria with winds of up to 15 kilometers per hour, Pedal Joe carried out the journey, in 2 hours and 57 minutes of pedaling, with the objective of attracting as much attention as possible to the effects of global warming, principally in Third World countries.

"The prevision was of three kilometers per hour winds at departure time but, suddenly, at 8:30 in the morning, when "all systems were go" to set sail, I was surprised by a first gust of Northern wind, with a speed of 12 kilometers per hour. I waited a little and, at 9 am I decided to set off anyway since the prevision was that the wind would change direction quickly and would come from the mountains. Hardly out of the boat launch area of the Marina da Glória, I felt the weight of the tide entering, and had to navigate practically leaning on the stones to avoid the current. When I reached the first buoy, already out of the shelter of the marina, the sea became quite agitated with waves almost one meter high, which was making it quite difficult to maneuver the boat due to, mainly, to its lack of aerodynamics. A gentle and thick fog was covering the two principal touristic places of Rio de Janeiro: the Sugarloaf Peak and Christ-the-Redeemer. When I passed the point where the axle had broken on the 30th of September, during the first attempt, I had an apprehensive look at the part that had broken then, but was relieved to see that all seemed hold up.

This situation gave me a little more confidence about the boat and I started to put more demands on it, accelerating the pedaling, in order to navigate quickly that agitated area of the sea, and to try to reach the navigation channel. The pilot of the support speedboat lent me an oar, so that I could stop using the rudder, and achieve thus a better steering of the boat.
When I arrived at the Petrobrás Platform P54, the sea was calmer, which I took advantage of, reaching a good speed. Having passed the platform, I steered the boat towards the Gragoatá Fort but, since the motors of the tugboat were engaged, the force of the water threw me approximately 600 meters towards the center of the bay. With the wind and the tide against me, I had a certain difficulty to maintain the boat pointed towards the fort, being practically obliged to turn the prow towards land, for approximately 400 meters, and then, under the protection of the hills, taking the boat back to the proposed mark.

It was all going swell, when an enormous speedboat came from behind the hill at the beach of Icaraí and sped in my direction. The GMAR crew (Fire Brigade of the State of Rio de Janeiro) placed their tugboat between my boat and the gigantic speedboat and ordered its commandant to reduce his speed. The large boat missed me by 20 meters ... and the waves began again.

The fright over, I followed to the letter the plan agreed upon during the last hour, and in less than 30 minutes, I was beaching the Pet Boat at Gragoatá, where I was received with joy by the many children on the beach at that time. It was just noon. "After two hours and 57 minutes, the great challenge of crossing the Bay of Guanabara — pedaling a few bottles pet - became another dream turned into reality", recounts Joe.

Pedal Joe chose the Bay of Guanabara for his crossing for a very simple reason: it is the most polluted bay of the Brazilian coast. "It was a pity to be sailing in the beautiful Guanabara Bay, looking up at the silhouettes of the mountains drawing a magic scenery of the Marvellous City, and then down at the sea, filled with garbage and floating dead fishes. People are irresponsibly attacking the environment, without measuring the consequences thereof for the community at large."

He reminds us that people simply do not take into account that this aggression is in the end against themselves, since all this garbage is going to end up on the beaches that they use for their leisure. "I wish our authorities, especially the Minister and the State Secretaries of Education, were creating programs for the schools where the children would learn to respect nature. Only then would we have, in a near future, adults with an environmental conscience, who would act with respect towards nature", he says.

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