In July, Maine grandmother Deb Walters will embark on an ambitious project: Over the course of the next year she’ll paddle an 18-foot kayak, alone, more than 2,500 miles from Maine to Guatemala to raise awareness and funds in support of the children who live in the Guatemala City garbage dump community. When she sets off, she’ll do it in a specially outfitted Chesapeake 18 kayak, customized to fit her needs with safety and function first in mind.

The retrofitting and custom enhancements were done for Deb here at CLC, where our own Joey Schott undertook the work to make the boat fit Walters and her paddling style, increase storage space for the expedition, and generally upgrade the boat from the shearline up. Deb came to town to pick up the boat when the work was wrapped up in early May, and had a chance to test-paddle the retrofitted, recycled boat here on Annapolis' Spa Creek before she packed it up atop her car and headed back to Maine to complete her preparations for the voyage.

“It fits like a glove!” Deb says. “It has all the advanced features needed for my expedition, being extra rugged, with a day hatch and huge storage areas. It has a number of custom design features shaped out of carbon fiber. I fell in love at first sight! During my first test paddle I was surprised at how amazing it is to paddle a kayak made to fit me, and at how fast it is as well.”

Although Deb is a veteran of many impressive long-range kayak adventures, this one is by far the most ambitious. Not surprisingly, one of her biggest fears is of injury. Not necessarily the broken-leg-from-a-fall kind of injury, but repetitive motion injury. Obviously, there’s a lot of repetitive motion in paddling a kayak more than 2,000 miles. Her plan to use three different paddles, each with its own stroke motion, to help allay the possibility of repetitive motion injury, also was incorporated into Joey's design for the modifications.

After Deb brought the boat to CLC, Joey cut off the old deck, reworked the interior to fit her size and paddling style, added a watertight day hatch compartment as well as some larger storage areas, laid in some carbon fiber for strength in strategic spots, and rebuilt the deck with recessed hatches. He put a fine finish on the boat, too, in a brilliant yellow for visibility as she makes her way southward, low to the water.

Read more about Deb Walters, her ambitious project, and Joey's modifications to the boat on her blog, Read more about Kayak for Safe Passage Kids here.