Strangers No More – Guest blog by John Vargo

photo-4Webmaster’s note:  Margo pulled in short of her intended landing spot for Sunday, landing in Conneaut, OH instead of Ashtabula.  She was also holding up today, after 19 straight days of paddling – as calls for thunderstorms were in the forecast for all day.  But the weather was nicer and she couldn’t hold herself back from making just the “short” 13 mile run to catch up from Conneaut to Ashtabula.

Today’s blog entry was written for the July 2015 issue of boatingonthehudson, published by John Vargo – who had hosted Margo and Lindsy as they made their way up the Hudson River at the beginning of their voyage and has stayed in touch to help guide her through the canal.

Strangers No More, By John H. Vargo, Publisher, Boatingonthehudson magazine

Mike Ilissyn of Fiberglass Plus called in his gravely voice an said, “John there is a girl here who needs some help, she is the lead person for a kayaker who is going to be her this evening and they want to pitch their tent somewhere!”

“Ok, I said, I will be right up!” Over the years I have probably met close to a hundred people this way, including one woman and four men on a barrel raft, an Irish man rowing from lake Champlain to New York City, a very young couple on a 19’ sail- boat, many kayakers, the list goes on and on. One night my wife came in the living room to find it full of people, I forget to explain who they were before I went to bed. They turned on to be from a Volkswagen bus that had broken down on the high- way, I invited them to stay for the night.

But I digress as we are discussing a very, very quiet young lady who tried to explain to me the kayaker and her purpose in life. So rather than stand around in the parking lot I asked her to come down to the house, have a cup of tea and explain what was going on. As anyone who knows me will tell you I am not a fan of the rah rah, raise the flag environmental wackos who see trouble from the minute they get up in the morning to the moment they go to bed. There has to be some common sense to all this and at the moment the Hudson River is being locked up and the key tossed away by the above groups. Sadly the majority of people alive today, have not got a clue as to the freedom that we all once had and is now gone for good on the Hudson River.

But again I digress. Lindsey Coon the young lady sitting in my kitchen gazing down river at the Rockland light where the lady kayaker, Margo Pellegrino was coming from explained that Margo did her “thing” as the public arm of an environmental movement called Bluefront.org. Lindsey also said that Mar- go had paddled the East Coast, West Coast and the Gulf Coast since 2007. Margo is also married and has two children and a very loving husband whom she meets along the way on these trips.

I spoke to Margo on her cell, while she was paddling, told her what to look for in the distance and she would come right to the beach at Verplanck. Wonders of wonders she did exactly as she was told.

By 6 PM we had the Hawaiian design Kamanu Composites, sponson equipped, 20 foot long Kayak apart and on the top of her car.

I got a chance to speak to Margo early the next morning. It turned out that this is one very tough 40 something woman who sets herself a goal of 40 miles a day and sticks to it, day in day out.

Her kayak is nothing more than a carbon fiber extremely light, wave-piercing stiletto that travels at terrific speed, primarily due to the very fit Margo at the paddle. Margo has had some wonderful experiences; spoke to hundreds of people while on the water in a practical, earthy way that is quite different than what you get from others in the same field.

Margo left from Verplanck around 8 AM in a very strong head wind. I suggested a route that would give Margo the best advantage with the wind and tide against her, (basically that there is always a smooth side of the river because of its many turns).

That evening Henry Matheus from the New Hamburg Club of- fered to put the two woman up at his home and we, Henry and I, begged Margo to stop paddling around 4 pm at the New Ham- burg Yacht Club and start the day from there in the morning. Margo would have none of it and continued to paddle all the way to Poughkeepsie, where the kayak was taken apart and put on the top of car and they drove back down to Henry’s house.

(From Henry: Lindsy and Margo had a good stay! Slept well in the spare room. Fueled them up on veggies, snacks & take-out Mex food.!)

I spoke to Margo on the cell about her long paddle the follow- ing morning as she was preparing to leave from Poughkeepsie with her next stop Hudson, NY. I asked what reaction she had to the previous days hard paddle? She said, “mind blowing beauti- ful, especially around Cold Spring, NY!”

Lindsey Coon the 22 year old lead person probably never ever considered what she had gotten herself into as the lead person on this voyage. She is quiet, unassuming but very practical as a nursing student. Her life will never be the same after this as what she is seeing and doing could not be bought or given by anyone, you have to take charge, walk up to complete strangers each day, and find a place where they can stay or camp for the night. There is no advance planning.

This is as interesting an arrangement that I have seen before on the river, but never done with the skill and integrity that Lindsey is displaying.

God speed, have a great life; you are on your way!

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