Posted by Nicholas R. Hall
What do a penguin, pelican and polio each share in common? A 300-mile grueling small boat adventure that starts in St. Petersburg, proceeds down the Gulf Coast of Florida, and then through the Everglades before ending in Key Largo. That’s if we make it. All participants have a race name and Rotarian Jim Czarnowski’s is Penguin Man. That’s because the inspiration for the revolutionary Hobie pedal drive came from Jim’s observations of penguins gliding through the water at the New England Aquarium. His invention while a graduate student at MIT earned him a patent and prestigious job as Vice President of Engineering at California based Hobie Cat.

Jim also is a member of WaterTribe (which hosts the annual Everglades Challenge) and of the Rotary Club of Oceanside, California. Pelican is also a member of WaterTribe and of the Rotary Clubs of Temple Terrace and Tampa Carrollwood. When I (Pelican), set out for St. Augustine on my bicycle in 2015, the journey began at Jim’s Oceanside club’s lunch meeting. As he’s done many times in the past, Jim will soon arrive to make final preparations for the launch. Those preparations will include affixing polio stickers to each of the 4 boats comprising the seven-member Flock of Fools team.

We all have bird names and this year it includes Pelican’s daughter, Purple Gali (Stephanie) who happens to be the faculty advisor for the Interact Club at King High School. The team will be rounded out with three of her children (Sandpiper, Sparrow and Swift) and their cousin (Eagle). Long days and sometimes nights on the water will not be easy. Dealing with storms, injuries and mosquitoes never is. That’s why it’s called a ‘challenge’. A lot of people who start do not finish. Sadly, two WaterTribers lost their lives during recent events. We do it because we want to and are physically able. However, there are undoubtedly many who would love to be out there with us were it not for physical limitations. Muscle atrophy stemming from polio would certainly be on the list. That’s why Jim and I have decided to use the polio stickers as a reminder there are many people who wish they could make the journey, but simply can’t. However, Polio doesn’t have to be an impediment. It can be prevented with adequate surveillance and vaccines. As we all know, that’s where Rotary comes in.