There’s a lot of trashy stuff in the news these days but here’s a story about the GOOD kind — a Sea Eagle boater who’s on a personal mission to clear trash and litter from the Hillsborough River near Tampa, Florida.
“I go out in my Sea Eagle boats to bag and remove the litter that’s there. Cans, tires, bottles, washing machines, anything you can imagine,” says Bob Luce. And, by the way, Bob owns three Sea Eagles.
Cleaning up Tampa’s Hillsborough River
Bob is on a mission — a personal, volunteer mission to help restore a local river to its natural, pristine beauty by removing tons of accumulated litter. Unlike so many Sea Eagle owners, Bob has no particular interest in boating as a sport or leisure activity. He merely finds his Sea Eagles are the best means to an end; the best way he can reach and remove man-made debris from a river near his home.
Bob told us, “I like to visit and enjoy nature. I cherish the wild places in the world.” He calls his one-man cleanup efforts ‘community service’ but adds, “I do it for myself and the ‘critters’ that live in wild places. It’s great if others appreciate it but I’m happy when I do it.”
There’s plenty of nature in the Tampa area where Bob lives. Along the banks of the Hillsborough River, you can spend a pleasant day at numerous beautiful parks including Hillsborough River State Park (“the real Florida”), Rowlett Park, Rivercrest Park, Riverfront Park, and several more.
Started in his backyard
His personal campaign started simply enough. “There’s a creek behind my house where I noticed litter, glass bottles, and plastic water bottles so I picked them up. Soon I was buying litter grabbers, hip waders, and cleaning up three-quarters of a mile of shoreline along the Hillsborough River.”
“I wore waders to clean the shoreline but you can only go so far in chest wanderers,” he told us. “So I got a Sea Eagle 330 Sport Kayak. Then I bought a Sea Eagle Fast Track 385ft and immediately saw it is a stable boat with a lot of cargo capacity and is quite fast. The 385ft is great. I recommend for general kayaking. It’s stable, fast, and holds a lot. You can take someone else with you, even if they don’t paddle.”
He has a Sea Eagle Explorer Kayak 340x, too. “I like the 385ft because it’s fast, but my 340x is my collector boat. I can get into tighter spaces than the 385ft. It’s a little shorter and the skeg kicks up” so he can go litter-picking in very shallow water. “I run the 340x right up onto an islet, step out, and clear the area. It’s very tough and it holds a lot.”
Low risk purchase if it didn’t work out
We asked Bob why he chose the inflatable Sea Eagle in the first place. “I live in a town house,” he said, “with no space to store a hard-hull kayak. And managing a hard hull that’s big enough to carry bags of litter would be a wrestling match. And hard hull kayaks are tippy. The Sea Eagle inflatable is very stable.”
Bob’s a careful shopper. “I went to a non-partisan boating website seeking advice. Sea Eagle was repeatedly mentioned as high quality, tough, and a big bang for your buck. They recommended the Sea Eagle 340x but mentioned the 330. I was hesitant about boating and got 330 because it was the cheapest and I wouldn’t be out much if it didn’t work.”
“I knew of the other brands but some were outrageously expensive, approaching $2,000 dollars,” he says. “Sea Eagle’s cost was modest and the boats seemed well regarded. I think Sea Eagle’s great. Everything’s perfect. I’m very happy with the boats and I’m doing cleanups now I couldn’t do before.”
Several hundred lbs. of litter at a time
Bob’s made arrangements with local parks and has drop-off points for the materials he drags out of the river. And the sheer volume, mass, and weight of what he picks up are astounding. “Car tires are 30 or 40 lbs. when filled with water. Some are still on rims, some are big truck tires. And I often have 100 lbs. of litter in 42-gallon contractor garbage bags.”
Bob offered a simple suggestion to boaters and others who use and enjoy wild areas. “When you bring something in, take your trash out with you and deposit it in a litter can.” This brings to mind the familiar nature-lover’s admonition, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.”
“It makes me happy”
Preparing for yet another collection run, Bob summed up why he does what he does. “When I do this, the river’s a cleaner place than when I started. And that makes me happy.”
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