Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Day26: Day Begins 125 Miles from Cedar Kay reported by DancesWithSandyBottom

On Wednesday (Day26) SandyBottom was still paddling down the Suwannee River with DrKayak and RiverJohn.

Day26 started with coffee at 7:30 AM on the heels of the 70-mile effort of the previous day and the respite of 2.5 hours of sleep on a muddy slope. At this point SandyBottom was 70 miles upriver from Fanning Springs and 125 miles from the checkpoint at Cedar Key.

By 11:00 PM Wednesday night, the three kayakers had paddled 55 miles and were resting in their hammocks 50 miles from the Gulf of Mexico (70 miles from the checkpoint on Cedar Key. Here is a MapTech view of their 11pm campsite at a picnic area.

When they started at 7:30 AM, 125 miles from the checkpoint at Cedar Key, it was not clear whether it would be possible for the kayakers to meet the deadline for reaching the checkpoint. The deadline is 7AM Friday. They knew that staying on schedule would mean paddling about 63 miles this day and 63 miles the next day, with much of the travel being at night with no moonlight and perhaps more fog. The last 20 miles of that second 63-mile day would be in the Gulf at night time traveling south from the mouth of the Suwannee to Cedar Key; there, a north wind would help. There was, however, no doubt in anyone's mind that RiverJohn will finish Stage4 (the one stage he is doing) at Cedar Key as planned, and SandyBottom and DrKayak will finish Stage4 and Stage5 to complete the course back to Ft. DeSoto on Mullet Key in Tampa Bay. Some of the experienced WaterTribe members did not think that it was likely that SandyBottom and DrKayak would safely beat the deadline at the Cedar Key checkpoint and, perhaps wisely, advised putting safety first by avoiding sleep deprivation even if allowing enough time for sleep meant arriving late. SandyBottom and DrKayak were also contemplating their best strategies. They knew that if conditions turn out the be ideal, and they continue to average about 3.6-4.1 mph while paddling on the river and about 3.0 mph in the Gulf, then paddling 18 hours Wednesday and 19 hours Thursday would get them to Cedar Key on time. That is, of course, an absolutely grueling pace any way you look at it and it remains to be seen what reality the river and weather will throw at them this side of the checkpoint.

By 12:30 PM Wednesday SandyBottom reported while on the move that they were passing river mile marker #87 and had already paddled downstream the first 18 miles of this day. They were expecting to pass Branford, Florida, at about 3:30 PM, roughly. They reached Branford at about 4 PM and rested there briefly.

At the end of Day26 they had traveled 55 miles: from river mile marker #107 to mile marker #52.

SandyBottom reported that they were making every effort to stay on schedule: they had paddled 70 miles the previous day, 55 miles today, and were planning on paddling 70 miles the following day.

Their stated plan for Thursday (Day27) is to paddle the remaining 50 miles to the Gulf by about 6:30 PM, then rest for two hours, and then paddle the 20-mile course to the checkpoint. If all goes well, this should put them at the check point by about 2 AM on Friday (Day28). The tide schedule seems to be favorable for this plan and its timing. Wind forecasts (as of this report) were are favorable.

In any case, the three kayakers must surely have started and ended the day dreaming of riding a fast downstream current, of clear fog-less night air, and of favorable winds to greet them on the Gulf.

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