Saturday, February 24, 2007

Saturday at the Lake

I've been fighting off potential illness with lots of emergen-C and zinc tablets, and regular hand washing. The last couple of weeks has seen the flu hit NC in a bad way, and then there is this horrible GI bug going around.

Today was my simulation training for the Everglades Wilderness Waterway route. It was a very beautiful and sunny day. I packed the boat including the sail rig. I'll not be able to use the sail in all the small creeks and bays. I think I've got the weight distribution right, and packed without too much inconvenient if I have to sleep in the boat.

There wan't much wind to speak of today, a paddlng day, I managed a 20 mile paddle by days end. I saw KiwiBird out there and we took pictures of each other (taking pictures of each other).

Later in the day, Team RAF came out to the lake for a couple hours. This is the week before thier Spring Break and they are swamped with exams. Chris has one scheduled on Friday. His professor said he was't much inclined to let him, or another student whose wife is having a baby, take the exam early. Not sure what he plans to do.

I got to check out thier new seats, and pretend for a short while on land. Then I followed them around as they paddled about, enough winds to give them a 2mph push but that was about all

The boys are hoping to get out tomorrow morning for a few hours of sailing before hitting the books. We'll have quite a bit of wind, but rain and possible thunderstorms as well.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

First Things First

I'll be leaving for Florida in a week and I have so much left to do to get ready. But first, I needed to update my WaterTribe necklace, adding the teeth I got last year. The whales tail is the newest trophy for UFC finishers, the alligator tooth was for the segment with the 40 mile portage.

All finishers of the Everglades Challenge receive the coveted shark tooth necklace, and a miniature wooden paddle.

Those opting for the Everglades Wilderness Waterway also get the even more coveted Alligator tooth necklace.

Ask any WaterTriber why they do these races and they'll all tell you "it's for the tooth of course".

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Training for Distance Paddling Races

A very interesting and popular website is that of Mountain Wayfarer, Marek Uliasz. His interests range from photography on the water, to long distance endurance paddling races.

Marek maintains 2 very popular blogs, Paddling with a Camera, and Fitness Paddling which focuses on training and racing with a kayak and canoe. His website is a wealth of information, these blogs are only a small piece of the information it contains.

Most recently on Fitness Paddling, Merek has started a mini-series on training tips for long distance endurance paddling races. This would include events like the 260 mile Texas Water Safari, the Missouri River 340, the Colorado River 100, the 300 mile WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, or the 460 mile Yukon River Quest.

The series started by asking several racers with a potentially different perspectives to share their experiences, beginning with Carter Johnson (current holder of the Guinness 24 Hour Flat Water Paddling Record, among other things) and West Hanson, a well known racer among the Texas Water Safari races and last years winner of the Missouri River 340.

I'm honored to have been included in this bunch, and am currently the featured racer, providing training tips from the perspective of a "Cruiser". But do not mistake a lack of competitiveness on my part. As I mentioned in this latest posting, both (cruiser or racer) "require a good deal of competitiveness; one is directed against others the other is personal".

The Everglades Challenge is in less than 2 weeks, then I plan to compete in the Missouri River340 this July. The Yukon River Quest has always been on my radar, I just haven't figured out the logistics yet.

Monday, February 19, 2007

What is Wrong with this Picture?

It was very windy and very cold yesterday. Good intentions, but the lake didn't happen.

Brought the boat inside to work on outfitting and practice setting up the sail, releasing it, and getting the mast down while in the boat.

It's was pretty cold in Tampa over the weekend too, lows in the 20's last night. Lets hope all this bad weather all over the country ends soon.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

What are Friends for?

I get a few comments on my blog postings, but mostly I get a lot of off-line emails containing comments, suggestions, and encouragement. This one after yesterday evenings posting is by far the best.

It was titled 'Observations, not being Critical', and contained the photo I had posted, with annotated suggestions.

Brian you're the best! Thanks! I got a great laugh out of it (have some spare time do you with all that cold weather), and some excellent advice.

Brian is one of my email pen-pals, who I finally met last year in Florida, he was participating in the WaterTribe UltraMarathon, which is the 1st stage of the Everglades Challenge, running at the same time.

Brian had been a great cheerleader of mine, and now of my son Alan (he donated the sails to Team RAF). Brian blogs, under the title 'Captain of the "0" Dark 30', ending each daily posting with a great inspirational quote.

He's a pretty interesting guy, an adventurer, adventure racer, and someone whose work ethic is about giving back to society, check out his organization called PEAK, Providing Education Adventure for Kids.

I'll be seeing Brian again in July, as we are both racing in the Missouri River 340 padding race.

I'm off to the lake again, with some new lessons.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Three Lessons Learned

  1. I found my comfort zone, forced out of it a couple times today, but at least now I know where it is.

  2. I can get that sail down quickly when I want to, and had two unplanned practices today.

  3. There are probably wind speeds and sea states that I am more comfortable paddling in than sailing.

KiwiBird and I had planned a paddling/camping simulation weekend at the lake. And I wanted to test out my Dreamcatcher with the Balogh sail rig to help decide whether to do the EC in the SeaWind or the Dreamcatcher.

Last night I'd brought the Dreamcatcher inside to work on. The Balogh hardware had arrived and Paul had offered to put the aka hull mounts on.

This morning when I woke, it was only 17 degrees, and windy. I got to the lake about 9:30 (finally above freezing), Kristen got there as I was about to put in. We hadn't planned to paddle together as she's much faster in her Sisson kayak, and I was going sailing anyway. It was clear that the winds were going to be too strong for a really long workout (with less than 2 weeks to go, now would not be a good time to risk injury) and it was going to be another really cold night. We opted to just load the boats a bit, get in a workout, then thaw out tonight in the comfort of our own homes.

I paddled into the wind about 6 miles (only averaging 2.4 mph, I did say it was windy right). I pulled off at a beach to set up the rig as I saw Kristen continuing her uphill battle.

With full rig set, I paddled out of the lee, and sail I did. Thank goodness I had double reefed the 33 sq ft sail. I took off. Sailing downwind, I was hitting speeds of 7.5-8.4 mph, double reefed! Surfing some of the larger swells I would often find my bow diving into the swell ahead, putting the bow underwater clear up to the aka. I wasn't very happy.

This part of the lake, quite open and with a larger fetch, was twice as rough as the first 4 miles on the other side of the bridge. I was having trouble bringing in the sail to try and slow me down. Twice I tried to turn off to head upwind, but both times I came close to being swamped when the beam swells would just rock the heck out of my hull and amas. I knew the amas would keep me up, but that water was cold. I was getting pretty scared.

I don't like downhill skiing or rollerblading because there are no brakes to slow you down and stop you. Neither does a sailboat have brakes. I know that with experience I'll learn techniques to help with this, but, it's taking awhile, and I'm running out of time.

Here I was, sailing towards the bridge, and not wanting to go through the pilings at these speeds. So, I dropped the sail. I had to work it a bit, but it did come down, and I slowed down. As I sat there waiting to catch my breath and let my heart slow, my GPS was reading 3.5-4.0 mph surfing downwind without paddling or sailing. Did I mention it was really windy.

Once I was north of the bridge, I still had lots of wind, but not the larger swells. I put the sail up again, and was very happy sailing speeds between 6-7 mph downwind. If I wanted to slow down, I'd just pull in the sail a bit. Seems to me these are still pretty fast speeds with a double reefing. I eventually sailed back to the launch, and again quickly dropped the sail to avoid a crash landing.

John March had just returned from a short paddle and helped me up the beach. He continues to threaten me with an intervention, wanting me to get back to building my skin-on-frame and come out and play Greenland with him.

Kristen was now returning, sailing in with her Pacific Action Sail. She too had had a pretty thrilling day. We both agreed that the conditions couldn't have been better for training, even though shorter than we had planned. Tomorrow is supposed to be colder and windier. But I think I'll go out for a little while again anyway. It seems to get easier each time :)

So what boat am I going to use? My Dreamcatcher! She handled beautifully, she is so comfortable for me, and it just felt right.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

KiwiBird makes the Big Time

If you've followed my blog for awhile, you've read about two of my paddling partners, Dee and Kristen. Dee and I have been padding together for years. Kristen is someone we only met the summer of 2005 when she moved to N.C. In fact one of my first posts in November 2005 was about a paddling weekend the three of us did at Hutaff and Lee Island on the NC coast. This during my training for last years UFC.

I'm still working on Dee, but Kristen has become a WaterTriber, tribal name KiwiBird (she is from New Zealand of course). She is also the "other" solo female entry in this years Everglades Challenge, registered as a Class 1 participant in her new kayak, an Arctic Raider by Grahame Sisson, with Pacific Action Sail.

And now, she's also a blogger (click on blog logo below).

You can follow her life adventures on her blog, or on her Everglades Challenge Journals that are being posted on her new sponsors website Bubba Girl. Bubba Girl is a website devoted to encouraging women and girls of all ages to get out and be adventurous via mentors and real-life experiences by ordinary women.

Going from ordinary to extraordinary.

This is a Test

This is a test of mobile blogging.

Looks like it worked, sent the above sentence from my cell phone!
Hmm, the picture I sent didn't quite go through.

After much procrastination, I finally moved over to the new blogger. Very easy, don't know what took me so long, I just wasn't ready for change. Now I'll have to learn all the new features.

I won't have time to post while paddling in Florida, but, my husband is planning on posting reports of the Challenge, as he did last year. He will be leaving to join me in Florida towards the end of the race, yet, likely before I'm finished. With mobile blogging, he'll be able to continue the updates. I'm sure he'll be really pleased to hear this :)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Might be Changing Plans

I'm still so shocked, upset, and saddened over the news of Andrew McAuley's tragic fate. I found it difficult to blog about my weekend yesterday. So is that it? It's over? The unanswered questions are going to haunt me for a long time.

Saturday morning I met my friend Dee at the lake. Winds were actually higher than expected, and it was quite cold. I just couldn't bring myself to sail 10 or more miles then turn around and paddle back upwind. We'd both been following the news about Andrew McAuley, and were feeling the need for a workout. Wanting to put in some distance, we put the sails away, and chose to spend the day paddling and visiting, it had been awhile. It turned out to be a great 22 mile paddle.

Having spent the past month playing with the Bologh sail, I was pleased to finish the paddle feeling good, good enough to be able to turn around and do it again, if necessary. There are no weather guarantees in the Everglades Challenge, it could be very painful if you have to paddle upwind the full 300 miles after planning to sail it.

Sunday morning was again quite cold. I decided it was about time I started running errands and getting prepared for the Challenge. I've been needing to update my 1st aid and hypothermia kits, and had volunteered to make kits for Team RAF. Then it was tide tables and food planning, and .....

Not only did my weekend plans change, I've also been thinking of making a change in my EC plans. I may just use my Kruger Dreamcatcher with the Balogh Sail after all. Stan has been so generous in lending me his Kruger SeaWind and sail, and I have enjoyed having them to learn and experiment with. But I find my myself looking down at his white decked canoe thinking it's the wrong color.

Over the past few weeks, I've not only had to learn to sail, but I've had to make adjustments to using a SeaWind, this one with the deep hull option. The photo below provides a comparison of the profiles of a deep hull Seawind (on top) vs the regular hull. Except for the deeper depth there are no difference. In fact the SeaWind and Dreamcatcher are the same except for the longer decking and rear bulkhead in the seakayak-like Dreamcatcher.

I find myself more comfortable with the lower decking, and after the 1200 mile paddle in last years UFC, the Dreamcatcher and I are just a good fit. Mark Balogh is sending me the parts needed to mount Stan's Sail rig on my Dreamcatcher. Much to do in 2 1/2 weeks, including sailing with the Dreamcatcher.

Mark Przedwojewski (owner of Kruger Canoes) says "We have 226 SeaWinds, 32 Kruger Cruisers (doubles), and 22 Dreamcatchers out in the world. By far most folks love the SeaWind over the others." Guess it's the kayaker in me that prefers the Dreamcather, mine is #2.

So I plan to be on the water sailing my Dreamcatcher next weekend. And hoping I can hook up with Team RAF. I can't wait to see their sailing canoes in action. It's finally starting to look like they're going to be ready.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


I've been following Andrew McAuley's paddling journey crossing the Tasman Sea since early December, and following his planning and preparation before that. It now looks like something has gone horribly wrong. I'm left bewildered and in shock.

A huge thanks to Derrick Mayoleth and his blog Kayak Quixotica who managed to keep the information coming all night long, so we could at least know what was happening as events unfolded.

I hope this will not be a tragic story that leaves so many questions unanswered, I need these answers. My heart and thoughts go out to his family and friends.

This will be a somber day on the lake for me. I'll find it hard to leave, not to stay by the internet looking for more news and answers. But the weather is looking good, and I expect Andrew would rather we think of him and continue to pray for him as the search continues, while we too are paddling our Seas.

Today I'll plan to work on sailing/paddling practice in lighter winds.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It's Gonna be Quite a Race

It's really starting to get exciting, about 3 weeks to go, March 3, Tampa Bay to Key Largo.

Last years UM, EC, and UFC starters.

Registration is closed, 41 boats are planning to participate in this years WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, check out the rooster here.

The breakdown:

10 solo kayaks
4 double kayaks

1 solo Class 2
2 double 2's

3 single Class 3's - including myself
2 double 3's

10 solo class 4's
9 double 4's - 2 of them Team RAF canoes

Looks to be a pretty good challenge, and some racing too.

Did I read SaltyFrog and SharkChow are teaming up in solo kayaks in Class1? That sounds like an unbeatable pairing!

SnoreBringGator might need more competition in Class 3 with his new Prijon Kodiak with a Nomadic Sail Rig. Some of the new trimarans are registered in Class 4, he'll likely be racing them too!

Lots of Core Sound monohull sailboats this year, including the new EC22 being built, and described as a Core Sound on steriods.

Even Chief's got a new boat this year, the Tridarka Raider (almost finished). Should be some pressure on Chief for a good showing in this new trimaran for adventure sailing, a collaboration between him and Wizard (a proven designer of small sailboats).

Check out the Rogues Gallery for photo's of some of the competitors.

Stay tuned to reporting on this blog, and full race reports on the WaterTribe Discussion Forum for updates.

But the real excitment will be watching to see if SandyBottom can maintain her last place record :) Always a cruiser, yet always a finisher. just hope I can make up time to add the Everglades Wilderness Waterway this year, it's an additional 30 miles.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Windy, Windy, Windy

Winds in my face all day. I'm glad I got to the lake early, because I eventually bailed around noon when the wind really picked up. It was just a bit too wet and cold. And though paddling into the wind would have been a really good workout for the day, I just wasn't into it.

I spent my time experimenting with sailing angles again. Mostly tacking back and forth trying to head up at various angles. It was a wet and cold ride today. The downwind return was fun, easily getting speeds 7-7.3 mph. I'm also learning to use the sail to help a bit with steering, as when I get up to these speeds, I find steering with the foot controlled rudder sometimes difficult.

I feel pretty comfortable sailing now, and enjoy the higher speeds when the wind is at ideal angles. I still have lots of frustration with the lack of speed when attempting to sail somewhat into the wind, at angles that should be somewhat doable for motor sailing. One would think that if I can get 1-1.5 mph sailing upwind, that paddling (motor sailing) would even it out, giving me at least my regular paddling speed. But my paddling with the sail rig up is so much slower than without the rig, that motor sailing under these conditions is still slower than just taking the rig down and paddling up.

I'm not a particularly fast paddler anyway, a day paddle for me in a Kruger averages about 3.8 mph, during these EC Challenges, my overall daily averages range from 3.0-3.5, unless going downwind with the PAS.

Now I need to think about strategies that will work for me. Since I am first and formost a paddler, I will likely start each day with the full rig up only when weather reports are for ideal conditions for me, winds directly behind or at right angles.

Paul said I need to think more about the overall benefit over the long run. I may find I'm slower paddling with the rig during a morning of no wind, but as even mild winds develop and pick up over the day, I could end up with an overall advantage. This same advantage could be lost if I have to find a place to land and take the time to set up the rig. In some ways it's a bit of a gamble.

So I will work on strategies and think more on this. There will be no time during the challenge to agonize over any of this. My previous successes in finishing the EC have been based on my ability to just simply, and methodically keep paddling, hard or easy. I occasionally hope I'm not messing up a good thing, fixing something that's not broke.

Except for practicing packing and storage of the rig, I'll likely spend my remaining training time just paddling now. If winds aren't favorable during this years Challenge, I think this year's gonna hurt. I've not put in even half the paddle training I have in the past. I keep telling myself it's a mental challenge anyway :)

I'm so pleased that 'The Rise' and 'The Fall', team RAF's canoes passed thier float test yesterday. Getting these boats on the water should certainly have been some payback for all the work they have been doing.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Getting Closer

Have you been following Team RAF, their latest posting has a picture of the newly painted hulls. Looks like they are going to come right down to the wire getting their sailing canoes ready for the 2007 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge in 4 weeks. School has really ramped up for these guys, they're running out of time, and ran out of money a long time ago.

Picture of Mike, Chris and Matt, taken by Alan last October on Lake Jordan when they were still thinking about the possibilities.

These guys are going to need quite a bit of gear to meet the Challenges required equipment checklist in order to participate and finish the Challenge. They don't even have canoe paddles, much less paddling jackets and dry bags! They have been lent some used paddles by Great Outdoor Provision Company (GOPR), but unfortunately these will not do for the Challenge. All different sizes ranging from 52" to 65" , quite heavy, mostly plastic bladed. Two of them look more like oars they are so long, I think the other 2 can easily work as spares. They will need better paddles if winds require 40 mile paddling days.

With no time to really think about gear, I've offered to help as much as possible (begging and borrowing). I can easily make their first-aid and hypothermia kits, and consult on navigation (Mike's their navigator and has already done quite a bit of work on it), and food, and help with some of the other logistical planning of getting them to Florida and back. Helping them gives me some piece of mind knowing they are fully prepared, and I've got to work on all this for my own Challenge anyway. What else would a Mom do.

There's a cold front moving in through NC this weekend, great winds, unfortunately car problems kept me off the water Saturday, so I used the day to get organized. The boys are planning a float test on Sunday, and were needing some cold weather paddling clothes. Luckily I've got a garage full of old stuff I think they can make do with for the day.

Paul, Tana (home from school for the weekend), and I drove over to Raleigh in the evening to hook up with Alan. We checked out the newly painted hulls , dropped off the gear, and then went out for a family Birthday dinner for Paul. The boats are looking great, and Paul should have the seats finished next week. Next they have to make the sails and hopefully spend the next couple weekends on the water. It sounds like Chief of WaterTribe is also behind schedule building his Tridarka Raider and may not even get any water time in the boat before the Challenge.

I'll be spending all day today on the lake getting in my own training. I hate to miss the big launch, but I'll be waiting to read all about it on the Team RAF's blog Monday morning. I can't miss out on this wind as I continue to learn to sail.

Partly sunny and windy. Highs in the upper 40s. Southwest winds 10 to 15 mph...increasing to around 20 mph this afternoon. Gusts up to 35 mph.

P.S. Happy 21st Birthday Matt and Cris (RedBeard and BrownBeard).

Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy Birthday Love

Happy 54th husband.

I'm often asked "Does Paul kayak too?" Of course! Paul paddles, rolls and surfs his yellow Schnook, with the Greenland paddle he made himself. When I first met Paul 26 yrs ago, he was a white water paddler. In those days you rented a WW kayak in Durham for a day on the upper and lower Haw River, this before Jordan Lake dam. He started me kayaking, and was with me down my first rapid. He's not so interested in endurance/distance paddling, his preference is a relaxing 6 miler, looking for eagles and taking pictures. And he enjoys the many family weekend paddling/camping trips at the coast and on the lake we do and have done with our two kids over the years.

Another question, "What does he think about you going off on all these paddling trips and challenges?" Paul may not be paddling with me on these trips, but he is very much a participating partner in everyone of them. Incredibly supportive and encouraging, he is my biggest fan. Generous and selfless, he is my planning partner and land crew, even when crewing from home. Without his help, support, and encouragement, I could not and would not have ever been able to have the experiences and adventures I've been lucky enough to have.

It's actually incorrect that I register for events as a solo participant. Every one of my events/trips has been done as a 'mixed double' with Paul as my teammate throughout.

In the WaterTribe, one selects a tribal name, mine is SandyBottom. After my first Everglades Challenge, I got home and discovered Paul had selected his name, "DancesWithSandyBottom". It's perfect!