Saturday, March 24, 2007

Another's Heartfelt EC Story

Seems there are always stories within stories. This is River John's story. I was so touched by it, and very pleased when he allowed me to share it. It presents another side of a Watertribe Challenge , and illuminates the support and companionship (even for small things), that one encounters during the event.

First, a little bit of background. While stopped at Ft Meyers beach in Florida during the 2005 Everglades Challenge to dress for the night, I met John, who asking me where I was headed. I told him about WaterTribe and the EC, and told him about the WaterTribe website. He emailed me a few months later telling me he was very interested. John is a paddler from Ontario Canada, who paddles a Kruger SeaWind.

Then the following year, in 2006, RiverJohn registered for the 4th leg of the Ultimate Florida Challenge, and was Leon's (DrKayak) and my companion during this river section. It was the longest section, consisting of 90 miles upstream on the St. Marys River, a 40-mile portage from St. George to Fargo, 220 miles downstream on the Suwannee River, and a final 20 miles to Cedar Key for a grand total of 390 miles. It was during this section that those following the race nicknamed us the "3 Amigos". We had so much fun together, despite all the challenges the course offered. John was the one always smiling, laughing, and enjoying every stroke along the way.

I was thrilled to meet RiverJohn on the beach at Ft Desoto this year, both of us challengers in the 2007 EC. John has a beautiful red SeaWind, and for the Challenge had outfitted it by glassing part of a kayak deck onto the larger SeaWind cockpit, making it more like my Kruger Dreamcatcher.

And as usual, he had the biggest smile on his face. John is one of those people who live and love life. Three days later at CP2 in Chokoloskee, Leon (a race volunteer this year) told me that John had dropped out of the race at CP1.

This week John sent me his story.

Can't tell you how exhilarated I was during the Tampa Bay crossing. For me it was the culmination of a two-year saga which started with you off the beach at Fort Myers. By the time I got to Placida I was pretty depleted but quite proud of myself. I had a nice hot shower, then went about the business of setting up my tent.

Well! I couldn't figure it out. I floundered for what must have been the best part of an hour. Not wishing to look like Johnny brain-dead, I left the tent site and meandered for quite a while, then told Chief I was thinking about dropping out. Finally, I went back and tackled the insidious task once again. At which point a young (and pregnant) lady named Wendy offered to help me with the tent. I guess it wasn't such a secret that I was struggling. We (ha! ha!) figured it out in seconds. I thanked her and was soon tucked away.

At this point (probably about 3 a.m.) I reasoned that if I couldn't handle adversity in what were ideal conditions (hot shower, beach, help to pull your boat up, people to talk to) what the hell would I do on a rainy, cold, windy night with no one to call on? The next few hours were horrible as I mulled and mulled. When I got up, I told Chief I was done, called Lynda (who had to drive across Florida to pick me up) and went out for a nice breakfast with Leon.

Of course by this time I wanted to resume the challenge but just wasn't willing to face the spousal music. (Turns out that Lynda wanted me to go on but didn't want to call shots for such an important decision.)

Lynda and I then spent a day trying to find reasonable accommodation in the Fort Myers area, to no avail. Home we headed to see our dear dog, Kinsey, - and I with my tail between my legs!


- WaterTribe, for all its dimensions, plays a meaningful role in many lives.

- Chief, in his wisdom, wouldn't accept my resignation until the next day. Even then he told me my tooth (earned last year) would be lonely. I appreciated his soft brush strokes.

- Neil (FarAction) made it to the last bridge where he punctured his inflatable. He hung in, repaired his boat and continued the race late Sunday p.m. Not bad for a guy who toted his boat from England.

- Kristen, like you, plays with intensity. You've found a fine person.

- Thank God Verlen spotted Mark's fervor and gave him a chance to continue the legacy through the business.

I'll be back,

I can't wait for next year to see John, when we are both again on the beach at Ft DeSoto ready to give another Challenge our try.


Igor said...

Hi, Dawn. I have been reading your blog since last year's Florida race. I find it quite interesting. I have a question for you - what do you think about sit-on-top kayaks for EC race? I read that there were some this year - one was inflatable one, another - a surfski. But what about a sea kayak like Heritage Expedition, Cobra Expedition or a similar one?

What would be your thoughts on such kayaks for Florida events like EC?

Dawn (aka SandyBottom) said...

There were quite a few sit-on-tops this year. The inflatable had some puncture problems with oyster shells. There were 2 Huki surfskis, another racing sit-on-top from S.Africa (they were very cold and wet one night as they came into camp). There were also a few hobie island adventures. Pelican has used a Hobie sit on top quite a few times in the EC and you should talk to him. One slept on his boat one night anchored.

Personally it would be too wet a ride for me if we had windy weather, and I wold get cold, regardless of temps or what I paddle, I find I chill easily when the sun goes down at night.

Sit-on-tops are certainly allowed, Chief requires you have a dry-suit with you.

Igor said...


Do you think outriggers could be used to provide additional stability to a kayak or a canoe without a sail? Especially by someone who is concerned about capsizing while being alone at night in the middle of the sea?Would you recommend to use them for a EC-like race? There are some smaller ones than the ones you used.