Monday, March 12, 2007

Personal Record and Great Vacation

The 2007 EC saw my fastest time to date, 6 days 10 hours 30 minutes, completed with a three day cruise through the Everglades National Park Wilderness Waterway (two days of which were spent searching for an errant team mate :). All my goals were met. Once I'm a bit rested, I'll post the details of my adventure.

This years EC, complete with the usual expected weather and sea condition challenges, was my favorite, and the easiest I'd experienced among the 4 I've done. But as happens every year, conditions favor some classes more than others, some boats within the various classes more than others, and certainly the skills and abilities of each boats captain. Everyone experiences the EC differently, and mine has the the added benefit of previous Challenge experience.

There seemed to be a lot of carnage this year, with rescues (including a Coast Guard helicopter rescue), lots of equipment failures among the class 3 and 4 boats (resulting from high winds and waves), and there were quite a few early DNF's. I believe some found crossing Tampa Bay a bit more than they were ready for. I recall after about 1/2 mile across Tampa Bay, turning around to see if Team RAF had made it off the beach yet, and being amazed to see as many as 4-5 paddlers swimming in the water holding onto their kayaks being rescued by fellow competitors. Not a good start for 300 miles.

This years was certainly the most challenging crossing of the Bay I'd seen in the past 4 years. The data in my GPS will verify it, but I recall more than a few seconds of 11 and 12 mph speeds surfing down the swells and waves across the Bay. This was again repeated outside in the Gulf off Naples Sunday afternoon and Monday morning with 15 mph winds and large ocean swells.

This year I participated in Class 3, using my Kruger Dreamcatcher with the Balogh Sail Rig (thanks Stan for the lend). I primarily sailed with some paddle sailing the first 3 days, then packed it all away for the remainder of the trip. The tail winds we experienced this year, allowed for some very fast sailing and helped all competitors times. The big following seas on day 1, and quartering seas on day 2 and 3 made for some very fun and interesting rides. The hardest paddling day I had was crossing Florida Bay on Friday with NE headwinds, a 15 hr, 38 mile crossing. Though looking over other's times for this crossing, I didn't do too badly (all experienced head winds during this section of the race).

As I had originally planned, the sail rig bought me some time to allow a slow cruise thought the wilderness waterway. A route I had not been able to attempt before given the time constraints of my previous challenges. This year I was the ultimate cruiser. My latest night on the water was 10pm (one night I stopped at 5pm). I was never back on the water before 4:30 am, and had full nights sleep every night. This compared to previous years that forced all night paddles, and sleep deprived conditions throughout. For me personally, this challenge was the easiest yet, and a real vacation. I almost hesitate to admit it, as I know not everyone experienced it this way, and certainly the racers in the group were working hard and hurting the whole way.

The Wilderness Waterway (WW) has to be experienced to believe. Mostly bays, but when your in the creeks and narrow connectors, it's a very spooky place. Paddling up Broad Creek to avoid the 'Nightmare' was it's own nightmare, especially in the dark. Very narrow, tunnel-like, full of downed trees and logs, and a very scary place. I was so glad I was with KiwiBird during that section, and when we were not worrying about KneadingWater's whereabouts, we were thinking he deserved this solo section. Our WW adhoc team (KiwiBird, KneadingWater, and myself) split is another story, a comedy of errors actually, but no hard feelings, as KneadingWater met us on the beach in Key Largo apologetically on bended knee with flowers in one hand and a cold Corona in the other).

This years EC had another emotional challenge for me, my son a member of Team RAF was also participating. Though that challenge was really my husband Paul's (DancesWithSandyBottom), as our land contact, posting our progress on both blogs and the WaterTribe forum, I'm sure there was a lot of worrying as he followed the event, knew the weather, and heard of many of the other challengers problems as they were posted.

For me, the WaterTribe Challenges offer a unique opportunity to test myself, allow incredible personal challenge and adventure, and all in a sport that has fulfilled me from the start. WaterTribe Challengers are a varied, unique, eccentric, and the most incredibly interesting group of men and women that I could have ever hoped to meet during my life. A group I couldn't be more proud to be a member of.

There are many photos, and many stories to tell, mine and others, hopefully these will all be told soon.

1 comment:

Michael said...

This doesn't mean you're through does it? I've enjoyed your company in the past and would like to do so in future challenges!