Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Perfect Kayaking Sunglasses

I finally found the perfect pair of sunglasses for kayak expedition, but they only come sized for a mans face and don't really fit me. Yea they look pretty ridiculous. But, they are just what I've been looking for, Cabela's Solar Focus Polarized Sunglasses, with a clear reading lens so I can see my charts and GPS. I may just try to make them work while I continue looking for something similar.

Many popular (and very expensive) sports sunglasses now include a separate prescription lens that fits inside the outer sunglass lens. Some of these even come with different colored (including clear) sunglass lenses. These work well for most sports, but not ocean going kayaking where salt spray leaves residue on all 4 lens surfaces making visibility impossible.

Any other suggestions?

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.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Meeting of the Minds

Kayak Blogger minds that is, Kristen, Dawn, and Michael.

Kayak Bloggers know Michael as the Canadian Ckayaker, one of the more prolific kayak bloggers out there, and especially known for his wonderful stories and photos of early years living and then visiting the Canadian Arctic. His stories and photos are treasures.

Currently traveling north from a kayaking vacation in Florida, Michael had contacted both Kristen (KiwiBird) and me through our blogs a month back, hoping we could meet while all in Florida. We couldn't get that to work out, so he managed an over nighter in North Carolina on his return. Last night (Thursday) we finally got to meet and have dinner, with Kristen hosting his overnight stay.

We shared lots and lots of great stories; why we blog, why we paddle, blogging and paddling, WaterTribe, expedition experiences, traveling, life experiences, trips in our future...... There was no end to the various conversations, which flowed as fast and changed as fast as we could sometimes talk. It was definitely too short a visit for like minded people.

I so wished we could have taken him on a paddling trip to our coastal jewel, Shakelford Banks out at Cape Lookout. But, that can be saved for a future gathering of the minds, here, or possibly up North, a visit to his neck of the woods.

Sounds like the rest of Michael's trip will have similar encounters, as he's managed to arrange a really fun and interesting trip back home, stopping along the way visiting other kayak bloggers. He mentioned both Susanita of the Purple Mirage Blog, and Bonnie of Frogma.

Happy trails Michael.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sailing Class3 in the 2007 EC

This year, wanting to try something a little different, but still wanting the comfort of a Kruger Canoe, I borrowed a Kruger SeaWind and Balogh Sail Rig from a friend, and registered as a Class3 participant in this years WaterTribe Everglades Challenge. Detailed rules for boat classes can be found here. Basically, Class3 means you have an expedition kayak or canoe fitting the Class1 rules, with the addition of a sailing rig, including lee board or centerboard (that does not pierce the hull) that can be fully stored in/on the boat so the boat can paddle as a Class1 when not sailed.

If you look back at some of my previous postings over the past couple months, I've described my experiences both learning to sail and learning to use the sail rig with the SeaWind. It was not particularly difficult to learn enough to get the job done (not the same as being a good sailor), and the Balogh is very easy to use. My initial difficulties were in getting used to sailing fast, trusting the stability of the outriggers (amas), and feeling a bit out of control. A seakayaker in conditions is all about being in control. In the end I decided to use my beloved Kruger Dreamcatcher with the Balogh sail. She and I are just so comfortable together after having traveled the 1200 miles of the Ultimate Florida Challenge together last year.

However, none of the practice and learning I did on Jordan Lake (though truth be told I only managed about 5 days), even on the windiest days, fully prepared me for the wind and sea conditions I experienced the first three days of the Challenge. Winds were often 10-18 mph with higher gusts. Tampa Bay had swells 5-6 ft (I swear towards the end of the Bay we were surfing 6-8 ft swells), and again outside on the Gulf on day 3 we experienced similar wind conditions with even larger swells with NE winds and quartering seas. As in most of the EC's I've done, we are often challenged with small craft advisories, forcing each challenger to make decisions about routes to take, and to continually assess their skills and abilities, and risk taking.

KiwiBird and I had driven down to Florida together, and on Friday, the day before the race, we were setting up on the beach at Tampa Bay and looking forward to a wind change, from South to North as was predicted for the start of the Challenge.

Saturday morning as last minute preparations were taking place and I was setting up my sail, I noticed that Mark (ManitouCruiser) had totally reefed his Balogh sail for the Tampa Bay crossing. He's the man when it comes to experience with Krugers and Balogh sails, so I figured he knew something I should. I too put in the 2 reefs of the sail. Mark is the owner of Kruger Canoes, and has entered and completed every and more WaterTribe Challenges than any other.

Crossing Tampa Bay I just continually repeated my new mantra "trust the amas, trust the amas". And was glad for previous advice about how to use the leeboard in a following sea (keep it up), as even then the bow of the Dramcatcher would occasionally bury in a very frightening way. I was very glad for the reefing as I crossed the bay in no time flat surfing many of the swells and waves, faster than any paddling or sailing I'd ever done. The GPS recorded a few seconds of wave surfs at 11.4 and 12.3 mph.

Once across and in Ana Maria Sound things calmed down a little. Still had the wind, but the swells were more chop than wave, and by this time, I was having fun and feeling much more confident. I pulled over behind a spoil island to unreef, and even put up the Pacific Action Sail, to act as a jib. Things got a bit faster in larger Sarasota Bay, and I would occasionally just put the PAS down to depower as it suited me. I had originally brought the PAS along for use in the Everglades Wilderness Waterway (WW) when I'd planned to store the Balogh rig. The WW is full of narrow connectors and creeks into fairly large bays that would easily accommodate a down wind sail. The PAS was certainly coming in handy.

This year was very interesting for me, the first few days I was constantly passing or being passed by many of the Challengers, often the same ones over and over. The wind conditions seemed to even out many of the cruisers pacing, regardless of sail or rig, so often it felt like much less of a solo experience, and allowed lots of time to visit with Challengers as we crossed each others paths.

I found it interesting that sailing was not necessarily faster than paddling. But while sailing, one can move at a very decent clip without paddling at all, conserving lots of energy. However, many of the strong paddlers, and especially those with the aid of a PAS or Spirit downwind sail, could often keep up, or even go faster than those just sailing without paddling. Cruiser that I am, I had decided that if I could sail 4.5-5.0 mph, then I didn't need to also paddle unless I wanted to take a few strokes to stay warm.

ManitouCruiser who finished the EC in 3 days 14 hours (as opposed to my PR finish in 6 days 10 hrs), chose a very different approach. As a racer, he optimized sailing and/or motorsailing for speed and energy sailing, and started the race utilizing the favorable winds by not stopping to camp for the first 38 hours. Even with the hard headwinds we all faced crossing Florida Bay, he'd made such good time that he finished
1st place in Class3 and 3rd place overall. Carter (XLXS) who paddled a surfski in class2, without sail, and even less stoping and camping, finished in 2nd place overall in 3 days 2 hours. A lot of factors go into people's finish times, it's not just about paddling or sailing, or which boat is faster. This actually is what makes this race and Challenge so interesting.

Right before Venice inlet I stopped for a few minutes to visit with Team RAF. They had gotten off the beach a bit later then some (they were still building the boats on the beach on Friday when everyone else was packing). They were setting up to go out the inlet and sail down the coast, rather than staying inside on the ICW as most chose. With alot of Mom control here, I just smiled and waved, "have a good time I said", trying not to show my worry.

I had opted to stay inside today and was about to paddle through the ditch around Venice airport with the company of KiwiBird, Oracle, and SavanahDan and PaddleMaker (shown here as ultimate cruisers).

That night, I discovered that I don't like sailing downwind in a following sea at night in the dark. I recall our first night was pretty dark with cloud cover, despite a full moon. Darkness settled in while I was in Lemon Bay. That evening the winds picked up again, and I hadn't thought to reef when I could have pulled over. It definitely freaked me out a bit, and I eventually stopped about 5 miles from CP1, put the sail down and came into CP1 using just the PAS and paddling.

Leaving CP1 early the next morning at dawn, I sailed down Gasparillo Sound and Charlotte Harbor on the ICW towards the Sanibel Bridge, getting outside and onto the Gulf about 4pm, passing NightNavigator and NightSong (paddling a double Kruger Cruiser, no sail). It was my first time paddling these huge sounds during the day, choosing to follow the markers down the ICW route as many others seemed to do, wondering how I'd ever done this at night in the dark on previous years.

Making the turn off Pine Island before the bridge was most challenging, a strong headwind forced me to drop the sail and paddle very hard against the wind with the drag of the amas. It was about this time that Pelican (pictured on his Hobie Adventure Island), Team RAF, and KiwiBird were also heading outside. I stopped at the bridge causeway to drop the mast, then again on the other side to put the sail up with reef for the night. Once outside, interestingly the wind died for a couple hours, only to pick up with a vengeance. That evening the winds shifted some and were more NE with fairly large quartering seas. Glad to have reefed, but again, overly optimistic, as I had only put in one reef. Reefing is possibly while underway, and I've done it a few times, but it's difficult and easier done if you are brave enough to stand in the boat ("trust the amas").

On a straight track to Marco, I was about 2-3 miles offshore when the wind picked up, and the sun started to come down. Nature Calls in a double seakayak with Balogh, came up behind me, and we all agreed it was getting a bit nasty and time to move closer to shore. By the time we came on Wiggens Pass (a well known WaterTribe camp site), it was agreed it was time to go inside and hide for awhile. I entered the pass with my flashlight in my mouth, keeping the markers well lit intent on going through the inlet right down the main channel, trying hard to avoid the breaking surf of shoalings on both sides of the pass. NatureCalls cut the corner just a bit too tight and had a wild ride in through some of the surf. Once inside we found a great campsite (part of a county park) with KiwiBird and eventually with DaveOnCudjue anchoring his Sea Pearl Maggie off the beach. A WaterTribe alumni Kontiki was also there, he and his friends had been out on a boat taking photo's of the Tribers as they passed.

The next morning, after a great sleep in my Hennesey Hammock we got an early start off the steep beach, and paddled out the inlet. We later heard that some of the Challengers had a bit of trouble with surf landings off Wiggens, and others called a weather hold that morning rather than go out again for awhile.

Once out the pass and sailing at a good clip down the coast, I noticed my left ama was dangling off the aka, and being held only by 2 of the 4 connector loops. I don't think anyone has dropped a Balogh sail as fast as I did. Still with KiwiBird, she attempted a fix, but unfamiliar with the rig, and in unstable conditions wasn't able to help me. I was pondering either a surf landing at shore (sure to lose the ama that way, likely a few other things as well), turning around and paddling back through the inlet (a hard paddle into the wind), or just paddling on for awhile. Then unbelievably, NatureCalls came up behind and we managed an emergency fix on the water. I got up behind him till he could grab my aka (he was sitting in the back of his double seakayak). I was able to released the pin and he pulled the aka and ama onto his lap and made the repair. The amazing thing was that I was able to continue paddling to keep up with his boat while he managed to fit that aka back into the crossbar to complete the repair (a needle in a haystack kind of maneuver). Not an easy thing to do in the larger quartering swells.

I had one other funny "incident" later that day. KiwiBird was taking a rest and holding onto my ama when a wind gust came along. As my boat took off, she accidentally grabbed onto the valve on the ama, and "Pssssssst", it immediately deflated. She said she'll never forget the look on my face. the "Bird" then simply blew the ama back up from her boat.

NatureCalls, KiwiBird, and I then all caught up together and paddled towards CP2 taking Caxambas Pass off Marco to avoid Cape Romano. We weren't going to make the Ranger's Station at Everglades City in time for our camping permits that day, and for some reason (possibly still fueled by adrenaline or just the need for a shower) opted to paddle against the tide through Indian River Pass to CP2. A hard, hard, slow, slow, last few miles. KiwiBird and NatureCalls making better time of it, while I in no real hurry, I took my time, stopped for a rest, and paddled in very relaxed just after dark.

I had always planned to paddle the Wilderness Waterway (WW) this year. This was part of the reason I entered as Class3, to try and buy some time for the extra 30 miles and slower route. I was thrilled to have gotten to CP2 with the extra days to spare, and that KiwiBird and KneadingWater were interested in also paddling it together with me.

There is another story here, but it's been told quite well.

Truth be told, after 3 days of sailing, I was excited about packing up the Balogh sail for some paddling. I'm such a paddler at heart, and though I did fine with the sailing, had a very exciting and thrilling ride, and had not really exerted myself physically up until now, I found myself really looking forward to just paddling for the next few days. I never did put the sail rig back on the DreamCatcher. I could occasionally use the PAS while on the WW route, but the route was pretty protected, and it's help was nowhere near what we would have gotten outside. Then with continued NE winds, Florida Bay was all about headwinds. 13 hours for 37 miles, not too bad, solo cruising the whole way.

SOS (my son Alan) who's Team RAF finished earlier in 4 days 0 hours, borrowed ManitouCruiser's Kruger SeaWind and Balogh Sail and motor sailed out to meet me for my last mile of Florida Bay. He hasn't stopped talking about wanting his own Kruger with Balogh Sail since. It's not just the EC that gets you, there is something wonderful about those Kruger's. Alan's interest was a bit surprising to me, as he is quite a committed sailor, and is crew and co-skipper on a semi-professional sailing team, Team Velocity Sailing.

As happens every year, the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge really hooks you. Every year it's a different experience, and most always plan to return again. Many like myself have become regulars. KiwiBird and SOS were already talking and planning for next year's EC before even leaving Key Largo. In fact, SOS was the first to officially register for the 2008 EC when he saw it was scheduled again during next years Spring Break. For myself, I can't imagine not wanting to do an EC every year. Joe and Ed (Tyro and PaddleCarver), regulars at 71 and 75 years old, are setting a great example.

There are quite a few good slide shows and some video being posted on various blogs and through the WaterTribe forum, including Team RAFs blog, Scareman's slideshow, SaltyFrog's slideshow, and CrazyRussian's.

Also, keep checking in on Kiwibird's new blog. She has already posted a great detailed account of her's and our adventure.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More 2007 EC photos

Two slide shows from Paul's (DancesWithSandyBottom) camera. The first contains photos of some of the Challengers coming into the finish (no specific order) and Challengers just enjoying each other's company at the Bay Cove Motel in Key Largo. The Second is photos taken during the awards presentation and dinner.

(You can view full screen by clicking on "watch the show" in the left hand corner of the show).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

EC 2007 Photos

Wind and sea conditions didn't allow as many photos as I would have liked, but here are a few taken during the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge and on Saturday during the awards ceremony.

Click on "Watch the Show" on the lower left hand side of the screen for a full screen slide show of all 37 photos.

And here is a large Flickr slide show which really captures the variety of boats entered into the Challenge.

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.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Update: SandyBottom arrived at the finish line in Key Largo at 5:30 pm today (Friday).

Over the last quarter mile, SandyBottom was escorted by her son, SOS, who had come out to greet her in ManitouCruiser's Kruger Seawind (orange Balogh sail).

KiwiBird arrived at about 3:08 pm today. Six other challengers also arrived this afternoon. TGamble is still between CP3 and the finish line as of this writing. KneadingWater arrived Thurday night after 8pm.

Here is a photo of KiwiBird, SandyBottom and KneadingWater. KW became separated from KB and SB in the Wilderness Waterway. Feeling very sorry about that, KW brought flowers and coronas to KB and SB when they landed.

Friday (Day7), SandyBottom is planning to depart Flamingo at 2:00 am in order to cross Florida Bay before dark on Friday.

The 35mile crossing expected to be windy. The earliest she could possibly arrive would be about 9:00 am (with a strong wind at her back).

On the other hand, if she has to paddle into a strong head wind, at say 2 mph, then it could be as late as 6:00 pm when she arrives; and, if she had to stop for rest breaks it could be even later.


Thursday (Day6) SandyBottom and KiwiBird arrived at CP3 in Flamingo, FL, at about 4:00 pm today. KneadingWater arrived at CP3 at about 12:30 am. KneadingWater arrived at CP3 about 15.5 hours earlier than SandyBottom and KiwiBird.

SandDollar was at CP3 to greet SB and KB and provided a cell phone that worked well in that area. Thanks SandDollar!

At 4:00 pm Thursday, KneadingWater was in Florida Bay about 9 miles from the finish line. He was taking a break from the wind, briefly, and then was planning to cover the final 9 miles today.

SandyBottom and KiwiBird may be set out to cross Florida Bay at different times. Not sure at this point. SandyBottom is planning to rest and recover this afternoon and evening. She is planning to start her crossing of Florida Bay at about 2:00 am on Friday (Day7). She will have to decide whether to paddle the 35 miles are attempt to use the sail. The sail would be helpful if the winds are from the North, but a NE wind may not be.

It is currently very windy out on Florida Bay with winds out of the NE or ENE. I know this first hand, as SOS and Kotzebue took me out for a ride on a catamaran configuration of their "Rise" and "Fall" boats this afternoon. It was quite a ride. Our max speed was a hair below 12 knots. And we managed to break the other leeboard, but then those boats handle well with little leeboard, especially when linked together as a catamaran.
Currently, weather stations in the area are reporting a NE wind at 18 knots.

SandyBottom sounded good and said they had seen many many gators and crocs.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Wednesday (Day5), I flew to Tampa, took a taxi to Ft. DeSoto, and then drove for six hours to Key Largo. Arrived at Key Largo at 5:30 pm. Team RAF had arrived at 7:00 am. On the bay at Key Largo is heavenly. Or as we say on postcards, "the weather is here, wish you were beautiful."

Meanwhile, no news from SandyBottom who was traveling with KneadingWater and KiwiBird along the Wilderness Waterway between CP2 and CP3.

It turns out (we learned on Thursday) that KneadingWater became separated from SandyBottom and KiwiBird on Wednesday. Seems he took a break and they went ahead with the idea being that he would catch up with them. He is a faster paddler they say. And, they were all headed to the same campsite for Wednesday night. However, he did not see them before he reached the campsite (chickee) , and at the campsite... no one was there! My guess is that they took parallel routes to the campsite and KW arrived first. KW decided to keep going and not camp (thinking that perhaps SB and KB had done that?) but he did not find them on the way to CP3 at Flamingo. Meanwhile, as I understand it, SB and KB did camp at the designated chickee. Thus, KW paddles all night and arrived at CP3 some 17 hours ahead of SB and KB.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Tuesday (Day4), SandyBottom bought her Wilderness Permit at the Everglades Park Headquarters at 8:00 am and then headed out with KiwiBird and KneadingWater to start enjoying her travel through the Wilderness Waterway (WW) to CP3.

Yes, that's right: SandyBottom, KiwiBird and KneadingWater have formed an ad hoc team to travel the WW together! This made SandyBottom very happy. She loves traveling with friends during the Everglades Challenge.

Insert flashbacks here: Who can soon remember or long forget the EC'05 when SB, ArcticDoc, BilgePump and RescueRandy formed an ad hoc team and had great adventures. Or the EC'06 / UFC'06 with AlaskanSeaHorse and ThereAndBackAgain, and then with DoctorKayak and RiverJohn on the Saint Marys' River. This year will be the first time that SandyBottom will cross Florida Bay without AlaskanSeaHorse! ASH, where are you?

It's icing on the cake that KneadingWater and KiwiBird are wonderful kayaking company: fast-paddling KiwiBird will have fascinating yarns to tell, Cliff Bars galore and other odd Kiwi grog to share; KneadingWater is great company, has experienced 5 Everglades Challenges, and is probably packing whole cases of peanut M&Ms and ice-cold Coke!

(Who is that beautiful kayaker in the background of KneadingWater's photo?)

The WW is much like an intracoastal waterway (it has channels and markers on posts) except that it meanders like crazy through the Park following connected rivers and creeks, and it has raised camping platforms called chickees. A $10 permit is required if one is to legally use any chickees. Going through the WW (instead of taking an outside route in the Gulf) adds an extra 30-40 miles to the EC'07. This is her first time traveling the WW.

SandyBottom was planning to leave CP2 at about 9am Tuesday and paddle ~25 miles of the WW to Plate Creek Chickee.
Then on Wednesday she would paddle ~30 miles to Harney River Chickee.
Then on Thursday she would paddle ~30 to CP3 at Flamingo.
This plan leaves Friday for the ~30 mile trip from CP3 to the Finish Line (crossing Florida Bay.)

SB, KW and KB may travel a bit faster than that. Alternative camping spots are Rogers River Chickee in the north and then Oyster Bay Chickee further south.

Cell phone coverage is all but non-existant in the Park; few if any reports from her are expected until she reaches CP3 at Flamingo, FL.

(Flys' note to have handy: the Everglades National Park Search & Rescue number is 305-242-7740.)

[DancesWithSandyBottom reporting]


(Be sure to check out the new photos in the "Day2 Photos" section below.)

Monday (Day3 of the EC'07) started at the campsite just inside Wiggins Pass where SandyBottom, the NatureCalls Team, and KiwiBird had sheltered from the heavy seas of the night before. All broke camp and moved on at 8:00 am, sailing SE and aiming for CP2 about 33 miles away.

SandyBottom called home at about 8:00 am and said she was sailing along the Gulf coast with the NatureCalls Team. KiwiBird was out ahead. She said that shortly after getting started, one of her amas partially detached but NatureCalls came to the rescue and easily reattach it.

The North winds at 10-15 knots were favorable down to Marco Island. They bypassed Big Marco Pass and entered the Caxambas Pass which is on the south side of Marco Island. By 12:46pm they and exited Caxambas Pass and were entering Gullivan Bay --the Ten Thousand Islands area.
From that position near Helen Key ( N25°53.802' W81°39.471' ) she called home again.

At that point they were 13 miles from Indian Key which is the gateway to the tidal-flow canal that pulls boats from the Gulf into CP2 -or- pulls boats from CP2 into the Gulf depending on the tides. SandyBottom was hoping to catch the in-bound tidal flow at Indian Key and make it to the Park Headquarters Office to buy a Wilderness Permit before the officed at 4:30 pm. (In summer they stay open until 5:00 pm.)

However, her E.T.A. at Indian Key was about 3:00 pm and high tide at Indian Key is at 1:47pm. (Low tide at 8:37 pm.) With time and tide against her, she and several other challengers ended up camped on Indian Key in the afternoon. 4:30 pm came and went and the office closed until 8:00 am.

But then the thought of camping at CP2 rather than on Indian Key was tempting however; as, CP2 has electricity for recharging batteries, showers food and good camping spots. So SandyBottom decided to paddled from Indian Key to CP2 even though most of the 9 miles would be against strong current. As she averaged about 1.8 mph in the worst parts, she said she thought 'What was I thinking?'

She reached CP2 at 8:00 pm and called home again. The work-out was probably a good warm up for paddling through the Wilderness Waterway, and she should sleep very well through the night. (EasyForMeToSay --my other tribal name.)

[DancesWithSandyBottom reporting]

Day2 Photos

Check out these great action photos taken by KonTiki at the Wiggins Pass campsite Monday night. Thanks to KonTiki ...

Foster Photography, Inc.
754 Park Ave.
Naples, FL. 34110

Shown are.... SandyBottom, KiwiBird, and NatureCalls+NatureCalls.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Sunday morning SandyBottom left CP1 refreshed and with all gear functioning properly.

[SB pretending to be on Team RAF]

She called at 8:00 am as soon as she had cleared CP1 and was in open water.

She was heading south out of Placida Harbor (Gasparilla Sound) toward the six-mile wide crossing of Charlotte Harbor down to Pine Island Sound. Winds were favorable, flowing out of the North at 10 knots.

At 2:00 pm SandyBottom called in from the Sanibel Causeway Bridge. (N26°27.836' W82°1.912') She was stopping at a beach park on the southern foot of the bridge just long enough to put on warmer clothes, warm up, and eat lunch. She said that sailing 5.5 - 7.0 mph from 8am to 2pm had been wet, cold and taxing.

At 3pm she called in again out on the water a mile SE of the bridge to report that she was feeling good and had spotted the two boats of Team RAF sailing nearby. (Perhaps they will sail together for a bit?)

She didn't mention seeing KiwiBird but Fly's report put KiwiBird in the neighborhood too.

SandyBottom called in again at 7:36 pm from a campsite inside Wiggins Pass. She said the weather was bigger than forecast, perhaps a small front coming through. Strong NW wind was bringing in following seas of 6' from the Gulf. The forecast is for a cold night. Winds are predicted to be more North tomorrow, which should be more favorable. She decided to come in through Wiggins Pass and camp.

Also at the campsite are Kristin and NatureCalls. Other reports put ThereAndBackAgain also camping at Wiggins Pass.

Earlier in the day she had paddled for about an hour with the Team RAF boats when the wind had been flat. They were using VHF channel 73 to chat. She did not reach them on that channel to tell them that she was getting off the water for the night, so DWSB will relay the message when Team RAF calls in again.

[DancesWithSandyBottom reporting]

Saturday, March 03, 2007


The EC'07 has begun!

SandyBottom called in at 6:53am to report that she was ready to launch when Chief said Go! at 7:00am.

[ UFC '06 ]

She said she "I think the boys will be okay." No doubt she, the rookies in Team RAF, and all the challengers were very glad to have favorable winds and mild weather for the start.

[Lake practice]

ManitouCruiser reported in a few minutes after the start that ... The winds shifted overnight to a northeast heading and are about 10 knots. He is moving at 5.5 mph under sail. "Perfect" was the response to "How are things going"? He is just behind "CrazyRussian" And can just make out "SandyBottom" far ahead.

[Lake practice]

He also reported a few "Skinny Kayaks" are overturned in Tampa Bay but all had their self-rescue well in hand.

SandyBottom far ahead? Well alrighty then! This is certainly a new EC experience for her, but well deserved. She has loved to paddle a steady 3-4 mph. A very recent convert to a Balogh sailing rig, she still finds flying along at high speed new and unnerving.

SandyBottom called in at 11:00am to report that she was having fun and enjoying the ride. Her typical speed was 5.5 mph, and her maximum speed had been 9.7 mph. Across 4-5 foot waves in a Kruger Dreamcatcher, that must have been exciting.

She was near the Sarasota Bridge having covered about 24 miles in 4 hours. Team RAF had recently flown past her hiked out on the akas. She snapped some photos of them. She said they were doing well. KiwiBird was well back behind her.

With seas rolling into the bay from the Gulf, Tampa Bay was rough with 4-5 foot surfing waves. Very exciting. But at 5.5 mph, done with in 1.5 hours.

After that, being in the protected "inside" waterway, and through Sarasota Bay, was a much smoother ride.

It is hard to stay warm when sailing and not paddling. With air temperatures in the 64 F to 74 F degree range, water temperatures near 70 F, most cloudy overcast skies with little warmth from the sun, and continual spray punching through waves, SandyBottom reported that she had done some paddle/sailing just to warm up. Staying warm is much easier when paddling and not sailing. That's a trade-off: better speed while sailing and fighting off hypothermia -versus- slower speed while just paddling and staying warm.

SandyBottom's report by phone lasted 3.2 min --which is fairly long for a report during the EC. She was happy to report that she thinks she will make it to Checkpoint #1 today! It is about 70 miles from the the starting line to CP1.

When she arrived at Venice Inlet at 3:14pm today, SandyBottom reported that she had covered 41 miles in about 8 hours. (Average of 5.125 mph.) That rate of speed could have put her at CP1 before 9:00pm today.

She had to stop to remove the sailing rig to pass under the bridges near CP1, and progress in that area was slowed by shallow water, "it was too shallow to have the rudder down."

SandyBottom arrived at CP1 at about 10:00 pm, tired and ready to camp for the night.

Water temperatures along the Gulf coast.

[DancesWithSandyBottom reporting.]

Go! The EC'07 Begins on a Beach

The beginning of the personal challenges, unpredictable dangers, and high adventure of the Everglades Challenge is announced by a sunrise on a beach Saturday, March 3, 2007.

What will the sunrise bring? Helpful north winds or horrible headwinds from the south? Sunny warmth, blinding fog, or chilling rain? Will the timing of tidal flows in inlets and channels be favorable or punishing? The surf will try to break rudders and steal supplies by flipping boats. The racoons will be waiting for dry bags to rip open. The mosquitos are hungry. The mudflats are deep. The challengers will keep going.

Coastal inlets are rough, treacherous, and full of high-speed boat traffic. EC'07 challengers will traverse them at night. While sleep deprived, alone, and exhausted. With a broken GPS. Why do they do it?

The sunrise beach is the stage for starting the EC'07. Here are a few images from the starts of previous Everglades Challenges.

Tracy Bonham

Whether it's the sunshine
whether it's the rain
Doesn't make a difference
'til you complain

Whether you fall
means nothing at all
It's whether you get up
It's whether you get up

[Reporting on behalf of SandyBottom, I'm DancesWithSandyBottom...]