Monday, March 17, 2008

EC Day 2

Day 2
Up at 6AM, Sunday morning, and more routing decisions to make. I have always just gone right down the middle of Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound, staying just to the side of the boat channel to avoid the many shallows. This was also the route TABA had been planning. But even early morning had 10 mph South-East Winds, and these Sounds have as much as a 7 mile fetch. KneadingWater wanted to take the East side of Pine Island to avoid the wind and waves, a route I’d studied, but never taken. Looking at the map, I decided that the bays were large enough to still offer winds for my sail. If the winds turned more head-on, and built, Pine Island Sound would be a miserable place to be.

TABA decided he would be faster sticking with his original plan and not paddling in a group (which is always slower), and so we split up not to see TABA again. He describes his day in a report on the WaterTribe forum here..

It’s been said before, and I’ll repeat it again, WaterTribe is much more than a physical challenge, that's what makes it so interesting and so hard. With the right fitness, stamina, and skill, most can complete the physical requirements of the Challenge, repetitive paddling and a week of sleep deprivation (though this is not easy). The real test is the mental and emotional preparation and work during the event. Most of this comes as decisions needing to be made from weather reports, routing and navigation decisions underway, when to paddle, when to sleep, how hard to push, where to camp, dealing with demons during the night, maintaining hydration and nutrition, even such simple things as remembering to put on your hat and sunscreen. The Challenge is multi-faceted, and constantly demanding. Aside from equipment failure, it is often little mistakes in decisions made along the way that eventually result in about 1/3 of the competitors dropping out.

Either route, KneadingWater's or TAB A’s ended up being hard, the winds were relentless no matter which way you seemed to turn, promising to be SE, they always seemed head-on no matter your direction. Though always within sight of each other KneadingWater usually chose to stay close r to land protected from the wind as much as possible, while I was always trying to make the wind work for my sail. This was supposed to be the year I got to sail more than paddle. Not to be. The winds seemed to actually funnel right down the bays and channels in my direction.

KneadingWater I met up again at the bridge where I had to de-mast to get through. It was then I noticed the damage to my rig. Sailing into the navigation pole the evening before seriously bent one of the struts that connect the aka to the hull. KW helped me to checked it out, and he thought it would be OK, and, we discussed all the possible disasters, none of which seemed something I couldn’t get out of. Then once out from under the bridge the route turned more south, and I was able to gain some distance sailing. Unbenownst and unfortunately for me, KneadingWater had a route that took him further east when he got to Sanibel, this differed from the route I was following.

I arrived at Picnic Island at the southern tip of Pine Island and realized I had made a big tactical error. My route, worked out a few years earlier, had me set to paddle/sail under the north end of the Sanibel bridge. The Sanibel Causeway is almost 3 miles long, with bridge openings on either side and in the middle. Both the middle and north bridge would have me 5 miles offshore on the other side, not where I wanted to start at in the dark with strong offshore winds. The alternative would be to paddle directly into the wind a few miles east down a very busy boat channel (where I’d already witnessed a few near misses) to the Southern opening of the bridge. I just didn’t the energy to do this, certainly not fully sail rigged.

I called Mike feeling pretty defeated. All knew that the weather was predicted to get worse. And most were trying to get out to the Gulf today and put as many of those miles behind as possible. I had been hoping to make Lover’s Key at a minimum, Wiggins Pass, possibly even Doctor’s Pass before stopping that day. Instead it was a very short day, only X hours and X miles. I’d asked Mike if he know other Challenger’s whereabouts. I was particularly interested in knowing where ManitouCruiser was. He has the most experience with Kruger’s and Balogh Sails and I really wanted another opinion about my bent strut. So early in the day, Mike did not have anyone’s location.

There was a group of young folks who’d motored to Picnic Island planning a party and camp-out. They invited me to join their group, barbecue and camp. But they were partying a bit too hard not to have consequences in my race. Then just as I was unloading my camping gear, there was my old friend RiverJohn, also planning to stay the night.

Within an hour or so, ManitouCruiser, and CaptnAndSuperBoo also arrived. All had struggled some with the wind, and agreed the winds had built too much to continue right then. So a new plan was made. We’d all eat a hot meal, get to sleep right away, and plan to be back on the water by 2AM, hopefully the winds would be lighter, certainly the boat traffic would.

1 comment:

Kristen said...

Now I'm beginning to find out what everyone else was struggling with too!