Thursday, March 20, 2008

EC Day 5

KiwiBird commented on my last posting "And we do this for fun!". Absolutely we do this for fun. Don't mistake my attempts to provide an accurate accounting of my experiences as complaint. Certainly it was hard, and I choose to describe those difficulties to give the reader a feel for the challenges, but they are not meant as complaint. There was really no where else I'd have rather been. And, those I saw and paddled with during those later days, never wanted or really considered giving up, accepting the difficulties as part and parcel of the event. Actually in a wierd way, the harder it is, the more intersting and greater the feeling of success and accomplishmen. After all, it is a Challenge.

In my accounting of Wednesday's (Day 4) adventure, I forgot to mention how important RiverJohn was to me late into the paddle on Broad River. We arrived at the campsite about 4:30, but I had petty much hit bottom about 2AM. It was late, pitch black, and against the tide. I often would just zone out into a mechanical mode of moving forward at only .5-1.0 mph. RiverJohn used all the tricks he had to keep me digging in.

At daylight, we'd all had more nap then sleep. I finally gave into my bladder and got up. Trader and TroutHeart were softly talking to each other in their native Spanish, and it wasn't long before RiverJohn poked out of his tent. With no complaint except at the no-see-ums who were lying in wait for us that morning, we all began the process of packing up and getting on with it.

RiverJohn had actually gotten his SeaWind up on land when we arrived, which had made room to tie up the other two boats, and we were grateful for the help of Trader and TroutHeart in his launching. We then paddled on, getting a little head start while Trader and TroutHeart finished their breakfast and packing.

Finally, for the first time, we enjoyed a morning of riding the tide down the Broad and then up the Harney for awhile. Between the two, we had to get out on the Gulf for a short ways. While out there we saw a paddler a ways in front of us, wondering which WaterTriber this would be. Then we realized he was paddling the wrong way. As he got closer we also realized he was paddling a Kruger SeaWind, an unusual sight actually since he wasn't in the Challenge. I got a real surprise when he called out "Hey, it's the famous SandyBottom".

Paddling up the Harney River, Trader and TroutHeart finally caught up with us, and I found myself watching and enjoyed their differing paddling style. Trader uses a very short stroke with high cadence. TroutHeart style looked the more natural and relaxed yet with a more traditional and heavier wooden canoe paddle. It was quite mesmerizing watching them paddle and listening to them speak in their Spanish with an occasional word in English here and there.

They were doing this Challenge in a Bell Northwood 18'6" tandem canoe. Trader told me about the training they did getting ready for the Challenge, and how he had developed their sail system, a small down wind V'd sail up front, with a mizzen in the rear which they used for steering. This was based on his reading the book "Alone In The Caribbean" by Frederic A. Fenger. this is the story of a cruise in the Lesser Antilles in a traditional canoe with sail, in the early 1900s. The book gave him the idea for the mizzen mast for steering sans rudder, and they were very pleased with it's performance thus far.

We kept their canoe in our sights for a few hours until they picked it up to get to the Shark River chickee for the nap they had planned. It was here that we would separate and take different routes. They had told me they were planning to take the Labrynth, and had showed me that route on the chart. During training , they had paddled this Wilderness Waterway on 4 different occasions, and were pretty familiar with the area. This route would take them North and West of WhiteWater Bay, while ours on the Joe River would take us East and South, with us both ending up at Flamingo.

Their route was a very complicated and unmarked route, taking lots of different turns and waterways, yet allowing quite a bit of protection from the winds. Looking at the chart I had visions of being lost for days, and opted to stick with the routing work I had already done on my charts. RiverJohn had spent the past year learning navigation and doing lots of chart work for this year Challenge, but he also prefered we kept on plan. Both of us had permits to camp another night if needed, mine at the South Joe River Chickee, about 11 miles from Flamingo, theirs I believe at Hell's Bay, also 11 miles on the opposite side.

Continuing on the Wilderness Waterway, the sun was just setting as we paddled down Oyster Bay and into the pitch blackness that was the Joe River. I'd head that SharkChow usually routed down the Joe River and said if you time it right, you can really ride the tide. I now believe that can be a great ride, because if not timed right, it's one heck of a fight. Yes, we had another hard paddle against the tide, but it would take too long to wait it out and we were now committed. We'd originally thought we'd just paddle through, but by midnight, and pretty tired, we opted to use the permit and get a good nights sleep on the Chickee.

We'd been listening to the weather reports, and were realizing that there was a good chance our Challenge could end in Flamingo. Friday's weather was still calling for 15-20 kts in our face, with a big front moving in that night. The wind would then change giving us a push, but with winds 20-25 kts, gusts 35 kts, and thunderstorms and rain throughout the night and morning. We needed to get some sleep and worry about it later.

The chickee was a double sitting out in the middle of a small bay. It had lots of room, and lukily wasn't too hard to get onto even with the lower tide. We both settled in, had a hot meal and prepared for sleep. The wind was so strong that to put my tent up, I had to first fill it up with weighted dry bags in order for it not to blow away. RiverJohn didn't even bother, and just slept in his bag without tent. Both of us got a really good nights sleep.


Kristen said...

And I really meant that we do this for fun!

craigcanoer said...

I am so glad of your accurate accounting of your experiences, and dare not dream of them as a complaint. I see them as tool for me to learn from, so maybe some day I to can have that much FUN!!!!