Thursday, April 03, 2008

EC Day 7 - Finished

SandyBottom (left) and Capt'n and Boo (right) sailing/flying into Key Largo

I woke up a couple of times during the night, making sure the boat was still there, and hoping the weather reports were changed. A large thunderstorm passed overhead just at daybreak. When the rain slowed I peaked my head out and realized I didn’t feel any wind. Not because it had disappeared, but it had finally changed directions. It was decision time. I really wanted to be at that awards ceremony to see Paul (DancesWithSandyBottom) get his first WaterTribe shark tooth necklace.

So I started packing up. I figured if the winds were too bad, I’d just find another mangrove island or key, though I knew none of them would have the same accommodations as the Joe Kemp Key I was camped on now.

Once on the water, I noticed more dark clouds building up behind me, so I decided to sail over to Palm Key and see if the rest of my party was still there waiting for me (though I still was not sure this was where they holed up) . I could also wait out the next storm there.

No one was there, the storm stayed inland, and the sun started to come out. The wind and Bay was kicking, it would be a fast sail to Key Largo. I was fully reefed, and finally decided to just go and get the job done.

Within an hour or so, I could spot the sails on ManitouCruiser’s and RiverJohn’s cat-ed SeaWinds, and the Capt'n and Boo’s Kruger Cruiser. Another 30 minutes and I had caught up with them. Both looked at me and asked if I’d returned to Flamingo the night before. Grrrrrr. I did tell them I was a bit worried about my rig with the bent strut taking a lot of pressure with the NE winds, and would appreciate it if this time we really did cross the Bay together.

And cross the Bay we did. We flew. I haven't had time to check the GPS tracks, but that day was about 40 miles, and it took a little over 4 hours. Only once when we had to paddle up into the wind to stay on channel did we face the same difficulties as the night before, though everyone patiently waited for me to finally round the corner about 5 minutes after them. I think it was DaveOnCudgue who told me he just got out of his boat and pulled it through here.

I called Alan about 30 minutes out to tell them we were coming in, and our route. They went out on the new sailboat, newly named ‘Dawn Patrol’ to meet us, but missed us when we shortcut at Swash Keys. But the dock was full when we arrived to the sound of cheers and applause from those who had finished before us. It was quite an exciting arrival, as this completed the successful challenge for Boo, the youngest ever WaterTribe Challenger.

Capt'n and Boo arriving at the finish in Key Largo

SandyBottom Finishing (above)

ManitouCruiser and RiverJohn coming into the finish (above)

Lunch and the awards ceremony followed quickly after. There was lots of celebration, laughter, stories, and adventures shared. Afterwards, many started their journey back home with lots of promises to see everyone again next year. Some of us stayed and had another ceremony for Trader and TroutHeart who did made it in that evening at 7:15, (7 days, 12 hours, and 15 minutes) in their canoe.

SharkChow a very well known veteran of previous WaterTribe ECs, and the 1st place finisher of the 2006 WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge was there to greet all. He was not a challenger this year, but like many watched the race from the sidelines following the WaterTribe forum and various websites. He posted a nice recap of the challenge here. .

He finished with a personal note that I’ve reprinted below:

"Although I did not participate in the EC08, I did follow it as closely as possible on the web. But nothing compared to actually being there in Key Largo on Saturday when dabiscuit (Captn) and Boo arrived at the finish line. Boo is 11 years old. She weighs maybe 75 pounds. Early that morning they were in Florida Bay when a violent squall raced through. The sky went dark and the wind howled at 25 with gusts to 35. Green water went white as foam and spray. The rain came in sideways like gunfire. They used a mangrove island for protection. And they weren't alone. Manitou Cruiser and RiverJohn were with them, and Sandy Bottom wasn't far away.

When they arrived at the finish, Boo just smiled like she'd done it 100 times before. I've finished the EC a few times myself, and I know the EC08 was an ordeal. And so what struck me watching them complete their journey was how much courage it must have taken for dabiscuit (Captn) and Manitou Cruiser (who stayed with them the entire 300 miles) to give young Boo such an adventure. Courage. And love.

It reminded me of why I'm a member of this tribe. It made me smile. And I know that somewhere Verlen Kruger is smiling too. "

Now, as happens every year, I'm already looking forward to next years adventure and challenge.


Michael said...

Great story Dawn! Thanks so much for posting it. I'm so looking forward to getting my hull wet in the next few days!

Capt'n "O" Dark 30 & Super Boo said...

Thanks for sharing the sharkchow comment.

It means so much to me that people are seeing Boo's accomplishment as noting less then amazing. And it is.

Finishing or not... the WaterTribe experience will take you places you never dreamed of.