Friday, March 14, 2008

Up Through Day 1

Wed Night, Day -3:
We were all packed and ready to go, planning to leave Chapel Hill and pick up KiwiBird at 5AM. EXCEPT, the boat was not finished. I finally went to bed at 2AM, Alan and Paul were up all night, and didn't stop till 8AM when Paul and I finally got on the road. Alan stayed at school and flew into Tampa on Thursday evening.

The drive was long (~14 hrs) and uneventful, 2 boats on top of the van, and the "Dawn Patrol" on trailer.

Thursday, Day -2:

Thursday was all about last minute food shopping, organizing gear, and meeting up with old and new WaterTribe friends at the Ft DeSoto Campground. Alan arrived later in the evening, and the boat building continued again, this time with a large audience, and some helpful suggestions from Graham Byrnes (Roo), the designer of the boat, and a veteran EC finisher and 1st place winner.

We also met Archangel and Frontal Lobotomy at the campground, both also working on finishing and fine tuning their boats. Archangel had a Raptor proa, and FrontalLabotomy (a very famous sailboat racer including an America's Cup win ) a very sleek racing trimaran he designed/built himself.

While talking to Archangel, I discovered his father is Reinhard Zollitsch (a member of Team Kruger). Reinhard keeps a web blog that is full of his expedition travels. It is well worth the read, he is a prolific author, but more importantly, an expeditioner extraordinaire having completed many long distance expeditions of the same ilk as Verlen Kruger.

Friday, Day -1:
Paul and Alan finally finished working on the boat, everyone started getting their boat on the beach, and packed up for tomorrow's start. The Captains meeting was later that day, dinner out, and all to bed early.

KneadingWater and KiwiBird relaxing next to their boats on the beach

Variety of paddle craft and small sailboats lined up at the start

Saturday, Day 1:

Most arrive at the beach in the dark about 5:30 for the 7AM start. Everyone’s finishing their last minute packing of camping gear used the night before, and food and water not left out for the raccoons. Sails are raised, PFDs put on, and the excitement is everywhere. Just as the sun comes up, the Challenge begins.

Some of the best video and pictures (including the one above) of the start can be found at:

Winds were a bit light at the start, and I chose to take the outside route this year. I knew Alan and Paul would go outside with most of the Class 4 boats, and I wanted to watch the new "Dawn Patrol" in action. I sailed out the inlet and into the Gulf along side ManitouCuiser and the team of CaptnAndBoo (below).

My sail is a bit larger than theirs and I was pushing it with my Pacific Action Sail, so it wasn't long before I had gotten ahead, and had "Dawn Patrol" in my sites.

By afternoon the wind calmed and we were all paddling (me above) or rowing (Paul and Alan below). I finally passed my guys for awhile, but not for long. A north wind came up and I never saw them again.

With the wind and following seas building, I chose to come back inside to the Intercoastal Waterway through Venice Canal. I paddled into the canal at the same time another Triber in a surfski was coming in. He must have had a very wet, cold, and uncomfortable paddle in that tippy kayak. His eyes were the size of saucers, and he said he was stopping to camp on Snake Island, till a good 20 miles from the 1st checkpoint.

Paddling down Venice Canal, I happened upon KneadingWater, RiverJohn, and ThereAndBackAgain. Lots of laughter and stories, and my NOT paying attention as I proceeded to sail right into a navigation post. CRASH! I managed to release myself, but didn't notice the damage to the rig until the next day (another days story).

With lighter winds in the protection of the ICW, I paddle sailed to the 1st checkpoint, completing the 67 miles at midnight. Not wanting to camp at the checkpoint with many of the challengers still coming in, we filled up on water and TABA and I went along with KneadingWater to an island about 4 miles further south to camp. RiverJohn choose to stay at the CP and rest up for the next day. We landed about 1:30, asleep by 2:30, up at 6:30 to start the second day.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Michael said...

What fun to learn that Reinhard Zollitsch's son is also a paddler. I corresponded with Reinhard for a while a few years ago when I was planning to paddling around PEI. He was very supportive. I've yet to complete that paddle, but it's high on the list! I'm enjoying your report!