Thursday, April 30, 2009

Current Favorites

Sometimes it's all the interesting blogs I like to regularly read that gets in the way of posting on my own blog. This week my favorites:

KiwiBirds Adventures, she’s just posted a report of the scouting trip we did last weekend at the coast for the WaterTribe North Carolina Challenge. Her reports are always fun to read. We had such a great time, and it was a beautiful route. I'll post some tidbits here and there about the trip, but she always seems to remember much more detail than I. Hmmm, is it the distance, or maybe just the age difference :)

The Skeeter Beater 126, a Sailing Adventure blog. As I begin to learn to sail our Core Sound sailboat ‘the Dawn Patrol, I’ve really started enjoying this blog. It derives from two friends who are planning (this summer) a sailing adventure on a home built sailboat; a John Welsford designed Pathfinder.

The very regular postings include a bit of everything related to sailing adventures. Their upcoming trip, and many of their previous trips have been in many of the local NC coastal waters that I’ve also paddled and now hope to sail in as well. His photographs are beautiful, and his stories always interesting.

Photo below from Skeeter Beater Blogs 3/26 posting titled Core Sound, (a nice example of his incredible photography).

And my absolute favorite, the newly launched Eye of the World blog. This blog comes from a group of four sailors, explorers, adventurers, and students from different backgrounds; different life experiences; different interests; who have come together for one common cause: to bring the world to the schoolchildren of America.

They begin their 3-year around the world sailing expedition and traveling classroom in November. Our son Alan is one of the adventurers.

These (very soon-to-be) college graduates are embarking on a plan with a spirit of adventure, innovation, exploration, discovery and diversity, with a dedication to youth education and giving, and all on a dream, and a prayer, and with little finances. Check out their blog, even a small donation will get you a nice t-shirt.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Conditions Change Quickly

Still too busy to write up a trip report of last weekend's trip, I'm kind of hoping KiwiBird gets around to it first.

But we sure did have a variety of conditions on our paddle last weekend. The first half of the day that first morning had no wind and glass conditions.

Then 20-25 kt tail winds the next afternoon screaming down Core sound. When my GPS hit 9.1 mph surfing, sailing, and broaching down a wave, much to Kristen's disappointment, I decided it was time we put the sails away for the rest of the day.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gone Paddling: Sunday 6:30AM - 8:30AM

After paddling for two hours this morning, SB and KB completed their circumnavigation at 8:30AM. They arrived back at the Driftwood Campground/Motel/Restaurant located near the Cedar Island ferry terminal.

SB reported that there were no mosquitos about last night, but this morning there were about a thousand humming around between her tent and its rain-fly.

There are two approaches to the Driftwood site: from the SE coming up Cedar Island Bay and arriving on the Driftwood's private boat ramp, or from the north coming off Pamilco Sound onto the public boat ramp (and beach) next to the ferry docks. Consistent with the intended route of the 2009 NC Challenge, SB and KB started their paddling trip at the public boat ramp & beach (the "starting line"), but ended their paddling today at the Driftwood Campground's boat ramp (the "finish line").

SPOT tracking

The midday wind forecast suggests they had mild weather this morning.

Sailflow wind forecast

Here are some photos of the two boat ramps:

South side Driftwood ramp (finish line) onto Cedar Island Bay

North side public ramp onto Pamlico Sound

North side public ramp between beach (left) and ferry dock (right)

North side public ramp and beach
[Update: SB is home and reports that in Cedar Island Bay the last (NE-most) section on approach to the Driftwood boat ramp is lacking any channel markers and was too shallow for the sailboats at the time they kayaked through it. This suggests that the sailboats may need to finish the 2009 NC Challenge at the north-side public boat ramp / beach --except perhaps when the water level there is high. Look for SB and KB to be providing detailed trip report(s) and announcements regarding race details and specifications. ]

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Gone Paddling: Saturday 6:30AM - 4:00PM

SB and KB were back on the water of the James River this morning at 6:30AM. By 4:00 PM they had covered about 42 miles and were off the water to camp for the evening on Core Sound.

About 42 miles traveled on Saturday

From their start on the James River, they soon passed under a bridge and entered Beaufort harbor. By 8:30AM they had parked their boats on the Beaufort waterfront at the intended "Checkpoint" for the NC Challenge and were having a hearty breakfast at a dock-side restaurant.

Photo of KB in Beaufort
taken by SB at 8:40 AM

Meanwhile, winds were forecast to be mild and SSW at 9:00AM. Stronger SSW or SW winds were expected toward afternoon and evening.

Sailflow's forecast (as of 8:00AM) of expected 9:00 AM conditions

After stopping for breakfast in Beaufort, SB and KB paddled the length of Taylor Creek and continued onward to Harker's Island.

They passed by the front side (south side) of Harker's Island and made a pit stop at shell point where there is a ranger station, picnic grounds, and parking for out-bound kayakers.

Rounding the east end of Harker's Island, they turned north and began a down-wind run in a NE direction up Core Sound.

On Core Sound, SB and KB used their Pacific Action sails. The SW tail-winds increased from 12 knots up to about 25 knots in the afternoon. SB and KB soon found that they were traveling Core Sound at 8 to 9 knots and surfing down the large breaking waves. [correction: max speed 9.5 mph by KB, 9.1 mph by SB]

KB has a rudder on her kayak, but SB does not have a rudder on her NDK Explorer kayak. SB had to constantly apply her paddle for stern-rudder maneuvers. SB said "I really need a rudder!" about as many times as KB said "You really need a rudder!"

As the winds increased they lowered and stowed away their sails at about 1:30 PM.

By 4:00PM, SB and KB were only 9 miles from the take-out point ("finish line") near the Cedar Island ferry docks, but they decided to land and camp. They landed on the back side of a sandy spit near the mouth of Thorofare Bay.

SB called home to report. She noted that their campsite Friday night and their current campsite for Saturday night were examples of where not to camp. However, an objective of this trip is to scout the route and identify the locations of good campsite options.

We can look forward to hearing further trip-report details from SB and KB.

In brief: By 4:00 PM the kayakers had covered about 42 miles, were off the water to camp for the evening.

-- DWSB reporting

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gone Paddling: Friday 6:45AM - 8:00PM

On this first day of their 3-day paddling trip, SandyBottom and KiwiBird paddled about 13 hours and covered about 45 miles --from the boat ramp at the Cedar Island ferry-landing, down through the Harlowe Canal, and into the James River near Morehead City, NC.

Path Traveled on Friday

At about 6:45 AM, SandyBottom (SB) and KiwiBird (KB) made an early start from the public boat ramp next to ferry dock on Cedar Island. They headed for the strait between tiny Racoon Island and Piney Island.

Piney Island being a bombing range, perhaps it might just as well have been named "There-Used-to-Be-Racoons-Here Island". In any case, SandyBottom and KiwiBird will stay well away from Piney Island.

SPOT Tracking as of early Friday Morning

Meanwhile, the wind forecast indicated that the first part of their kayak trip around the "NC Challenge 2009" route would give SandyBottom and KiwiBird a nice tailwind in the 6-12 knot range.


Observed winds were rather different: SB reported that there was zero wind during 6:45 AM to 12:30 PM and the water was as smooth as glass. This changed rather suddenly. At about 12:30 when they were on the Neuse River about 12 miles from Clubfoot Creek, they encountered a 10-12 knot headwind that [correction: was absent deeper into ] the ClubfootCreek--HarloweCanal--MillCreek waterway [but present again on entering the James River]. Headwind continued until they stopped for the night on an island in the James River (near Morehead City).

SB reported that the Harlowe waterway was (and I quote) "beautiful". They had traveled through the waterway on Friday afternoon when the water level was "low" but found that it was nonetheless plently deep for sailboats likely to be entering the NC Challenge. She noted that at least parts of that waterway are used by a substantial number of boaters, including shrimp boats in Clubfoot Creek [correction: Mill Creek, not Clubfoot]. SB reported that clearances under the three bridges over the Harlowe Canal appeared to be entirely adequate for the sailboats (and kayaks) likely to be participating in the NC Challenge.

SB had many other interesting comments about the Harlowe waterway and other sections of today's path. I will leave it to her to post a detailed trip report that includes tall hose comments and more.

In brief: On this first day of the trip, SB and KB paddled about 13 hours and covered about 45 miles --from the Cedar Island ferry-landing boat ramp to the James River.

Technical note: the first picture at the top of this report was created using the following URL code:

For clarity, some spaces have been inserted in this listing of the code. All spaces should be removed from this URL code to create the Google Map image.

--DWSB reporting

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gone Paddling

I'm leaving today for a weekend paddling trip at the coast. KiwiBird and I will be paddling and scouting the route for the 2009 WaterTribe NC Challenge.

Registration's already open, go to the WaterTribe website, register as a user (no fee), pick a Tribe name, then go to the "NC Challenge Sign Me Up" bottom on the home page, and push the button.

Our Planned Route

I'll have my SPOT; follow our tracks at my SPOT website. Maybe Paul will even post an update or two.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Harlow Canal

With limited ocean ports and poor river navigation, North Carolina faced difficult transportation obstacles in its early years. Most trade went through Virginia or South Carolina. In order to improve transportation, numerous plans were set into motion during the late 1700s and early 1800s, including the construction of Clubfoot and the Harlowe (Harlow’s) Creek Canal.
1939 Map
In 1815, the North Carolina legislature authorized the formation of the Clubfoot and Harlow's Creek Canal Company to build a new canal to link Beaufort NC, and Pamlico Sound and New Bern(e).

Known locally as the Slave Canal because it was deepened to five or six feet by slave labor, it is one of the oldest canals in the United Sates, originally created untold centuries ago by Indians who dragged their canoes across the lowlands to the Neuse.

The canal was built with a tide control lock at the northern end on Pamlico Sound to keep water from surging through. This lock allowed small vessels to pass from the freshwater Pamlico Sound into the saltwater Atlantic after 1827. When the lock at Harlowe fell into disrepair in 1856, the canal was abandoned.

In 1880 it was re-opened as the New Berne and Beaufort Canal, and was acquired by the government in 1891. Then in 1911, a new canal was created two miles east and parallel to this waterway — the Adams Creek-Cross Creek Canal which later came under control of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the now Intracoastal Waterway.

Though the Harlow Canal is long and straight, it is often described as extremely narrow and shallow, and with little maintenance, is considered perilous to navigate. That is what just what might make it a great filter for the new 2009 WaterTribe NC Challenge, scheduled for September 24-27, 2009.

The NC Challenge will be a 100 miles circuit race, starting at Cedar Island. the route is planned to go north and west on the Neuse River, south down the Harlow Canal, continuing south on the Newport River then east to Taylor Creek in downtown Beaufort to the midway checkpoint, then continuing the circumnavigation around Harker’s Island and north up Core Sound back to Cedar Island.

In WaterTribe, a filter helps provide a more even playing field between the kayaks and canoes and the sailboats, and keeps the sailboats small. Only trailer-able, low draft sailboats whose sails can be easily reefed (for safety when in weather) and whose masts can be lowered (for bridges), and who can be rowed or paddled if needed are appropriate for a WaterTribe challenge.

Last weekend on our way to Cedar Island, Paul and I scouted the three bridges that cross over the Harlow Canal. The slide show contains photos we took at these bridges.

Thursday, KiwiBird and I will be heading back to Cedar Island to paddle the planned route as a scouting trip. I’m feeling back to normal, and we are both looking forward to another exciting adventure.

We'll also report back on the conditions of the Harlow Canal.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My First Solo Sail

It was a pretty busy Saturday yesterday. I spent the morning at Paddle Creek, at the Falls Lake Festival, a celebration of conservation. Tables were set up for conservation and government organizations that are associated with Falls Lake activities, and there were kayak demos and a bit of a party atmosphere. I was there helping to man the information table for our new kayak club, the Carolina Kayak Club.

After lunch I got calls from Ken and Paul, both telling me they were going to the lake sailing in their boats, so I left Durham at Falls Lake, and drove the 45 minues to Jordan Lake, meeting up with them about 2:30. (I'm so lucky to have such water close by, even the beach is only 3 hours away).

We decided we’d switch things up a bit, so I started sailing Kens boat Southbound with Ken, while Paul sailed alone in Dawn Patrol. Ken had me at the helm, and very helpfully answered questions and offered advice. Both sailboats are B&B Yacht Core Sounds with Cat Ketch rigs.

After an hour or so, we switched up and Paul took Southbound, while I sailed Dawn Patrol with Ken, again with me at the helm. Ken commented that it was the first time someone else was sailing Southbound without him on the boat, but he seemed pretty relaxed about it.

The conditions were very mild, beautiful sunny day, 75F, with winds 3-5kts, it was very comfortable conditions for me, and I was enjoying experimenting a bit with sail trim and sailing direction.

Then the guys suggested that I take Southbound solo for awhile. I was doing pretty well, and figured with the mild winds it really was a good opportunity. So Paul and I switched boats, with Ken now sailing Dawn Patrol with Paul, and I taking Southbound. The race was on :)

Actually it was when I was solo that we had the 5kt winds, it was pretty exciting, and I was definitely having fun. If I got the boat going a bit fast and it started to heel, I’d let out the main sheet just a bit, but then would bring it back in slowly, till I picked up the speed again. I found it liked it better when I was in total control, rather than letting the boat take it. And yes, we’re not talking really fast, or even a very steep angle of heeling obviously, but, I have to start somewhere.

Much of the day, I was the lead boat while the other followed. This was likely not because I was really the fastest. But I have to admit, I did enjoy being in the front, sort of feeling like I was racing and was the fastest. Ken said that was a true sign that I’d just taken a big step forward in my sailing.

A bigger sign though was this morning. I went out for an early morning paddle, and was surprised to find a pretty nice breeze on the lake. My first thought was not that “I should have brought my kayak’s Pacific Action Sail”, instead, it was “maybe Paul and I should try and get out for another sail today”.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sailing Lesson?

Last Sunday was a beautiful afternoon sailing on the lake. It was warm, sunny, and with nice mild winds (3 kts). Except for leaving and returning to the dock, I was Captain of the day, and had a great time sailing our Core Sound 20, the Dawn Patrol. Our friend Ken and his sailing pal Mike also had a great time, despite the low winds as Ken spent the afternoon playing with his new staysail on his Core Sound 17, SouthBound (below).

But our sailing earlier in the weekend was a very different experience....

We had all headed down to the coast for the 3-day weekend; I needed to go to Cedar Island to talk to the management at the Driftwood Motel and Campground about the 2009 WaterTribe NC Challenge being planned for the fall. We’d planned to sail some of the course being planned, I’d get some sailing lessons, and we’d have a fun weekend of sailing and camping.

Our only problem was the weather predictions. Forecasts were for small craft advisories throughout the weekend with thunderstorms Friday night and Saturday morning. We had studied the sailflow wind predications and saw that winds on the Neuse River (more inland) were expected to be 10-15 kts, while on Core Sound and Pamlico Sound winds would be 15-25 on Friday, and then 20-35 Friday night and Sat. Still learning, my preference is for 3-7 kts of steady wind.

So we arrived at the coast with an alternative plan to sailing in the sound: we would sail more inland across canals to reach the Neuse. We would start on the south side of Cedar Island at a public boat ramp under a bridge at the east end of Thorofare canal. Thorofare canal connects Thorofare Bay (on Core Sound to the east) to West Bay (to the west opening north into Pamlico Sound). Then Old canal connects West Bay to Turnagain Bay on the Neuse River. We figured we’d be somewhat protected on these east-west canals, and wind direction from the South meant we could sail on a beam-reach in the canals.
On reaching the Neuse River we would sail a few miles up-river to a nicely protected anchorage inside a hook of land at the mouth of the South River. This 17-mile route on Friday would position us for Saturday sailing on the Neuse not far from Oriental, NC. Perhaps work in a visit to Oriental. If we had started Friday morning before the winds strengthened it probably would have been a good plan; but, we did not get on the water until 2pm.

We met up with Ken and Mike about 1pm at the boat ramp on Thor. Canal and reviewed our options. All agreed winds were too high for cruising on the Sound; the Canal looked good, though windy (15 kts) and we agreed we probably ought to be fully reefed from the start –at least until we could get a look at West Bay. By 2pm we were launching with two reefs in our main, and two reefs in our mizzen. Ken’s CS17, Southbound, was fully reefed too. The CS17 reefs by rolling away the main sail, and moving the mizzen mast and sail forward, reducing his sail area by more than half. Our sails are on tracks and reef by tying up. We had double reefed both sails, but were still flying much more sail area than Ken.

Hmmm, planning to be fully reefed should have clued me in that maybe we shouldn’t even be doing this.

The boat ramp was on a very narrow shallow side canal that required a 90 degree left turn onto the much deeper wider (only about 5 boat lengths and not so deep actually) Thor. Canal. The plan was to drift with the wind down the side canal to enter the Canal, raise sails on entering the Canal, and then make the turn to port while quickly putting the centerboard and rudder down. The guys had it all figured out. Sounds too simple huh?

It was low tide. We easily left the ramp, made the turn, but did not have enough time to adjust the sails and centerboard, and we ended up quickly being pushed into the shallow shore of the Canal. The winds were strong enough to pin us against the muddy bank. The centerboard was kicked up and the rudder was dragging.

While we were figuring out what to do next, Ken and Mike launched from the boat ramp. Despite our perfectly adequate demonstration of what not to do, Ken and Mike joined us pinned on the lee shore.

It always amazes me when in a smaller canal or river, how mistaken you are thinking you’ll be protected from some of the wind, or that you can even predict the wind direction. Instead, sometimes you end up with wind funneling through the narrow slots, and changing direction to suit itself.

Ken and Mike escaped first. After watching them successfully re-start their run down the canal, we knew that to claw our way off the shore required a specific sequence: 1) begin with CB and rudder up, mizzen in, and main out, 2) use an oar to push the bow windward into the channel (not easy to do against the wind), 3) begin to drift out, 4) sheet mizzen out and main in, 5) rudder and CB down just right without dragging (easier said than done), 6) pick up speed (easier said than done), 7) tack around and begin the beam reach (easier said than done), 8) stay out of the shallows of the lee shore (almost impossible to do). The only problem was we had about 2 seconds to do each of the steps listed above.

On our first try the rudder didn’t lock down. 2nd, 3rd and 4th tries were exhausting attempts to get the sequences right with so little room to work with, with the wind gusting and a bit squirrely, and without loosing ground (in my mind I kept seeing us losing ground and crashing into the bridge pilings not to far behind us). Staying out of the shallows was the hardest, as the CB would drag if down and we couldn’t steer without it. It eventually took us five tries to get it right. By the 3rd try, I was all for giving up, it started to seem impossible to me, it wasn’t much fun, and the winds were giving us so much problem I didn’t want to think about what else was in store (remember we still had another even narrower canal to get through).

Ken and Mike had managed it pretty nicely on one try. But Ken had only one sail to manage has more experience, and he didn’t have me in the boat with him :)

Once we got underway, Paul would use the wind gusts to gain ground in the canal to minimize tacking. An efficient maneuver, I guess, but in gusts I always prefer he’d just sheet out the main. I don’t like it when the boat heels yet, and we’re not talking little gusts here.

We quickly caught up with Ken and Mike who were waiting up for us, and at the end of the canal and we all turned north into West Bay. The bay was ripping, breaking whitecaps, and wind driven swells, maybe not 20 kts yet, but more than 18. Heading west-northwest was a very wet ride (no pictures). Even fully reefed (and glad for it) and intentionally spilling wind off the sails, the GPS tracks show us easily hitting 8 kts.

The next step was to round a point of land into Long Bay and then turn south west to tack into the wind down to Old canal. We made it just past the point of land, were realixing it was not going to be fun tacking to the entrance to Old Canal. I was not looking forward to even trying to get through that even-narrower canal. We still had another 3 ½ miles to get to the waypoint at the entrance of the canal, we were now having to point higher into the wind and our speed had slowed to 2.5 mph, we had lots of tacking ahead of us, and it was starting to get late.

We pulled off back on the point to discuss our options. Go forward? Camp here? Go back? We rechecked the VHF weather again. We were standing on a low, flat, expanse of mud firmly held together by marsh grass roots. With my feet on dry land, I was perfectly happy to camp right there! The south winds were predicted to clock around and become north sometime Saturday which would be good, but the forecast was for some serious thunderstorms and severe winds later that night, and we would be exposed. From a lightning bolt’s point of view, we would be the highest objects in sight for miles around. We agreed to head back to the boat ramp and camp at the Driftwood Campground. We knew we would enjoy a great seafood dinner, as it was the Driftwood’s Restaurant’s opening night for the season.

Returning to the boat ramp would require short-tacking into the wind to sail through the first 50 yards of the canal, but the guys expected the remainder of the way would be a beam reach (how quickly they forget the gusts and swirls). Sailing back toward the canal we made really good time, we followed the red and green markers that identify the channel into the canal. At the last marker in the mouth of the canal we were pointing high and preparing to tack up-wind further into the canal. Rather than tacking to the upwind (righthand) side of the green marker, we maintained our starboard tack to pass a few feet downwind of the marker (the left and wrong side). We were less than 4 yards from the marker when our centerboard bit into shallow mud and we were stopped. The wind pushed us backward and our centerboard was more than vertical with at least a foot or two of it down in the mud. The Dawn Patrol was stuck.

The centerboard would not budge, was even inverted down in the centerboard trunk. Paul tried the usual maneuvers with sails and rudder to get us moving. We rocked and heeled the boat, with absolutely no boat movement of any kind. What the heck? The mud was too soft for us to get out of the boat.
Next plan, Ken and Mike would tow us out of the mud bank using his motor (I want a motor!). Not so easy, no movement. Next, Paul and I got into the SouthBound to lighten the Dawn Patrol, and we tried towing with the aim of rotating the boat. Nothing. We finally got it towed out of the mud by heeling it over about 50 degrees while dragging and rotating it. As the CB came out of the mud and dragged over the bottom, the boat heeled over so much that there was less than an inch of freeboard left before water would start flood into the cockpit. I was sure it was going to go over, but once out of the mud and in a bit deeper water, the unweighted centerboard floated back up into its retracted position and it leveled out and floated free behind us.

Not sure we didn’t damage something during all this; we decided to let Ken tow us back to the ramp. Paul got back in our boat to steer, and I was more than happy to stay in the SouthBound with the motor (did I mention that I want a motor). Ken had a big smile on his face like a happy Inuit hunter towing home a trophy walrus behind his kayak.
We were tired. Our total cruise was about 8 miles, round trip. More work than fun. Paul acknowledged that I’d been a good sport (the seriousness of the situations in my mind had me keeping quiet during much of it). And though I wasn’t happy, didn't find it much fun, there were many lessons learned from our experience. Not the least being that that’s not how I want my future lessons to work out.

We didn't have much time or free hands to take many pictures during our sail, but when looking at the few, I joked with Paul when I saw this one that maybe our problem was he couldn't see where he was going :)

The Seafood dinner and cold beers that night at the campground beat any of the camp food I'd brought and planned to eat, and Friday did see some severe weather rolling across Pamlico Sound and Cedar Island with winds at 40-50 kts followed by pouring rain.

The rest of our weekend was just plain fun. Saturday we adjusted the size of boat to the weather conditions. We opted for the $1 ferry ride as pedestrians over to Ocracoke with a tailwind. We spent the afternoon walking around the island and enjoyed a seafood lunch. We caught the 5:00 ferry back to Cedar Island and rocked and rolled all the way with the building headwind, with 3-4' chop, and 3-4' rollers, winds 25 kts.

No sailing on the Sound on Sunday either. Winds 15-20 were forecast. We left and scouted out the Neuse at New Bern, but passed up the boat ramp in Union Point where an Easter Sunday celebration was happening.

And that takes to a wonderful afternoon of sailing on the Lake. A great way to have ended the weekend, and leaving me feeling ready to go at it again.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What She Said

I’ve decided not to post a detailed trip report of the 2009 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge. I spent a fair amount of time paddling with or behind KiwiBird and KneadingWater, and we camped each night together. KiwiBird wrote an excellent day-to-day report on her blog KiwiBird's Adventures, so not much need to add to those details.

My previous post ‘EC Recovery’ gives a good sense of the emotional and physical challenges I endured. This year, except for camping and the first couple of nights and last day, I did more solo paddling than other ECs. I almost always lagged behind KiwiBird and Kneading water by an hour or two, and paddled the Everglades Wilderness Waterway completely solo each day and night. It was interesting being totally in charge of my navigating, sometimes a bit scary (at night after seeing alligators on shore all day), but not an unpleasant experience, and definitely added to the challenge and sense of accomplishment.

I’ve come to realize that my rib injury would have physically prevented me from paddling with a single blade, so in some regards it was a good thing I’d chosen my seakayak this year. However, this EC was certainly confirmation that my Kruger Dreamcatcher is the most comfortable of boats for the Challenge, and in every way. Packing is easier, access to gear easier, just getting in and out is easier, it’s completely more comfortable overall, it handles all the conditions needed, and nothing beats the ease of the single blade. I will most certainly do an Everglades Challenge again, Class 1 in my Kruger.

At one point in the race KiwiBird commented that she thought I might be faster in my Kruger. I’ve thought about this some. But I actually believe my speed is similar in both boats, however, with my injury this year, the comparison is not really fair. At home, on a day paddle of 8-12 miles I usually average 3.8-4.0 mph in either boat. During an EC, I’m all about pacing (not racing). For me to finish a day of 50+ miles, pacing usually mean s averaging 3.0-3.4 mph which includes breaks on and off the water.

I’ve no idea what next years Challenge in the “Dawn Patrol” sailboat will be like. Could be a fast 3 days, or, I could be rowing a 20ft sailboat for 300 miles!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

EC Recovery

This year, recovery from the 2009 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge has been really hard for me, in fact, I’m still not back. It was my best finish time (by 45 minutes), still in cruiser mode, but, this was not the most enjoyable of times among my previous six.

Unfortunately, I started the race an hour after a fall in the parking lot of Ft DeSoto, carrying the last of my food bags in the dark from car to kayak. During the fall, I took care to protect my hands, arms, and shoulder, but I was pretty sure I’d bruised if not cracked a rib. Already pumped on adrenalin, I found I could torso twist without pain, and knowing there is no real treatment for a rib injury, I figured I’d start the race and just see how it goes.

I really hurt! It hurt to breath, it hurt to laugh, cough, roll over in sleep, and certain other movements were uncomfortable. But it wasn’t excruciating pain, and with regular doses of Ibuprofen and Tylenol, and focusing on the challenge, I found it was doable. Luckily, though always bothered by headwinds and contrary tides, we had very mild weather overall, no fronts or storms, and nothing really too difficult to deal with. I recall one morning saying to myself "if the weather changes for the worse, I’ll have to seriously consider dropping out".

This is not a happy SandyBottom signing in at CP1

No smile here at CP2

So the race was doable. Doable, but I was pretty emotionally fragile throughout. There were a few sad phone calls home and even a dramatic emotional breakdown during the challenge on the 3rd day. During one call I told Paul “I always have fun during these challenges, and I’m just not feeling any fun”. Paul continued to tell me I was doing great, and that the pain management was affecting me emotionally. He really worked hard as my land support this year to keep me in spirits. And he was there for me at the finish, with a kiss and a home made bougainvillea lei in hand. I sure do love that guy.

Paul (DancesWithSandyBottom) congratulating me at Finish

Of course spending time with KiwiBird and KneadingWater is always a good time, but this year it was often a mixed blessing. We camped together each night, occasionally even arriving together, but more often than not I’d arrive an hour or two later, having spent most of the day and night paddling solo, working hard through pain and frustration of trying to keep up with them (not a good idea ever regardless). Thinking back, I’m not sure putting up with me was the most fun for them either, and I’m thankful for it, as I’m sure they helped me keep going.

KneadingWater helping to pull me out of the Kayak at finish

The first and only time I’d ever even thought of dropping out of a Challenge, was that last morning before leaving Flaming. I’d gotten in late the night before, and was exhausted from headwinds and tides. I’d already heard stories of other’s making an attempt at the 38 mile crossing the day before and turned back by the winds, weather predictions were only for worse. I’d only had 2 good hours of sleep, when KiwiBird and KneadingWater saw me sleeping on the grass by the dock, woke me up at 4AM and said, “let’s go before the winds get really bad”. I groaned. KiwiBird said we’ll paddle and finish together, and then I knew I could do it.

Aside from the personal demons, it was actually one of the easier EC’s, and likely the real reason I was able to finish with my rib injury. Yes it seemed we were always paddling against big tides (full moon), and a constant 10-15 mph headwind (no different than the last 3 years), enough for complaints, but nothing to really cry about. And except for that last night needing a very early start, most nights I stopped before midnight, got a pretty full night sleep, rarely leaving camp before 8am.

I arrived at Key Largo with a few bad blisters on my hands (not really paddling blisters but wounds received early on from the wet sheets of the Pacific Action Sails), a couple other bad blisters on my feet from a poor design on my paddling shoes (they are now in the garbage), and some pretty bad chafing around my waist and hips that will leave scars. If you’ve seen the photos on the WaterTribe site of the awards ceremony, that’s me in a comfortable Muumuu. The chafing was from PFD, spray skirt, and even rubbing from my kayak. My fault, I didn’t lose that extra weight, a painful mistake I’ll not make, and am even fixing right now.

It’s the rib injury that’s been my biggest problem. With the focus of the race over, the pain has been constant. X-rays also revealed a possible small pneumo-thorax, I’ve a partially deflated lung, and some fluid buildup around and in my left lung. Insult to injury, my low defenses had me catching the flu, and developing a horrible and painful cough. It’ll just take a bit more time.

Regardless, I’m already planning next years Challenge. Paul and I are talking about doing it together in Class 4 with our sailboat the ‘Dawn Patrol’. A real change for me, and one I’ll have to work hard on this year, as I have to learn to sail, and learn to love to sail. I've already started, and look forward to the new Challenge.