Ratty knows the score. To be on the water in any kind of craft can be therapeutic. IMHO the sound of the surf can only be equalled by the sound of the wind in the pines. Both together… heaven. You can’t buy that kind of therapy with a million dollars. One of the saddest things I often saw on the streets of DC was the herds of young, ambitious suits with ear buds in their ears, eyes and thumbs glued to their smartphones, totally oblivious to their surroundings. Borg aspirants, no? It is no wonder so much self serving and destructive idiocy is produced in Washington. As I have said for so many years now, I think we deserve a break... or at least a little vicarious diversion from the madness that surrounds us.
Funny how this rings true year after year, no matter what changes occur in Washington. Once again, I invite the SST Committee of Correspondence to follow the running of the Everglades Challenge which begins this Saturday morning. The event is organized by a colorful group of adventurers who call themselves the Water Tribe. The Everglades Challenge is an unsupported, expedition style adventure race for kayaks, canoes, and small sailboats. It starts at Fort DeSoto in Saint Petersburg, Florida and ends at Key Largo. The distance is roughly 300 nautical miles depending on one's course selection. Updates on the progress and tribulations of the participants will be posted on the Water Tribe forums. There is also a WaterTribe Facebook page. It’s a closed group, but they let me in so they can’t be too picky. The boats are tracked by SPOT satellite. Their progress can be seen on this tracking map. There is also a tracking map provided through Race Owl. Between the two, the event should be well covered.
To truly get a feel for this event, I recommend you set aside an hour and a half to view this video about the 2013 running of the Everglades Challenge. There’s some excellent banjo and fiddle work as well.
This year close to a hundred boats will be taking up the challenge. Some will not make it to Key Largo. Some may not even make it to Fort DeSoto. It’s been said that half the challenge is getting to the start. I believe it. The winners usually make the voyage in two days or so. The allowed time limit for successfully finishing the race is eight days. I would take the full eight days. Why rush to shorten such a grand experience? I’m not alone in this thinking. One WaterTribe member recently commented, “Must remember he who spends the most days on course and still finishes in the allotted time wins. Trying not to race this year. Maybe I will race from camp site to camp site….”
The majority of craft in this challenge are either some form of expedition kayak or sailing catamaran/trimaran. That seems to be the developing trend. I’m drawn to the more traditional designs of small open sailboats. This year there is a Welsford Pathfinder in the line up. I’ve admired this solidly designed and built boat for many years and followed several construction projects. It’s smaller sistership, the Navigator, features proudly in what has been my favorite sailing video for quite some time. The Pathfinder is being sailed singlehanded by “Deke.” It should be a comfortable journey as long as it can negotiate the various filters along the way such as the unassisted beach launching from above the high water line and dropping the mast to pass through low bridges.
Marty Whorline, “OffTheCharts,” is once again sailing his SCAMP named Fat Bottomed Girl, another Welsford design. He did it two years ago and these are his home waters. Should be easy, but anything can happen.
Joachim Roesler is taking his Angus RowCruiser, Kairos, out. Several of these craft have done well in the Race to Alaska, as did Joe last year. The design seems made for these kinds of challenges. I am pretty confident Joachim and his RowCruiser will do fine. Besides, he’s a fellow Nutmegger. He’s sailing/rowing under his WaterTribe name of TeamKairos.
Two Chesapeake Light Craft (CLC) designs are going to sail this year. HolyMackerel will sail a CLC Southwester Dory singlehanded. Guitarman and Reader will sail a CLC Northeaster Dory as a double. They should also do fine. I wish someone was taking the CLC Waterlust sailing canoe this year. I’m curious to see how that design does.
The most eye opening design in this year’s challenge is Dave Gentry’s Indonesian Perahu Katir double outrigger sailing canoe. Gentry is a master of the skin-on-frame technique. Although this design looks fragile, it’s based on a design that proved itself in the South Pacific. This should be exciting to follow this year. Gentry is sailing under his WaterTribe name of Gentrification.
Yes, I still plan on doing this some day. Until the day I push off the Fort DeSoto beach, I content myself with some local paddling and sailing in my Pungo 120 kayak. We have some wonderful venues in Stafford, Virginia. Lake Mooney is our 500 acre reservoir that does not allow the use of gas engines. You see only kayaks and canoes now. On a rare windy day, my homemade sail rig moves my Pungo along quite nicely. We also have the Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve on the Potomac River. This area has been left pristine since the Civil War. The wildlife viewable here is magnificent. And the canoe/kayak launch ramp to the Crow’s Nest Water Trail is just flat cool. We also have Abel Reservoir for a short afternoon paddle and commune with nature and the Mallows Bay area just a brisk two and a half mile paddle across the Potomac on the flood tide.
I am still fickle in my love for boat designs. I often unroll my plans for John Welsford’s Walkabout and Iain Oughtred’s MacGregor canoe. I still a have the crush that I developed last year on the new CLC Waterlust Sailing Canoe. The rig is my beloved balanced lug. There is room to sleep within the hull, not a lot, but enough. Secondary propulsion is the Hobie Mirage Drive. This has been proven over the years in the Everglades Challenge. The prospect of using my aging, but still capable, leg muscles rather than my aging arm and shoulder muscles is enticing. I can still carry a Greenland paddle for the time when that new-fangled contraption inevitably gives out. A sailing canoe does not need a trailer, but may become a necessity as I age, and will take little space in my garage. Construction with the CLC kit will be a much simpler challenge. Those are significant selling points. Plus, my growing experience with my little Pungo and its diminutive Hokulea-like sail is convincing me that a sailing canoe is what I’m meant to sail.
I’ll end this the same way I ended it last year and the year before that. Some things will not change. In addition to building the boat and getting to Fort DeSoto, I have to obtain a release from SWMBO to undertake such a crazy-assed and dangerous adventure. She has stood by me through thick and thin and, quite frankly, has had her fill of my risking life and limb. She would be happy to have us live out the remainder of our lives quietly, happily and contentedly as hobbits in the shire. This sounds wonderful… but the ring still calls out for me.