Pictures From Checkpoint 2 – 2014 Everglades Challenge

I just found some pictures online that were taken of my arrival and departure from CP2 – it was quite a milestone for me, as our first attempt ended at CP1 due to a serious water leak in Clarity’s vaka (main hull), and my second attempt (which was my first solo attempt) ended on Fort Myers Beach with structural problems with Discovery’s transom (my transom actually held up pretty well, thank you very much).

To me, CP2 is the point of no return on an Everglades Challenge – once you’ve made it to Chokoloskee, you’ve made it into the heart of it all, and it just clicks – you are going to either complete this thing, or die trying.  The story of the adventure exists elsewhere on my blog, so I won’t bore you with a repetition of the story… I save that for those nights at the pub with a few pints!  Anyway, I hope you enjoy the pictures:

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A Sad Day On The Water In Fiji

Earlier today, on the waters off of Suva Point, we sailors lost one of our own. I don’t know his name, or how long he had been sailing, but none of that matters… he was a young boy of 13, and yet he was as important as any one of us – he was human.

The Hobie 16 he was sailing on capsized in confused seas (as Hobies, and all manner of little sport sailing craft are wont to do), and the young man, caught in the lines under the trampoline, tragically drowned before he could be freed, though many tried valiantly to save him.

I never know when something like what I’m about to write is right to say, but I’ll do it anyway – a knife is a critical part of any sailing kit and should be securely and permanently mounted on your PFD in such a location that you can reach it with either hand, whether or not you can see it. I far prefer a fixed blade, semi-serrated “river shorty” kind of knife, in a scabbard with detention style retention, so that no latches or snaps need be loosened before the blade is released. We would have lost someone in the 2013 Everglades Challenge had he not been wearing his knife… and he’ll be the first one to admit that, before the event, he complained about having to wear it, and some of the other safety gear, ad nauseum.

Would a knife have saved this young man? We will never know – but please think for a moment before you leave shore and be sure you are prepared for something as seemingly innocent as a small boat capsize, as very rarely, something can go wrong.

My most sincere thoughts go out to this young man’s parents, family, and friends, and do I hope that they can find some solace in the fact that he departed doing something he enjoyed. Take care and be safe, everyone.


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The Boats I Have Known – A Brief Sailing History of Yours Truly (Entry #1)

I started sailing pretty early in life, and I thought it would be fun to take a retrospective and hopefully accurate look at the boats I’ve owned and sailed so far. Please note that, unless identified as a boat I actually owned, all pictures are representative sister ships.

Well, I guess starting at the beginning would be a logical as anything else, so lets reach back to when I was 3, and my dad bought a tiny little orange craft called a Sport Yak II. He bought it from Jack Culleys’ Sailboats, Inc, when it was a tiny store in Bloomington, MN, and we proceeded to go adventuring. To this day I can’t figure out how my dad, I, and eventually my younger brother Doug ever fit into the thing, but we did, and a great time was had by all (or at least me)… even when we almost got swamped by a barge wake on the Minnesota River one fine day. I don’t remember much about my first sail, but I do remember at age 4 (mom, don’t read this) my dad set me off on Lake Nokomis, in Minneapolis, on a tether and let me work my way around, learning the sail and rudder. By 5 (mom, you aren’t reading this, are you?) I was sailing alone, untethered – and at one point, somewhere around the age of 10, I loaded the boat on a wagon, tied it to my bike, and towed it off to the lake, and a friend and I went sailing. My parents were a little upset that I didn’t tell them about my plan though!

Sport Yak II

Sport Yak II

When I was a bit older, either 7 or 8, we were at a Bloomington Jaycees picnic, and there were prizes to be given away. Watching the kids and adults win various trinkets, and some cool stuff, I got a bit depressed at my lack of booty-gain, and walked over to the grand prize, a 14′ Bonito sailboat, and sat on the trailer tongue, admiring the glossy blue deck, whose gelcoat looked as deep as any sea. About 20 minutes went by, and they began the buildup for the sailboat drawing, to which I barely paid attention. They called out the winning number (printed on lapel buttons we were all wearing) and after a minute or so, I thought… “hmm, that number sounds familiar…”. Looking down at my button I saw the number I had checked so many times before was indeed the winning number! Of course, my parents had already figured that out, since the numbers were sequential, but they had no idea where I was, so while I went up on stage to claim my prize, they were searching the park for me! The boat was provided by Sailboats, Inc., so that was another tie I have to them from my youth.

I really learned a lot on that boat, and my father and I raced it for years at the Lake Waconia Yacht Club, each taking turns, for though the boat was capable of carrying 3, it was definitely a single handed racer.

After a couple of years, my dad decided he wanted a bigger boat, so that we could race together, and sail with others. His choice was an International Tempest, a boat that was briefly an Olympic class, and so loaded with sail area that it carried both a 500 lb bulb keel AND a trapeze for the crew! She was in rough shape when we got her, but had plenty of sails and most of the gear needed, so we proceeded to rebuild and refit her. Named “Arriba!”, she was one wild child of a sailboat, and had the same handicap rating as a Hobie 16! We sailed and raced her for a couple of years, learned a lot, sunk her once, and to date she’s the only boat I ever got knocked out on. Twice. They call that thing a boom for a reason…
Tempests on a close reach

At 14, it seemed time for me to escalate the family boat competition, so I sold the Bonito, added up my paper route money, and bought a 1959 19′ Lightning, built of mahogany by Lippincott. What a beauty! Electric blue, with a white canvassed deck and bright finished wood, she even came with 2 sets of cotton sails sewn with colored thread. Like the Tempest, she needed some work, and I learned a lot about marlinspike seamanship – splicing lines, repairing sails, etc. And she sailed beautifully – stable and stiff, I never capsized her, and when I got her a set of fancy dacron dress sails, she flew like a bird. During this time I was also introduced to catamaran sailing, via the new and amazing Nacra 5.2, Sol-Cat 18, and the assorted Hobie, Prindle, and Aquacat models. Of more interest was seeing, but not getting to sail, one of the Reynolds 21 micro-cruiser-racer cats… I didn’t know it yet, but I had been bitten by an exotic bug – one that would emerge years later!

After a couple of years with the Tempest and the Lightning, we realized something – we each had a boat big enough to sail on together, but with two boats, we still didn’t. Cold winters cross country skiing led us to talk about what we should do about that little issue. Some of the boats on Lake Waconia were getting bigger, and whereas a few years ago Montgomery 17’s, Balboa 20’s and Catalina 22’s were about as big as they got, some people had moved up to Catalina 25’s, and we even had a Montgomery 23 on the lake. With those boats in mind, plus the fact that we just HAD to be a little different, we went boat shopping. After looking at a few things, including a Piver Nugget trimaran (talk about planting another subconscious seed of desire…), we found a Pearson Lark – a 24′, raised deck, full keeled cruising boat with gorgeous lines, and a simple interior designed so that you could work the galley while sitting down. She had a sliding/folding hatch that gave full headroom over a fair portion of the boat, tons of stowage, acres of flat, safe deck, and drew 4′ of water. We bought her. Unfortunately, we didn’t tell my mom first, but at least I was 15 and relatively innocent at the time!

We brought her home, worked on her and rigged her, all in a big rush, as the ice has started melting early on the lake. The launch went uneventfully, and we got a tow over to our mooring, and continued to rig. Belatedly, we looked at the sky just in time to see a front in the distance. I raced to finish the mooring pendants before the brunt of the storm hit, and I finished them just in time, and we attached them to the bottom of the mooring buoy in probably 30 knot winds, 3 foot seas, and the beginnings of ugly rain. Not too bad from a deck 4′ off the water!

For the first year, we kept her without a motor, and I really learned the art of handing a displacement hulled sailboat from that. Sailing to and from the mooring in any and all weather was a skill I’ve always appreciated learning, and it’s come in handy many a time, even in unexpected ways.

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Everglades Challenge 2015 – 100% FUBAR

I’ve taken a month off while gathering my thoughts about the 2015 Everglades Challenge, and I”m still not totally ready to post my opinions.  I will, however, post them in the next week (it’s our anniversary this weekend, so no typing for me!).

There is a lot to say, to tell, to speculate, and to resolve.  Will Watertribe survive what happened?  Will the Coast Guard back off from adventure events like the Everglades Challenge, or did this years’ cancellation mark the beginning of increased encroachment?  It’s hard to say, but I do know I’d be seriously nervous if I were planning to enter, say, the Race To Alaska this year.

When I do write the post, I’ll have a lot to say, especially as I was an inspector this year.  I hope what I have to offer will help waterborne adventure eventing in the future.  We don’t need the Government interfering needlessly, nor do we need to be shooting our own selves in the foot (feet? foots?) with bad planning, either by entrants or organizers.

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Coastie And Clamcounters 2015 Everglades Challenge/Impromptu Vacation Report

Coastie, an ex-Coast Guardsman, and Clamcounter, his accountant son, are two of the most fun WaterTribers I know (and that says a lot, because ALL Tribers are a ton of fun!). Here is a link to their report, and a bunch of pictures they took, on their unofficial trek from Fort Desoto Beach to Key Largo. It shall be noted in passing that Coastie made no reference to the actions of the Coast Guard regarding the event!
2015 EC Report for Coastie & ClamCounter

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Everglades Challenge 2015 Beach Walk Videos

This year, I was a pre-challenge inspector, checking out the gear and vessels of those WaterTribers who have not yet completed a Challenge (once you complete a challenge, you can self-certify that you have all the required gear and your vessel is ready).  In between walking up and down the beach inspecting stuff, I found a little time to record my travels. Here’s the two videos I made (I even snazzified them up a bit with titles and music!).
Everglades Challenge 2015 A Walk On The Beach Part 1
Everglades Challenge 2015 A Walk On The Beach Part 2

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Some More 2015 Everglades Challenge Stuff

The commentary on many sites is starting to fly regarding the Coast Guard’s decision to cancel the 2015 Everglades Challenge – some pro, some con (mostly con), with various levels of information, speculation, and credibility. From what I’ve been able to gather, there was a 911 call placed that was forwarded to the Coast Guard, but it’s not known as of yet who called. Apparently, the Coast Guard showed up in the worst of it and decided to call the event off. The area that had the seriously bad wave action is a confined area off of Passage Key in Tampa Bay, and it’s well known to have hazardous waves, currents, and shifting sand bars. The rest of the course actually was suffering from too LITTLE wind! In any case, I’m still a bit hesitant to speculate, but I thought I’d provide a couple more links for your reading pleasure!

SOS’s (Son Of Sandybottom) 2015 EC blog page
Sailing Anarchy’s after action report

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