Although my focus is often on the Everglades Challenge, there is another WaterTribe event, run only every four years, that takes adventuring in small boats to a whole new level. It’s the Ultimate Florida Challenge, and it’s happening as you read this.
Expanding ever so slightly on the Everglades Challenge theme, The Ultimate challengers continue on from Key Largo, eventually ending up, 1200 miles from the start, back on the same Ft. Desoto beach!
The following is from the WaterTribe site:
This race circumnavigates Florida in five stages. The first stage starts at Fort Desoto in Tampa Bay, Florida along with the Annual Everglades Challenge. At Key Largo you turn north and head for Sebastian Inlet. From there you go to the boat landing adjacent to Fort Clinch Start Park. Just across Cumberland Sound you will find the mouth of the St. Marys River. Then it’s about 90 miles upstream on the St. Marys River to St. George. At St. George you begin the infamous 40-mile portage to the Suwannee River at Fargo. After about 220 miles down river you are back in the Gulf of Mexico – next stop Cedar Key. The final sprint from Cedar Key finishes back at Fort Desoto. It’s hard to predict which stage will be the toughest since weather will be a factor, but watch out for the 40-mile portage between the St. Marys River and the Suwannee River – it’s a heart breaker.
Although the deadlines allow just a bit more than 29 days to complete the Ultimate Florida Challenge, hard chargers might be able to do this in 15 days or so, but the weather would have to cooperate. A more reasonable target is 20 days give a take a couple of days. Cruisers may take a more leisurely pace and use every minute of the allowed time. Of course, this challenge is so tough that it is possible that nobody can complete it in the allowed time limits – we’ll see.
This years entrants roster is ArdieO, DolphinGal, HairyKerry, JollyRoger, MosquitoMagnet, Pelican, riverslayer, SaltyFrog, SandyBottom & SOS (a mother and son team), SewSew, and Whale. If you go to the WaterTribe site and click on the forums tab, you can keep track of this years’ entrants via they blogs that they, and their shore contacts post.