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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The Coast Guard Cancelled The 2015 Everglades Challenge

As many of you know by now, the Coast Guard cancelled the 2015 Everglades Challenge as well as the 2015 Ultimate Marathon (which is basically the first leg of the E.C.).

Currently, there is a lot of speculation as to why they cancelled it, or if they should have, since there wasn’t even a small craft warning posted for the area, but details are still coming in.  Instead of rehashing and second guessing what happened (I did not participate this year), I’m including some links to other blogs written by participants, along with a link to Sailing Anarchy – which makes a couple of valid points.  I’d post some news media links, but they are either so incomplete or inaccurate as to be laughable.

Micro Tom’s blog (Tom is an experienced WaterTriber) – http://watertribe.org/microtom/my-account-and-assessment-of-the-2015-everglades-challenge/

– SandyBottom’s Report (SandyBottom is one of the most experienced Tribers there is)

Scareman’s Report (Another veteran Triber)

– Sailing Anarchy’s page (Sailing Anarchy pulls no punches – ever)

Again, I’m not ready to speculate, guess, condemn, or anything else.  We take a risk when we participate in an event like this (YOU MAY DIE appears more than once in the paperwork), but we do have to make sure we aren’t either doing anything foolish, or allowing unprepared entrants to participate.  There will be more about all of this later – but for now, know everyone is safe, sound, and accounted for.

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Absent again… and a major change of plans

Well, here I am again, having not posted in a LONG time.

Life, work, life, schools, and life all caught up with us in a big way this year, and I’m just not physically ready to do the Everglades Challenge this year.  So we will sit this one out, although we’ll be there at the start helping with registration and inspections.

We may do the North Carolina Challenge later in the year, and whether or not we do, I suspect we’ll be back next year, with an again-modified Clarity, ready and raring to go south towards Key Largo – and this time, I’ll have a crew.

I also apologize for the lack of updates, but I ran into a long spell of I-hate-computer-itis, and, after years of blogging, I just needed a bit of a break.  It was a good idea too, as it’s looking like I’ll be starting my own on-line business, so I’ll need to be refreshed and ready to bang away at the keyboard!

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A Good Man Has Left On His Final Sail

I met sailmaker Dennis Vallenga as we were preparing Clarity for the 2011 Everglades Challenge, and as sometimes happens, it was because of a tragic event  that we met.  On October 26th 2010, Larsen Hunt was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, leaving behind her young son Aidric, who is Autistic.  My wife and I decided to dedicate our trip to her memory, and to help her son.  We contacted a number of sailmakers with the idea of getting a sail made that could be signed for a donation to Aidric’s assistance fund, and Dennis contacted me within 24 hours, very enthusiastically offering his help.  Within a week, we had come up with the design for the sail, and he had it finished.  Not only that, but Dennis insisted on doing some work on my mainsail as well, installing extra reef points and some reinforcements to the head of the sail.  He helped me get into the Davis Island Yacht Club for a presentation and signing, which alone raised well over $500.00 for Aidric, and was even at the beach when we launched.  He well and truly cared about not only what we were doing, but who and why we were trying to help.  It’s not often these days that you meet someone with such a sincere desire to help others.
Clarity, flying Aidric's Sail

Clarity, flying Aidric’s Sail

Dennis was in a good jovial mood each and every time I talked with him, and his humor often reminded my of Jay Ward, chief cartoonist of the old Rocky and Bullwinkle show… you just knew there was always a little more humor there, just waiting to sneak out of him.  I wish I had met him long before I did, as I suspect there were lots of great stories to be told.  My best to his family and friends, and all those blessed to have met him.
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Who Am I And Where Have I Gone?!?

Well, it’s been quite the fast paced few months here in Clarity Land – I’ve moved 3 times (houses) including the move I’m doing this weekend.  Sorry about the lack of posts, but it has been a tad hectic.  But not to worry, there will soon be a resumption of semi-regular postage!

Mike

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A Visual Depiction Of My Travels During The 2014 Everglades Challenge…

The following are screen shots of my SPOT tracking page, showing my route from start to finish.  I don’t have my first day’s worth of tracks though, as SPOT only stores them for 7 days.  I’ll have to see what I can pull off of the WaterTribe site…

This is my track from Picnic Island, where I spent Sunday night, on through the San Carlos Pass bridge.  Sailing through the bridge was dicey, as I had to point pretty high through some choppy seas and current.  The track doesn't show it, but I actually started at the west end of the bridge and sailed east until I had the right combination of wind and waves to head up and get under the bridge.  I think I went under about 4 spaces to the west of the actual channel.  And I apologize to the fisherman on shore who's line I snagged with my rudder - fortunately, I was able to release the blade before any damage was done to his line or my boat!

This is my track from Picnic Island, where I spent Sunday night, on through the San Carlos Pass bridge. Sailing through the bridge was dicey, as I had to point pretty high through some choppy seas and current. The track doesn’t show it, but I actually started at the west end of the bridge and sailed east until I had the right combination of wind and waves to head up and get under the bridge. I think I went under about 4 spaces to the west of the actual channel. And I apologize to the fisherman on shore who’s line I snagged with my rudder – fortunately, I was able to release the blade before any damage was done to his line or my boat!

This was a great sail - 10 knots or so of wind made for a speedy, relaxing shot down Fort Myers Beach towards Naples, the dark of night, and the great unknown (to me) of Marco Island, Cape Romano, and beyond (que the Twilight Zone theme...)!

This was a great sail – 10 knots or so of wind made for a speedy, relaxing shot down Fort Myers Beach towards Naples, the dark of night, and the great unknown (to me) of Marco Island, Cape Romano, and beyond (queue the Twilight Zone theme…)!

I passed Marco Island as it got totally dark out - after being up and sailing over 12 hours, the darkness, shadows, and shore lights got a bit disorienting at times - good thing I had my Nexus 7 tablet loaded with navigation apps and a good compass on board.  The winds got really light as I got to the tip of Cape Romano, where I scared the heck outta myself when I turned on the spotlight to look for the abandoned concrete domes of a vacation home, only to hit them immediately about 50 yards away, looking haunted, forlorn, and kinda scary!  The wind totally died after I rounded the Cape, and I drifted into a channel between the two shoals.  After a few minutes, I got a tiny breeze, and sailed to within a quarter mile of Panther and White Horse Keys, where I planned to camp, but I lost the wind again, so I just fell asleep on deck, wearing my safety harness, with the mainsheet draped over my forearm so that any puff of wind would wake me.

I passed Marco Island as it got totally dark out – after being up and sailing over 12 hours, the darkness, shadows, and shore lights got a bit disorienting at times – good thing I had my Nexus 7 tablet loaded with navigation apps and a good compass on board. The winds got really light as I got to the tip of Cape Romano, where I scared the heck outta myself when I turned on the spotlight to look for the abandoned concrete domes of a vacation home, only to hit them immediately about 50 yards away, looking haunted, forlorn, and kinda scary! The wind totally died after I rounded the Cape, and I drifted into a channel between the two shoals. After a few minutes, I got a tiny breeze, and sailed to within a quarter mile of Panther and White Horse Keys, where I planned to camp, but I lost the wind again, so I just fell asleep on deck, wearing my safety harness, with the mainsheet draped over my forearm so that any puff of wind would wake me.

Here's where I slept... probably from about 0300 to 0730.  I'd be more accurate, but for me, this event was both a Challenge and a VACATION!

Here’s where I slept… probably from about 0300 to 0730. I’d be more accurate, but for me, this event was both a Challenge and a VACATION!

As the tiny breeze filled in, I close reached off of the Ten Thousand Islands area, eventually hardening up onto a light air beat to windward, setting myself up for Indian Key Pass.  With the greatest of good luck, I hit the pass dead on with my first tack, thus proving that, every once in a while, I can indeed properly calculate leeway and current!  I caught the Pass opening just as the tide turned, and was essentially washed up and through it, where I was able to set a fast reach in the freshening breeze towards Checkpoint 2.  It was a great 30 minute sail, marred only by having to check on some guy on a windsurfer who was using his airhorn to signal a distant friend.  I thought he was in trouble, but it turns out he was just ignorant!

As the tiny breeze filled in, I close reached off of the Ten Thousand Islands area, eventually hardening up onto a light air beat to windward, setting myself up for Indian Key Pass. With the greatest of good luck, I hit the pass dead on with my first tack, thus proving that, every once in a while, I can indeed properly calculate leeway and current! I caught the Pass opening just as the tide turned, and was essentially washed up and through it, where I was able to set a fast reach in the freshening breeze towards Checkpoint 2. It was a great 30 minute sail, marred only by having to check on some guy on a windsurfer who was using his airhorn to signal a distant friend. I thought he was in trouble, but it turns out he was just misusing a signaling device… frustrating for me, but far better than a boater in trouble!

After a 24 hour layover due to electronics trouble, I headed out the same way I entered the bay, and turned SSW towards Cape Sable.  This was another night sail under light winds, but things were definitely about to change...

After a 24 hour layover due to electronics trouble, I headed out the same way I entered the bay, and turned SSW towards Cape Sable. This was another night sail under light winds, but things were definitely about to change…

As written up in a post on this blog, this was a great sail, and after my layover, it really got me back into the game.  I was able to use a lot of close-quarters sailing skills as I tacked out of the channel, and it was just a blast.

As written up in a post on this blog, this was a great sail, and after my layover, it really got me back into the game. I was able to use a lot of close-quarters sailing skills as I tacked out of the channel, and it was just a blast.

After another great night sail, morning brought a gently freshening breeze.  That breeze kept on freshening, eventually bearing out of the south at well over 20 knots.  In close to Cape Sable, it was even stronger.  I tried tacking out well into Florida Bay to make headway, but the wind and choppy seas made it very difficult to get anywhere.

After another great night sail, morning brought a gently freshening breeze. That breeze kept on freshening, eventually bearing out of the south at well over 20 knots. In close to Cape Sable, it was even stronger. I tried tacking out well into Florida Bay to make headway, but the wind and choppy seas made it very difficult to get anywhere.

I took a quick detour into the bay as the wind freshened, so I could have a decent lunch and secure from light air sailing mode (i.e. crap everywhere on deck).  I underestimated the winds and didn't reef, which may or may not have been a good idea.  Unreefed, I had too much sail up, so progress to windward was really tough, and I ended up ducking in for cover at the mouth on the Little Shark River.  Had I been double reefed, I might have been able to get around Cape Sable, but I also would have been in one of the worst places to be in all of Florida Bay during a storm.  And this storm was serious - waterspouts, heavy rain, and seriously gusty winds, along with bizzaro waves the color of mud (I'm guessing this brown is where the name of the Cape came from) would have been a major issue sailing solo.

I took a quick detour into the bay as the wind freshened, so I could have a decent lunch and secure from light air sailing mode (i.e. crap everywhere on deck). I underestimated the winds and didn’t reef, which may or may not have been a good idea. Unreefed, I had too much sail up, so progress to windward was really tough, and I ended up ducking in for cover at the mouth on the Little Shark River. Had I been double reefed, I might have been able to get around Cape Sable, but I also would have been in one of the worst places to be in all of Florida Bay during a storm. And this storm was serious – waterspouts, heavy rain, and seriously gusty winds, along with bizzaro waves the color of mud (I’m guessing this brown is where the name of the Cape came from) would have been a major issue sailing solo.

Here you can see my overnight storm refuge, followed by a downwind run (the wind had changed 180 degrees overnight) to Cape Sable under a single reefed main and no jib.  All went well, albeit a bit bouncy, with some large waves to surf on, and others that just tossed me about, until I reached the southern point of Cape Sable.  I had to gybe in order to head east, and when I did, the reef point tore out of my sail.  Fortunately, the boom decided not to crush my head, and I sailed to a sandy spot, tied off the boat, rested for a half hour, and then double reefed the main before sailing on to Checkpoint 3 in Flamingo.  This track covers a 24 hour period, roughly from 1500 Wednesday to 1500 Thursday.

Here you can see my overnight storm refuge, followed by a downwind run (the wind had changed 180 degrees overnight) to Cape Sable under a single reefed main and no jib. All went well, albeit a bit bouncy, with some large waves to surf on, and others that just tossed me about, until I reached the southern point of Cape Sable. I had to gybe in order to head east, and when I did, the reef point tore out of my sail. Fortunately, the boom decided not to crush my head, and I sailed to a sandy spot, tied off the boat, rested for a half hour, and then double reefed the main before sailing on to Checkpoint 3 in Flamingo. This track covers a 24 hour period, roughly from 1500 Wednesday to 1500 Thursday.

Here's a detail of my trek offshore, and my turnaround and subsequent hiding-out in The Little Shark River.  THis was one bumpy ride!

Here’s a detail of my trek offshore, and my turnaround and subsequent hiding-out in The Little Shark River. This was one bumpy ride!

Right around  the #39 tracking marker is where I gybed and tore out the reef point.  A quick refresh and inspection on shore, and then it was off to Flamingo!

Right around the #39 tracking marker is where I gybed and tore out the reef point. A quick refresh and inspection on shore, and then it was off to Flamingo!

I got to Flamingo in the early afternoon (I think - time was sort of fluid by the 4th day of the Challenge...) where the power was out, which left no way to call anyone OR buy anything with a credit card.  I did purchase some nice healthy potato chips and a Red Bull, while deciding whether or not to press on.  Lugnut, the CP Captain, went over my charts with me, as he'd made it through the channels before, and, with a little hesitation, I decided to go for it, and I left.  Joe Kemp Channel was my initiation to the Florida Bay channels, which are indeed narrow, twisty, and a bit unforgiving if you  stray, as the surrounding water is usually less than a foot deep, even miles from shore.

I got to Flamingo in the early afternoon (I think – time was sort of fluid by the 4th day of the Challenge…) where the power was out, which left no way to call anyone OR buy anything with a credit card. I did purchase some nice healthy potato chips and a Red Bull, while deciding whether or not to press on. Lugnut, the CP Captain, went over my charts with me, as he’d made it through the channels before, and, with a little hesitation, I decided to go for it, and I left. Joe Kemp Channel was my initiation to the Florida Bay channels, which are indeed narrow, twisty, and a bit unforgiving if you stray, as the surrounding water is usually less than a foot deep, even miles from shore.

This shows my track from just out of Flamingo to the finish.  Sailed under a double reefed main (I would have single reefed except I had torn out that reef point rounding Cape Sable) and no jib, it was a fast ride, with very interesting and varied conditions.  It was mostly a downwind sail, and even with the healthy breeze, the shallows had almost no waves.  For a first crossing of Florida Bay, I couldn't have asked for better conditions.

This shows my track from just out of Flamingo to the finish. Sailed under a double reefed main (I would have single reefed except I had torn out that reef point rounding Cape Sable) and no jib, it was a fast ride, with very interesting and varied conditions. It was mostly a downwind sail, and even with the healthy breeze, the shallows had almost no waves. For a first crossing of Florida Bay, I couldn’t have asked for better conditions.

I was making really nice time through the flat Florida Bay waters as I approached Dump Keys Channel.  The tracker does not show the full track I had to take, but I had to follow the channel you see in the image exactly.  The channel is about 24 feet wide or so, and right at the entrance, I caught up to a half-dozen WaterTribe kayakers, none of which apparently heard or saw me behind them!  This was my make-or-break point, where I had to decide if I was going to camp soon, or sail through the night.  I chose to continue straight through to the end, which meant I'd be up for over 24 hours, but, hey, this is a Challenge, right?

I was making really nice time through the flat Florida Bay waters as I approached Dump Keys Channel. The tracker does not show the full track I had to take, but I had to follow the channel you see in the image exactly. The channel is about 24 feet wide or so, and right at the entrance, I caught up to a half-dozen WaterTribe kayakers, none of which apparently heard or saw me behind them! This was my make-or-break point, where I had to decide if I was going to camp soon, or sail through the night. I chose to continue straight through to the end, which meant I’d be up for over 24 hours, but, hey, this is a Challenge, right?

Twisty is a tricky channel indeed... I entered properly, but just before tracking marker 11 on the screenprint, I accidentally gybed, and the mainsheet caught the tiller.  I ended up about 50 yards out of the channel, in almost total darkness, and couldn't find a single marker in the gloom, even with two flashlights going.  I got me bearings, and navigated the line shown between 11 and 12, only to go aground at the edge of the channel.  I managed to push off of the thick mud with my paddle, only to run over one of the short, flexible, unlit markers at the edge of the waterway.  It was a bit hairy for a moment, as I had visions of 2012, when one of the boats entered got stuck in the mud for, I believe, 4 days!  Although I had provisions for a week, I'm glad I was only stuck for 10 minutes.

Twisty is a tricky channel indeed… I entered properly, but just before tracking marker 11 on the screenprint, I accidentally gybed, and the mainsheet caught the tiller. I ended up about 50 yards out of the channel, in almost total darkness, and couldn’t find a single marker in the gloom, even with two flashlights going. I got my bearings, and navigated the line shown between 11 and 12, only to go aground at the edge of the channel. I managed to push off of the thick mud with my paddle, only to run over one of the short, flexible, unlit markers at the edge of the waterway. It was a bit hairy for a moment, as I had visions of 2012, when one of the boats entered got stuck in the mud for, I believe, 4 days! Although I had provisions for a week, I’m glad I was only stuck for 10 minutes.

Jimmie Channel was the last one I had to navigate.  By this time it was pitch dark, with no effective moonlight, and it was a tricky shot, especially as navigation beacons, radio towers, and miscellaneous lights appearing on the horizon were difficult to identify.  After making it through, I aimed for Tavernier, a town on the southern bit of Key Largo, and the relative safety of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Jimmie Channel was the last one I had to navigate. By this time it was pitch dark, with no effective moonlight, and it was a tricky shot, especially as navigation beacons, radio towers, and miscellaneous lights appearing on the horizon were difficult to identify. After making it through, I aimed for Tavernier, a town on the southern bit of Key Largo, and the relative safety of the Intracoastal Waterway.

This last bit was both fun, frustrating, and cold.  Somehow, I had programmed everything correctly in my nav apps, except for one tiny detail, Baker's Cut!  I was comfortably sailing along the coast, thinking I had an hour or so to go before a cold beer at the finish, when this little lump showed up at the edge of my electronic chart... and it was, of course, the peninsula that ends at Bakers Cut, and protects Sunset Cove, where the finish was.  In sloppy seas, chilly weather, and low visibility due to the overcast sky, I tacked out to the channel and proceeded to the Cut.  What you don't see are about 8 additional tacks I had to make in order to get through, as I had to avoid shoals, markers, and stuff I'm not even sure was there.  After sailing through the Cut, I passed Pelican Key, dodged a dozen improperly lit boats anchored near the hotel, and made it to the finish... where I almost twisted both my ankles holding Clarity off of the rocks until we figured out where to tie her!

This last bit was both fun, frustrating, and cold. Somehow, I had programmed everything correctly in my nav apps, except for one tiny detail, Baker’s Cut! I was comfortably sailing along the coast, thinking I had an hour or so to go before a cold beer at the finish, when this little lump showed up at the edge of my electronic chart… and it was, of course, the peninsula that ends at Bakers Cut, and protects Sunset Cove, where the finish was. In sloppy seas, chilly weather, and low visibility due to the overcast sky, I tacked out to the channel and proceeded to the Cut. What you don’t see are about 8 additional tacks I had to make in order to get through, as I had to avoid shoals, markers, and stuff I’m not even sure was there. After sailing through the Cut, I passed Pelican Key, dodged a dozen improperly lit boats anchored near the hotel, and made it to the finish… where I almost twisted both my ankles holding Clarity off of the rocks until we figured out where to tie her!

To briefly summarize, I would have to say I had probably the best weather possible for an Everglades Challenge… almost no adverse winds, only one storm of note, and only a few periods of calm.  I took my time, and sailed (mostly) cautiously, learned a lot, and had a blast.

Which makes me wonder what I’m in for NEXT year!

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