Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wrong Again

She's almost to Flamingo. A moment ago, she was where the road crosses the canal. Two possibilities: Set up a tent near the fish cleaning shelter, or rest a bit and head on across Florida Bay. It might depend on whether the store is still open for a microwave cheeseburger, but no more prognostications from me.

If she forges forward, she could best her previous Class 1 Female record. She also doesn't have a designated place to sleep in KL, but I'm sure people will provide. She's almost certain to get to Key Largo before Southwest and Super Shuttle can get me there.

Beach Cruising

KB and comrades are making good pace along the coast of Everglades National Park. The body of water you see at the lower right is Whitewater Bay, which they will cross to reach the canal that comes into Flamingo from the north. The question is, will they stop at Oyster Bay Chickee, which is inside the entrance or continue on? It's about 12 miles to Oyster Bay Chickee, so 3-4 hours at current pace. That's where SandyBottom planned to be tonight, but I can't check on her as her Spot has stopped transmitting. DancesWithSandyBottom is trying to get Santiago's track, as he thinks that's who she's with.

Other options for KB and friends include two chickees in the Joe River or going on to Flamingo. I'm skeptical that they'll push on to Flamingo. It's about 30 miles, and they've not shown much inclination toward late nights. As usual, we'll see.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


KiwiBird and (presumably) Seiche stopped briefly at the ranger station, where we hope KB got the text message from FlieswithKiwiBird about campsite reservations. Then they proceeded on to CP2, where they spent about an hour. I'm hoping it was to visit the above. I need to get back there soon to replenish my stock of Havana Cafe hot sauce.

The reservation for tonight is for Rogers River Chickee, about 25 miles as the crow flies from Chokoloskee, and kayaks don't (or shouldn't) fly. They either didn't get the message or have decided it's too far for today, as they appear to be heading out to the Gulf of Mexico. Here's the track:
As was the case yesterday, time will tell.

Update: They did have lunch at Havana Cafe and are heading out to Mormon Key tonight to battle the raccoons. The plan is to stay outside until Whitewater Bay. KneadingWater is also with them.

Into the 'Glades

As expected, KB had dinner at Marker 8.5 in Goodland and proceeded on into the 10,000 Islands, where she set up camp about 20:30, apparently with Seiche. This morning they were on the water by 07:30 and headed for Everglades City.

What they didn't know--and we hope they will find out--is that SandyBottom already acquired permits for camping in Everglades National Park. In WaterTribe, this what is called a "filter." The ranger station in Everglades City (marina at upper left, above) is open from 08:00 until 16:30 daily, and there are no advance campsite reservations. So the wise challenger times his or her arrival during office hours.

Checkpoint 2 is actually at Chokoloskee (lower right, where the causeway hits civilization), and each competitor must stop there. Besides, if at all possible, one wishes to arrive there during open hours for the Havana Cafe, which serves excellent Cuban food—worthwhile fortification for the two days about to be spent on the Wilderness Waterway.

Monday, March 3, 2014

It's been an interesting day for following kayakers. Weather reports have not indicated much wind, although it's mostly been out of the SSE. I'm guessing that's why KB started hugging the shoreline around North Naples and then went inside with SandyBottom at Naples. They're now cutting over to McIlvane Bay presumably to follow the canal next to highway 951 down to Marco Pass.

Dinner at Goodlands is often a part of the ritual at Marco--particularly if KneadingWater and Seiche are nearby. Beyond that, I'm not guessing. I don't know the 10,000 Islands other than that Indian Key is at the entrance to the Everglades City channel. That's about 15 miles after dinner. Here's what that looks like:

All will be revealed in the morning.

Arriving Naples

Yesterday was a tough day slogging into the wind (so much for the forecast), so KB stopped relatively early. She was on the water about 06:15 this morning and is currently approaching Naples.

KB, SandyBottom, KneadingWater and Seiche have been near each other for the past 24+ hours, appearing to paddle together sometimes and then separate slightly at others. Although all tend to get to the same place about the same time, each has a different pace depending on the conditions.

By now SewSew probably has already finished, as he was at CP3 midday yesterday, but I have had no confirmation of that as yet. Race management requests that we not attempt to use the WaterTribe tracking map, so that race personnel might be able to figure out where people are.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Charlotte Harbor

Kristen and Dawn were on the water by about 06:45 this morning and are now most of the way across Charlotte Harbor. They're heading for the Matlatcha side of Pine Island, which is the most common route for paddlers. Their speed has picked up a little in the last half hour or so, which may be the sun producing some wind.

Forecasts are for another relatively calm morning but no shift to north winds in the afternoon. In one way that's good news, since it will keep the seas down on the exposed passage south of Fort Myers to Marco Island. The paddlers, of course, always hope for favorable wind but take whatever the wind's whim offers.

Kristen called home from CP1 last night and reported a great day on the water. She saw two porpoise and a sea turtle, had favorable afternoon winds and made good progress. She was off the water last night by about 22:30, which should have given her ample time to get her necessary five hours of shuteye.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Day One, Later Afternoon

KiwiBird did come inside at Venice Inlet. The track above is only a couple of minutes old, so she's right next to Venice Municipal Airport. I now have a track for SandyBottom as well, and the two of them have been together since going outside, if not longer.

This section of the intracoastal earns its nickname, "the ditch." It's a depression lined with rip rap. There's generally little breeze and not much to look at. Of the portions of the EC route I've seen, it's easily the least scenic. In roughly another mile, though, it opens back up, but I don't remember much about it, because it was dark when I got there.

KB and SB are making good time today. They're about 16 statute miles from CP1, with an ETA of around 21:00. I expect they'll only stop briefly to get water and check in. They'll camp a little farther along, before the Charlotte Harbor crossing.

Until morning....

Day One PM

Those of you attempting to follow Kristen (or any other competitor) on the WaterTribe mapper are no doubt aware that it's not working. Fortunately, I'm able to log into her Spot account and follow her there. The above screenshot is her position as of 12:32--just off the inlet to Sarasota.

I had a Spot Check/OK message from her at 10:11 this morning, which I thought rather odd. She wouldn't normally send one of those unless stopping for the night or making a major course change. When I checked her position, however, I realized she was going outside at the inlet between Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key. This (and the weather report) tell me that conditions are quite calm. Winds are less than 16 KPH and predominantly controlled by the diurnal onshore/offshore swing.

To the best of my recollection, she's never before gone outside at this point. I suspect the rationale is some mix of novelty and avoiding powerboat wakes in the intracoastal waterway. Most likely she'll come back in at Venice Inlet, but she might stay out until Stump Pass, which is shortly before checkpoint 1. There are other alternatives as well should conditions change.

She's making quite good progress thus far, and at the current pace she should arrive at CP1 around 20:00. I'll update later this afternoon before heading off to a wedding.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Once More unto the Beach

It's boat-loading time. Besides KiwiBird and SandyBottom boats, I think I recognize the CWolfe avatar on the green-decked Tiderace Pace in the foreground. The wooden boat just past SB might be FeralCat's Pygmy, making the next boat DeadCat's Eddyline, but I don't know; could be the wooden boat is StripBuilder's or even SaltyFrog's. That does look like Dolphin Gal's Nemo with the red deck three boats behind SB. Where are KneadingWater and Seiche?

Most participants try to pack everything the day before--except possibly food, which must be defended from racoons assiduously--which means having redundant camping gear or a vehicle to sleep in. A spare stove will likely be used collectively in the campsite to boil water in the morning for vital fluids and a spot of porridge.

All of the folks mentioned above are what are called "elders," which means they have finished a Challenge (it's just a coincidence that there's no spring chicken among them;). Elders can self-inspect, but every first-timer must undergo an inspection of required gear by an elder. About now, the local West Marine is likely doing a land-office business.

By the way, credit for both of today's photographs goes to KiwiBird, although the breakfast shot obviously involved a helper.