Monday, March 19, 2007

Everglades Challenge report: Day 3

Day 3: Wiggins Pass to CP2
Dawn was just breaking as I paddled with the tide out Wiggins Pass. SandyBottom and NatureCalls were minutes behind me. I headed fairly well out to see if the swells would decrease as the water got deeper, but I think the opposite happened. Conditions soon settled into a 15-18knot NNE, 8-10ft northerly swells, with a sometime cross swell from the wind. This turned out to be the most exciting day of the entire EC - pure exhilaration, tinged with a fair bit of “scary”!

SandyBottom came up behind me with aka flapping, but latched on to her and with the swell, there was little I could do to help clip the lashing back on. I let her go and she waited for NatureCalls, a tandem kayak with the same Balogh rig, to catch her up. She figured she’d have to do a beach landing to fix it, but she told me later that Jim and Lori had managed to raft up with her and fix the problem on the water.

I was on my own, a good three or so miles offshore, for pretty much the rest of the morning. What a ride. The surfing was something else, and many a time I found myself bracing out to windward, using my Greenland paddle as an ama and aka, fluttering across the sea as a brace. At one stage I heard a wee train roaring up behind me, and a wave broke across the top of me. There were times, with spray flying, that I couldn’t even see. Later I found that I’d reached 11.9mph on one particular surf – pretty much all that morning had been similar on the downwind waves.

By now I’d figured my TravelMate for urinating just wasn’t working for me – I couldn’t get high enough in my seat to get a flow going, so I was just peeing in my sponge. For this trip from Wiggins Pass to Marco, there was no way I was able to lift my spray skirt, so I just peed in my shorts, the rapid flow foot pump making quick work of any spray etc.

Shortly before Big Marco Pass, SandyBottom and Nature Calls caught up with me, and for a few hours we had a great trip together down the coast – nice to see a 1sqm Pacific Action Sail keeping up with two fully rigged Balogh sails.

My original intended route had been to head in at Big Marco Pass and cut through the inside channel to reach the beginnings of the Everglades’ 10,000 Islands. I’d even had a possible exit at Gordons Pass planned (hadn’t looked too good as I’d charged past, though I found later that others did go in this way). Instead, with the favorable following winds we now had, and the slightly calmer seas as the day wore on, the three of us decided to pass by Big Marco Pass and cut in via Caxambas Pass. We could see Maggie heading way down Cape Romano to make his entry into Chokoloskee.

The tide was with us as we rounded the point into Caxambas Pass, and we left the last big high-rise buildings behind us. We paddled inside Helen Key, weaving our way around the mangrove islands, finally coming out below Tripod Key. From there, it was near a direct shot to Indian Key and the entrance up into Chokoloskee Bay. We had calm seas and fair winds most of the way, with sails set and paddles dipping.

Around 16:00 we realized that we were going to miss the Everglades City Rangers station to pick up our permits for the Everglades, the office closing at 16:30 – we had nine miles to go and all against the tide. I couldn’t see the point in resting on an outlying key to wait for the turn of the tide, so up we paddled – flat calm and no wind whatsoever.

Before entering Indian Key Pass, I’d hitched a ride on SandyBottom’s inflated aka – you should have seen her face when I inadvertently pulled out the valve and the entire aka deflated in seconds. Muttering that she’d now have to find her footpump, I assured that I was normally full of hot air, and reinflated it by mouth within seconds. “Don’t lose the valve!” she warned.

We probably only paddled 1.5mph or so as we slowly plodded up Indian Key Pass, in fact it took us four hours to make those last nine miles. We passed Maggie slowly tacking and paddling up. That slow, I could well appreciate the scenery around me. By the time I finally hit Chokoloskee Bay, the sun was setting behind me in a deep red glow. Nature Calls, with two paddlers, had reached the starboard turn across the Bay ahead of me, and were gone in a puff as a slight northerly came up. I too used my sail to finally reach CP2 in the dark, arriving at 19:15, charting a total of 174 miles since the start of the race. It had certainly been feast or famine today, with over 56 miles, a maximum speed of 11.9mph (a personal record), a moving average of 5.5mph and an overall average of 4.3mph.

SandDollar was there to greet us and show us the motel room the Tribe had for its use – loved the service – even fresh pizza! A hot shower later, we welcomed SandyBottom arriving on the beach and, much later, while were asleep, KneadingWater. Instead of sleeping in the hotel room, we opted for pitching our tents right on the landing beach.

I fell asleep to the lulling voices of Chief and Dr. Kayak...

1 comment:

Michael said...

I having great fun reading these posts!