Monday, March 30, 2009

Everglades Challenge race report: Day 1

Day 1: Race start to somewhere short of CP1

SandyBottom (aka Dawn) and I had had another excellent road trip down to Florida’s Fort DeSoto on the Thursday before the March 7 race. Highlight, of course, was stopping for the best fried chicken in the US midway through Georgia—a hideaway we’d discovered last year. And the flat tire early Friday morning in the campground, which only held us up for 15 minutes before using Dawn’s fabulous new Christmas Garmin to find the nearest breakfast joint serving eggs benedict, our traditional day-before-the-race-starts-breakfast.

Another wonderful coincidence was that our Durham neighbours, not four houses up the street, happened also to be camping at Ft DeSoto, and with their Canadian friends served us cocktails Friday night, and were also there on the beach at 0630 race day to wave us off—cheers, Kathy and Doug!

Friday afternoon’s captains’ meeting brought together many wonderful old friends, as well as new faces for their first Challenge. One new face was StripBuilder, the first EC contestant from Iowa, who arrived on the beach to pack his spanking newly built strip-built kayak with three beautifully handcrafted laminated Greenland paddles, and left with two—sporting a thinner and slightly longer loom than my previous, and narrower longer paddles, his newly-purchased-by-me-GP was a delight the entire 2009 EC.

With all the boats packed and prepped ready for an early departure the next morning, we trotted off as the park closed to carbo-load at the local Italian (beer from the pub next door purely for additional carbs).

0700 Saturday morning and we are off! Into the light to medium winds and against the tide pretty much the entire race. Not as bad as last year’s wind-on-the-nose EC, with excellent weather this time the entire race, but still noticeable.

Photo by Doug and Kathy: We're off the beach!

And then my GPS died—probably only managed ten nautical miles. Charts and a good memory (courtesy of having been there before and Google Earth) are just fine… (I ended up borrowing one of KneadingWater’s three GPS, but only used it the last day. But one of my best conversations with FliesWithKiwiBird a few hours later, when advising her my GPS was no more was her reaction: “Well, what about your backup?!” to remind her that she had banned purchasing a backup, as part of my boating cost-cutting exercise.)

For some unfathomable reason (perhaps only two paddling episodes on local Lake Jordan prior to the race that I deemed to be “my training”), today and each day felt as though I was towing a drogue—but perhaps that’s age as well—yet considering I’m one of the “younger” paddlers in both my Class 1 and Class 2, that’s no excuse. Yet I had made the conscious decision (reinforced by FliesWithKiwiBird) that this year I was to be in the cruiser division, not out to break any more records or again win Class 1 as last year, but to enjoy the challenge, take a few new routes and spend some quality time with KneadingWater and SandyBottom.

And that’s how Day 1 panned out—a slower day than the previous two years, spent taking out-of-the-boat pee stops (a new civilized concept for me—in fact, only once in the entire race through necessity did I need to use my sponge), sneaking snack breaks while not paddling and, heaven above, actually stopping and alighting for lunch!

Photo by SandyBottom: What she calls my "AndrewMcAuley look."

Which may be why, convivially accompanying KW and SB, we stopped for the night around 2230 hrs, about seven to eight miles north and shy the total 67 miles (108km) to Placida’s CP1, hauled our boats out of the water up on to dry land, cooked a bit of a meal and “slept” until 0700, ruined by that early morning’s switch to daylight saving.

For more fabulous photos of the start, click here, courtesy of Kathy and Doug Roach (our neighbours up the road).

1 comment:

Steve said...

I borrowed (stole) a photo from your blog in a post about the NC Challenge on my blog. I'm still not sure about the etiquette and/or rules about this. If this is not ok please let me know and I'll remove it. thanks