Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Everglades Challenge Report: Days 2 & 3

Water supplies replenished at a very busy CP1, we were off at 0700 the next morning.

DaveOnCudjoe had capsized his beloved Sea Pearl Maggie the previous day, and after four hours sitting on his upturned hull, had been rescued by fellow WaterTriber, Ika. Just as I left CP1, Ika sculled in, with Dave on the bow (above). Tears welled up in my eyes, as I told him I was very glad to see him.

Paddling with Floatsome, we took a shortcut west of the ICW, cutting directly down the west of Sandfly Key. Deciding to take the inside of Pine Island Sound, we had a great sail across the expanse to the north of Pine Island. A large basking shark cruised by me.

Then Floatsome (above) started flagging. As an accomplished Ironman and triathlete, he recognized that the previous day, while more than doable, wasn’t normally followed by the same effort for another five or six days. For six hours we slowly sailed down Pine Island Sound, my concern mounting. His wife had threatened me to bring her husband home alive! I made the decision with him to pull him out, up ahead at the nearest hotel. Around 1700 hours, two miles from Punta Rassa and the western of the three Sanibel bridges, to my surprise, KneadingWater and Seiche appeared. We hadn’t seen anyone else doing the inside route and thought everyone else far ahead of us. Taking an on-the-water diagnosis, KneadingWater (cat vet extraordinaire) considered Floatsome’s problem to be a potassium overload. Taking him in an inline tow, unable to paddle, KW and Seiche had Floatsome on the beach of the Punta Rassa Marriott at nearly 1800 hours. Linda, the catering manager on duty at the dock went out of her way to ensure that his gear was safely stowed in her office, and that he found a dry, safe room. (The next week, back home, I called the hotel to have her commended.) Floatsome’s first EC was over. You can read his experience here.

Into the dusk and night we paddled down the coast, RiverJohn and his wife once again waving madly from the beach as we passed. In the very dark night, the shoals of Big Carlo Pass and New Pass were quick to wake us from any dosing, a wave or two suddenly breaking over us out of the dark. We made Wiggins Pass around 2240 hours, another long but satisfying day in the cockpit.

NatureCalls was already tent bound, having arrived about a half-hour earlier. And to my surprise, again thinking everyone would be ahead, SandyBottom, SunDance and HammerStroke turned up near midnight.


A leisurely pack in beautiful morning sun (above). At 0800, off and away, this time with SandyBottom aside me. Around Doctors Pass, KneadingWater and Seiche joined us, and we comfortably paddled down the coast toward Big Marco Pass. The plan was to have dinner at Goodland restaurant, up the head of the Big Marco River. An experience I had never given myself in my four ECs—eating for fun while in race mode!

For a change of scenery we headed into the very scenic Gordon Pass (above), adding some additional distance, but a new route for me, and nice to see it in the daylight, as it’s often a good escape route from grotty coastal weather when trying to make Big Marco. While KW and Seiche stopped for a nap, SB and I headed up the Big Marco River, tide and wind in our favour. (Can I comment here how many times this does not happen!)

Near 1700, we dragged our boats up some riprap outside Goodland restaurant (above), donned beanies to cover ghastly hair, plopped our wet bottoms in a nice dry cane chair, and ordered some wonderful sea food. Lovely.

Every time a paddler came by, we’d dash out on to the restaurant’s pier and wave them down to join us. We soon had FourFather, Seiche, KW, HammerStroke and SunDance. Fearing for his fragile amas, RunningMouth kept on.

We heard from FourFather (left; the father of four children) his previous night’s experience, of being caught by New Pass’ shoals—capsized, he swam the very cold half-mile to shore and spent 12 hours shivering in tent on the beach, trying to warm up.

As dusk fell, the seven of us paddled up and out into the Everglades’ Ten Thousand Islands, with White Horse Key in mind for the night, about another ten miles paddling. Arriving around 2230 hours, we split FourFather, HammerStroke and SunDance into one beach spot that fitted the three of them, and SandyBottom, KneadingWater, Seiche and I headed around the other side of the island, to another beautiful spot.

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