WaterTribe's Everglades Challenge website and forum that getting to the start is the hardest part of all. Once you're on the road, that's pretty much it—nothing can slow you down. But getting on the road... It wasn't as difficult as last year, with the WeeOne being pretty crook, having a colonoscopy on the Monday before leaving Thursday, and a grumbling stomach, which all meant I had to ditch my EC2012 into Day 1, and took another three weeks to regain some element of normal health after that.
This year, the few days leading to departure, I just had a US naturalization test (passed in flying colours!), EC packing, interviews at work for a position I'm replacing on my team, a major federal grant and smaller state grant to submit, and class until 9:30pm the Wednesday night before leaving 0500 Thursday (I'm doing another Masters at Duke).
David (Floatsome), manager for Checkpoint 1, was supposed to drive down to Tampa Bay with me, helping sing along the 12 hour drive, but was held up with some last minute blood tests. He ended up flying down Saturday, all healthy.
The last two ECs I have slept in the back of my 4-Runner, with an inflatable mattress. What a difference, compared with sleeping in the tent at Fort De Soto campground. Every EC I've lain there, hearing the wind stirring the palm leaves—it may be just the slightest hint of a breeze, but those palm leaves sound as though it's a hurricane, which tends to keep my mind all a flutter. In the truck, with the windows up (it was very cold!), I can sleep and not let my imagination race.
The best part of any EC is catching up with old WaterTribers and meeting
new ones. And there were a lot of newbies this year, also evidenced by
the record number of boats lined up end of the day Friday, ready for
Saturday's 0700 start. Quite phenomenal. Over 100 boats from all six
classes, all sizes and shapes, with boaties rearing at the bit, waiting
for the bagpipes to play as the signal to launch.
After checking in Friday morning, packing all the boats up is a time to contemplate and ruminate, making sure all the gear's in the right place, FEK sail rigged correctly, spare paddle not likely to pop out, water hoses all snug. (I have to say, those CC Gear sand mats are the way to go with packing boats—sand just falls right through them, and doesn't blow around!) And then taking the time to tour all the other boats heading off with you, and attending the obligatory afternoon Skippers' Meeting—the largest ever this year.
IronBob took a terrific series of prestart photos, seen here; as did Dana Clark, with Breathe Magazine.
And then sleeping that last night "on shore"... Not hearing the palm trees furiously scratching... But cold!