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January, 2010
Table of Contents

Ultimate Florida Challenge 2006 Log Book
By Matt Layden

"WITHOUT A PADDLE: Racing Twelve Hundred Miles Around Florida By Sea Kayak" by Warren Richey

The story of Sharkchow's 2006 participation in the Ultimate Florida Challenge. Coming to a bookstore near you. June 8, 2010.

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 978-0-312-63076-8
320 pages, $24.99
Due in bookstores and on Amazon.com June 8, 2010.


UFC 2006 New Release

$25.95 with FREE Shipping!

Jenning has a second version of the EPIC Ultimate Florida Challenge. This is a two DVD set. The first DVD is the same as the first release. But the second DVD contains two very interesting interviews.

First, SharkChow has a long interview giving many details and insights into his impressive win of the first WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge in 2006. His hint about using the tides on the St. Marys river is worth the price all by itself if you are thinking of doing the UFC yourself. Note: this is really a voice recording - no video.

Next there is a shorter video interview of ThereAndBackAgain (aka TABA). TABA isn't a complainer so he had never mentioned many of the real issues he faces in these challenges. This interview opened my eyes and prompted some minimal changes to make things just a bit more fair.

Special Note: The proceeds all go direct to Jenning. Making this DVD took untold amounts of money and time. This would make a nice preview for the UF2010 event.

We sell fun!

Enigma Log Book

Account of Wizard's participation
in the Inaugural Ultimate Florida Challenge
in Inigma, March 2006

By Matt Layden (Wizard)

Being a transcript of the daily log of Enigma, 12' coastal cruising sailboat, during the WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge of March, 2006, interspersed with comments and explanations from memory, December, 2009.

Note to the Format

You can click on each photo to get a larger view.

The logbook has pre-formatted pages, with a 2-line header as follows:

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea

Page 2 of the Log
A Page From the Log

Each column is filled out with data matching ONE of the headers from that column, it usually being evident from the value or units which type of data is in each entry. For instance, the 5th line below can be read as:

"At 0845 o'clock, Anna Maria Key bears 060 degrees, distance 1.5 nautical miles (data from eyeball observation implying a reduced precision). Wind is north-northeast at 15 knots, sea from the northeast 1 to 3 feet."

A visual or compass bearing and distance to some charted feature or landmark is a good old-fashioned way of describing your position. The other way is to fire up the GPS or arrive at a navigational fix some other way, and note down your lat and lon, but I rarely bother unless navigating in poor visibility or far from land. The other data are mostly to memorialize conditions for future reference, though it can be important if you need to reconstruct your recent movements in dead reckoning piloting. I also try to remember to write in notes and commentary, following, or instead of, the standardized data.

I'm not going to take the time to translate all my log entries to readable text as above, I hope the cryptic log format will be good enough to give a rough picture of what was going on aboard for anyone who may want to try to get something out of it. Then I'll intersperse some other notes that didn't make it into the log as I think of them. Here we go:

S/V ENIGMA from Mullet Key, St. Petersburg, FL; to Mullet Key via Key Largo, Sebastian, Fernandina Beach, Cedar Key.

3/4/2006 Saturday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0710 Mullet Key Beach   0 N 10kt N 1-2'
0845 Anna Maria Key 060 15nm NNE 15 NE 1=3'

We followed the Class 4 leaders out of Tampa Bay via the Southwest Channel in nice clear weather, with a fair wind, and small chop crossing a slight underlying swell from the northwest, making good but unspectacular speed. After passing the point of Anna Maria the chop coming down Tampa Bay was cut off and the morning passed in gentle conditions.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1030 Longboat Pass 060 2nm NNE 8 NW 1=2'

Moving nicely along with 5-6 other tribers in sight ahead & behind. Wind fading.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1310 New Pass 045 3nm NW 14 NW 2-3'

The wind had backed around on-shore and increased with the afternoon sea-breeze effect, and sailing got faster and more fun.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1550 Venice Inlet 060 2nm NW 15 NW 2-3'

Surf city! Flying, gorgeous wx. Course - 160, speed 4.8 Kt

1830 Entered Stump Pass along with Lugnut.

Sun was nearing the horizon and I didn't see much advantage in arriving at Gasparilla Pass, near Checkpoint 1, in the dark on an ebb tide, with on-shore surf breaking over the shifting sandbars, so headed inside to continue via the Intracoastal Waterway. Ebb tide was pouring out the pass past a dredge barge and its chain of pipe and support craft. A mile ahead of us, Lugnut and Chuck the Duck aboard Oaracle headed for the deep-water channel but weren't able to stem the current or lay the course on port tack, and were swept across almost to the beach on the south side of the pass. We crossed the shallow bar north of the main channel at a carefully eyeballed spot through small breakers, bouncing the rudder blade. Hardened up on the wind and was barely able to pinch up along the edge of the bare outer sandbar, trying hard to stay out of the fierce current. Passing the inner point our course turned straight into the wind and there was no way we'd make it tacking against the stream, so I beached & hopped out to wade & tow the boat a quarter mile along the beach past the worst of the current, to a point where we could lay the next leg on one tack. Oaracle came up behind us also towing through the shallows, having painfully tacked across to the north beach to get out of that ebb. We shook hands and gabbed about our day so far, before parting to head onward. Dark came down as we cleared the Stump Pass channel and headed down Lemon Bay.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1910 Called in position report to Karen
2120 At CP1
2140 Leave CP1 ENE 12-15 |1-2'
2250 Last spoil island [Dogfish Key, north of Charlotte Hbr]

 

3/5/2006 Sunday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0115 Anchorage Key 240 0.2nm ENE 20 Kt  

The Pelican Bay anchorage at north end of Cayo Costa. 'Anchoraqge Key' should read Punta Blanca Island- couldn't read the fine print on the chart in the dark so I tried to describe it.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0305 FL G '[?]' 090 0.5nm ENE 20 kt  
0305 Hailed by USCG outboard- "All well"

Also couldn't read the number of the nearest channel mark. Out in the wide middle of Pine Island Sound, long and short tacks to windward with a fair chop blowing down. Coast Guard skiff approached from to leeward and trained its big searchlight on us as they like to do, spoiling any hope of night vision- I suppose that's deliberate to keep drug runners and other gun-toting types from being able to get a clear target, but it's still annoying. They came alongside and asked if I was in distress- no, all's well here- they had had a distress call from somebody in Pine Island Sound, had I seen anything like that? No, nothing (didn't tell them I'd had a couple short cat naps in between keeping up with navigation), well, take care, and sped off into the black night. Found myself hoping it wasn't one of us Tribers in trouble but never heard another word about it.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0700 Pt Ybel 240 0.2nm ENE 20 1-2'
0700 clear, light horizon haze, course 120, speed 3kt
0915 Big Carlos Pass 045 1.5nm ENE 12 sm
1240 Becalmed off Naples, sculling
1320 Seabreeze fills in WNW 6 sm
1345 Doctors Pass 060 1nm WNW 8 1'
1500 Gordon Pass 060 0.7nm SW 8 1'
1500 Clear & comfortable. Boat traffic...

Sunday is always the worst day of an Everglades Challenge, the powerboats come out from everywhere on this heavily populated section of coast if the weather is at all nice, and chop the water into a froth of crossing wakes. Monday is always much better, the weekend is over and you're usually past the populated areas and headed into the Everglades.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1710 Enter Big Marco Pass     W 6 sm
2100 Goodland 340 1.5nm calm  
2100 position report, then sleep [short naps under way, hoping for wind]
2300 light variable breeze, sail slowly while catnapping. 120m at 1-1.5kt

 

3/6/2006 Monday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0045 sculling toward Indian Key N 1-3 Kt sm
0240 Enter Indian Key Pass, sculling, flood tide
0420 Enter Chokoloskee Bay, sail E 3-5 Kt sm
0540 Check in @ CP2, clean up, sleep.

Checkpoint 2 was active with people arriving and checking in; gave up trying to sleep after sunrise. Besides, the tide would soon turn to ebb and be favorable to head back out to tne Gulf.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0815 Leave CP2 w/ RowABrick
sculling down Rabbit Key Pass on ebb
E 3-5 Kt sm
0945 Rabbit Key 135 0.75nm var 3-5 Kt 0-1'
1030 Rabbit Key
RowABrick on horizon to SE
030 2nm NW 6 Kt 0-1'
1205 FL R "10" Pavillion Key 240 0.25nm WSW 6-8 Kt SW 1'
1500 Fl R "8" Lostmans River 240 0.3nm W 10 W 1'
1500 Gorgeous day, self steering, course 150 @ 4Kt
1640 FL R "6" 100 0.3nm WSW 12 Kt 1'
1810 Shark River I. 100 2nm WSW 10 Kt 1'
2010 NW Cape 060 0.5nm    
2220 S Cape Sable WNW 8 Kt sm

The fair winds were getting almost monotonous, except that they made progress so fast and easy. Shouldn't have entertained that thought...

 

3/7/2006 Tuesday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0030 light air, slow, napping NW 3-4 Kt sm
0200 near calm, sculling toward FL "10" at Flamingo channel, foul tide
0405 Check in CP3, basin dismal & empty after hurricanes.

Everglades National Park had only just reopened this section after having the facilities more or less wiped off the map by hurricanes Charley and Wilma. Still smelled of muck and decay inside the marina basin.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0420 Head out of CP3 NW 5-6 Kt sm
0530 Pick up Tin Can Channel at slack
low water. Markers still exist at
last year's waypoints, a relief.
NW 6 Kt sm
0745 Dump Keys WNW 8 Kt sm
0845 Twisty Mile Pass
0945 Jimmy Channel NNW 20 Kt 1'
1255 Check in at Finish NW 15 Kt 1-2'
At Key Largo
Enigma Resting at Key Largo
At Key Largo
ManitouCruiser

Pulling in to the beach just a minute or two behind the XLXS team in their scary tandem surf ski, we were fifth boat to finish the Everglades Challenge, and first in of the Ultimate Challengers. I was pretty tired out after 3 nights with mostly catnaps and only a couple hours' real sleep anchored at Checkpoint 2. Lazed around talking with the other finishers under the trees at the wonderful old group camp (which no longer exists, though the latest Florida land bust has kept it from being paved over and planted with condos just yet). Had dinner with other finishers across the street at a popular outdoor fish spot, then early to bed. After a good long night's sleep found the wind had clocked around to northeast-- a headwind, with little prospect for a good day's run, though forecast to go southeast next day-- so I decided to sit in and relax for the morning, and greet Manitou Cruiser and Shark Chow who were predicted to finsh before lunchtime.

It was a beautiful pleasant day and comparing notes and route plans with my fellow Ultimate Challengers was fun, but there were those who thought I ought to get myself in gear and get back in the race. Certainly I could easily have left the Key Largo checkpoint several hours earlier and made some useful time along the next leg, but with wind and tide against us the gain wouldn't have been as much as all that, and the chance to relax and socialize a little seemed worth more than a few slow miles just then.

 

3/8/2006 Wednesday

By early afternoon the wind was beginning to veer further and I filled some water jugs, stowed for sea and headed off up the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) with good wishes from the small croud of finishers and race managers.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1315 Leave Key Largo finish
Proceeding NE up inside ICW
E 16 Kt 1'
1700 Jewfish Creek bridge- foul tide, scull
2115 25d 19.3' 80d 16.7'   E 12-14 Kt 1'
2115 Position report to Karen, course 135 @ 3 Kt

 

3/9/2006 Thursday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0145 Come to anchor off SW
side of Sands Key. Sleep.
ESE 18 Kt sm
0640 Up anchor and away. SE 15 Kt sm

Passed out to Hawk Channel through the narrow Sands Cut soon after first light. Found a good sailing breeze, though the chop gradually increased as we sailed out of the lee of the reefs and into deeper water.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0750 Soldier Key 315 1.5nm SE 20 Kt 1=3'

An hour or so later we crossed tracks with a large sportfisherman headed out towards Fowey Rocks Light. The guy on the flybridge looked uncomfortable in the snappy cross sea and gave me an interogative kind of wave as if to say what the hell do you think you're doing out here when even us big boys have spray coming over? Gave him a cheery thumbs up and continued on our way thinking no more of it. It's probably just be a coincidence that shortly after that...

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0910 Approached by USCG #50, check
safety gear, exchange info,
referrred to CG Sector Miami,
set up coms every 60 min on half
hour until arrival
SE 18-20 Kt 4-5'

That's a pretty bare bones description of the encounter. The 35' Diesel patrol boat came up from the direction of Key Biscayne and hung out off my quarter at some distance. Seeing they weren't leaving I turned on my handheld VHF radio and held it up where they could see, and shortly they came up on channel 16, small sailboat off Cape Florida this is Coast Guard Miami Unit five-zero at your location, are you happy Captain? over; and we went from there. What vessel, who aboard, citizen of, where bound, (Sebastian, Florida-- set them back a few seconds), are you aware of weather forecasts on your planned course (oh boy, here it comes)... Show us your life jacket, done. Flares, done. whistle or sound producing device, done. Any other safety equipment on board. EPIRB, safety harness, float cushion, upright flotation, self righting/self rescuing. They didn't sound happy. What is your planned route. Outside to Lake Worth or Fort Pierce Inlet, ICW to Sebastian; no, I wouldn't use Sebastian Inlet in these conditions. Sounded unconvinced. Relayed latest weather forecast. Not frightened. Recommend you consider going inside at Fort Lauderdale, stand by please.

I was reefed and luffing up slightly to slow down and let Enigma semi-heave-to, sailing slow and easy with a peaky swell on our starboard quarter. It had been tolerably rough crossing over the last of the reef into deep water a half hour earlier, but was pretty comfortable and dry now, and I want to think Enigma must have looked very seaworthy and under control to anyone used to small boats at sea. Without anyone saying so I pretty much knew the skipper of #50 was in the unenviable position of having to make a judgement call on whether to call my voyage off. The CG, with best of intentions perhaps but with the mind of a beaurocracy, has taken on itself the power to declare any voyage 'manifestly unsafe' in its own eyes and with no appeal or recourse. They can and will tow your butt to shore and seriously fine it if you start out again. So about all I could do was be cooperative, seamanlike and competent looking, and hope the skipper was a seaman and could tell I was all good. The radio went quiet for a long while and I knew he was on the horn to his boss, hoped I had him on my side, but no way to know.

Finally they came back on and politely 'requested' that I contact CG Sector Miami (the big boys with the high-site radio antennas that can hear you from the Bahamas) and set up an hourly radio checkin sched, to be continued until I reached my destination or safe harbor. Okay, done. It looked like it was that or be 'escorted' to Miami. I got a friendly wave from the deckhand on #50 as they peeled off and started back toward the Florida Channel throwing a wide white wake; I filled away and got back on course at speed, surfing the occasional steeper, spilling breakers northward

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0946 CG #50 leaves, clear to continue
1035 Coms w/CG sec Miami all well 4.0 Kt
1045 Pos Rep Karen [Position Report
-was getting tired writing]
SW 20 Kt 4-6'
1135 Coms w/ Sec Miami all well SE 16 Kt 4-7'
1240 Coms w/Sec Miami all well SE 18 Kt 4-7'
1240 25d 57' 80d 04'   010 4.5 Kt
1335 Coms CG Sec Miami all well
1335 Pt Everglades "1" |345 |3.4nm |gps |SE 16 |4-5' 345 3.4nm SE 16 Kt 4-5'
1430 Enter Port Everglades Breakwater

Concrete Canyons

I was getting sick and tired of the hourly radio schedule and its drain on my handheld's batteries. Wimped out and ran inside to put an end to the hassle, but wish now that I'd continued outside to Lake Worth Inlet, radio and all-- could have made it before dark in the lovely fair wind. Instead spent the rest of the afternoon and evening slowly working through the squirrely winds and swirling currents of the 'concrete canyons' of one of the most populated and built-up stretches of waterway on the east coast.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1440 Coms Sec Miami, passed to
Station Ft lauderdale, all well,
proceed inside to Sebastian.
SE 14 Kt sm
1510 Pos Rep Karen        
1905 Pass Boca Raton bridges SSE 16 Kt sm
2205 Fl R "52" Boynton Beach
Pos Rep Karen, smooth sailing.
SE 15 Kt sm

 

3/10/2006 Friday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0130 Anchor behind Munyon Island,
N. end of Lake Worth
SE 22 Kt sm

A nice secluded spot that got us out of the chop but little shelter from the wind. Enigma tacked back and forth on the anchor all the rest of the night.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0630 Away on ICW northbound SSE 16 Kt 1'
0900 Jupiter Sound Bridge S 15 Kt sm
1220 St. Lucie Crossroads SSE 22 Kt 1-2'
1225 Phone Karen, update ETA 010 5.0 Kt
1325 Jensen Beach Causeway- quick visit
from Karen, Ed Killer, download photos

An unnofficial stop to dump photos from my digital camera onto my wife's computer. The local paper sent a sports reporter to do a short interview as well. Couldn't stand to see the fair wind running to waste though, and was soon back on the road.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1345 Resume ICW northbound SSE 20 Kt 1-2'
1500 Power lines [St. Lucie Nuclear
Power Plant on Hutchinson I.]
SSE 20 Kt 1-2'
1630 Fort Pierce South Bridge SSE 20 Kt 1-2'
1900 Vero Beach downtown bridge SE 12 Kt sm
2010 Coms w/ Chief re Check Pt-coordinate w/ Porky
2030 Pos Rep Karen SSE 10 Kt sm
2240 Arrive Sebastian CP ramp SSE 8 Kt sm

 

3/11/2006 Saturday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0110 Porky arrives, check in

Porky kindly agreed to mind the Sebastian Checkpoint but I got there before he had planned to. He gave up his evening to drive out with the CP lockbox and log so I could sign in. I slept comfortably at the launch ramp dock till he got there, and we had a nice talk while setting up the box and discussing logistics. Decided on the inside route for next day or so to avoid the security exclusion zone around Cape Canaveral, so we headed north up the ICW in Indian River, but didn't get far that night...

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0120 Leave CP northbound SW 6 Kt sm
0600 Sebastian Inlet
Becalmed all night
in sight of inlet, sleep.
090 1.5nm S 2-3Kn sm
0600 Begin sailing now, patiently. Course 020, speed 1.5-2 Kt
0635 Ran over manatee in 2' water. Same very startled.
Most water in boat yet.

The manatee (or tees, I had the impression there were a pair but wasn't sure and didn't log it so) was sleeping on the bottom in a depth where she could just arch her back to reach up and breathe without waking up. As many small boaters around here know, they don't like being woken up early, and tend to throw a lot of water around in the process of swimming for deeper water. Some of which got in the boat & my sleeping bag for the first time on the trip.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0915 Grant Farm I
Pos Rep Karen
270 0.5nm 000 1.5 Kt

It had been calm for some time and I was sculling along at an easy pace in the quieter eastern side of the Indian River. It looked like a long day, no point in getting worn out early.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1015 Wind! enough to sail... SSE 5-6 3 Kt
1130 C. Malabar
Checked in w/ Chief,
sent luck to all in
Key Largo
315 2nm SE 8-10 sm
1340 Eau Gallee Csy. Passed by tow SE 12 Kt 1'
1715 Indianola Bridge SE 16 Kt 1'
1830 Pos Rep Karen All well
1900 NASA Causeway SE 8-10 sm
2045 Titusville Bridge SE 8 Kt 1'
2215 2nd manatee collision of day (1st was at 0630 in Sebastian). Ran over close pair (mating?) who promptly exploded, digging in head down with tails thrashing at surface sending 2'-3' high sheets of water over/into boat.

This was a manatee behavior I hadn't seen before: They separated a few strokes in different directions as would be expected, but then appeared to both go head-down and dig their fins into the bottom to hold position, while furiously beating their tales on the surface creating a really awesome splash and noise. Again had some bailing to do. Makes me wonder if it may have been a family group and the adults were covering the retreat of the kid(s)? I'm used to them just heading off at high speed, splashing as they go for intimidating effect.

After getting my heart rate back down and clearing the bilge, we made the turn northeastward above Merrit Island, and headed into rock-walled Haulover Canal.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
2320 Exit Haulover Canal SE 6-8 Kt sm

 

3/12/2006 Sunday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0145 Anchor at spoil island, G '15' Mosquito Lagoon S 5 Kt Sm
0615 Under way sculling calm sm
0835 Pos Rep Karen All well, Light breeze comes up
1125 Coronado Beach Bridge SE 12 Kt sm
1155 Ponce De Leon Inlet
Cell phone out charging, took a wave, hope it survives.
SE 12 ESE

Weekend boat traffic out of Daytona Beach chased me off the ICW, and we took advantage of a strong ebb to run out Ponce Inlet and head north in the Atlantic. Powerboat wakes combined with confused groundswell in the inlet sent a wave over the deck squirting water over my phone, which I should have stowed for sea earlier. Luckily I got it dried off before any harm was done. As we angled out to a couple miles offshore a moderate rolling swell along with frequent gannet sightings helped us feel really at sea.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1205 Pos Rep Karen - All well, no worry if no contact as phone is wet. 020 4.0 Kt
1600 29d 21.12' 81d 01.5   SE 15 Kt 3-4'
1600 Ormond By the Sea 240 2.5nm 000 4.5 Kt
1820 Overflown by Flagler Co. 'Firefly' helo, answered hail on VHF 16, 'No distress, all well.' Helo so informed USCG Mayport. Helo continues search for sailboat in distress S of me. I must say I have never been rescued so frequently in one trip before.

Yes, that is the exact entry from the logbook, including the flippant comment. No disrespect intended. The radio chatter was a little busier than logged but not much. As before, when I noticed that the nearby chopper seemed to have an interest in me & was coming uncomfortably close I turned on my VHF & held it up where they could see. After a while with them racketing away over my shoulder & spoiling the nice fair wind, I hailed them, helicopter three miles off Ormond beach, this is the small sailboat at your location on one-six, can I help you, over? Think I had to repeat the hail a time or two, but after a few minutes they came back and asked if I was the sailing vessel in distress. No, not in distress, all well here. Had I seen any other vessels in distress? No, had seen nothing unusual. They were polite, professional and blessedly brief as befits a helicopter with limited fuel range. No fuss over who I was, where bound, wanting to see safety gear. Said they would continue searching the area south of me and headed off. As they started flying a grid a couple miles behind, I heard them call up the local Coast Guard base at Mayport on 16 (they referred to it as 'marine one-six' which may explain their delay in answering my hail: having to deal with aircraft frequencies as well could be confusing). I followed the conversation as they switched to 22A and listened as the helo crew gave a brief description of the encounter and their plans. Sounded like it was the first USCG had heard of the distress call and that they had no plans to join the search, which I found interesting.

I'd seen no other sailboats since going out Ponce inlet & thought most likely somebody ashore, maybe in one of the tall condo buildings on the beach, had seen my unusual rig in the distance and the low afternoon sun flashing off my windows and, thinking I was some kind of lifeboat or something signalling for rescue, called 911. Guess the chopper crew figured the same as they headed inland not long after. It's reassuring that the county Fire-Rescue chopper was ready & willing to help, and found me promptly, but scrambling a helicopter is a really big deal and NOT at all the kind of thing I'd want to have happen on my account. Even in nice weather a chopper is distinctly less safe than a good sailboat as well as horrendously expensive to run.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1840 29d 32.6'
Pos rep Karen all well
81d 07'
 
 
000

4 Kt
2400 29d 52.6'
St Augustine
81d 09.5
 
S 8 Kt
350
2-3'
3.5 Kt
 

Wind calmed off overnight, but Enigma always managed to stay on course and moving along with minimum attention, and I catnapped comfortably in a low, rolling swell.

 

3/13/2006 Monday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0430 30d 03.0' 81d 14.3'   SW 3 Kt SE 2'
0745 30d 08.2'
Pos rep Karen all well
81d 17.5'
 
  SSW 5 Kt
000
SE 2-3'
2.5 Kt

A pleasant day, not fast progress but steady. Wind hauled on shore and built a bit in afternoon but, as the dey before, it was just the local sea breeze filling in along the coast, not a deep enough wind field to make up much of a sea.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1230 St Johns R '4' 000 2.7nm SE 8 Kt E 2-3'
1320 St Johns R '4'
Sea steepens in river ebb current.
270 0.5nm SE 8 Kt E 2-4'
1448 N '6a" Nassau Sound SE 12 Kt E 2-3'
1600 30d 35.0' 81d 23.5'   SE 12-14 Kt E 2-3'
1610 Call Chief, ETA Cp 1900 020 4.5 Kt
1740 St Marys Entrance, FL G '17' S 14 Kt 3-4'
1820 Ft Clinch CP
Visited w/ Chief, exchanged [camera] chips
S 16 Kt
 
sm  

Chief got some photos of Enigma coming in and leaving the Checkpoint, and swapped my full camera memory chip for an empty one so as to upload my pix and video to the website. I didn't stay long as tide and wind were fair for continuing to St. Marys. and there was still a little evening light left.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1840 Left CP bound up St Marys River
1910 Enter St Marys River S 14 Kt sm
2245 Anchor near high cut-bank halfway between [town of] St Marys & I95 bridge S 6-8 Kt sm

 

3/14/2006 Tuesday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0500 Away under sail SW 8 Kt sm
0815 US17 Bridge Pos Rep Karen SW 8-10 Kt sm
1230 Flood [tide] ends. Rain squall. W 20+ Kt  
1305 Squall ends, swallows wind [begin sculling] W 5-6  
1330 Flea Hill W 5-6 Kt  
1430 Orange Bluff Calm  
1500 Rest, food, mast down Calm  
1730 Colerain. Bath time NW light  

Looked like cooler weather coming after the frontal passage and I took advantage of the last of the warm evening to stop & have a sluice in the river. I'm a saltwater guy, never waste fresh water.

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1915 Dinner stop NW light  

We'd been pushing upstream against the ebb tide all afternoon. By stopping for a couple hours to eat and rest, I let the advancing crest of the next flood tide catch up with me, and when I started sculling again had half a knot or so of upstream current helping me along, which we were able to carry all the way to Traders Hill.

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2210 Pos rep Karen poor coms 180 2.5 Kt
2250 US1 Bridge NW light  

Spooky area on a dark night, the tall road and rail bridges cutting high through the trees to the distant bluffs, while the river winds in oxbows through slough and swamp below. Was hard to keep oriented and I relied on the compass for my sanity.

 

3/15/2006 Wednesday

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0105 Traders Hill. Cool night. Calm  
0745 Pos rep Chief, Pos rep Karen, leave phone charging at campground while doing chores. Dump ballast, re-stow, clean up

Slept in and woke to frost on deck. Traders Hill campground was empty at mid-week but looked nice. Up the steep hill the camp sites had electric and water that I took advantage of. Walked out the access road a ways to stretch my legs but returned soon to discharge our sand sailing ballast in the dirt road and clean up the boat, while waiting for phone to charge.

Time Landmark
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0910 Under way, moderate current NE 10  
1115 Snack break on sandbar. River shoaling, current still easy NE 10-12 Kt  
1320 Snack break ? 10-12 Kt  
1510 Snack/nav break- current stronger, trees in road Calm  
1710 Snack/nav. Easier going. Calm  
1935 30d 37.4 82d 02.2   Calm  
1935 Dinner stop near Toledo

Tied to an overhanging tree near a steep hill. After a cooked dinner hiked up for some antenna altitude and made a scratchy shouted phone call to Karen. Not logged but as I recall we continued sculling upriver for another couple hours after that before stopping for a long night's sleep.

 

3/16/2006 Thursday

Time Landmark
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0630 Under way. Cold, foggy, pretty. Calm  
0845 Food & chart break. Short fast pitches through tree & drift bars, alternating with slower reaches. Pretty country.

River was mostly wild and mostly empty. Very occasionally we'd come across fishermen, all done up in camoflage gear, in nicely fitted-out high-powered camo-colored jonboats. Georgians mostly, seemed friendly and talkative but I didn't wait long to talk. In several places there were long looping oxbows of dead water where the river had cut a new straight chute of fast water across a neck of the low bottomland. Following the mapped channel could get one in trouble as the upper ends of some of these oxbows were closed off by sandbars at this (moderate) river stage. Had to stay in the fast current of the chutes. As we continued upstream there were more and more deadfalls and sweepers, some taller trees extending clear across the river and trapping walls of driftwood and brush, where a narrow opening would be cut through just wide enough to pass the local jonboats. At one place I was crowded right up to one sandy bank to get around the top branches of a fallen tree still rooted in the opposite bank. Taking a moment off from poling, I hopped ashore and scratched WIZARD in 2 foot letters in the smooth sand, hoping it would still be there when the next Triber came through in a day or two (it was- Shark Chow saw it as he squeezed through the same narrow space).

Time Landmark
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1125 Break. Easy current mostly SE? light  
1300 Food break. Pos rep Chief S light  
1415 Arrive St George CP. Greeted by Chief. Relax for 10 min. then up the ramp.

On The Road

Took a few minutes more to prepare for the road portage. Enigma's portage rig is the same as on several other of my small boats, a pair of 12" pneumatic wheels scavenged from a junked kids' scooter. These are the same as the smallest size of kids' bicycle wheels, and tires, tubes and bearing parts are widely avalable to fit them anywhere you go. I rebuilt these wheels with long axles extending out on one side, that socket into tubes inset in the chines of the boat amidships, so you only need to lift up one side of the boat at a time and slide the axle in place. The wheels are cambered under a little so gravity holds the wheel in place, and it's a quick process with no tools.

Also lashed the sculling oar to the foredeck extending out over the bow several feet, to form a tow bar at convenient hand height.

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1525 On the road. Good pavement & a 2' hard shoulder, good so far!
1830 Visit on road from Chief, rigged for dark, onward. W 10 Kt  

"Rigging for dark" consisted of setting out some food and water where it was handy, checking flashlight, and hanging reflectorized orange life vests and bicycle flashers fore and aft for visibility to passing traffic. Ten minutes later we were rolling again, and the cooling temps made for faster and even more pleasant progress. Traffic after dark was very light, several minutes to half an hour between one car and the next, no trucks.

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1950 Cross St Marys River bridge at Moniac. Deep steep gulch w/ high bridge at level of surrounding plain.

Left the boat briefly and jogged down a side road to a nice little riverside park and launch ramp under the bridge. River looked still wide and deep enough to be paddleable as far as I could tell in the dark. Just looking, for future reference.

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2030 Stop for night (hope...) at Forrest Svc. dirt road on S side 3 miles past St Marys bridge. Quiet!

 

3/17/2006 Friday

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0630 Back on the road Calm  
0755 Breakdown, or nearly. Left wheel sidewall failing. Stop to repair. Patch tube (staple), wrap tire with poly mesh from lee cloth, overwrap all w/ 1/4" nylon rope, looks crazy, hope works...

First Repair

Found the problem during a routine short food break; the port wheel was very low, rim nearly on the ground. Pulled out onto the apron of a side track and chocked the boat up to remove the wheel, set to patching tube. Trouble was from a small bit of wire, maybe a staple, picked up in the tire; it had just nicked the tube and the slow leak had gradually been letting the tire sidewalls flex more and more as we rolled. Over who knows how many miles of this mistreatment the tire, an old one with several hundred miles already on it, had broken down to the point where rubber was sloughing off the sides in sheets and the nylon belting was badly chafed and starting to tear.

I had all kinds of repair and replacement parts for the portage wheels: patch kit, pump, spare tube, a complete spare axle with bearings and nuts, but no spare tire. How many cyclists carry a spare tire for a 40 mile trip? Difference is on a bike you'd notice the low tire before it had time to do itself much harm, which I should have made sure of by more frequent wheel checks.

Anyhow after thinking on my options and materials on hand, I tried to repair the tire, attempting to rejoin the still-serviceable tread to the bead by sacrificing a heavy trampoline-mesh lee cloth and wrapping a section of the fabric around the inside of the tire between tire and tube. Once reassembled and pumped up this didn't look like a big improvement, there wasn't enough of the original belting left to contain the mesh, and the tube was bubbling out through big gaps in the sidewalls. Grabbed some spare nylon line and started spiral wrapping over the tire and through the spokes around the inside of the rim, a long process but finally done. The tire now looked pretty crazy but was holding together, and we hit the road hoping for the best.

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0905 Back on road    
1020 Interview by Roger Bull, Jax Times- ?

Stopped a while in a shady spot while a Jacksonville newspaper reporter Chief had gotten in touch with took my impressions of the trip. He said he was headed back to St. George to try and talk to Manitou Cruiser, who he'd heard was getting ready to hit the road there. Would try to catch up with me again later.

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1050 Visit from Chief, pix by Chris, Jax paper
1115 Left tire wears thru, flat.

After only 7 miles or so the rope wrapping wore through and parted, and the tube popped out the unsupported sidewall exploding. Back to the soft shoulder. I'd been picking likely looking strips of dead tires from the roadside as we went, thinking about what do do next if the first fix didn't last out. After replacing the split innertube I cut some pieces of thin sidewall rubber and worked them into the worst parts of the tire, and wrapped the whole mess back up in the now-very-frayed nylon line which I tied up and tightened the best I could. And we rolled on.

Time Landmark
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1230 On the road, wrapped line over some strips of road-kill tire belt
1420 flat again. Roger reporter and Chief show up while repairing. Chief donates hose clamps & loans screwdriver. Made new hard tire from strip of road-kill truck tread.

Saving the remains of the bad tire wasn't working out so I took the next step of trying to build a new, solid tire. Stripped off everything down to the bare plastic rim and wound in a strip of heavy steel-belted truck tire tread that had caught my eye lying in the weeds a few miles back. It was just the right width to jam tightly into the channel of the rim. I needed to secure the ends of the rubber strip and Chief, who had stopped by in his rounds of overseeing the various checkpoints, suggested some stainless steel hose clamps he had as spares for his truck. That looked like working and after some fighting and cussing with the reluctant rubber I got things together well enough to give it a try.

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1515 On the road. Frequent stops to trim & adjust tire. This might work!

Last Repair

Not individually logged are all the breaks needed to keep the new tire happy- first to shorten the rubber strip which stretched out gradually under the constant rolling. Then adjusting the clamps as they flexed and loosened. Then after a few miles first one and then the other hose clamp fatigued and fell off. I stopped to see what could be done but couldn't think of anything useful. Trying to screw or wire the rubber in place seemed doomed to fail faster than the hose clamps. Lashings had already shown to chafe faster than you could apply them.

But the rubber strip seemed willing to stay more or less in place on its own. Through good luck and no planning on my part the strip came to me slightly wider at one end than the other, and I'd fortuitously installed it the right way around so the fat end, jammed tightly between the sides of the rim, hit the road first, and the thinner tail rolled out behind it, often flapping loose as it passed over the top of the wheel but always rolling back into the groove as the wheel advanced over it. It was scary but fun to watch, I'd turn around and walk backwards for a few hundred steps just marveling as the makeshift tire unwound and rewound itself 90 times a minute. There was some pretty heavy bumping as the thick head of the tire hit the road every revolution, and a sympathetic vibration of the whole boat at a frequency 3 times the wheel period right at my comfortable walking speed- it lessened if I sped up or slowed down but I gave up trying to smooth the ride and just went my pace, letting the boat bang along at its own peril.

When you're walking along a lightly-travelled country road for hours on a hot afternoon, you have plenty of time to think about your options. All the obvious ones went through my head. If this last-ditch tire failed, or if the plastic rim folded under the constant vibration, I could call Karen and she could be here by dark... We could load Enigma on the car and get out of here, never more this long, long, straight road disappearing over the horizon ahead, no more logging trucks whizzing past your elbow, nor sculling along strange spooky rivers in the dark... Or I could push the boat into a clump of bushes and try to bum a ride to somewhere with a Wal-Mart or a bicycle shop to buy a new tire- Lakeland or Valdosta looked like the best chances, farther than I'd want to walk. Would the boat survive a day without me? Occasionally a passing vehicle would slow and roll beside us for a while, whatthehell you doin' boy, need help, like that. One of the log truckers, who had certainly passed us a couple times already going back and forth to the mill, idled his empty rig for a couple minutes getting the story, and offered to come back with his pickup after his shift was over, get us to Fargo or White Springs or wherever we wanted. Nice guy. No thanks, enjoying the walk, you have a great day now.

And the tire kept rolling, and I kept walking.

Time Landmark
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1800 Edith. Only 1 mile to go! Tire is holding but bumping & vibrating badly.
1840 Fargo ramp. Made it! Clean up & put in. Dinner w/ Chief. ManitouCruiser delayed by slow bike, won't arrive till tomorrow, pity. Sleep!    

 

3/18/2006 Saturday

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0630 Pos rep & conversation w/ Karen on pay phone at gas sta. Fill water. (Still at Fargo)
0710 Under way on Suwannee R. Pretty!
1110 FL line E-SE 10 Kt  
1330 Launch ramp park. Right wrist hurts, slow going. Up mast & sail, try to rest.

I was starting to feel the results of a minor injury coming up the St. Mary's River a couple days before. We'd been poling up the inside of a bend, pushing fairly hard into a moderate current, when a plant of the pole had gotten stuck in a tree root or something on the bottom, and I wrenched my right wrist before getting it loose. Thought nothing of it and pushed on, but the repetitive stress of all that sculling and poling had worked on the joint and interfered with healing, and I was starting to pay for it.


Tea Kettle Tree

Mostly the river was deep and slow with heavy forest overhanging the banks. Big ancient teakettle-shaped trees grew out in mid-stream and and formed the banks in some sections, other times the river cut through steep hills or rock ledges. At one point a rustling noise from around the next bend announced a riffle of fast water and I landed on the right bank and walked ahead to scout. Bank became steeper till I was clinging by finger- and toenails to a narrow game trail and climbing over trees growing horizontally out of the rocky cut-bank. Good news was what I could see of the river looked easy class 1, but I gave up climbing before I got to the end of the riffle. Went back and ran the gentle rapid mid-river without incident, about 2' water with rocky uneven bottom and a few boulders.

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1600 Rt. 6 Bridge Light Var.  
2130 Deep Creek Anchor    

Bow anchor out in the mouth of aptly named Deep Creek, just above Big Shoals; a stern line to a fallen tree ashore for redundancy- didn't want her to break loose and drift down river just here... Would have gone on a couple more hours but didn't care to deal with Big Shoals in the dark. Made dinner and conked out with the cabin light on, listening to the radio. Some time later waked suddenly with the feeling there had been a noise, must have been the radio? Turned everything off and back to sound sleep.

 

3/19/2006 Sunday

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0620 Under way Calm  
0730 Big Shoals top trail- scout rapids, find Mark (M.C.) at bottom put-in. Nice talk, catch up on travels. Pix of him leaving.Carry gear down trail, fix wheel again,, move boat.

Big Shoals Top

Big Shoals 1st Drop

Big Shoals River Left

Big Shoals Bottom

As we pulled in to the well-marked upper end of the portage trail at Big Shoals the first thing I saw was a big MANITOU WAS HERE scratched in the sand of the take-out. Had had a feeling he'd catch us yesterday and been looking over my shoulder all afternoon. Hurried off down the riverbank to scout, hoping he was still around somewhere. The falls looked just too much to run comfortably, looked like the abrupt limestone ledges would catch Enigma's rudder a good hard whack at each of the two main drops; losing headway and getting caught in the backwash would be no fun. Might be able to manhandle and line her over in shallow slower water river left, but there were a lot of branches and junk in the water and along the banks, looked hazardous. Portage trail looked like best option.

Scouting the bottom put-in of the trail I found Manitou Cruiser's overnight bivouac just as he was breaking down and packing up. He was in great spirits, enjoying his trip. He'd seen Enigma at anchor as he passed last night, had I heard him paddling quietly by in my sleep? Maybe not. Kind soul that he is, he offered repeatedly to help me move Enigma around the portage, she looks a heavy unwieldy thing to people who don't know her well. But I sent him on his way with a warning not to slack off, I'd be trying hard to catch up.


Little Shoals

Carried a couple loads of gear and supplies down to the low end, then skidded Enigma up the nice even slope of the portage take-out and got her back on the wheels (temporarily lashing that rubber strip tire back into the bad one). The lower put-in is rougher with uneven steep rock and mud obstructed by small trees and brush, but with a couple guide ropes I got her slid back down without incident and reloaded in a little back-eddy covered in foam from the falls. Just as a troop of canoeists came down (half ran the rapids and got wet, half carried) we set off down toward Little Shoals, which was no trouble, choppy but mostly deep enough to scull through at that water level.

Time Landmark
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0940 under way below big shoals. Calm  
1120 Rt 41 Bridge. Wrist hurts. Light  
1130 Pos rep Karen from top of bank    
1150 Rt 135 Bridge [White Springs] Pos rep Chief    
1220 Begin sailing - slow! Lt Var  
1335 Shark Chow passes by. Good spirits, moving fast.

Back in deep slow water below the Shoals. Banks are high with tall trees right to the water's edge, only reason to sail was to spare the bad wrist. Shark Chow looked like he had a motor going as he swept past with a spreading wake behind, under a shady straw hat. We talked for a minute but neither of us thought to take photos.

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1450 Rt 75 bridge sailing E 5-10 Kt  
1900 Suwannee Springs, US 129 bridge [sculling] Calm  
2130 resume sailing E 5-10 Kt  

 

3/20/2006 Monday

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0220 Rt 751 Bridge    
0250 Stop 2 mi past bridge. Tied to bank, ate some cold food, rolled over & slept hard for a few hours.
0645 Under way. Sailing. Wrist inflamed, swolen, ow. Better current, 1.5 kt.
0930 Suwannee R. St Park. Pos rep Chief. Pos rep Karen. Fill water.
1000 US90 Bridge. Begin sailing E 5-10 Kt  
1120 Stop to pick up ~90lbs sand ballast. Resume sailing in building winds S 15-18 Kt sm-1'

Beating down the widening river against the stiff headwind was faster than trying to scull. Deep enough to tack bank-to-bank taking advantage of the lifts approaching each steep shore.

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1510 Rt 250 Bridge. Dowling Park SW 20-22 Kt sm
1525 Tree falls in woods. I heard it.    
1830 Blue Spring St. Park. SW 10 Kt sm
2025 Rt 51 Bridge. Pretty suspension ? 5 Kt sm

Just below the bridge came that familiar rustling sound out of the black dark ahead. There was just enough light to see the silhouette of the skyline overhead on both sides and a less-dark gray path of river ahead, no way to read the water but it didn't sound bad. I tried my best to dope out a route through the gentle rapids by ear. River left seemed to work pretty well, a lot louder to the right and we only bumped bottom occasionally with the sculling oar except for a hundred yards or so of shallower rocky bottom.


Overhanging Tree

As we came out the bottom of the riffle a patch of trees standing in the water suddenly appeared out of the dark. Before I could turn an overhanging branch reached out and grabbed Enigma's mast, bringing her to a stop in the still-fast current. As she started to swing out of control the branch slid across the mast; just as we were about to slip free it caught a loop of main halyard. With the river pulling her downstream and the tree pulling upstream from the masthead, Enigma swung broadside to the current and came to equilibrium at about 40 degrees of heel with foamy water lapping the upstream deck.

No immediate danger but stuck fast until I do something; thought about options for a few seconds. Fortunately the easy solution worked, I turned out the stopper knot from the inboard end of the halyard and Zip! off it ran out of the cockpit and up the mast, by good luck not fouling in the sheaves or whipping a turn around something, and we popped upright and drifted free. And pressed on...

 

3/21/2006 Tuesday

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0330 1.5 mi above Branford Tie to snag for sleep. SW 10-12 Kt sm
0630 On the road SW 10 Kt sm
0710 Branford boat ramp Pos rep Karen SW 15-18 Kt  
1110 Wannamake. Light rain, thunder SW 18-20 Kt  
1330 Rt 340 Bridge. Dry, mixed cloud SW 20+ Kt  
1540 Wannee SW 18-20 Kt  
1910 Pos rep Chief SW 6-8 Kt  
2050 Fanning Springs Rt 98 Bridge SW 4-6 Kt  

 

3/22/2006 Wednesday

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0320 Fowlers Bluff. Sail/nap/scull W 4-6 Kt  

Suwannee Bank

Suwannee Sailing

East Pass Horizon

It was a long last night on the river. I wanted to catch the ebb tide down the last reaches and out to the Gulf so pressed on. Was really tired and sleepy. While sailing I'd try to set her on a course where she could fetch along untended for a few minutes and catch a short nap; sometimes I'd wake myself up before she crashed into the bank, sometimes not.

Sculling down past Manatee Springs park I started having the persistent delusion, maybe not quite a hallucination, that the right bank (which I was facing, standing cross-wise in the cockpit to scull off the stern) wasn't solid continental land but a group of small narrow islands with open water behind. Occasional groups of lights on a house or dock just reinforced the illusion in the black night, locating the 'islands' and emphasizing the 'passes' between. Had to constantly resist the temptation to head out between a pair of 'islands' into open sea, get off this interminable, narrow, restricting river. Was awake enough to know the perception was wrong, but not enough to turn it off and see the world as it was.

With the lightening gray of dawn the illusion disappeared and we were back in the river, sailing where a wind came down broad reaches between high trees,, sculling through the calm bends and narrows, with a growing ebb added to the river current helping us on.

Time Landmark
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0740 Exit East Pass to Gulf. Horizon a welcome sight after 4 days on river. N 5-8 Kt  
0940 Rattlesnake Key NE 10-12 Kt 1'
1045 Cedar Key CP. Salty Frog suggests tie to fishing skiff in main channel as no water at CP beach. Visit w/ SF. Pos rep Karen. Call Jack & Millie, short visit at their home. Charge cell phone.

Cedar Key

Salty Frog and the Checkpoint log said that Shark Chow and Manitou Cruiser had checked out of the CP early that morning. The forecast was good for all of us but less favorable next day and while I could have used a couple hours sleep I was eager to get moving. Finally pulled the plug on my cell charger and headed out just after noon.

Time Landmark
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1220 Depart CP for last leg. SW 10 Kt 1'
1600 29d 00.2 80d 50.2   WNW 16 Kt 2-3'
1600 Finish (Just checking the distance to go...) 83.3nm 170  

That afternoon was one of the most pleasant sails of the trip, fair wind strong enough to move well but not raise much sea, steady enough for the boat to self-steer, sunny and warm. Napped on the open water crossing to Crystal River power plant, cut through the outer end of the plant's barge canal which extends a long line of spoil banks miles out into the shallow Gulf. Crossed the spoil bank in a splash of breakers and onward in 3-4' water toward the islands of the Chassahowitska NWR.

Time Landmark
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Sea
1845 St Martins Key 090 1.5nm NNW 12 Kt 1'
2000 Anclote Key FL R '4' 170 25nm NNW 15 Kt 1-3'

A bunch of commercial fishing trawlers ahead and offshore of us kept me alert for several hours after dark, managed to stay clear of them without too much trouble. Once they were all over the horizon astern we were alone on the water and I could let the boat self-steer for hours at a time, though much of the time she was going at reduced speed to let me relax and catnap.

 

3/23/2006 Thursday

Time Landmark
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0100 Anclote Key FL R '4' 160 16.5nm NE 20 Kt 2'
0400 Anclote Key FL R '4' 170 5.5nm E 20 Kt 2+'
0530 Anclote Key FL R '4' 090 1nm E 20 Kt 1-2'
0710 FL G '1' Channel 090 .25nm ENE 18 Kt 1+'
0755 Posrep Karen     ENE 12 Kt 1'

Karen gave me the latest news of the leaders. I was still behind Shark Chow and Manitou but seemed to be closing. I told her 'It's still a horse race,' and that it would all depend on exactly when the forecast wind change come later that morning. I had the choice of heading inside to the ICW to hedge against the wind shift and set up for better flat water rowing, or staying out in the gulf where sailing was faster while the wind held. Decided gambling on a later wind shift and staying out was our only hope of catching the leaders, and carried on.

Time Landmark
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0945 Clearwater Pass Fl G '1' ENE 14 Kt 1'
1230 Redington Pier
Beating up slowly
175 1.2nm ESE 10 Kt 1+'

That was it, the wind had veered south of east just as my course came east of south rounding the bend of Indian Rocks Beach and Redington Shores. There was no way I could catch the faster paddling boats now. To top it off over the next hour the headwind gradually faded away, leaving us bobbing in a leftover chop of sea with barely steerageway.

Time Landmark
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1345 Johns Pass 315 2nm CALM >1'
1425 Sculling, light W fills in W 2-4 Kt sm
1730 Pass A Grille; Flukey come & go wind always ahead... Pos rep Chief 045 1.5nm SE 3-5 Kt 1'

It was most frustrating. the wind would come up from one direction, blow long enough to get a little chop going, then die off to calm again, and repeat from a new direction. Sea was small but confused and bobbly enough to keep our progress painfully slow whether sailing, motorsailing with the paddle, or sculling with sail down, all of which I did by turns all afternoon still nursing my wrist. Finally after crossing the long bay off St. Pete Beach a couple miles off shore, we came in with the beach at the northern point of Mullet Key, and, trying to stay out of the ebb tide pouring out of Tampa Bay, started poling along in about 3' water. The last few miles were among the slowest of the trip between foul wind and current, the continuing chop and groundswell off the Gulf, and just sheer exhaustion. Sailed out around the end of the outer fishing pier and in again right under the guns of Fort DeSoto, and hit the beach with the last of the evening breeze at the foot of the inner pier.

Time Landmark
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1900 Poling up W side Mullet Key SE 5-6 Kt sm
1955 Ashore at Finish, haul out, search for lock box. Hailed by Chief & SandDollar, Dinner out, Pos rep Karen.

Finishing was blessedly anticlimactic; low-key congratulations from Chief and SandDollar who'd come down to meet SharkChow, the winner, ManitouCruiser, a close second, and had been hanging around waiting for me as my ETA moved back and back through the day. They took me out for a nice Italian dinner, handed over the official awards (shark-tooth necklace and inscribed paddle) and dropped me off back at the park where I found a pay phone and called Karen for a nice long chat. Then I shoved Enigma back out and anchored a short distance off the inside pier where we shouldn't get run over by passing traffic, and slept till well past sunup.

Time Landmark
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2133 Anchor off Bay Pier, nr. Finish
So ends Ultimate Florida Challenge.
Calm  

Post Script

The Ultimate Florida Challenge was the longest sailing trip (or vacation of any kind) I'd had in over a decade, and WELL worth the outlay in money and time in many ways. Showing that a sailboat could do the cross-Florida leg (formerly WaterTribe Okefenokee Challenge, and only attempted by canoes and kayaks) was one fun part. I thought it was interesting that boats from Class 1, 3 and 4 all finished within a few hours of each other after 20 days on the water.

Enigma worked really well for most phases of the race, obviously she was least competitive on the river sections, held back further by my slight injury. She was surprisingly non-slow on the long road portage- if not for the wheel trouble her portage time would have been among the better of the eight boats that did it. Her best performance though was where there was enough wind and open water to set her up and let her go, when the low-stress, reliable, take-care-of-her-crew nature of this enclosed-cockpit, self righting cruiser lets her keep covering miles in comfort while most of the competition is exhausted, uncomfortable and looking for a campsite.

 

3/24/2006 Friday
A New Voyage Begins

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0800 Sleep late. Pos rep Karen, fill water.

Having finished the UFC well inside the 30-day time limit, I still had the rest of the month free and discussed with Karen using it to sail home. She was fine with that, the cross-state round trip by car is no fun for either of us. There were no other finishers due in for a few days and I didn't think they'd fault me for not waiting to see their triumphal return, so I checked supplies (plenty left), filled a few water jugs from the beachside restroom sink and headed off again mid-morning. I began a new voyage in the log:

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1000 From Mullet Key, St Petersburg, towards Jensen Beach, FL; Away from Bay Pier beach NW 25 1=3'
1720 Venice Inlet (inside) NW 25 Kt  
1950 Lemon Bay G '41' Stop for night NW 20 Kt  

A cold front had moved through the previous night making the Gulf and passes rougher than I needed to deal with, so we sailed inside all day on the Intracoastal route. Chilly from a day in the cool wind, we pulled into a tiny private canal between rich folks' houses on the Island side of Lemon Bay, behind good dense tree cover, to get out of the wind for dinner. Slept deep.

 

3/25/2006 Saturday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0610 Under way N 8-10 Kt sm
1010 Gasparilla I. Bridge N 15-18 Kt sm
1910 Fort Myers Bridges NNW 20 Kt 1-2'
2015 St Mi 131 Okeechobee Wwy. Stop for nightin lee of N bank. Quiet. NW 8-10 Kt sm

Made good time running down the coastal bays in cool northwesterlies. Now things got slower working along the narrow Okeechobee Waterway canals against the veering wind. Fortunately the ailing wrist had had a couple days to recover, and with the race over I could afford to go slow and easy. It continued to warn me if I pushed too hard but was on the mend.

 

3/26/2006 Sunday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0640 Underway sculling, poling. Clear, cool, light adv.fog N 5-6 Kt sm
1110 Franklin Lock Pos rep Karen NNW 10 Kt sm
1305 Alva Bridge NW 10 Kt sm
1710 LaBelle Bridge NW 10 Kt sm
2015 Ortona Lock NW 6 Kt sm
2120 Long Hammock Creek St Mi 91. Stop for night. Bad holding, bridge in way. NW 5 Kt  

 

3/27/2006 Monday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0629 Under way. Cool & clear. NE 3-5 Kt sm
1300 Moore Haven Lock NE 10 Kt sm
1710 Exit Aux. Floodway Channel ENE 15 Kt 1-1.5'

The Auxilliary Channel is one of my favorite shortcuts, taking you out to the open Lake Okeechobee much quicker than the marked rim canal route. Nobody else uses it so you see a lot of wildlife, read gators, along the banks (good birds too). Night came down quickly as we beat into the short steep lake chop on port tack, making for the lee of Creamer Island 15 miles or so away.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
1815 FL R '8' 225 0.2nm ENE 18 Kt 1-2'
2200 Creamer I. Came to anchor under scrub clump in grassy shallows. Quiet & snug. 045 0.5nm ENE 12 Kt sm

 

3/28/2006 Tuesday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0630 Under way. clear, warm. E 6-8 Kt sm
0925 Beacon Pt R '74' ESE 12 Kt 1'
1200 Canal Pt 135 1.5nm NNW 8-10 Kt 6"
1510 Port Mayacca Lock Lt var. 6"

Off the big lake and back into constricted canals, hot and sweaty, sometimes calm, sometimes fluky headwinds, sculling slowly.

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
2045 Indiantown Boat Ramp, Pos rep Karen Calm sm
2130 St Mi 26 Anchor for night Calm sm

 

3/29/2006 Wednesday

Time Landmark
Lat
Bears
Lon
Distance Course
Wind
Speed
Sea
0600 Under way. Warm, damp Calm  
1100 St Lucie Lock E 12 Kt sm
1330 Palm City Bridge E 12 Kt sm
1420 Come to anchor at foot of Banyan Tree Dr. Unload. Home! Haul out & roll to house. So ends.

Back Home

Yup, it was good to be home. Till next time...






 

Further reading: Look for SharkChow's book about the 2006 Ultimate Florida Challenge, "Without a Paddle: Racing 1,200 Miles Around Florida by Sea Kayak," by Warren Richey, St. Martin's Press, available June 2010.

Copyright ©2010 Matt Layden

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