Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Everglades challenge adventure race 2011

PuddleCat Adventure resting on the beach at Fort Desoto Park in Tampa Bay, on Mulet key.
This is going to be a short story at my attempt at the grueling 300+ mile Everglades challenge. For those of you who are not interested in the details but would like to know how I did I will now give a very brief account of it.

    We launched at Fort Desoto State Park. This is located on the North Side of Tampa Bay. The first thing we do is cross the bay and get on the outside into the Gulf of Mexico at Bean Point and then turn South down the coast. We launched at 7 am into 10-15 mph winds and 2-4 foot choppy seas.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqMJu0xQkfc Here is a video.
At 7 pm I went ashore at Seista Beach,and had covered 34.4 miles in 11:15 moving time and just over 45 minutes stopped time. This stopped time was due to an eye injury while rowing.
My average speed was 3.2 mph and my highest logged speed was 9.6 mph. All of this was done into a headwind and 2-4 foot seas and there was a small craft advisory warning of adverse conditions until late afternoon when the winds then became light. At this point I had 38 miles to get to the first checkpoint and I had 17 hours to get there. I then made a decision that I could not make it to the first checkpoint in that amount of time because of a number of reasons. Mainly the eye, it needed some attention.The wind was directly south and at 5 mph and forecast to remain out of south until morning but it was to increase to 10-15 mph.  My desired direction was south to Gassparilla Pass and into Placida. Knowing that I could not make the checkpoint 38 miles away into the wind I decided to turn around and head north with the wind and get back to where I started. But First I had to get some rest. I went to sleep in the boat and got up at 9:15 pm. The weather forecast remained the same and my decision remained the same to drop out of the race so I called the race manager and withdrew from the race with the reason given as Medical. Since I was now officially out of the race It was my responsibility to get back on my own and they listed me as DNF and discontinued the tracking on their website. Although this was far short of my goal I was very pleased with the way the boat sailed in the adverse conditions especially the first half of the day. I learned many things and I will return to attempt it again someday, maybe next year but until then I am signed up to enter the Florida 120 and the NC OBX 130 in May of 2011 and I will start preparing for those races as they are much less extreme and much more laid back than the everglades challenge. As an overall summery I would put it this way. The boat was ready and built for a solo attempt at the Everglades challenge. I was also very prepared with all the required safety equipment needed and supplies. Personally I was not very prepared because I did not take care of myself like I should have done in order to continue. I neglected even the very basic requirements like drinking water because I was just to busy sailing. I was only focused on clocking off the miles and overlooked the big picture in at this is a 8 day endurance race. My only regret now is stopping and turning around and this is why. The race managers but a blanket weather wavier on the time given to the first checkpoint due to the adverse conditions the first day. What this means is that anyone who got to checkpoint 1 no matter how late they were they got to continue the race. There was no way for me to know this was going to be done. IF I would have rehydrated, ate, and got some sleep and started fresh in the morning I would have made the first checkpoint although I would have been late, when I got there I would have found out about the weather wavier and been able to continue. So lessons have been learned. Next time I will continue even if I am past the allowed time. These are very good lessons but still upsetting so I will take it as experience and sail on. I very much look forward to attempting it again and getting into other challenges.

Above is the short version. Followings will be a detailed account of my encounter of the Everglades challenge 2011. 

    Preparation in an endurance challenge is everything. I considered myself well prepared. Just a few weeks before the start of the Everglades challenge I was on Hartwell Lake in SC. in a small craft advisory with 26 mph winds gusting to 35. I was reefed down and handled the conditions well and the boat stayed very dry. Conditions that I saw that day should be similar to what I should see in the challenge. If the conditions were to get worse I could just drop the sails and ride it out and wait for better weather. And I had also already done half a dozen long sails of not less than 25 miles each and one sail of 42 miles. The boat was new. The first sail was Jan. 2011 but I had already sailed it well over 300 miles in two months. I could handle the boat in any situation. I could reef, go from one sail to two and back again with ease.
    I was also very prepared with all the safety equipment. I had all the required coast guard equipment for day and night sailing, first aid, survival, signaling, lighting, charts, and a full complement of gear to camp. My gear also included clothes, and enough food (32 lbs) and water (60 lbs) for eight days. I carried two gps units and a battery power pack so I could recharge everything and spare batteries in case something went wrong with the battery pack plus two solar panels.
    Having mentioned everything above and having all the gear you need means nothing unless you use it. Something as simple as water! Let me explain and start the story of my journey.
    My trip started with a 10 hour drive to Tampa Bay. I got a late start and ended up driving all night because I wanted to be there when they started at 10 am Fri. morning for boat inspections. I got there at 10 but did without sleep Thursday night. Having never been in the challenge before I did not know where to start but folks quickly surrounded the boat just to check it out and I learned what to do. I needed to get around the ranger station, access the beach road and get the boat off loaded onto the beach. This was started and the remainder of the day was getting the boat placed at the high water mark and next to around 80 other boats and many types. Smallest was maybe 10 feet and largest was 22 feet. The day was sunny, breezy and 84 degrees. I spent my time getting everything laid out for easy inspection for one of the watertibe officials. I spoke with many interested people and just enjoyed being there. My inspection was soon done I started putting everything back into their places in the boat all of which were carefully thought out ahead of time for easy access if I was busy sailing. Before I knew it someone was announcing that we had 5 minutes in order to get off the beach before dark and the gates closed before sunset. This caught me completely by surprise. I rushed to get off the beach but I was not ready.  
Photo taken by KiwiBird, she was in the race as well and finished in a sea kayak. Very nice lady.

To be continued.

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