Sunday, February 13, 2011

WaterTribe Everglades Challenge begins March 5, 2011

by DancesWithSandyBottom

Dawn Patrol in the EC

SOS and I (DWSB) are racing toward the starting line of the 2011 Everglades Challenge.   Or perhaps it is more accurate to say March 5th is racing toward us at breakneck speed.  Advanced preparation and training is essential.  Some just-in-time preparation is unavoidable. Anyone who has ever paddled, rowed, sailed or paddle-sailed an EC will tell you that arriving at the starting line on the beach at Fort DeSoto always feels like a major accomplishment.  The EC pits each challenger's preparations and training against the unpredictable weather and conditions of the race course from Tampa Bay to Key Largo.  

SandyBottom in the EC

While we are sailing and rowing the Dawn Patrol  toward Key Largo,  SandyBottom will be taking on the much greater challenge of paddling the 300 miles in her NDK Explorer kayak.   The prize for finishing an EC is a shark's tooth necklace.   SandyBottom already has 7 shark's teeth as well as several alligator teeth awarded for going the additional distances through the Wilderness Waterway in Everglades National Park.   These prizes are just tokens of the priceless rewards that keep us coming back to the EC.

SPOT Tracking

To follow the Dawn Patrol's SPOT track when we are sailing in the EC 2011,   click here 

SPOT in the bag
(or  copy and paste the following URL in your browser... )

Onshore Contact:  Steve Earley

The rules require us to report ("call home") to our onshore contact person at least once per each 24 hour period of the race.  The contact person is required to relay the information to the WaterTribe's discussion forum webpage.

In previous years I served as SandyBottom's official onshore contact person, blogger and coach.  In 2008 Mike Rhodes did a great job in that role for both SandyBottom and the Dawn Patrol crew.  (Thanks again, Mike!) 

This year we are very lucky to have Steve Earley on our teams as our onshore contact.  Steve is an avid sailor and an award-winning photographer who has raised sail cruising to a fine art as communicated in his blog, The Log of Spartina.  During the EC, Steve has generously offered to post on his blog reports about our progress    --as he has already described in his posts here and here.  

SandyBottom, SOS and I have promised to try our best to send him interesting news and cellphone photos during the EC.

Steve wrote on this blog...
"I also wrote my list of questions for Paul and Dawn when they call in their 24 hour reports from the Everglades Challenge. I plan on carrying a notebook with me during the race so I'll be ready to take down information when they call. The list of questions will be on the cover of the notebook. There are the basic questions I have to ask - How far to the next checkpoint? What is your ETA to the next checkpoint? What are your plans? - that sort of thing. But I'll also ask about their energy level, the food, who they are with, the best thing that happened that day, the biggest challenge of the day. It will help with the required report and it should help make a nice blog post too."

Wow.  Talk about being on-the-ball...    As usual, we can only aspire to get our act together as well as Steve does.  Thanks for the inspiration, Steve!  

This is Going to Be....

I want to say "This is going to be a lot of fun!"   But I have learned from our role model,  SandyBottom,  that it is more accurate to say "This is going to be a lot of adventure!"   because the EC is unpredictable.   The Dawn Patrol had a relatively easy time on her EC 2008 maiden voyage.  That was a wonderful experience.   But every EC is unique.  The adventure ahead in EC 2011 is a big unknown.  Lack of wind?  Too much wind?   No water in Florida Bay?

In the very first EC in 2001,  I've been told the winds were howling at the starting line.  When Chief said "GO!"  very few were able to launch,  there was mayhem in the surf, and many highly experienced challengers waited at the starting line for two days before the weather allowed launching.   

What do we know about EC 2011?    A record 72 boats will start.  The Dawn Patrol will be racing with 11 other monohulls in Class4  --two of which are new S.C.A.M.P.s  and one is a custom built I-550 skiff sailed by Meade and Jan Gougeon.  Bill Fite ("Jarhead"),  winner in Class4 of EC2010 and the NCC2010,  will be back to defend in his Sea Pearl 21.  

We also know we will start with a new moon, so sailing/rowing at night will be in pitch black darkness.   Stump Pass is clogged with dredging equipment.

EC starts at 7:00 AM on March 5, 2011

SPOT Tracking
Again this year,  each boat is required to carry a SPOT in tracking mode,  so that friends, family, and observers can follow the race.  (Each challenger is also required to carry a VHF radio, a personal location beacon (PLB),  and other safety equipment.)  This week Chief is encouraging all challengers to practice reporting in via onshore contacts,  and test their SPOTs' connection to the WaterTribe Challenge Mapper which will display the locations of the challengers in real time.   Today the Challenge Mapper shows challengers recent test locations (paddling/sailing on lakes and rivers, or at home)  all across the country...

Challenge Mapper:  many EC challengers testing their SPOT tracking

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Let There Be Light

by DancesWithSandyBottom

Sailing at night is to be expected in the Everglades Challenge.  This is one of the features of EC racing that distinguishes it from cruising.  With minimal moonlight to help us this year, we will need to "keep a strong spot light handy".   That's a quote from Steve Isaac ("Chief") found here.   We need a good spot light for the 11th annual EC and for future cruises.

We have recently upgraded the Dawn Patrol's standard equipment to include a dive light:  the C8 eLED by Underwater Kinetics  which was a much appreciated birthday present. (Thank you Dawn.)

C8 eLED from Underwater Kinetics.  Includes a wrist strap and batteries.

Beam distance is 577 ft  using 8 fresh alkaline C batteries.  The grip has a locking rotary switch for high (up to 250 lumens), low (up to 160 lumens), and off.   A small heat-sink in the middle of the lens efficiently cools the LED source and consequently the light is brighter underwater than when used onboard.  The trade-off is shorter battery life underwater.   The charts below indicate good performance out to about 14 hours of use onboard.  Underwater Kinetics  also makes a smaller 4-battery version, the C4 eLED. 

Performance:  underwater (pale blue)  versus in air (darker blue)

Performance:   with alkaline batteries (red) versus with rechargeable NiCad batteries (green)

 UK's C8 eLED seems like a solid performer.   We'll see.