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March, 2003
Table of Contents

My Longest Paddle
By Dennise Mathis

2003 Everglades Challenge
By Doug Cameron

The Everglades Challenge Experience
By Sonya A Bailey

Jean's Story
By Jean Totz

 

 

 

 

 

 

2003 Everglades Challenge

By Doug Cameron (aka RidgeRunner)

It's an overcast morning with an east to east northeast wind at around ten knots. Assembled in the dawn light on the beach at Mullet Key in Fort Desoto Park on the north side of Tampa Bay are fifty-odd sailors and paddlers and their small craft. There is a lot of socializing and picture taking and saying goodbye to families and friends. At seven we will all launch for the Third Annual Water Tribe Everglades Challenge.

Billed as the toughest small boat race on earth, the Everglades Challenge sprang like Minerva from the mind of Steve Isaac, called Chief by members of the Water Tribe. The idea is to approximate the challenges one would encounter on an expedition adventure, carrying your food and water and all the necessary safety gear for the trip. (You are allowed to carry money and to buy things, like a meal or a jug of water, from the "natives," but no support crews are allowed.) The first two races were plagued with bad weather, and only 30 percent of the paddlers and sailors finished. The whole thing is run through a web site, WaterTribe.com, and the site was getting over 18,000 hits a day just before the start. Publicity has just begun to catch up with the race, including articles in Canoe & Kayak, National Geographic's Adventure, Paddler, and a long article in Sea Kayaker magazine.

The March, 2003 race drew competitors from Hungary and England and as far away as Michigan and Colorado. Assembled on the beach on Saturday morning, March 8, were expedition sea kayaks, several Kruger single and double expedition canoes, a proa, an outrigger canoe, Kevlar racing open canoes, a homemade outrigger sailing canoe made from the hull of a Hobie catamaran, a 9 foot pram, a rather radical homemade 14 foot sharpie sailboat with a Chinese yuloh sweep oar, two expedition Laser sailboats, a homemade wooden lapstrake canoe, a 1960's Olympic racing catamaran, and my boat, a 1983 Sea Pearl 21 leeboard cat ketch based on a Francis Herreshoff whale boat.

The participants were equally diverse: several grandfathers (including me), Russian and Polish immigrants, fish biologists and resource managers from the Everglades National Park, medical doctors, entrepreneurs, software authors, a megayacht designer, graduate students, boat builders, sea kayak instructors, and school teachers. 34 were in the 300 mile Challenge; the rest were in the 60-mile "marathon" to Checkpoint 2 at Placida (60 miles). We all had tribal names, much like CB "handles." Mine was RidgeRunner, my handle when I drove trucks for Blue Hole Canoes to supplement my school teacher's income. A few were flat-out racers, but most just wanted to complete the Challenge, a noble goal in light of the high attrition rate of previous years.

Ready for the Start

We had assembled the afternoon before the Challenge in the picnic shelter on the beach to have our required equipment inspected and to load our boats. Besides cell phones and marine radios, we were required to have emergency locator beacons (EPIRBs), hypothermia kits, stove and cook kits, cold weather camping equipment, and several other items designed to keep us safe. There was also a "24 hour rule," which required us to check in every 24 hours if we had not stopped by one of the four check points during the previous day.

Now it was Saturday morning. We had finished the prerequisite photos and were ready to go. There was a sea haze in the air. The tide would be going out for another hour, then we would be going "upstream" to get out of Tampa Bay while it filled back up. A large freighter was in the shipping channel a mile offshore.

"Muscling" Off the Beach

At exactly seven o'clock, Chief said, "go," and everyone started for the water. Some were in a big hurry, considering it would take the winner three or four days to reach the end, and we all were allowed eight and a half days to finish. Matt Layden's ungainly- looking Paradox and my Sea Pearl were among the last to leave the beach, but we were all underway by 8 AM. (One commentator on the WaterTribe.com discussion forum said of my launch: "RidgeRunner, "muscled" his Sea Pearl off the beach. [He didn't notice that the boat was on a plastic "slip-n-slide."] It wasn't pretty but he succeeded inch by inch.")

It looked like a sailing race with the following winds. Many of the canoes and kayaks sported sails. Some headed for the inside route on the Intracoastal Waterway to the east of Anna Maria Island, and some pointed toward the outside route on the open Gulf of Mexico. I chose the outside route, planning to go well offshore to avoid the northbound alongshore current along Anna Maria. I maintained my southwesterly heading for quite a while to avoid the tidal waves and disturbed water in the shallows behind Passage Key, important information I had gained during a scouting trip last year (We don't have tides and waves on the inland TVA lakes where I do most of my sailing.). Even so, I took one significant wave over the bow – from now on I'll keep the cockpit cover closed! One kayak capsized behind Passage Key, but Matt rescued him and towed him to Anna Maria Island, an action that added considerably to his positive karma.

Winds slowly shifted to the south, but we had a fast sail all the way to Sarasota. I was very impressed at how dry and stable the Sea Pearl was. I had been a bit frightened about how she would perform, even though Sea Pearls had made significant voyages in the past. All of my offshore sailing had been in large cruising sailboats longer than 33 feet. This boat seemed vary small and the sea seemed very large. I had gone outside, anyway, for the adventure and the wind and the freedom from tides and power boat wakes.

Around three in the afternoon, off Sarasota, I caught up with Matt in his box-like Paradox with its lug sail and no keel or centerboard. I was clearly faster on a reach, but I eased the sheets and talked with him for a few minutes. As the winds began to die, he set up his yuloh and I got out my oars. That was the last I saw of Matt (who eventually won the race). He would be 9 hours ahead of me by the first checkpoint.

After an hour of rowing, my butt hurt from the board I used as a rowing seat. An old shoulder injury was resurrecting itself and I was covered with sweat. There was less than an hour to sundown, so I decided it was time to heave-to to fix supper, prepare for darkness, and wait for the wind to return. It wasn't worth injury to keep rowing, and I was only going 2 ½ knots.

As much as possible, I made it a point to go through a changeover ritual at dusk and dawn. At night I took a baby wipes "bath" to clean the sunscreen and sweat from my body, cooked supper, refilled the water bottles in the cockpit, replenished the snack supply in the cockpit, took off my dark glasses and cleaned them, got out the boat's running lights, changed batteries in the GPS, and changed into Capilene® and windbreaker for the night sail. I also called home to satisfy the 24 hour rule. Ann (my wife) would email Sandy, Chief's wife, who maintained the web site and kept track of us all (thanks, Sandy). In the mornings I reversed the process. I cooked breakfast (coffee and oatmeal), stowed the running lights, refilled cockpit water and snacks, changed into light, long- sleeved clothes and big straw hat, applied sunscreen, and put on dark glasses.

This routine made sure that I was taking care of myself, and it gave me time to take stock – the time spent sailing gave little time to do things, though there was plenty of time to think. I once heard someone mention the "hegemony of the tiller," and that was my experience – I couldn't leave the helm unattended for long or the boat would begin to go its own way.

There was still no wind after sundown, so I lay down on the boat cushions and slept, wondering whether there would be enough wind this week to finish the race. 300 miles divided by eight days meant about 40 miles a day, and I was watching that goal slip from me. I dozed off on the flat seas with a gentle swell from the west.

About two in the morning a southwest wind began to fill in. It was on the nose, so I would have to tack, but I had to use every breath of wind if I was to finish. Sailing at night also made me a little nervous, but the charts showed no dangers. I couldn't watch the sails for proper shape, and the waves were difficult to see and anticipate in the misty darkness after moonset. Everything was wet from condensation, including the compass lens. I could see two shrimp boats working about two miles farther out, and they would be off my bow the rest of the night.

I got into checkpoint one, on Snake Island in Venice Inlet, at 8 AM. I was the last boat to come in (There was one behind me, but he dropped out.). I signed in, got a cup of coffee and sausage and biscuit at the fisherman's stand at the inlet, and was on my way in a half hour.

The weather called for southeast winds at fifteen knots. This would be on the nose again, but the Intercoastal Waterway became a trench in this section, and I needed room to tack. As I went outside, I passed two sailors in smaller boats coming back in. They both told me it was too rough for them. More anxiety.

The second day was the day to regain confidence in my ability and the boat's seaworthiness. The winds increased slowly to periods of over 20 knots. Waves were three to four feet, and the seas were occasionally streaky as wind lifted foam from whitecaps.

The boat performed well. When the lee rail began to dip below the surface, I would heave to and reef. The Sea Pearl is particularly strong in this department. If you sheet in the mizzen and let go of the tiller and the main sheet, she will round up, bow into the wind, and gently move backward. This allows the crew to reef the sails and do other vital tasks. The sails reef by rolling them around the masts, so reefing is easy and allows for many options. I would take advantage of these features several times during the day.

After five or six long tacks and a couple of stops for reefing, the shore began to fall away to the East and I was able to stay on a starboard tack for five or six hours. Around five thirty, I turned away from the wind and surfed into Gasparilla Pass on two foot breaking waves. As soon as I cleared the white water, I hove to, threw out an anchor, and lowered the masts for the passage under the low bridge (It was twelve feet, according to the charts, and the tops of my masts were 20 feet off the water.).

Clearing the bridge, I raised the main and ran like a cat boat to the low trestle at Placida. Then I lowered the main mast again and paddled like a Venetian gondolier into the checkpoint at Grand Tours. I had been sailing since two in the morning, and I needed rest. Race Manager SandDollar and Marathon sailor, Draco, greeted me, as did Chief, who was preparing to leave for a night's paddling. I was no longer last and I now believed that I could finish, but the wind was dying, and I needed rest. The GPS said that it had taken 93 statute miles to get the 60 miles to Placida because of all the tacking.

After a refreshing shower, and clean clothes, I joined Draco for a dinner at a local seafood restaurant, where ZigZag Wanderer joined us. The conversation was informative and assuring. Draco and her husband, Vanman (who won the first Challenge and would finish this race second in his expedition Laser), had experienced many small boat sailing adventures from Patagonia to Labrador. ZigZag is a fisheries biologist for Everglades National Park, sailing a Kruger canoe with a Balogh sail rig. He had interesting information about Cape Romano Shoals, an area I was planning on avoiding.

After dinner, we returned to find AndrewsCanoes and Wanderer had arrived. We all settled down in the air conditioned bunk house as thunderstorms pelted the tin roof.. It had been a very full two days!

We all rose in the dark around 5:30, and soon the picnic tables at Grand Tours sported camp stoves cooking breakfast and AndrewsCanoes fixing his broken mast. Wayfarer was wrestling with whether to go on – his sleek racing outrigger canoe was bogged down with all of the gear and wasn't going too fast. In spite of our encouragement, he decided to pack it in. The rest of us prepared to go, discussing whether to go inside through Pine Island Sound or outside to the Gulf. The inside was a bit shorter, but the outside promised better breezes, and the favorable north wind was filling in.

By 7:30 I was on my way, with ZigZagWanderer not far ahead. We raised masts after the low trestle and were on our way in light northerly breezes. I was only doing 2 or 3 miles per hour, and ZigZag stayed about a mile in front. Boat traffic was heavy, and, even though my little boat was outside of the channel, I was constantly rocked violently by powerboat wakes.

As we got to Boca Grande pass, ZigZag headed outside. The forecast called for light winds, so I stayed inside on the Intercoastal Waterway through Pine Island Sound. The inside route here is a little shorter, and I had read about Pine Island Sound in sailing magazines. The wind filled in to 10-15 knots off the stern quarter, and I broad reached all day at 5 to 7 knots. With this increased pressure on the sails, the almost constant traffic of large motorboats did not rock me violently as it did in Gasparilla Sound, but I missed the light boat traffic on the outside. By 6 PM I passed under the bridge between Sanibel Island and Fort Myers. I pulled up behind an island on the causeway to fix supper, prepare for night, and call in my position report.

The night before I had used incandescent bow and stern lights powered by AA batteries. These died after seven hours. Though I mounted them for the night, I decided to go in the dark so that my eyes would be more sensitive to seas and sails. I wore a waterproof red LED mini-mag light around my neck, the compass has a red LED, and I had a bright waterproof flashlight to shine on the sails if a boat came near. At night on a sailboat you can hear a motorboat a long way off. The regulations allow a sailboat under 7 meters in length and going less than 7 knots to use a flashlight on the sails instead of running lights, and lighted sails are much more visible than running lights.

I sailed into the sunset on northwest sea breezes and following seas, dodging the large sunset cruise boat out of Fort Myers. There were many small fishing boats about four miles offshore, and I gave them wide berth. My planned route avoided the buoy-to-buoy route taken from the GPS points provided by the chart because many power boats use these ready-made routes. I would pass by offshore buoys from time-to-time, using outer buoys at passes as alternate waypoints. This gave me occasional confirmation of my location.

Around 9 PM the sea breeze died. I turned on the bright stern light and fell asleep on the cushions on deck. Within an hour, the weather pattern easterlies filled in at about 15 knots and I was off again. After the moon set, the night was very dark, and the seas built to around four feet. I was now committed to the offshore route since entering an unknown pass at night would be unwise. It was still a bit frightening for a lake-based day sailor, but the miles were passing easily under my keel.

There was a haze along the shore, making the high rise resorts of Naples seem unreal, but the sky above was clear. Orion was high overhead, and constellation Columbus stayed ahead of me until I turned the corner at Cape Sable. Shooting stars reminded me of the Columbia astronauts, and I said a little prayer for them and their families. South of Naples the shore lights diminished significantly and boat traffic stopped completely.

I crossed the entrance of Big Marco Pass at 4 AM and continued on toward Cape Romano Shoals. My original plans had been to go inside at Big Marco because of Greybeard's tales of big waves on the shoals last year. ZigZagWanderer, who does fish research all over the area, assured me that such waves were typical of a strong northwest wind, but that there is usually no worry. I was now sailing on a 10 knot northeasterly, so the shoals were protected by Marco Island. I turned toward Indian Key when it was due east and crossed the shoals. My anxieties were allayed as I encountered no waves above two feet and the sudden warmth of a rising sun over the Ten Thousand Islands. Though the high rises of Marco loomed on the northern horizon all the way to Indian Key, I was now in the familiar Everglades and away from development for several days. I also had new confidence that I could complete the Challenge.

My confidence would be short lived. The wind continued to shift to the east, making it impossible to fetch Indian Key on one tack. By 10 the wind had died completely and the bay turned glassy – Indian Key and the entrance to Checkpoint 3 at Chokoloskee was a tantalizing 6 miles to the east. The sun was oppressively hot. I realized that my sandal-shod feet were burned to a crisp and put on a pair of the heavy wool socks I had saved for cold weather. Then I discovered a rash on the back of my hands, seemingly caused from wearing wet sailing gloves for over 24 hours. From there my mood spiraled downward.

In the final analysis, the success of a boat like mine, which errs on the side of sailing efficiency and sacrifices paddling efficiency, depends more on the vagaries of the wind than on the skill and fitness of the skipper. Calm or light winds could still frustrate the possibility of a finish. What about my seventh and eighth graders who put up with substitutes so that I could be here. What about the deans who had enabled me to compete in this challenge? What of my fellow faculty members who have helped so unselfishly? I was hot, stinky, miserable and frustrated almost to tears, and I could do nothing to improve my situation. Patience is the lesson of sailing.

Sometime in the early afternoon I began to see cats paws of extremely light wind on the water. I broke out the oars and rowed from one wrinkled area to another, sailing for a few minutes on each hint of a breeze. After an hour or so, these westerly onshore breezes filled in to about fifteen knots, and I surfed past Indian Key on an incoming tide. The wind stayed behind me for the whole twisty passage of Indian Key Pass.

As Chokoloskee Bay opened before me, I turned right out of the channel and began a screaming beam reach across the Bay. I was kicking up a small rooster tail and the GPS showed 9.5 knots. Just before the beach at Chokoloskee, I hove to, pulled up the leeboard and rudder, threw out the anchor, and eased out the rode until just shy of the checkpoint beach. The tide was coming in, so I had no fear of grounding.

I signed in at 3:30 PM. I had been on the boat for almost 36 hours. I rocked as I walked like a drunken sailor. I had covered 70 miles in the 24 hour period from Boca Grande to being becalmed off Indian Key. The GPS odometer read 180 miles. I got a diet coke and ice cream sandwich at the Outdoor Resorts store and returned to clean up and straighten up the boat.

I was no longer in last place. Now I was in the middle of the pack. On the beach were Greybeard and ChefRamen (a father-son team who were second last year in their schooner-rigged Kruger canoe), and kayakers Porky (a very fit Sarasota firefighter who was beached by the storm last year), DrKayak (Porky's paddling partner), and SnoreBringsGator (Bronx-raised and very Everglades savvy). Race Manager SandDollar and all the competitors were very encouraging, and my spirits soared. We all had dinner together at J.T.'s, the legendary island restaurant, and returned to the beach to catch the 6:30 outgoing tide. WaterRose (soon to be the first solo woman to complete the Challenge), ZigZagWanterer, and ManitouCruiser and Techmon (Manitou manufactures the Kruger canoes. He has finished every Challenge he has entered – 4 – and Tchemon is his fiancé and a finisher in the Okefenokee Challenge.) had all arrived while we were at supper. I also met Mark, a part time Chokoloskee resident who sails his Sea Pearl in the Everglades. But no time to talk now – have to use the last of the light to take the complex Chokoloskee Pass out to the Gulf.

Chokoloskee beach was now a lee shore, so I had to tack off it to gain the yardage to get around the tip of the island. I had to heave to once to shake out my reefs so that the Sea Pearl would point high enough to make the route. Luckily, it was high tide and shoals were covered. I was fortunate to have scouted this pass last Thanksgiving, so I had the turns saved in the GPS (and on a hard copy in case it failed). After a little tight tacking, I was out! Then it was just a close reach out to the Gulf.

I was conflicted about what to do now. I was tired, but I did not want to leave any wind unused. I sailed off toward my first waypoint at Pavilion Key Light. Near the light, the wind died, and I gratefully fell asleep on the deck.

I was graced with a full eight hours of sleep. The wind came with the dawn at about 5:30. After breakfast and preparation, I was sailing by six. The wind was southwest at about 10 knots. I sailed with only two tacks through a beautiful, crisp Everglades day. I saw one sail behind me near Highland Beach, and I slowed to check on SnoreBringsGator near the mouth of Shark River. The wind died around 6:30 PM, and I anchored in the little bay between Northwest Cape and Middle Cape Sable.

Dolphins fed and blew all around me as I prepared supper and watched the sunset. The mosquitoes quickly swarmed, and I raised the cockpit camper cover for the first time before eating supper. I lay down sweaty on top of my bag around 7:30, and I could hear the dolphins clicking to each other through the hull. Just before falling off to sleep I thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to do this trip again when I'm not in such a hurry?"

Arriving At Flamingo

Departing

At 3:40 AM I was awakened by the hint of a breeze. I quickly stowed the gear and got underway with a granola bar for a snack. In a light 5 to 10 knot southeast breeze, I began to tack toward Flamingo. It took me six hours to cover the 6-7 miles into the final checkpoint at the Flamingo marina. I arrived at 10. I was cheered by Waterbuoy (WaterRose's boyfriend) and ThereAndBackAgain (a wonderful wheelchair-bound man who was the first kayak and second overall in the 2001 Challenge).

I didn't have much time to talk. During scouting at Thanksgiving I found that an outgoing tide through Tin Can channel made the route impassable by my boat, so I spent only 19 minutes ashore (getting extra water, coffee, and Fig Newtons at the store, signing in, and visiting a real bathroom). I left with great confidence – I could travel only ten miles a day across Florida Bay and still finish before the deadline.

Winds were light going out of Flamingo and the sun was hot. I wondered if I would have to anchor at the entrance of Tin Can channel and wait for the tide to change again. What a difference between this and my scouting trip at Thanksgiving – then I was zooming along at a reach on northerly winds with five dolphins escorting me across the bay; today I was barely moving, trying to pinch up on a five knot southeasterly breeze.

Florida Bay is a large, shallow expanse, often only a foot deep, its aqua waters punctuated by mangrove islands. Ospreys are everywhere, and each seems to have a fish in its talons. Large tarpon ply the shallows. It looks just like the pictures in the flats fishing ads. The finish is about 30 miles due east of Flamingo. The trick is to find the entrances to narrow passages between deeper bays. Everything else is too narrow to negotiate in most of the Everglades Challenge boats. Tides through these channels, especially with the wind pushing the tide, make passage almost impossible. Good vertical light makes finding one's way easier, and there are no lighted markers to aid a nighttime passage.

As I entered Tin Can channel on a close reach, I noticed the GPS speedometer move up to 7 knots – I had caught the tide! The first leg was over quickly. Each marker post was topped by an Osprey, and they each peeled off as I sped by. Halfway through, Tin Can takes a 90 degree turn and bears southeast – right into the teeth of the wind. As I made the turn, progress stopped.

For a frustrating two hours, I alternately tried to row against the current and to tack in the narrow, shallow channel. My only bad words during the whole trip were said here. Two hours for one mile sure screws the velocity made good! But I finally made the turn and close reached for the open water in the bay before Dump Keys.

The Dump Keys and the bays on either side went fast. As I made the turn for the Twisted Mile channel around the end of End Key, I realized that Twisted Mile would be straight into the wind. Remembering the effort in Tin Can, I decided to abandon my plan and take the channel on the map that led south toward the bay to the east of the Buttonwood Keys.

Soon I saw a row of sticks in the water and heeled over, close hauled for the channel. Soon after I reached hull speed, the leeboard and rudder dug in and I ground to a halt. The sticks I saw were planted mangroves. I got out the binoculars, but I could not find the channel. I decided to get out and drag the boat across the shallows.

For about a half mile, I alternately sank into the marl and walked on bottom vegetation, dragging the boat with rudder and leeboards up. Twice I had to stop and dig out my sandals from the gooey gray calcareous marl. Several other times I had to grab onto the bow of the boat to keep from sinking above my knees. Then, thankfully, the bottom dropped away, and I hopped aboard and began to sail again.

The channel just north of Calusa Key was easy to find, and I sped due east across the bay toward Jimmie Channel. The wind was now about 15 knots from the southeast, and I could easily sail east or south. The sun was racing toward the horizon to my stern. In the light of a spectacular sunset, with a hot pink sky with orange clouds, I turned into the mouth of the Jimmie Channel heeled hard over. The water was the beautiful aqua color you see on the Patagonia flats fly fishing ads.

The wind and tidal current were against me. The opening markers for the Jimmie Channel stood still as the water rushed past. I was going nowhere! The GPS said that the finish was just over ten statute miles east. I could taste the end. This channel and the one more by the Manatee Keys and I was home free!

I jumped out of the boat and sprinted across the flats with the Sea Pearl in tow. Darkness fell swiftly as I jumped back aboard and searched for the opening of the Manatee Key Channel. I was getting a little frantic now, and I needed to eat and put on warm clothes. With the sun below the horizon, darkness came swiftly, as did the evening chill. I threw out the anchor and made myself go through my night preparation, including having something to eat and stocking the cockpit with water and snacks for the night. The wind held strong from the southeast and the Manatee Channel still could not be found.

Balancing my excitement and fatigue, I took out my flashlight, the chart, and the GPS. After figuring out exactly where I was, I plotted tacks to the south and east to skirt a couple of shoals and get to the Intercoastal Waterway. I would sail on each tack until I reached a predetermined latitude or longitude, then tack. I set up the running lights because I would encounter other boats on the Intercoastal, and I turned on the VHF for the same reason. I was off again with a new plan, well fed, warm and confident.

Congratulations RidgeRunner!

About 10 PM I reached the Intracoastal with all its lights, and took off north and east for the finish beach. I sailed onto the finish beach just after midnight Thursday night. As I threw out the anchor and stepped of the boat, CrazyRussian handed me a beer, and I was cheered by Greybeard, ChefRamen, and Matt.

I was elated. 5 days 17 hours and 30 minutes. 11th overall and 6th in Class 4 (4th solo Class 4 boat). I had been on the boat almost every moment since Placida almost 4 days ago. I couldn't walk too well, even before the beer, but I was elated. All my wonderful friends and competitors put up with my tales for over an hour while I unwound. Then a hot shower and blessed sleep.

I had come a long way from last place at checkpoint one. There were times when I wondered if the wind would allow me to finish before the Sunday noon deadline. I was happy. The next two days were spent on the beach at the campground, making new friends as each competitor came in. Listening to all the wonderful stories as, one after another, all the boats still on the course finished and went through the same decompression process. We all admired Matt's winning rig and asked him a thousand questions.

All sorts of people in all sorts of boats. All sorts of solutions to the challenges of an ideal expedition craft. We all reflected on what we had learned and speculated on what our solution would be next year with all this newfound knowledge. What wonderful people! What wonderful fun! Thanks to Chief, Sandy, Dennise, Russell, and all the other volunteers who made this event happen!

Reflections: All boat design is a compromise. Boats that turn well will not track as well in a straight line. The fastest boats will not carry a heavy load or be as stable. The best rowing boat will not be the best sailing boat. All Everglades Challenge boats are solutions to the problem: How do I safely and swiftly complete the Everglades Challenge in all sorts of different weather conditions? This year was good for sailing boats and there were no strong fronts to drive anybody ashore. My boat was a very good sailor, but, to do better, I will have to be able to move the boat in still air. The first try will be a yuloh like Matt's.

This is the finest collection of people I have encountered. I guess that the race is quite a filter itself. It takes a special kind of person to spend all the hours in planning and training and to have the tenacity to see the project through to a finish. These folks are problem solvers – they focus on the solution instead of the problem.

We are blessed to have Chief, his wife, Sandy, race manager SandDollar, and volunteers ThereAndBackAgain, KonTiki, Harold Waller (CP 1), Skip Peerless and all the other folks who made this happen. They are all volunteers. Only in America!

© Doug Cameron, 2003

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