Spawn: Packing for the Distance
The short list includes cell phones (they can use them! it's not like a regular race! they won't chat, but they could!), VHF radio, flashlights and headlamps, GPS, two personal locators with strobes (clipped to their persons at all times), a SPOT personal locator (operating all the time; it's how we track their position), a tablet for additional navigation, a biggish lithium battery and a pair of portable (deck-of-cards size) power packs, plus AA and AAA batteries, plus multiple nav-light backups. And compass, watch, and paper charts just in case.
This is essentially the same gear they have carried for years; I don't know how the windsurfing guys manage to pack even a severely slimmed-down version of these essentials.
But given that this year's adventure races along for another 900 or so miles, the Spawnsters will be carrying back-up back-ups, and considerably more food.
From my end of the lab, provisioning seems just about as important as any of the many aspects that can make or break an adventure race.
Neither TwoBeers nor Moresailesed is what dog-trainers might call "food motivated." I have witnessed Moresailesed consume more than one full meal at a setting, but both sailors can actively forget to eat for long stretches of time.
So I've made it part of my brief to supply the living bejeebers out of 'em.
The gold-standard for past contestants is the MRE: Meals Ready to Eat, as designed by the US military. I got a stack of them, complete with the nifty little tab that heats water so they are indeed READY to eat.
Then there's the high-protein Mac and cheese cups, a wide variety of snack bars, flavored rice, instant noodles, summer sausage, peanut butter, homemade chocolate bars. home-brewed trail-mix, and instant oatmeal.
Stowing it on the boat is not part of my job, but I sure hope they can put this stuff away.
Spawn: Downhill Run
I hyperbolize. A tiny bitty bit.
But a quick recap might be in order. At sunrise on the first Saturday in March (the 5th this year), a hundred or so small craft take to the water on the start of a human-powered adventure race called the Everglades Challenge. The fleet paddles, rows, pedals, or sails (or a combination therein) south toward Key Largo.
The racers stop in at a few checkpoints –– Cape Haze, Chokoloskee, Flamingo –– before crossing Florida Bay to Key Largo. It's been a thing my favorite skipper has done for a few years. (Here's a selection of past blogs.)
Some teams take their time, stopping to camp and absorb the natural beauty of the wild Everglades. Some vessels travel in supportive, companionable packs. Some stop for hamburgers on the beach.
The Spawnsters? Not so much. When noting the beauty of their surrounds, my team is on the fly. They aim to shave minutes or hours off their best each time.
It's a grueling event: they might get a few catnaps on the way, but they arrive in Key Largo looking rode hard and put up wet.
But for 2022, in celebration of a big birthday, my team will not be calling it quits on the beautiful white sand beach in Key Largo.
Mr. Linton and his crew Jahn Tihansky (aka Moresailesed) plan to keep racing...threading through Keys, skimming past Miami and Fort Lauderdale and going, knock wood, all the way past Jacksonville.
North of Jacksonville, they will head up the St. Mary's river and leave the mighty sailing vessel Spawn and climb into the increasingly quirky canoe Miss Patsie.
They will paddle up the St. Mary's, eventually climbing out of the water and portaging 40 miles on the side of a county highway to the Suwannee River.
Another 300 or so miles of river brings them back to the Gulf of Mexico, where they will switch back to Spawn to finish the circumnavigation at Fort Desoto.
Miss Patsie started off as a perfectly standard 18-foot-long Wenonah canoe.
Muah ha ha.
She quickly grew a set of wheels, an old-fashioned lee board, and an outboard rudder. Then, after trial revealed error, Miss Patsie got an upgraded wardrobe.
At each stroke, a splash of water landed on the legs of both paddlers. This water quickly pooled and offered a damp proposition for both voyageurs and their big pile o gear.
A yachtful of thanks to Leslie and Paulie at Masthead Enterprises for the time and energy, plus gear and brainpower to make a full expedition outfit for the canoe. Their support is precious to all the Spawnsters.
Then too, what if it's windy on the St. Mary's and Suwannee? Sailors gonna sail.
Thanks to Tom Barry at Sail Technologies for the creative (and lightweight) sail.
During a trial runl, we found that the full batons and a section of old windsurfing mast (doubles as a handle when the team is rolling the barkey along the highway) gave us ~2.5 knots downwind.
Add one paddler, and the sail still provides a bit of lift going close to the wind. There is certainly a bit of extra zing when a gust of wind comes along, but nothing that catlike reflexes and the sturdy leeboard can't manage...
Now, to modify the expedition cover to allow for sailing...
And attend to a few Spawn maintenance issues...
And put together meals and first aid...
And...Wheee! Triple cork with a Geenie grab!
We hope to land at the beach on Friday, March 4 for inspection and Concours d'Elegance.
The first big exercise of the book is to sketch a map of a place.
I chose my oldest hometown, in Pennsylvania. I lived there until around age 8, with that little fish pond behind Mrs. Smith's (no relation) house, the strawberry fields, Sayre's horse barn. As I sketched it out, I led the names of the horses from all those remembered stalls by their oily leather halters. The exact bouquet of hay, oats, and horse manure arose like the flavor of a Madeleine dunked in tea.
The dusty yellow clapboard and the cadet-blue shutters of my great-grandmother's house returned.
As did young married next-door neighbors Dick and Marleen (Donna?) Briese.
I don't know how to spell their name, but I vividly remember Dick carrying me home across the street in his arms in the suburban dark. I was perhaps 3, inconsolable with homesickness. I had black-and-red cowboy boots that I rarely removed and which clunked together with each stride across the dewy grass; I'd been meant to stay overnight as a trial run for them to have children of their own...
Anyway, maps. It was a productive half-hour exercise and fun. So my thoughts naturally turned to doing the same activity with the longer novel I am working on.
Perhaps you are a fan of those maps that appear in some historical and fantasy novels –– I usually give them a cursory glance before diving into the story, but I appreciate a little better the effort.
Someone has ruminated on how to illustrate the scope of this new world. They've translated four-dimensional ideas into 2-d ones: a thread of ink to represent a raging river, a star instead of a sprawling metropolis, the little crenelations of a rocky shore.
Now, how to hustle my rag-tag band of heroes along to the end of their roads?
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