It's a beautiful world.
It's an unconscious thing, a tick. A habit. Take a phrase, parse it, divide it, recombine it, look for entertaining results.
As I beetle around trying to restore order to the large pile of salty gear, slightly used batteries, marine electronics, and ziplock bags of snacks, I find myself turning over the wordy options: The Everchallenge Glide. The Everyglades chalice. The Challenger Everglading.
The boys on Spawn –– my favorite skipper and his pal Jahn –– are never-say-diers. They keep swinging for the fences. Always aiming higher.
All sporty metaphors apply.
The additions and refinements they make to the boat are all designed to eke a bit more speed, a touch more performance, a sliver more of whatever it will take for them to get to the finish line faster.
Mr. Linton installed a system of long sweeps, racing oarlocks, and a nifty sculling seat on the original boat, and has continued to refine it as time passes.
The oars are a boon when the boat is bucking the current and needs a little extra oomph. It's also handy when navigable waters get too narrow for actual sailing.
Rowing kept Spawn out of the fog that socked in some racers farther north.
From Sanibel to Cape Romano, they'd row a mile to reach a puff, sail for a bit, and then row through another lull. Chasing zephyrs, balancing patience with strategy in connecting one patch of wind with another.
With help from the awesome Jim Signor, the boys packed Spawn onto the trailer, stowed things for highway travel, and we made our ways North. Moresailesed had a pressing engagement with the US Naval Academy, where he coaches sailing.
The Linton-mobile cantered home across Aligator Alley, meeting up with the nasty line of weather that Spawn had managed to outrun, but which lambasted the majority of the fleet.
We dodged the inexplicable traffic that plagues I75 between Fort Meyers and Sarasota and as always were grateful to arrive alive at our house. We parked and hustled bag after bag up the stairs and then stood looking at one another. Jeff spoke the immortal words, "Is it over already?"
Well, for now it is.
The middle of the state. The middle of the night. The middle of a large pile of gear.
From the middle, ground-control for my Everglades Challenge team seems like a way of life.
It's probably sleep deprivation (I write this at midnight, over a bowl of dairy-free frozen dessert, in between reloading various tracking pages and checking the social media), but here I go again, blearily worrying, along with a clan of like-minded folks as we follow the progress of the 100 or so boats as they paddle, sail, and row down the left side of the Florida peninsula.
For those who haven't been following, here's the overview: The Everglades Challenge is a 300-mile unsupported expedition race put on by a gang called the WaterTribe. Competitors get a WaterTribe name. My favorite skipper –– AKA TwoBeers –– is racing with his childhood pal, the offshore sailing coach for the Naval Academy, Jahn Tihansky (tribe name Moresailesed). They set sail on the first Saturday in March at dawn from Fort Desoto in St. Pete, aboard a boat called Spawn designed by OH Rodgers (Ninjee).
As expected, the WaterTribe tracking site is experiencing some kind of technological version of the vapors.
Raceowl.com is doing better, but it means translating four-digit numbers back into familiar names. Spawn of Frankenscot is 3092, Safety Dance is 2969, Spongebob is 3072, the German guy, Schappi, is 3068, Jarhead is 3154, Puma is 3134, SeadogRocket and BermudaBoy are 3104, Ccock 3043. Et cetera.
Yesterday started for the Spawn team at o'dark thirty, when Jeff and Jahn and I piled into Charlie Clifton's van with yet more piles of gear, and made our way to the beach at Fort Desoto. Where we were met with a whole tribe of people wearing head-lamps and lycra-enhanced fitness clothing toting bales of stuff out to their various watercraft.
The Challenge begins, fiendishly enough, with the competitors needing to push their boats from the high-tide line into the water at the signal at 7 am. Some folks have wallowed in the sand for seemingly hours. Not my fellas!
The launching of the fleet was relatively slow this year –– not much breeze. Still, the moment passes in a twinkling of the eye.
At seven, the beach is packed, by a quarter after, only a lonesome boat or two and spectators are left on the beach.
I don't know what other ground-control people do, but given that Moresailesed was shedding virus and coughing like a consumptive, I cleaned up with a vengeance. Seven loads of laundry, autoclaving the dishes, a possibly unhealthy number of Clorox wipes, followed by a quick nip around to the non-dairy frozen dessert section of my local grocery and a nice cat-nap.
My phone is buzzing more than usual: Spawn has a following, and even with the light wind there's an element of nail-biting suspense. Moresailesed send along a photo from onboard –– roughly, I am thinking, from the spot where they spent some time last year recovering from a bit of excitement.
Evidently the mosquitoes are making an appearance on board Spawn –– last year, the poor devils couldn't make headway agains the wind. Each Challenge is different, I suppose, and a new test of the competitors' varying skills.
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