It's a marathon, not a sprint. So we've been telling one another, wisely, for months, as we picked out cold-weather gear, additional electronics, packs of AA and AAA batteries, as we've talked about whether the Spawnsters will stop and camp or press on through nasty weather.
I don't know how the 1,200 miles of the Ultimate Florida Challenge is calculated, though I suppose it comes down again to that old successive approximations under a curve...Even though the event is never about curves.
In any case, the first stage is done. The two boats (catamarans, naturally!) that arrived ahead of Spawn in Key Largo summed up their race: it was the worst conditions for sailing that they remember. Really rough. Really grueling.
I sat with Paula Paddledancer, the race organizer, as she fielded calls from worried family members of the racers, and from the racers reporting in that the wind and the waves were brutal, I thought, well, that's the first leg. I only hope the next four legs are less tough.
Spawn arrived in Key West Monday afternoon. Jeff said, "I'm surprised the boat is still under us. It was –– it was just awful out there."
The word "miserable" was bandied about.
A nice big meal at Mrs. Mac's, a very long night's sleep, a big breakfast at Mrs. Mac's, a bit of light boat-repair (replace blown ratchet blocks and jib sheet. Replace jib hook that straightened during re-entry after flying off a wave. Toss Jahn's defective shoes. Restock food and batteries. Repack everything) and they were away on the tide by noon today.
Spawn's personal tracker –– a SPOT, which brand I do not recommend –– seems to be on an extended popcorn break. The hapless customer service rep at SPOT agreed that it seemed to be acting unusually, and suggested when they got back to shore, he might be able to troubleshoot some things.
Can you HEAR my eyes rolling?
Instead of pinging every half an hour, as advertised and expected, the SPOT tracker evidently will only sing out after I send a text asking Jahn to please please for the love of all things holy press "okay."
This stage should actually be fun!
Ongoing –– not to say endless –– coverage of the human-powered adventure race in which my favorite skipper (AKA TwoBeers) and Moresailesed (Jahn Tihansky) are endeavoring to circumnavigate Florida...
My drive to Key Largo via state-maintained roads was longish but uneventful, and after an assist from Jim Signor (Hi Jim!) to obtain more nautical scavenger-hunt items (80 feet of 1/4 inch Yale Lite line -- any color! one pair of men's 9.5 regular boating shoes -- Musto or Sperry if possible!), I arrived at what is the finish line for nearly every other WaterTribe racer, The Pelican Resort.
It's a bit confusing that while Moresailesed and TwoBeers started with a gang of boats, and are speeding down the left coast of Florida among that fleet, they are in fact not racing in the Everglades Challenge. So they are not –– technically –– part of the Everglades Challenge... I'm not sure why, but dems da rules.
If sailboat racing tells you nothing else, it shows you that rules are both random and the only thing standing between ourselves and screaming chaos.
Despite its glitches, we stuck with SPOT as the personal locator device. In for a penny, in for a couple hundred clams...but it's hard on the watchers of this kind of event to have three-hour gaps in coverage. The SPOT tracker is supposed to "ping" every half hour.
As brother Paulie texted, "SPOT is on a smoking break." Or I think it was Paulie. SOMEbody texted it.
So our intrepid Spawonauts came ashore at 3:15 –– or 15:15 military style. They proclaimed it the worst conditions they've seen in their six years of making this trip. Fierce wind, pounding waves. BUT, they did get some sleep, not just camping out in their tent, but taking watches and sleeping on deck in their cool sleeping bags.
They even at an actual meal while camping (a MRE chili, which evidently packed a bit of a kick. I pat myself on my provisioning back for that!).
After hosing off the boat and all their gear, changing batteries and whatnot, they were ready for a meal and a good night's sleep in a non-rocking bed.
We're off to Mrs. Mac's for a burger, and to Jim and Sheryl Signor's to avail ourselves of the laundry, and then crash for a bit...
Yes, I have no idea how long I will be fielding peculiar demands from my team on the high sea.
Yes, I don't know when they will arrive at any particular place, or which way they intend to traverse any given set of navigational challenges.
Yes, I can't say whether they will camp out tonight and eat one of those delicious meals I packed.
I'm just driving the trailer (and The Miss Patsie) and a box after box of meals, haberdashery, and other diverse matérial for their restocking stops.
Oh, well, that and rescuing two Care Bears in Animal Suits and a White Bear from the bench by the red curvy slide at the playground by the skipper's meeting pavilion.
In what might be my most cheering moment of the week, I found the bears and got them back to their youngster -- the daughter of the friend of a former student of a friend sailing a different regatta on the other side of the Bay.
Still wouldn't want to paint it.
That being said, the latest telephone call from our adventuring crew at around 5 on Saturday put them at Checkpoint 1, Cape Haze. Their report: the wind was at first lively, then flattened in the afternoon. They rowed back toward shore where they caught breeze (brisk, puffy, and of course directly from the direction they meant to go), and had their hands full getting into the checkpoint.
They sounded wearied but resolute; perhaps the enormity of the event hitting them –– as it did me, nearly weeping for no particular reason this morning after the start –– right in the midriff.
Track them directly by clicking on the map below.
By "we," of course, I mean my favorite skipper, known by his WaterTribe handle TwoBeers, and his trusty crew Jahn "Moresailesed" Tihansky will be sailing/rowing/paddling around Florida, while I ("BookWorm" natch) shadow them by road, towing the other boat from the air-conditioned comfort of an automobile.
It's astonishing and humbling to see the crowd of dreamers on the beach each year.
The fleet will swarm the water tomorrow (Saturday, March 5) at sunrise. Some will be going to first checkpoint (they are racing what's known as the Ultra Marathon), some to Key Largo (Everglades Challenge), and a select few all the way around the state (Ultimate Florida Challenge).
There are a couple of ways to follow the progress of the three fleets. There's the WaterTribe tracking site, just be sure to select "Ultimate Florida Challenge" rather than "Everglades Challenge" if you want to see what our team Spawn is doing.
Likewise the RaceOwl site will track the various gangs. On RaceOwl, Spawn is known as 3662.
And finally, to pinpoint our fellas only, the SPOT locator site is unwieldy and difficult to use, but it doesn't get the volume of users and only occasionally bogs down.
For more than a year, so much of our idle talk and planning chez Linton seems bump up against The Ultimate Florida Challenge. Equipment, conditioning, route-mapping, alternate routes, possible solutions to potential problems. So. Much. Thinking.
Now the start is a mere three sleeps away.
This is, let me reiterate, a 1200-mile human-powered adventure race that pits my sweet spouse and his friend Jahn Tihansky against the weather, waves, wind, winding waterways, and whatever other w-flavored challenges to be managed as they travel a literal round the state.
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