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.
Headline: Nearly There.
Sunrise on the first Saturday in March is less than a week away.
We've started checking the weather.
And alright, perhaps a skosh more work on the centerboard gasket.
Aaannnnd those shrouds can be refabricated. Again. Gahh.
Thank goodness for the support of Leslie and Paulie at Masthead Enterprises in St. Pete, Brian Malone at North Sails, and Derek Dudinsky at JTR Industries for helping with last-minute fixes!
Ooh, yeah, plus some food. I (WaterTribe name: BookWorm) will Betty-Jo Crocker a batch of toothsome morsels for the heroes.
....And Bookworm needs to apply a fresh bit of Sharpie-marker for the eyes of Horus* so they can keep a sharp lookout.
As in past years during the Challenge, I will be pacing about and clicking "refresh" way too often. I'll attempt to report progress and adventure and photos in as timely a fashion as possible here and on the Spawn facebook page.
Hoping for a speedy and not too adventuresome a Challenge for the entire fleet of intrepid Watertribers.
Just when I think my favorite skipper is finished with his boat-building, he comes up with one more cool refinement.
Not the inexpensive solution, but Hydroturf sure looks sharp. The ocean blue might be a little warm in the sun, but it's cushy and –– so we hear –– UV resistant.
Then there's a nifty water-take-up contraption. Since the water wings act as water ballast tanks, of course, it's important to be able to fill and empty them rapidly.
When one of the Spawnsters gives the little line on the right of the tube a tug, the inner section telescopes into the water, allowing for rapid water take-up.
Stowage is a universal question. It's all well and good to pack what you need, but what if you can't find it when you need it?
In the original boat (Frankenscot, a highly modified Flying Scot), Masthead Sailing Gear fabricated some big, roomy zip bags. In combination with plastic tubs and netting hammocks, it worked pretty well.
But after last year's watery portion of the trip (Short story: they flipped and stuff floated away. Longer version: here.), one of the goals was to have more secure storage for gear. Hence, new tailored Masthead Enterprise custom bags are tucked and snapped into place between bulkheads.
With luck the snacks and electronics will not become separated from the boat. Knock wood, knock wood.
And at Moresailesaid's specific request, TwoBeers installed a special Masthead-made splash guard. Made of Mylar sailcloth, the guard is meant to deflect spray for a drier ride with better visibility.
Did I mention knock wood?
I'm calling them "water wings." Like the inflatable swim aids, these solid wings should give the boat additional floatation and resistance to turning over.
Which is important to me, anyhow.
And as promised, a short video from the weekend of testing Spawn.
By the time I got on the water with a camera, the air was VERY light. Thanks to EnsignRumsDown who filled in for Moresailesaid on New Year's Day.
My favorite skipper will be away from this project for a few weeks while he sails other, less quirky vessels.
Everglades Challenge: Spawn Looks More and More like the Painted Love Child of a Praying Mantis and a Delorean DCM-12
Each year, I try to tamp down my impatience and worry knowing that Two Beers finds the long, fiddly process both mentally and physically engaging.
Each year, Mr. Linton dreams up some Gucci modifications to the adventure boat: water ballast tanks, a foiling board, cassette rudders, a big old bowsprit.
And he's back at it again.
Since the metal handicap-rail style hiking racks began to wrack, and it takes the better half of a small village to get the things pressed and warped into place, Mr. Linton has been cooking up a better idea.
Last year's water tanks (made of polycarbonate sheets) point-loaded on the straps holing them in place, and after getting water-boarded by the mighty Gulf of Mexico the first night of the challenge, turned out to be less sturdy and consequently less water-tight than one might hope.
Combine the these two elements, add in a salvaged carbon fiber A-Cat mast from the most excellent Robert Cummings of Cummings Marine, and design courtesy of OH "Ninjee" Rodgers, and the Spawn is taking new shape.
Folding carbon-fiber hiking racks.
Testing should begin within a few weeks.
The Flying Scot is not the sexiest sailboat on the pond.
It's no Bugatti Chiron –– not even one made of Legos.
It doesn't foil. It doesn't require crash helmets. It doesn't use more than a skosh of carbon fiber.
Still, the boat is perfect for us right now.
The Scuppernong is a two-person affair, it's relatively cheap (some of our sailing friends in other types of boat pay more for one sail than we have for boat, trailer, and a tank of gas for the Winnebago!). And most importantly for people who like to compete: it has a strong, competitive fleet of sailors.
Between the Florida District series, the North American Championships, and the other events we try not to miss like the Midwinters and Wife-Husbands, we end up racing the Scot around 25 days each year. Weather permitting of course.
We got our first Flying Scot (The Mighty Majestic, #4925) in 2007, Eleven years later makes it 275 days of racing –– plus maybe an additional 50 days of practice sailing, where we gather together with some friends and we all try to go faster and polish our boat-handling skills.
That's over a calendar YEAR's worth of sailing in a bit over a decade.
That's a lot of jibes. That's a ton of tacks, a megaton of mid-line starts, zillions of billowing acres of spinnaker going up and down again, and enough cranks on that tiny winch to lift a cinderblock to the moon. Muscle memory.
Does everything need to intersect in a person's life? Maybe not.
But music does anyhow.
When I was a young equestrian, I always kept my ears open for horsey music. I knew enough to hide a shameful soft-spot for Michael Martin Murphy's Wildfire.
(I know, I know <shakes head wearily> oy vey.)
When I moved to Florida, I exchanged horses for boats. Yet the music continues to want to intersect...
Hence, Wooden Ships by CSN, Sail Away by David Gray, Sail On Sailor by Beach Boy, Land Ho! by The Doors.
And the inevitable –– so customizable! –– Drunken Sailor.
But wait, as the huckster used to insist, there's more!
Fair winds and following seas, y'all.
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