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.
I think it's the word "glide" that keeps snagging my attention.
Because for the first few days of the 2019 Everglades Challenge, the weather was very still.
It was hot and windless.
The sun was bright and the water flat.
There were an extraordinary number of selfies coming in off the water from the nearly 100 teams of WaterTribesfolk.
The fastest paddlers were handily beating nearly all of the sailboats.
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.
They've said more than once that they'd like to get to Key Largo before the second sunset. Tie up the boat and sleep Sunday night in a real bed. Stay awake for only the one night.
This was not that year.
The super-fast paddlers had a near-record run, but the wind-powered frontrunners? Let's say 300 miles has rarely seemed farther.
Of course this is an adventure race, and the boats are not limited in the way of typical races. For instance, rowing will get you ejected from most of the races we attend.
But in the Everglades Challenge, it's all part of the adventure.
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.
Experimentation has shown that a steady rowing pace produces a reliable 3 knots or so of speed for the Spawn.
Sidebar: Why knots vs miles per hour? I know, confusing –– maybe even rocket science, but it's the way watery folk measure speed.
3 knots = about 3.3 miles per hour = about medium walking speed.
So when Spawn slows to the equivalent of a stroll, out come the sweeps. Cue the Volga oarsmen song.
With possible rose-tinted shades of memory, the Spawnsters estimate that they rowed perhaps a tenth of the distance between Fort DeSoto to Key Largo. Say 30 miles.
But when recounting each leg, the hours add up.
At the start, the rowing seat was in place, but Spawn ghosted across the mouth of Tampa Bay. They stayed in breeze down the white sand beaches past Sarasota and Venice.
They rowed into Cape Haze marina (Checkpoint 1) around sunset on Saturday. They rowed from Checkpoint 1 to Gasparilla Pass at night, under brilliant stars. Moresailesed (Jahn Tihansky) said that he saw the Southern Cross low low on the dark horizon.
In the dark, they rowed into a snoozing pod of manatees –– the special collective noun for the mammals is a "aggregation of manatee" –– and startled them into an enormous roiling mass of white-water.
Everyone had a moment of holding flipper to heart and gasping for breath.
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.
They had to row and sail through Blind Pass (the one by Caxambas) to get into Chokoloskee on Sunday afternoon..
They rowed into and then out of Checkpoint 3 –– Flamingo –– early on Monday morning, but then had a decent breeze across Florida Bay to finish at 8:54 a.m. on Monday.
Just under 50 hours.
They arrived raspy and salty. Three days later, we are still catching up on sleep.
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.