But they finally peel their waterproofing cocoons and emerge at Key Largo: smaller, barer, larval.
The transformation needs only a blast of the hot shower and some hours of sleep before, voilá! they transform into human caterpillars again, full of stories and potential, committed to mowing some vittles.
Here are a few of those stories:
Andyman and Natedog screaming along on a reach, the rig humming with energy, everything on the edge and making amazing time in Florida Bay.
Natedog looks back and proudly announces, "The boat's bulletproof!"
Andyman immediately turns his eyes to the sky and says, "Oh Lord! Forgive us, I cannot control what words come out of his mouth."
A near miss to a legendary fish story. Moresailesaid, from the other side of the boat, "What the hell was that?"
Tied to the dock at Checkpoint 3 in Flamingo in the middle of the windy night, Andyman wakes to the sound of covert rustling.
He opens an eye, and –– projected against the tent-wall he's made of his mainsail –– is the clear profile of Rocket Raccoon, who has delved into the cooler and opened the plastic Tupperware container and is rummaging boldly for the really good trail mix.
Andyman repels the intruder and tries to return to dreamland from his spot on the trampoline of his catamaran.
Just as he is falling back into the sleep of the righteous, a manatee surfaces under him, perhaps 18 inches to the south of his face.
Meanwhile, Natedog snoozes peacefully in a nearby Toyota.
His videos are accompanied by an evil chuckle worthy of a Bond villain.
He also said he was surprised by the number of porpoises that swam up to the boat to give the program the side-eye, as if to say, "Y'all crazy!" Mind you, he and JustAnotherSailor were on a 2-hour watch system, so they were not as sleep-deprived on the mighty Dovekie as might others have been on their various other kooky vessels.
SailorKing and the RealDM finish their first Everglades Challenge at around noon on Tuesday. The last leg, crossing Florida Bay in a brutal 24+ hours, as the weather grew sportier and more on-the-nosey by the hour.
Tapped out on Monday evening, SailorKing and DM park the Windrider 17 in the lee of a mangrove island south of Tavernier.
The RealDM tucks himself into a sleeping bag in the tent on shore while SailorKing snoozes at the helm, sitting, he notes, like a corpse.
Weekend at Bernies takes to the waves! Hell, he remarks, I probably look like a dead guy the whole time.
Meanwhile, on shore, the adventures are perhaps less heroic, but not without risk:
That first bite of one of Harriet's Restaurant's key lime muffin carries a beignet hazard: do not sigh in pleasure and then inhale sharply.
Unless of course you enjoy aspirating powdered sugar and resembling a 1980's cinematic criminal.
Paddledancer and Mrs. D-Squared both fall victim, but –– thank goodness! –– do not have to press the button for outside assistance.
"We've never pancaked so much," announced TwoBeers, meaning that the boat was skim-boarding along large swaths of the racecourse, occasionally outrunning the scrim of water and belly-flopping into the soft sandy mud. The new gasket he'd installed along the centerboard worked well, but sadly, they forgot to close the automatic bailer. Hello Old Faithful of stinky mudflat mud.
The team crossed Florida Bay in an astounding 4 hours moving like a scalded cat under reefed main and jib. The water-ballast and trapezes came into play on and off.
As they often express, they got their wish to finish before the second sunset, each sailor getting a couple of hours' worth of naps as the boat planed off on a (port) run.
In fact, the vast majority of the Challenge was completed on port, aside from the odd tack and jibe through passes.
We stretched out the clean-up and putting away of gear for a few days in Key Largo so that we could share in the triumph of other finishers; the event passes so quickly!
Until next year...