Imagine butterflies metamorphosing –– but in reverse. One by one, brightly-colored creatures alight and begin removing their orange and yellow vests, their chartreuse-and-black drysuits, scarlet wetsuits, gloves, booties.
They are encrusted with salt. Their swollen, water-softened hands quiver. They struggle with zips and buckles, sometimes having to stop for a revivifying sip of nectar.
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.
Off Cape Sable, as Spawn of Frankenscot skitters along under spinnaker a, a 5-foot-long tarpon lifts itself clear of the surface –– four or five feet out of the water –– big jaws agape, sides shining like a mirror, and splashes down just shy of the boat's port water-wing.
A near miss to a legendary fish story. Moresailesaid, from the other side of the boat, "What the hell was that?"
At Checkpoint 2, Bill Wright is the volunteer in charge of the administration of the race. Under Bill's watch, the duties include gleefully filming the technique of each team as they navigate the viscous grey mud that separates water from shore at low tide.
His videos are accompanied by an evil chuckle worthy of a Bond villain.
Stumbling Thunder recounted the singular joy of sailing out Murray Channel to find a –– is it a congress of manatee?–– manateeing around.
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.
So, my favorite skipper, TwoBeers along with Moresailesaid sailed in the kind of conditions that are hard to top for Spawn racing down the coast: good breeze, mostly NNE, with favorable tides and excellent luck.
"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.
Prudent superstition did not permit them to utter the words "record" until they were safely ashore in Key Largo, but they finished in something like 33 hours, breaking their own course monohull record from a few years ago by a smashing three hours.
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...
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