But then came the horn and they scarpered off the beach in the twinkling of an eye: Core Sounds and SeaPearls with stately grace, catamarans skittering along like insects, kayaks leaving only a trace in the sand and the water as they went.
It’s a mixed bag of competitors: a couple of doughty stand-up paddlers, many kayaks and sailing kayaks, multi-hulls, classic sailing skiffs, a pair of solar-powered electric vessels, and some funky one-ups, like our own Spawn.
Among the vessels I watch is the diminutive (and frankly adorable) Elusion 9' sailed by Wizard. This boat looks like a cross between the bow section of a Maxi racer and the costume worn by my nephew for Halloween 20 or so years ago.
The first boats arrived at Checkpoint 1 (CP1, Cape Haze, 65 miles from the start) in the early afternoon.
The WaterTribe Facebook page provided a far-too-entertaining selection of spectators’ videos of the fleet making the turn into Stump Pass.
Spawn was third to CP1.
I send them a text telling them to change the batteries in their personal locater device (SPOT).
In his inaugural Challenge, our buddy Andyman sailed his SeaPearl to victory in the UltraMarathon, which is essentially a sprint to CP1. He reported in wearily that, "It was a LOT hairier than I expected out there."
Rumors started blowing with the wind: I got a message that the boys were maybe stopped to effect repairs.
I got a message that the boys had maybe broken a rudder. I got a message about the Coast Guard rescuing someone, not them.
They were taking a nap, someone said. Someone had seen them tied up in the mangroves.
On the tracker, Spawn went from first by a long stretch to second, and then third. I didn’t pinpoint where they had paused for whatever reason, but whenever I checked, they were moving. Their speed looked good.
THier Side of the Story
Meanwhile, on the high seas...
When the sun set on Saturday, TwoBeers and Moresailesaid doused the chute, per their safety plan. [No trapezes or big sails at night.] The wind was blowing NNW at about 15 knots.
A contrary wave at a sluggish moment, and Spawn went ass-over-teakettle.
Picture the scene:
The distant glow of lights on shore 10 or 12 miles distant.
50 or more feet of water underneath the gently bobbing upside-down belly of the boat.
Bio-luminescent plankton sparkling in the disturbed water.
Waves playfully slapping at our heros as they considered their options.
“That phone ––“ Moresailesaid brooded. “That phone was supposed to be waterproof –– wait, did you text us?”
TwoBeers’ litany of loss continued. “And everything in the bow switched sides. The storm jib was on the port side, and ended up on the starboard side. The Code Zero was on starboard and ended on the port side. It all changed places"
I said, “I wonder where the yellow rollers and the rest of the stuff will washed ashore?”
“Probably Cuba,” TwoBeers' voice took on a speculative air. “–– maybe the Dry Tortugas.”
Into the heavy silence that followed, Moresailesaid offered up this observation: “The worst thing was that my dry suit filled up with water and my legs were like THIS big around.
"And the first thing that happens is that the water burps your shoes right off your feet.” Shaking his head, “I was THIS far from slicing open my booties.”
“Did yours do that too?” I asked TwoBeers.
Sweet mother of–– some things I guess I would rather not know.
“But JT gets the swimming award,” TwoBeers announced cheerfully.
Glancing up, Moresailesaid hastily added, “It was warm! And I was floating just fine. It was only a problem when I went to get into the boat.”
Yup, that’s when it would be.
“Oh, but the phosphorescence!” TwoBeers interjected.
“There was a TON of phosphorescence in the water,” agreed Moresailesaid.
"When I told him we’d lost our fishing gear, he came up with Crumb Cakes, and little bags of peanuts, and water. So we didn’t go hungry.”
Note to self: Crumb Cakes. They’re not just for breakfast any more.
TwoBeers stayed on narrative track. “Somehow the boom-bag got loose, but it tangled itself up with the water hoses. Good thing, too, because it had the VHF and the iPad and the solar charger. Don’t know if the charger works. The bag was full of water, but we used the iPad to navigate Florida Bay.”
Moresailesaid added, “I wiped the solar charger dry. We didn’t try it.”
He shook his head and repeated, “Everything in the dry-boxes got wet.”
“So after we flipped and got it back,” TwoBeers spoke as a man summarizing. “We went through Caxambas pass and decided to stop and dry off. Every line on the boat was macramed around everything else.”
“I was shivering,” admitted Moresailesaid. “So we anchored in the mangroves for a while.”
“Did you just lie down and sleep?” I asked.
“No,” said TwoBeers. “We stripped down, dried the inside of our dry suits, put on dry clothes –– the Ziplock bags worked. And so did the garbage bag – the sleeping bag stayed dry through everything! Weird. I don’t know why the dry boxes filled up.”
“We should have had everything in the dry boxes packed in Ziplocks.” Moresailesaid added darkly, “Wish I had the patent on the Ziplock.”
TwoBeers continued, “I don’t know how long it took, but the tide changed while we were anchored. And DeSea sailed past us.”
“Yeah,” I said, “He said that he saw you and checked to make sure you were okay.” I didn’t mention how DeSea expressed his alarm. Or how we’d shared an awful moment of camaraderie on the topic of human frailty and our own TwoBeers..
“So we had foul current all the way to CP2. We sailed and rowed. Rowed and sailed. Rowing warmed me up.”
As it does.
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