Thursday, March 01, 2007

On the Road to Tampa Bay

Team RAF is on the road today for 11 hours driving to Ft. DeSoto County Park on Mullet Key in Tampa Bay --the starting line for the WaterTribe's Everglades Challenge 2007. Their SUV, trailer and two boats are packed to the gills with the gear and supplies required for the EC'07.

Wednesday was an all-day marathon of tasks for the Team as they rounded up the remaining equipment and supplies on essentials checklist, finished boat-building tasks on the to-do checklist, and began to load everything for the drive to Florida.

Great Outdoor Provision Company came through with more help on gear and supplies. Meanwhile, "SpinDrift" is loaning the Team a second personal location beacon (PLB). More shopping: small parts, two anchors, another VHF radio, lots of batteries, .... Packing until the wee hours. (Is 5am a wee hour?) They may have gotten 1 or 2 hours of sleep last night.

Today at noon the team reported driving in rainy conditions and taking turns driving or sleeping. But no sleeping while driving.

Team RAF safely arrived late today, 9pm, at the State Park's campground and beach. Arriving today will give them a good night's sleep...

Having arrived this evening gives them all day Friday for final preparations: packing the boats, gear inspection by ''Chief'', skippers' meeting, and getting to know other members of the WaterTribe.

"SandyBottom" will be there as will many other WaterTribe members who have helped Team RAF with equipment/costs (e.g., "Chief", "Captain of the O'Dark Thirty", "Etchemin", "CrazyRussian", "SpinDrift") and many other members who have provided advice and guidance.

Then more last-minute final preparations at o'dark thirty on Saturday morning. In the cool darkness on the beach on Mullet Key, dozens of WaterTribers wearing headlamps will have a little more time to sort things out before the sun rises at 7:00am "Chief" says Go!

And then with a big cheer from family and friends some will dash down the beach with their kayaks to sprint away, some will begin the arduous task of wenching their six-hundred pound sail boat the remaining thirty feet to the water, and some will continue packing/repairing their boat for another hour or two before leaving. Curiously, some will head south, some will head west, some will head southwest, and an observer might ask, "Aren't they all going to the same place ?"

Saturday morning we find out what Team RAF does. Will they pass Chief's inspection? Will they paddle away at 7:00am? Will it be too stormy for anyone to leave the beach? How will conditions be in the middle of 8-mile wide Tampa Bay and its shipping lanes? Stay tuned....

[ Reporting on behalf of Team RAF, I'm "DancesWithSandyBottom" ]