Saturday, March 24, 2012

On Suwannee Sound

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
   So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way             
                             -- Joni Mitchell

Saturday March 24th SandyBottom and SOS launched at 6:00am from their campsite at Fowler's Bluff boat ramp well-rested and in good time to catch the outgoing tide and ride it out the Suwanne River into Suwanne Sound.  From there, they expected to paddle the remaining 18nm to Cedar Key.  Great plan, but adventures have surprises.

SB and SOS reported that the flow rate out the Suwannee was disappointingly slow; not even as fast as the favorable current that had helped them reaching Fowler's Bluff.   (Perhaps the wind had something to do with that?)

The weather did not cooperate either.  On reaching Suwannee Sound they battled a head wind and large chop breaking over the bow and hitting SB.  They had to paddle at 100% effort to make 1-2 knot forward progress.   The rain came and then thunder and lightning.  

Storms moving SW to NE

Tired and needing a break, they pulled ashore on/near Spanish Bayonet Island. After pitching their tent, they checked the weather forecast via VHF and cellphone and decided to the red blobs on the radar, like a string of pearls hitting them one by on, might be continuing for awhile. Ultimately they decided to hold there and wait to re-launch in the early morning, as the weather forecast "promised" favorable NW winds by/before sunrise. Too tired to prepare food (not even a half can of peaches), they reported the first thing on their agenda was sleep. Perhaps a hot meal later.  

While pitching the tent, SB and SOS sent this cellphone photo of their shelter from the storms.

Tent pitched for sheltering at Spanish Bayonet Island
(photo by SOS)

The island is just a mound of shells that the local inhabitants call home.

Local resident on shell mound island.  "Horseshoe crabs everywhere."
(photo by SOS)

The day's progress ended a mere 5nm (as the crow flies) from the goal (Cedar Key).  Still, they covered a lot of distance from 6am to noon.

Saturday:  from Fowlers Bluff to Spanish Bayonet Island on Suwannee Sound

5 nautical miles across Suwannee Sound were hard-earned in 3 hours

Leaving Fowlers Bluff Campsite at 6:00 am Saturday
Landing to shelter from the storms at 12:14 pm Saturday
NOAA Chart of Suwannee River,  Suwanee Sound, and Cedar Key area

On the WaterTribe Forum,  SharkChow wrote a summary for Saturday morning, March 24. 

"Here's something to ask Sandy Bottom and SOS when they reach the finish line. Were you hoping to arrive at Cedar Key before the cold front came through? Is that the reason you guys ripped down the Suwannee like a pair of crazed -- er... watertribers.

The reason i say this is because it looked to me like they were on that track -- headed in exactly the right place to turn and get into Cedar Key as fast as possible.  That plan apparently changed just after  noon Saturday. We can't know exactly what is going on out there but it looks like the local weather conditions blowing up in advance of that cold front are pretty horrendous.

When they exited the sheltered Suwannee they would have been paddling into a 10 to 15 kt SW headwind. And that's not the least of it. The south pass would take them across a series of oyster bars with breaking waves at or near low tide.  ....  

There are reports from the region that the wind was blowing from the south at 29  and gusting to 35. That would explain their position on that northfacing beach. Or maybe that is the only beach they could reach. The problem is that the winds are forecast to continue at 30 to 35 into tonight.

And it may not just be wind. There are also scattered showers and T-storms. I don't know what is happening out there but looking at the weather data suggests it COULD be really ugly. Or maybe not. Maybe they just stopped for a nap.

There is good news. The wind will shift, but probably not until Sunday. The wind shoudl drop down to about 10 from the WSW around 10 p.m. The wind is expected to shift at day break from the west and then start blowing from the NW at about 10 a.m..  If these are their conditions, they may just camp on that island for the night and arrive at Cedar Key Sunday morning. It is something to watch. I want to stress that there is nothing in their track that suggests they were in any peril.

Of course, I don't know what is really going on. They will tell the real story when they get off the water. What i do know is that they are in a very difficult place  to navigate given the wind conditions. Trying to get out of there in darkness would make the whole thing even more challenging. But if there is anyone in the Watertribe who could make this look easy there names are -- SandyBottom and SOS.

MEANWHILE, back on the Suwannee....

At about 4:30 p.m., Mosquito Magnet was approaching Suwannee River State Park and is about 130 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and moving at a steady pace.

Riverslayer and Whale have passed under the I-75 bridges and are about 160 miles from the Gulf, and  about 30 miles behind Mosquito Magnet.

The windy conditions on the Gulf should have little impact  on the paddlers still in the mid-Suwannee. Their main conscern will be that the further south they go on the river the harder it is to find a decent spot to camp for a few hours. The wide sand banks of the upper suwannee  become rarer and rarer. But there are still a few.

The good news for everyone is that once this cold front goes through this evening and tonight, the wind will start blowing from the NW and North. Great news for Sandy Bottom and SOS. Sunday, Monday, and part of Tuesday there will be favorable winds. Then toward mid-week the wind will shift again, but the speeds  don't look significant enough to cause any problems for any of these guys.

But, as I've said before, stay tuned."

Sharkchow (a.k.a.Warren Richey) is author of "Without a Paddle", published by St. Martins Press. It is an account of his participation in the first Ultimate Florida Challenge in 2006.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Suwannee River: Becoming Coastal

On the WaterTribe Forum,  SharkChow wrote a summary for Friday morning, March 23.

"Sandy Bottom and SOS stopped at Branford at 7:30 p.m. last night [Thursday] and spent approximately 12 hours there, re-launching on the Suwannee at about 7:30 a.m. [Friday].  They covered about 55 miles on Thursday. They are about 75 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and 90 miles from the last checkpoint at Cedar Key.

As of 8:30 a.m., Mosquito Magnet's last SPOT track shows him a few miles down the Suwannee from the put-in at Fargo. According to the SPOT he's been there since 10 p.m. It is unclear whether this is his real position and he is camping or his SPOT is malfunctioning. From that position he is about 218 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and 143 miles from Branford, where Sandy Bottom and SOS spent the night.

Riverslayer and Whale stopped on the portage sometime around midnight. They are only a few miles from Fargo and should be quickly across the rest of the portage this morning sometime. As of 8:30 a.m. they were still stopped.

Conditions along the course look good. The high temperature is forecast at 86 degrees with lows tonight in the mid-60s. The forecast again calls for isolated T-storms and a 30 percent chance of showers.

Although all the challengers will soon be on t he Suwannee there is a significant difference between the upper Suwannee where Mosquito Magnet, Riverslayer, and Whale are (or will soon be) and the Lower Suwannee where Sandy Bottom and SOS are. As they continue to move downriver, Sandy Bottom and SOS will have fewer good places to camp as the river widens and the banks become soggy and swampy. There are boat ramps that could provide an emergency camp stop, but they are going to have to plan carefully to avoid getting caught in an area with no decent landing place. Also, as they approach the Gulf the tide will become a factor in the river. Sandy Bottom and SOS are probably already monitoring the wind conditions in the Gulf and have identified the windows available to ride tthe outgoing tide from the Suwannee into the Gulf.

As for the three other challengers, they will enjoy one of the most beautiful parts of the Florida Challenge today. The Upper Suwannee is fantastic, with wide, white sand banks on many bends, towering oaks and cypress drapped thick with Spanish moss, and a decent downriver flow. Watch their speed, all three will likely begin to fly downriver. One major obstacle is Big Shoals, about 46 miles below Fargo. Sandy Bottom and SOS wisely portaged around the rapids. We'll see if the others do too. Riverslayer knows the Suwannee very well, so it will be interesting to see if he portages or tries to run the rapids. Either way it should be a fast day on the water for all three."

Sharkchow (a.k.a.Warren Richey) is author of "Without a Paddle", published by St. Martins Press. It is an account of his participation in the first Ultimate Florida Challenge in 2006.

Tides for the mouth of the Suwannee River

Friday 23rd
High   3:10 AM      3.0' 
Low   9:25 AM      0.4'
High   3:06 PM      3.2'
Low   9:53 PM     -0.3'

Saturday 24th
High   3:45 AM     2.9' 
Low   9:51 AM     0.5'
High   3:30 PM     3.3'
Low 10:25 PM    -0.3'

Sunday 25th
High   4:20 AM     2.8'
Low 10:17 AM     0.7'
High   3:55 PM     3.3'
Low 10:58 PM    -0.3'

Suwannee River: Branford

"Branford!"    "At Branford getting food.  55 miles so far today.  Might stay here and camp.  Hard day, both really tired, hurt all over. Hope to recharge phone somewhere."  --text messages from SOS and SandyBottom at 7:30pm on Thursday March 22.  

From 5:00am to 7:30pm Team Kruger / Team B&B paddled 55 miles. (That is from river mile marker 129 to mile marker 76.   The Fargo starting point was at mile 221.)  They stopped to camp in a river-side park at Branford, FL.    Branford has several restaurants and a grocery within walking distance of the park's public boat ramp.  

SandyBottom and SOS worked hard to reach Branford before the grocery might close.  Here, 2/3 of the way downstream on the Suwannee River, the two subway sandwiches were gone.   It was time to find a grocery and resupply.
Remember the two subway sandwiches ?

The riverside park at Branford is Ivey Memorial Park which offers shelters with electrical outlets, two ramps, and restrooms.   Rails-to-trails greenway runs through the park.   

SB and SOS recharged batteries, stocked up on groceries,  and found a tent camping site.

Are we there yet?   

No; more like 2/3 of the way.   The distance to Cedar Key is 76 river miles + 18 open gulf miles = 94 total miles. That's about 20-25 hours of paddling.    Perhaps 15 hours of paddling on Friday and then about 10 hours of paddling on Saturday.    (That means that on Friday DWSB will need to start trailering the Mosquito from NC to Cedar Key.  Oh joy.)

There's a big snake in the water right beside you. Really.

At 6:00am SB and SOS paused to tie up at a stump in the water to nap for 30 minutes until sunrise when the fog would clear.  That was the plan until SOS pointed out that there was a large snake swimming in the water between the boat and the stump.  Quick change of plan:  look for a different stump.

"I guess you had to have been there" humor department: 

Several times today SB and SOS played a game called "Yikes! Where's my ___(item)___?!"  
Here, insert the word "paddle",  "head lamp",  "hat",  or "new pet cotton mouth snake" in the blank.    Regardless of the item,  the game is played this way...  One of the crew (ok, its always SB) puts her __(item)__  away and out-of-sight where it belongs,  and then picks up SOS's __(item)__ and hold it or wears it.   Next, when SOS needs his __(item)__,  he looks around for it and can not find it.   He then panics.  SB also panics.  He sees that SB has one,  but his is missing.   Has it floated down stream?  Panic turns to big laughs when they finally figure out that SB had SOS's __(item)__ all along.

SOS:  I'm hungry.
SB:     Oh, let me make you some lunch while you continue paddling.
SOS:  Ok.
SB:     How about I make you a half a can of peaches?
SOS:  Ok. Sounds good.
SB:     (Opens can of peaches and begins eating the first half.)
SOS:   So THAT's how you make a half can of peaches?
SB:      Mmmmmmmm...

I guess you had to have been there.

River-Mile Maps:  Fargo to Branford,  Branford to the Gulf

The Play-by-Play

On the WaterTribe Forum,  SharkChow wrote a summary for Thursday morning, March 22.

"At 7 a.m. today, March 22, the 1,200-mile Ultimate Florida Challenge entered its 20th day. There are ten days left to reach the finish line at Fort DeSoto Park near the entrance to Tampa Bay and meet Chief's 30-day deadline. Given the performance of the four remaining boats in the2012 UFC, all should easily reach the finish line before the deadline. The only real question is in what order.

I know. I know. Chief doesn't like to think of this as a race between all four boats on the course. The boats are different classes with different design capabilties. The two class one boats are a kayak and an expedition canoe, the class three boat is a Kruger expedition canoe with full sail, and the class five entry includes the boat-switch option -- a big and fast trimaran pared with a Kruger two-seat canoe with sail for the river sections. How could such mismatched boats be competitive?

Indeed.  Tell it to Sandy Bottom and SOS yesterday when they ripped down the Suwannee -- often at a 5 kt. pace -- adding a cushion to their lead over Mosquito Magnet. What is it that compelled them to take turns napping in the two-seat Kruger while the other paddled and kept the boat moving downstream? This was no mad-dash sprint in search of a restroom. They weren't churning the Pepsi-colored Suwannee white to reach some riverside Dairy Queen. No. It was competitive spirit, the desire to stay out front. Let's be honest. They are racing. They are paddling hard and fast and trying to squeeze out every efficiency in their journey downriver. Sure, they are racing themselves, testing the bounds of their own strength and endurance, and discovering things about themselves that they never knew. But you can't tell me they weren't also glancing back over their shoulders to see if that pesky white kayak of Mosquito Magnet might not suddenly appear on the river and zoom by them. And maybe an additional shock, Riverslayer and Whale, also flying by.

What is that? What is it that makes them dig deep in the water and pull hard? It is a race. It is a race and it is something more. It is the highest compliment to Mr. Magnet, and Mr. Slayer, and Mr. Ale, who have overcome the obstacle of being in smaller, slower boats to make this challenge look every bit like the race it is. These guys are proving what we knew all along -- it's not about the boat.
The same is true of Sandy Bottom and SOS. They spent two days on the launch beach, fixing a leak and then confronted plenty more issues along the way. They kept coming. They fought their way back into the race and into the lead. Now they are fighting hard to keep the lead.
Wednesday's performance created a comfortable lead ahead of the others in the challenge. But there's still 250 to 350 miles to go in this race and, as we've seen, pretty much anything can happen.

Here's the outlook for today:

Sandy Bottom and SOS stopped at 8 p.m. Wednesday in pouring rain and camped about three miles upriver from the Suwannee River State Park. They were back out on the water at 5:18 a.m. and were moving at about 3 kts. They are roughly 130 rivermiles from the Gulf of Mexico and have traveled about 90 miles since putting in at Fargo on Tuesday around 12:30 p.m.

Mosquito Magnet arrived at the start of the 40-mile portage at St. George at 2 p.m. on Wednesday and started walking at 3:40 p.m. He is still walking, maintaining a pace of roughly 2 to 3 kts. throughout the day and through the night. As of 6:30 a.m. he was about two-thirds of the way across the portage.
Riverslayer and Whale arrived at the St. George landing on the St. Marys River at about 9 p.m. Wednesday and camped there for the night. As of 7 a.m. they were still camped,and are poised to begin the 40-mile portage today.

Weather Outlook: The weather is not great for a portage. 87 degrees with isolated T-storms. There's a 30 percent chance of rain. Overnight temps will dip to the mid 60s. The other significant weather issue is what the Gulf of Mexico will look like when the challengers begin arriving there maybe Saturday. The forecast is for SW wind 10 to 15. Not the best forecast for paddlers.

What to watch:

Expect Sandy Bottom and SOS to continue to push hard to extend their lead. Mosquito Magnet will finish the portage sometime today, but will he have enough left in his tank to get back in his boat and keep paddling? For Riverslayer and Whale, the portage will be hot. They would be well advised to pick up some bananas and sports drinks at the grocery store in St. George before setting out. If it gets too hot they might wait part of the hot day out at a restaurant in Moniac."

Sharkchow (a.k.a.Warren Richey) is author of "Without a Paddle", published by St. Martins Press. It is an account of his participation in the first Ultimate Florida Challenge in 2006.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Suwannee River: Wilderness Trail

Near the border of Suwannee River State Park,  SandyBottom reported that "We've paddled 63 miles today including the Big Shoal portage."
"We didn't see any alligators on the St Marys,  but here on the Suwannee we've been seeing lots of them everywhere.  Hard to take a good photo, though, because they are so fast.   And in the same places as the gators,  we see swinging ropes hung for the kids to use to swing out over the water,  so the people here must be swimming with the gators."

SOS and SandyBottom reported that by the end of the day they had found a comfortable maintainable paddling pace.  They said this pace, when combined with the downstream current,  allowed them to move forward at 5 kts.

In the early parts of the day, they had their ups and downs.  The 40 mile portage and sleep deprivation took a lot out of them.  They stopped for a nap at 2:00pm.    And in the heat of the day they nodded off while paddling occasionally.   They also took some turns sleeping on the sole of the moving boat.

SOS taking a nap at 2:00 pm on Wednesday March 21, 2012

Suwannee River Wilderness Trail:  
State Parks,  Put-ins (Hubs),  and River Camps (screened-in sleeping plateforms)

Near the border of Suwannee River State Park,  SandyBottom sent this text message at 8:49pm Wednesday March 21:

"Pouring pouring pouring rain.  We are soaked, but now in tent and camped for night.  Did I mention pouring?  We paddled 63 miles today including Big Shoal portage and 1.5 hr nap this afternoon.  We are now eating dinner will sleep and hope rain gone by 3-4 am, to get back on the water.    We are hoping to be in Cedar Key Saturday.  We'll know more when we see how we do tomorrow.   Looks like on-and-off rain showers for a couple days."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Suwannee River: Fargo to Big Shoals

A fine design

SandyBottom taking a nap in the bow while SOS paddles in the stern

At 11:00 am March 20,  Team Kruger / Team B&B had reached the checkpoint at Farga, GA, on the banks of the Suwannee River.  By 12:20 am they had the Kruger Cruiser in the water and were paddling downstream toward the Gulf of Mexico (some 200 river miles away.)

They were glad to be back on the water paddling,  and what a lot of water there was!  They reported that the water level was very high.   SB said that she had heard that dams or gates had been opened recently to release water from the Okefenokee Swamp.  In any case,  they were glad to see that there was a generous amount of water in which to dip a paddle.   They had previously worried that the upper parts of the Suwannee might be a rock garden and more difficult than the upper parts of the St Marys River.   Fortunately, that did not turn out to be the case.  

Paddling downstream winding this way and that way,  they took turns taking naps.   The afternoon was hot.  The 40 miles of portage at left them tired and sleep deprived.  SB was able to lie down in the sole of the bow for a brief nap while SOS continued to paddle from the stern.  And then SOS was able to nap for an hour in the stern while SB paddled from the bow.  By 7:30 they pulled ashore to sleep in the tent and set alarms for o'dark thirty.  They were up again and paddling by 1:19am.    

In terms of careful planning,  becoming sleep-deprived does have its costs.  SB and SOS could have slept another hour,  until 2:00 am perhaps,  if they had realized that they would reach the rapids at Big Shoals State Park before sunrise.  They pulled off the river at about 5:24 am above Big Shoals.

SPOT Track  at portage around the Big Shoals rapids

Hot food too via a freeze-dried meal

Looking downstream

Kruger Cruiser

As is often done, they chose to portage around the rapids.  The portage wheels were re-installed under the boat to move the boat along a trail to a lower put-in.  There are many trails along the river there and they managed to go down the wrong trail briefly.   The sun was rising when they put the Kruger Cruiser back in the river below Big Shoals.  And away they went down river.    Around a bend they paddled through Little Shoals which, they reported,  was not a big deal. 

They have continued to paddle downstream and are "currently"  headed toward Suwannee River State Park.   They reported that they are inclined to use the hot late afternoon time for sleeping in a tent ashore, and then use the wee hours of the morning and the remainder of the morning for cooler paddling.  They also plan to continue to take turns napping in the moving boat occasionally. 

At 2:00pm they decided to sleep ashore for 2-3 hours. 

Meanwhile on the WaterTribe Forum,  SharkChow wrote a play-by-play update.   "Someone must have slipped about a gallon of high-test coffee into Sandy Bottom and SOS's boat because they are tearing down the Suwannee. As of about 7 a.m. they were past the Big Shoals rapids. That means that since they launched on the Suwannee at Fargo at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday they have traveled about 45 miles downriver. They accomplished this feat by paddling until about 7:30 p.m. last night when they stopped to camp. They broke camp and were back out on the river at 1:19 a.m. Very efficient. What it tells me is that these guys are going to be tough for the other challengers to catch. In case there was any doubt, Sandy Bottom and SOS appear to be in full race mode."    Sharkchow (a.k.a.Warren Richey) is author of "Without a Paddle", published by St. Martins Press. It is an account of his participation in the first Ultimate Florida Challenge in 2006.   SandyBottom also completed the 2006 UFC.

The Portage

SaltyFrog and LiliPad caught up with Team Kruger / Team B&B on their 40-mile portage from St George, GA,  to Fargo, GA.   Here is the wonderful video he made. 

They took the boat out of the St Marys River on Monday March 19 at 9:56 am to begin the portage.
They put the boat in the Suwannee River on Tuesday March 20 at 12:20 am glad to be finished portaging.

Preparing to tow

Moving out toward the highway

Starting point near St George
West                                                                                                    East
Map and Elevation Profile
The portage from the St Marys River in the east toward the Suwannee River in the west begins with an uphill climb.  At the top of the hill is a cellphone tower. 

SB and SOS reported that the weight of the loaded boat on the cart gave the cart a degree of rolling resistance that made towing it with the bike more difficult than expected;  "a lower gear would have been great."   The bike is a 3-speed.    

Consequently, they took 30-minute turns on the bike;  one on the bike,  the other one walking.   Going up the hill they had to get off the bike and walk it.   On the downhill,  the biker would go a mile and then wait for the walker to catch up and trade places.  

Eventually they decided that pedaling and walking were about equal in degree of difficulty and they found that 30-minute turns worked well.  

Resting in the Shade

The first day was a hot day for this activity, with a high of 85 degrees F. In the hot afternoon they stopped for a few hours at the Kountry Store.  Later, during the night, they stopped for a while to sleep near a side road. 

They were very glad to reach the put-in on the Suwannee River near Fargo, GA.

Up the Creek Without a Chainsaw

One of the easier obstacles encountered by SB and SOS

Go Team Kruger!

The Kruger Cruiser impressed SB and SOS as being a wonderful boat for this leg of the UFC.  This boat is generously on loan from Manitou Cruiser (a.k.a. Mark P.)  who is the owner and operator of  Kruger Inc.
Thank you, Mark!!

St Loggy River

From Saturday 17th at 10:49 am to Monday 19th at 9:55 am,   SandyBottom and SOS paddled up the St Marys River from Ft Clinch to St George, Georgia.  For much of the way,  they benefitted from a favorable tidal current going up the river.  In the upper reaches of the river,  the current low flow-levels of the river were favorable for paddling upstream.  Increasingly, the St Marys River became an obstacle course full of fallen trees, snags, sandbars, and submerged logs.  Sandybottom jokingly called it the St Loggy River. 

SPOT track on the St Marys River to St George, Georgia
Fog on the St Marys River at 7:27am on March 18, 2012 
(SB in front, photo by SOS)
Twisting through / around / under / over is infinitely easier during the daylight hours because the tea-colored water was clear enough that in the daylight the shallows and submerged obstacles were visible. Not so at night with headlamps. For this reason SandyBottom and SOS stopped at sunset to camp for the night.

Bringing the tent was a good decision

This snag is visible in the photo below

See the snag in the background ?
Saturday night,  SandyBottom and SOS had a good night's sleep in a tent on land.   Good to be warm and dry.  Later they called home again as they paddled by Trader Hill. 

Good Words from SharkChow

Meanwhile on the WaterTribe Forum,  SharkChow wrote a few nice play-by-play summaries. 

Sharkchow (a.k.a.Warren Richey) is author of "Without a Paddle", published by St. Martins Press. It is an account of his participation in the first Ultimate Florida Challenge in 2006.  Of his book he says "All of it is true, every word, except the exaggerated stuff."   He was, by the way,  the first person to finish the first UFC (2006).   As most would say,  he was the "Overall Winner".

Posted on the WaterTribe forum, his play-by-play of this 2012 UFC is a nice sample of his writing ...

Sunday Morning 18th  by  SharkChow

Sandy Bottom and SOS have exercised their boat switch option, having loaded their gear into a Kruger expedition canoe for the long -- and difficult -- trip west across northern Florida to the Gulf of Mexico. As of Saturday around 7 a.m. they were approaching Traders Hill 2/3 of the way up the St. Marys River. Under the old rules challengers would have to continue to St. George to begin the portage. We'll see whether they follow that rule or take out at Traders Hill and start walking there. Water levels might be a factor. But I can tell you that distance between Traders Hill and St. George is one of the most beautiful and difficult sections of the entire challenge. There are snow-white sand banks on many of the bends and thick vegetation, dark mud and -- I'm told -- more water mocasins than you can shake a stick at. Although it does not look like much distance left to St. George, the river winds back and forth in tight turns all the way. Also there could be some trees down creating the possibility that they could have to get out and pull their boat over some obstructions, like monster gators. Since they are the first boat to reach this section of the course, they have the privilege of identifying any significant obsticles for the rest of the challengers and potentially feeding the predators. Of course, we won't know what they are dealing with until they emerge on the portage, or report to Paul. If the water level is high, that's both good news and bad news. The good news is that they will be able to paddle all the way to St. George (if they choose the harder course). The bad news is that the high water level will be flowing out of the swamp and creating a current against them. It isn't too fast, but 800 miles into a journey that push-back can matter. I can't overstate this -- this section of the St. Marys is tough. It will take them most of the day, and perhaps longer, to cover that distance. If they do it faster that just means they are superhuman -- which we already knew about these two. But if it takes them longer, it just means it is still a tough route. Watch their speed and watch their progress. Go. Go. Go.

Mosquito Magnet is north of St. Augustine and just about to approach a long dredged canal that connects the ICW and marshes north of St. Augustine with the ICW through the marshes south of Jacksonville. At about this point he has realized that the shore is no longer sandy and lined with mangroves. Up in that section of Florida the shore is muddy and lined with marsh grass. The marsh grass holds the most ravenous mosquitoes known to man. This is probably not a great development for a Watertribe challenger whose name is Mosquito Magnet. Hey Wayne, stay away from that grass. If he veers slightly off course and gets near the mosquito-infested grass watch his speed pick up significantly for three or four miles as he tries to outrun the blood-thirsty throng. When I went thorugh this section 500 years ago it was very cold and getting colder so the mosquitos weren't that bad. But the weather report for the next few days is mosquito friendly from a low of 60degrees at night to a high of 80 degrees during the day every day for about the next week. Also, the wind has shifted to south-southeast. This is a huge gift to the paddlers -- and to Pelican. Forecast calls for SE wind through thursday with Tues, Wed, Thurs extending from 10 to 15 to 20 kts. Mosquito Magnet should enjoy a nice push to Fort Clinch over the next day. The other factor Mosquito Magnet is about to notice is the extremely strong and high tides in the Jacksonville area. If he can time his arrival at the St. Johns River to the outgoing tide he will enjoy a nice fast ride to the river. Then he will have to paddle hard -- and I mean hard -- across the St. Johns to avoid being swept down river toward the navy base or into the path of a cargo ship. Once in Sisters Creek -- across the St. Johns -- he'll face the prospect of either stopping for a rest or battling a strong outflowing current.

Riverslayer and Whale are continuing to travel together up the east coast, apparently scouting out all the best eating spots. It looks like they have pulled to within a day of Mosquito Magnet -- so we might have a pretty tight race later if they catch him. Sunday morning they were passing Palm Coast and headed toward St. Augustine. Once they pass the Crescent Beach bridge the ICW becomes a bit twisty and it seems to take foreever to arrive at the oldest city in the US. But those southeast winds should speed their journey. The tide is also a factor at St. Augustine. Watch their speed. If they are traveling at about 2 through the city they are probably fighting the tide, then watch their speed pick up when they pass the city and get north of the ocean inlet. It will increase substantially. It all depends on the tides. Or maybe they will get there in slack tide and it will be a piece of cake. We'll see soon enough.

Pelican is moving north toward the Sebastian Inlet checkpoint. He may be considering dropping out, but before he makes that decision he should take a close look at the weather forecast for the next week. It is just about a perfect forecast for someone in his boat. They are calling for south to southeast winds at 10 kts this weekend builting to 15 to 20 by the middle of the week. Only Pelican knows his situation, but the weather would be very friendly and provide an amazing ride north to fort clinch. Again, we'll see soon enough what he decides.

Monday Morning 19th by SharkChow

When we last left our intrepid challengers, Sandy Bottom and SOS were on the ever-treacherous upper St. Marys River where downed trees and sunken logs slowed their progress once they lost daylight. They have been camped since about 7 p.m. and thus have gotten a solid 11 or so hours of sleep and rest. They will continue toward St. George at daybreak and should arrive at the takeout sometime late this morning or early afternoon -- depending on river conditions. They will then set up their Kruger expedition canoe for the portage by attaching their cart, assembling a bicycle and eventually starting across the 40-mile portage from St. George to Fargo, Georgia, and the Suwannee River.

Thanks SharkChow!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

St Marys Waterfront

You've got to love a town that assumes you will be towing a boat when you park on mainstreet at the waterfront.  There's Lang's Marina and Seafood Market (blue sign).  Next to the waterfront park in St Marys, Georgia, is the regional welcome center and the visitors center for the Cumberland Island National Seashore.