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.

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