Sunday, March 24, 2013

2013 Everglades Challenge: Cp1 to Cp2

Cape Haze Marina to Chocoloskee (CP 1 to CP 2)

Getting into Cape Haze was a bit easier than getting out. The narrow entrance that funneled us in moments ago was now a windy obstacle too narrow to tack through. In this situation our oars really prove their worth. We keep them in the oar sockets rotated forward laying on the side decks so we can easily deploy them. With dad on the oars we crawled our way out against the wind inch by inch until we could bear away south.

It was about 5 pm, decision time. Do we head back outside through Gasparilla Pass or continue southward through Pine Island Sound? There are pros and cons to each route and the sailboats must all decide. With a NW wind and following swell the outside route should be faster. Just look at the gains we made by staying outside to stump pass. But once south of Sanibel Island we would be left hanging offshore and would have to be prepared for a long offshore crossing to Marco Island. If the wind died, the lumpy sea and slow progress could bring on sea sickness and kill morale as we drift for hours or worse row for hours. If the wind changes direction we could be in for a difficult crossing far from any lee shore or smoother water. In 2012, my mom and I were forced back into Pine Island Sound in our Trimaran, the Mosquito, after trying to take the outside route with a fresh east wind. We enjoyed smooth water until we were deposited into the open gulf miles offshore. 

My dad and I have put more and more emphasis on sleeping during the EC since our first race. This year we decided to stay inside through Pine Island Sound, knowing that this route would be much smoother allow us get some sleep. Time of day was the biggest deciding factor. Had we arrived at Gasparilla Pass in the morning the outside route might have been a go. 

As we neared the Gasparilla Swing Bridge dad just finished boiling water for our two freeze dried Mountain House dinners in the jetboil stove and was just pouring a third batch of hot water into a thermos for hot drinks later on. We continued south wing on wing in the calm water and I rang the bridge tender inquiring about the opening schedule. He responded cheerfully, “Every 15 min until 6, then on demand.” It was 10 till 5:00 pm and I reported that we would be there for the 5 o’clock opening standing by. Hal Link, aka Iszatarock was right on our tail. Hal is no stranger to the EC having raced using the Chief’s old boat the Tridarka Raider in 2010 and 2011. This year he looked like a pro on his Mystere 4.3 catamaran and he rounded up with us as we waited for the bridge. The bridge opened on schedule and we sheeted in as soon as we saw it start to move. Hal led the way and we flew right through with a 50 foot pleasure boat on our heels. We tipped our hat to the old CP1 entrance at Grand Tours as we passed. “Sailboat Dawn Patrol is clear of the bridge, thank you for the opening.” “Copy captain, have a good evening.” 

We kept Hal in our sights for a while but on a deep reach he was quick to fall out of sight as the sun dimmed. At 6:30pm dad took the helm. I got out the head lamps, fleece hats and sailing gloves and we clicked on our navigation lights. I ate my dinner and was then ordered to get some sleep. You might ask; why didn’t one of you just sleep during the day and then that person would be good to go now? More easily said than done my friend. In our experience it just doesn't work in the first 12 hours. The combination of steady adrenaline, other boats usually within sight, and a general feeling of excitement conspire against you. The breeze was still up and I didn’t want to get in the cabin so I made a cushion bed on the cockpit sole and got some “rest” for a couple of hours, but never slept. I was getting cold so I pulled out the jetboil again, refilled the thermos, and made another round of hot chocolate. 

Finally, I got in the cabin and got some real sleep at about 10 pm. At 1 am I remember waking up and seeing a bridge over head. I grumbled, “Is that the bridge?” and drifted back to sleep. At 3 am dad woke me and I took over. He climbed in the cabin and was out like a light. The wind had steadily died and when I took the helm we were bobbing around in the right direction. We could keep up about 1.5 knots on a deep reach. Staying on the low side of the boat, I kept us on a reach pulling us toward the beach where I hoped we might find a little more breeze. I focused on the lights of the buildings on shore. They always seem so much closer than they really are. When I got cold I did a few pushups (a big boat is a luxury) and if my eyes started to get heavy I would sail standing up. 

The breeze slowly filled in and I was averaging around 3.5 knots when dad woke up just before sunrise. At this point we were making pretty good progress down the beach. We switched places again and I laid down for another couple of hours. That was the last real sleep my dad would get before the finish. This would explain why, when we arrived in Key Largo, I spent several hours cleaning and organizing the boat and dad used the last of his energy to drag himself to bed for some well deserved sleep.  

I took the helm again about 30 min out from Caxambus pass (or ‘Cats-in-a-bag’ pass as we like to call it). It was morning but still dark, overcast and starting to drizzle. It was a toss up as to whether or not Caxambus pass was actually faster than rounding the cape but it was a bit shorter. Once past the breakwater we sailed into the lee of the highrises and were forced to motor sail with the oars until we found some steady breeze. Once in the channel we were moving well and trying to stay warm. I wore a pair of neoprene gloves for most of the race but my feet were never warm. Dad wore so many hooded fleece layers that at one point he joked that when he turned his head to look to the side, all he saw was hood. 

We made the final turn and entered Gullivan Bay on a beam reach headed for Indian Key Pass. It was about 55F degrees and we were cold in the wind but the clouds finally broke letting sunlight pour through. Much to our misery however, our heading was such that we remained stuck in the cold shadow of our sails. 

This year we brought along an iPad to check the forecasts and browse the Watertribe mapper for surveillance purposes. It could also double as a navigational aid and we really enjoyed having it. I suggested to dad that we get an updated forecast and check on everyone else’s progress since we were about to be out of mobile range. He pulled up the mapper and after a few finger taps, announced that Sambasailor and Sailsalot appeared to be about three miles ahead of us. “What!?” I exclaimed. I’m not sure why I assumed we were still in the lead. Maybe because we hadn’t seen another boat all night. We later learned that they had taken the outside route after CP1 and sailed all night to round Cape Romano at dawn. Dan used the trapeze off their mizzen mast to help them shoot across to Indian Key close hauled with their jib up. 

With this new information I was awake and motivated instantly. Game on! Up with the spinnaker! Dad’s attitude was slightly more subdued, perhaps he was in disbelief or simply not awake yet. In any case, I hoisted the spinnaker and we beam reached across to Indian Key Pass with no signs of the Core Sound 17. We must have been just out of visual range. A few times we thought we saw them coming into view but each time we were fooled by another sail shaped channel marker. 

At this same time we noticed we were being followed and we eventually recognized the battened sail of a Hobie 16. Crazy Lugan and Heathen from Michigan were hot on our tail and they caught us up at Indian Key. We turned into the pass and waved to some spring breakers lounging in an canoe holding up a tarp sail. The Hobie 16 didn’t turn with us into the pass and looked like they were break. Odd, we thought as we tacked up the pass and out of sight. They had apparently lost their GPS and had to buy a replacement at West Marine mid race but with no programmed routes they weren’t sure if this was Indian Key pass. They must have found it though, because they arrived impressively in Key Largo a few days later. 

We tacked our way through Indian Key Pass with a favorable tide. I remembered the places where we got hung up in mangroves with the trimaran last year attempting the same feat under very different tidal conditions. We passed a group of kayakers out for a day paddle. They were enjoying the sunshine in T-shirts and rental life jackets. I tried to imagine what its like to only experience the Ten-thousand Islands for 3 hours at a time, must be nice. I think once your a watertriber you can never go back. At our prescribed waypoint we bore away at the top of Chokoloskee Bay and gybed the main over wing on wing. Dad raised the centerboard and I un-cleated the rudder downhaul and held it tight so as not to put on the brakes in case we had to squeeze over some skinny water. 

We saw Chokoloskee come into view and I squinted intently into the mid day sun hoping to see the CS 17 up ahead. Finally we spotted her dark sails on the mud bank at the check point. We watched Sambasailor and Sailsalot sail off around the corner and out of sight with about a 10 minute lead.  We came to a silent, sticky stop in the mud about 100 feet from shore. I could make out Whitecaps and a few others there to greet us. We had arrived at CP2 and there was not a moment to spare.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

2013 Everglades Challenge Trip Report: Launch to CP1

A Few EC's Under our Keel:

When my dad and I launched our Core Sound 20 'dawn patrol' in the 2008 EC we were still screwing on hardware at the campground the night before the race. It would be her maiden voyage and due to the pedigree of the design we knew she would be well found. Not only did she see us to the finish in '08 but also our large backup tent, 8 or so gallons of water, many many... many pounds of food and a repair kit that basically consisted of all the tools we used to build her. This year was our fourth year in the watertribe everglades challenge and unlike previous years...we were ready. 

Our biggest asset on the boat was the addition of a small cuddy cabin during the build which we modeled after the cabin of the EC-22 design. A dry place to sleep is an incredible luxury but absolutely necessary for meaningful rest. After the 09 race we added an asymmetrical spinnaker and bowsprit to our boat which has vastly increased its downwind reaching and running ability. This was also a feature of the EC22 and has served us well.

Fast forward to 2013 and we anticipated a great race knowing that a great rival was being born in the team of Phil Garland of hall spars and Dan Neri of north sails who had been putting together a Core Sound 17 kit for this years race. Not just any CS17, this one was reportedly put together with carbon fiber tape instead of fiberglass, tricked out with the latest north sails tech and a larger sailplan, a super stiff carbon fiber rig that boasted a trapeze off the mizzen mast and a huge asymmetrical spinnaker and bowsprit. Oh...and a jib for better upwind work. 

We met Phil and Dan on the beach before the race but they were busily assembling their boat and no time for chit chat. We helped them get their brand spanking new boat off their trailer with its glossy untarnished bottom and sparkling baby blue paint job. We tried to convince them that it would be good to wet-sand the hull prior to the race and that we should just drag it down the beach. They laughed. We helped them carry it.  

Launch to CP1:

The EC start is always a sight to behold. This is perhaps the first year we were actually able to witness it. That may seem strange but with just an hour or 2 from waking up in the campground (when the race really begins) you've got to pack up your tent, park your car in long term parking, get to the beach, hoist the sails, hit the head, load the boat with the last of your gear, pump up the boat rollers, attend roll call, pose for a group photo and oh yeah try to eat some breakfast. Also, its still dark during all of that so headlamps on. By the time the sun comes up its 10 minutes to launch and everyone is running around with headlamps on the beach like ghost crabs fiddling with gear and spectators are sleepily gathering behind to watch the spectacle. There has never been any 7am starting gun that I could hear, we just wait until we see the kayakers in the water and GO. 

It was a no wind launch and we didn't have any trouble getting the boat down the rollers and into the water. We gained an early lead on many of the class 4 boats (sailboats) thanks to our long oars expertly manned by my dad. The breeze soon filled in light from the NE and we didn't waste any time putting up the spinnaker. We were able to hold off Phil and Dan aka Sambasailor and Sailsalot in their 17 across Tampa bay as we played follow the leader through the narrow passage in the smoother water behind Passage key. There were many boats around us but we were in full race mode and it was the 17 in our rear view. With just their jib up we were holding them off downwind but it seemed like I turned my head just for a moment and when I looked back again they were flying what appeared to be the spinnaker off of an 18foot skiff. It was a massive sail and our hearts sank as we sized up the new threat. Dark clouds quickly rolled in and with them a cold drizzle added to mood.

The wind was now light from the NW as we entered the gulf and they came ever closer. We gybed leaving them behind but they soon caught us back up. The wind backed to the SE for a time and we found ourselves close hauled. We even flew our mizzen staysail off the bowsprit in an attempt to keep them in striking distance but they drifted ahead. We were hugging the coast but they had the inside and seemed in a better position. A line of far out breakers north of longboat pass was our next obstacle and following Phil and Dan about 50 yards back, we watched them sail through a few waves without incident. We changed course a bit to go farther around not giving the cresting rollers much more thought. While checking the GPS two rollers combined into a freak crest headed right for our starboard gunwale I had only enough time to say "hold on" as the small mountain of water lifted and then dropped our rail depositing about a foot of water in our cockpit and yawing the boat hard enough that I fell off my seat and landed first on the tiller extension, bending it in half, and then in the cockpit turned bathtub. It was an all around embarrassing event especially in the light air. We had the cockpit dry in a few minutes of bailing and I was able to bend our telescoping battle stick back into a functioning tolerance. "Don't do that again," my dad said as he retuned to navigating. I was kicking myself for not having the GoPro running. We got back underway and continued the chase.

Wing on wing now charging down the coast we finally received the steady NW winds around 10-15 that were forecast and we began to reel the 17 in slowly with our bigger sailplan. We had a great time surfing the swells down the coast lounging against the transom and playing with the gopro camera. we gave appropriate offing around Sarasota point and we were finally neck and neck taking back the inside about an hour north of Venice inlet and passed them before quickly being passed again. The boats were very closely matched for speed running in the 3-4 foot rollers. As we approached Venice inlet we speculated that they might take the chance to switch to flat water. We made the final mental commitment to stump pass a further 17nm south and of course the wind and swell picked up We were surfing more and the swell was shorter and steeper. As soon as we watched them make the turn into Venice we headed up and put the first reef in the main. Two more hours of fast surfing followed and we caught up to a Hobie Getaway sailed by Coastie and ClamCounter and passed them as we approached the much revered stump pass. We carefully lined up the entrance markers to the pass and gybed over onto a reach which became a beat as we approached the middle of the pass. At one point in the pass the breaking chop coming off the sandbar to the north swept over the channel and knocked us around a bit but nothing compared to our earlier encounter with the instant bathtub. We left 3 tacks in our wake and in we went. Inside I immediately looked north half expecting to see the 17 charging down the waterway but to our relief we appeared to have gained on them. The Getaway actually beat us into the pass using a unique tactic known as, "plow right over the sandbar and emerge unscathed on the other side," also known as a long shot. It worked out great for them and allowed them to avoid tacking through breaking swells. We were impressed.

Once in the waterway we did some housekeeping and lost some of our warm layers. The late afternoon sun dried off our jackets and we cruised the 3 miles down to the entrance to Cape Haze marina right behind the Getaway. The entrance to the new CP1 was very narrow but well marked and we proceeded to make an immediate right hand turn once inside the marina. Luckily someone was there to tell us we were going the wrong way as we proceeded past expensive boats to a dead end. We did an about face and with some help from the oars got around the dock to the correct dead end where a dock full of helpful friends waited for us. I held the boat and my dad hit the OK button on the SPOT tracker which would transmit our time to the watertribe website and register us as officially at the checkpoint. He signed the logbook and we didn't waste and time getting right back in the boat. Not more than 5 minutes and we were off again. Later we remembered there was hot soup at the CP and realized we had completely forgotten to fill our thermos. In hindsight we were focused on one thing only, moving down the coast.  

Pictures and Video forthcoming....
Stay tuned for part 2. 

Cool Kite Aerial Video ...
A video of the start this year...
Another start video and tail end of roll call...
A pre dawn Beach Walk....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tons of video

The EC is over and the blogging will begin. I have tons of video and pictures from the race this year thanks to my new gopro which worked great. We created nearly 40GB of video in the 2 days we were sailing and another 40 of pictures and video in the week that followed of other racers finishing and some great video of many racers out on florida bay.

My dad and I are on cloud 9 with our finish this year. This was our 4th EC on our Core Sound 20, Dawn Patrol and we are very thankful that some great downwind weather and the best competition we've ever sailed against combined this year for a very memorable race.

I just can't tell you how much we enjoyed sailing with Phil Garland and Dan Neri (SambaSailor and Sailsalot) on their Core Sound 17. We may have eeked out a win but they were on our toes the whole time without even trying. I hope they come back for more next year.

As you may know, we broke our main mast aboat 8 miles from the finish which didn't slow us down too much since we had plenty of wind and the CS20 sails just fine upwind under mizzen alone with a little extra work on the tiller. But sadly it kept us from sailing around after the race and now we've got to build a new mast. Work on a boat is never finished. I'll be starting a race report with pictures and video so stay tuned in the days that follow.

Monday, March 04, 2013

CrazyLugan and Heathan in!

Izatarock In

Another B and B winner

Sambasailor and Sailsalot at the finish. Hats off from us. Way to go guys.

Made It

Awaiting arrival of Sambasailor and Sailsalot. Arrived at exactly 7am tired but happy. Broke the main mast about 5 miles from the finish by snagging the spinnaker halyard on the marker at steak key cut. Very exciting year. More later.

Saturday, March 02, 2013


Charlotte harbor with izatarock.