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.  

1 comment:

Director said...

Read both parts 1 and 2, darn fun reading your account, a sailor's account, filled with all the nautical terms of sailing and very fun to read and come to understand the mental views of the same race course from a different perspective.