In 2006, we barely knew what we were doing except to know that we had paddle a long ways south, from Tampa Bay to Flamingo, and then paddle east across Florida Bay to Key Largo. We probably came in near dead last.
In 2006, Druce wasn't all that excited about paddling 300 miles. I guess he did it to humor me. Now he has finished four Everglades Challenges and one Yukon River Quest and many, many adventure races with long, long, kayaking sections. He has become a paddling machine.
On the passage to CP1, we went outside, that is to say out on the Gulf of Mexico rather than taking the intercoastal waterway which is the inside. While riding the down swells, we were reading speeds of 13 mph on our GPS. However, it took us about 15 hours to go the 67 miles to CP1.
The passage from Placida to CP2 at Chokolokee was long and uneventful, sunny and hot. And - we were slow.
At about halfway through the race, we had somehow managed to lose both of our GPS devices. So, the rest of the way to the finish, we would navigate with map and compass. It would take us until Tuesday afternoon to finish the 175 miles to CP2.
I had started the race off with a week old nasty spider bite that wouldn't heal. My lymph gland went into overtime during the race. By the time we got to CP2, I had a black stripe up my arm, and I was stumbling around with a fever. The day after the fever broke and the infection seemed under control, I could only paddle about 5 miles before needing to beach up.
We only made 30 miles that day. That night, I could not lift a spoon with my arms in order to eat. I laid on my belly sipping my soup directly from the bowl. Nothing glorious going on here, laying on my belly trying to eat, but this is typical of adventure racing, you push yourself to the utmost, to near oblivion. Our course in 2006:
At or near Highland Point, we found a WWII anti-ship mine; yup, for real. I don't know why, but I jumped on it a few times to... well I actually don't know why I would jump on an unexploded mine. Something is awfully wrong with me at times.
The next morning, the tide was out, way out. We drug our boat about a mile across the mud flats before we could find deep enough water to paddle.
On Cape Sable, while relieving myself (a #2), I heard some rustling in the bushes behind me. It was a Sponge Bob helium balloon caught on a bush. We tied it off to the rear of our kayak and paddled all the way in to Key Largo with it. Once in our motel room, and to our eternal joy, we discovered that we could stay up all night watching a Sponge Bob marathon, which we did while drinking our obligatory finish line rum & cokes.
We arrived at CP3, about 265 miles into the race, on Wednesday afternoon.
It took us 36 hours to do the last 35 miles; weak from fever, worn out from the brutal effort, sustained headwinds of 25 knots or so, a split lip from sunburn which screamed whenever salt water splashed on it, which was constantly as we were heading directly into the wind, smashing through one wave after another.
We were happy - very, very happy when we pulled up on the finish beach after 300 miles.
We paddled an Eddyline Whisper CL, 18' by 28", and paddled with Epic Mid Wings. We were entered as a Class 2 kayak, expedition paddle craft with no sail. Druce sat in the rear seat steering the boat the whole race, after 300 miles he was a certified expert at performing the stern draw.
Shadows by Lindsey Stirling, good music while you read this report and browse the photo album....