Watertribe Event in Florida

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Briggsy
Posts: 297
Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2009 6:59 pm
Location: Sarasota, Florida

Watertribe Event in Florida

Postby Briggsy » Sun Mar 04, 2018 5:23 pm

I just completed a Watertribe event down here in Florida and thought someone up there might be interested to hear about it.

I got pretty interested in the Watertribe group ( http://watertribe.com/ ) before I moved down here and always thought it would be an experience to try an event. The Everglades Challenge is 300 miles from Fort Desoto, St Petersburg to Key Largo, but they also run a parallel event, starting the same time, the Ultra Marathon which is 62 miles from Fort Desoto to Everglades Challenge Checkpoint 1 at Cape Haze Marina, Englewood, Florida. I had done some long distance training for a potential run but found that it was really a tedious slog, especially doing "there and back" training trip, so it put me off but as the date drew near I got more interested in it again. So, I decided to do the Ultra Marathon and see if I would enjoy it more in a group event setting.

Over the last couple of years down here I had paddled the entire route in day trips or one nighter camping trips and transferred an accurate route to my state of the art Garmin etrex 10 ( no expense spared on equipment). I filed my papers and was in for Saturday March 3rd, Ultra Marathon.
I didn't actually do much training, probably about 6 or so 30 miler day trips and always felt pretty good after. Basically I was just going to wing it.

At 6.30 Saturday morning, a collection of boats ranging from kayaks to small sailboats was lined up on the beach waiting for the starting horn at 7am. There had been a Small Craft Advisory overnight ( 20mph winds and high surf) which was due to be lifted at 8am but the event organizers decided to wait till 9am before sounding the horn and everyone shoved off. The first part of the course is a 6-7 mile open water crossing of Tampa Bay and I buddyed up with another kayak for safety as it still looked rough out there and it was still 15mph winds. Once we got out of the shelter of land it was gnarly, 4-5 ft waves, no exaggeration, coming from the rear quarter, it was like being in a huge washing machine. The few times I dared to look behind it was unreal seeing this monster charging towards you. Part of the rules of these "Expedition Races" are that you have to be loaded up with expedition gear, tents, sleeping bag, water, food, safety and repair gear etc. so being loaded helped with stability. When I glanced down at the GPS it was still showing 4 kts so the wind was helping us along nicely, we just had to stay upright. The white knuckle workout finally ended an hour and a half later at a sandbar where the waves broke and we surfed to calm water on the other side of the bar. My buddy and I parted ways and I cruised ahead through several small bays and channels before arriving in Sarasota Bay where ahead of me I could just make out the tall Ringling Bridge that connects downtown to Lido Key. It was 8 miles away and I was going to be looking at it for the next 2 hours. It was without doubt the most tedious part of the trip. With an 8 mile fetch the wind waves did pick up nicely for some downwind surfing though. Once under the bridge at mile 25 or so,the Siesta Key bridge was visible a mile away and when I got there my kayaking buddies were there to cheer me on. They had been following my SPOT track. I stopped for a quick chat before pushing on, it was a nice boost to see them.

From there it was pretty uneventful following the Intracoastal down to Venice Inlet at mile 45 where the sun was close to setting. I stopped at a small beach and got out my "night bag". Switched my brimmed sun hat for a wool beanie, fitted my white position lamp into the homemade PVC lamp holder, strapped two dive lights to the deck and donned my trusty $13 Home Depot headlamp. After re-stocking my snack hatch (in front of the cockpit on the Cetus), refilling the Gatorade in my 100oz Camelbak wedged on the deck between the spare paddles and downing a half a bag of jerky I was ready to finish this thing. As the last few sentences show, I was well prepped. No built in hydration systems, $100 headlamps or technical clothing for me, It was billed as an adventure race after all.

Setting off in the dark, all was quiet. It turned out to be the most enjoyable part of the whole trip. The first few miles are a man made canal that is the ICW. Good to get re-aquainted with night paddling without having to worry about navigation at first, just stay in between the banks. About 1/2 mile in, I was pulled over by the Sheriffs Dept (Marine Section) and asked where I was going, "Cape Haze Marina" I replied as if it was just a normal thing to do. "well good luck and be safe" he replied. It was DARK, the moon wasn't going to rise for another hour or so, but when it did it was full and lit up the immediate area pretty well. 4 or 5 miles later the canal ended and the GPS was the only way to navigate. Luckily my GPS prep was dead on and I just had to keep the black arrowhead on the black line. It didn't take long to really pick out the lighted channel markers and my trusty headlamp picked out the rest. There was no powerboat traffic except for one asshole, who despite me vigorously flashing my dive light in his direction and him actually shining a marine flashlight directly at me, for some strange reason gunned it at me from 50ft away missing me by 10ft. The spray that hit me was off the bow and I heard him yell "kayak" right before he gunned it, he was that close. I was even outside the channel ! The time went by comparitivley quickly. The shorter distances to the "targets" were a great help and before long I glanced down at my GPS to see only about a mile to go. It was the longest mile of the trip. At 11.35pm I got out of my boat at Cape Haze Marina having paddled 62 miles in 14 hrs 35 minutes. I checked in and was shown the small camping area where a few folks had already set up. After carrying my gear and boat up I cooked "dinner", put my tent up, laid out my sleeping bag, peed one last time and got into bed for a delicious Knorr Rice dinner followed by a couple of Advil PM's. Probably could have gone with the regular Advils at that point but better to sure !

In the morning I was surprised to discover that I was the first kayaker in the Ultra Marathon group, and second overall ( first place was sailboat) and including the Everglades Challenge people was the 4th kayaker (without sails) out of 25.
It was a big clean up today and will be having one or two celebratory drinks tonight.

Hope you enjoyed the read,

Briggsy

Briggsy
Posts: 297
Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2009 6:59 pm
Location: Sarasota, Florida

Re: Watertribe Event in Florida

Postby Briggsy » Sun Mar 04, 2018 7:30 pm

This is how rough it was in the Tampa Bay area. This was a competitor.
http://www.mysuncoast.com/staff/coast-g ... 3b1bd.html

User avatar
norm
Posts: 1949
Joined: Thu Aug 02, 2007 12:13 pm
Location: Abington, MA

Re: Watertribe Event in Florida

Postby norm » Mon Mar 05, 2018 9:36 am

Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

I'm surprised you chose to use your Cetus rather than your Seda. Was that because the Cetus has the convenient front hatch or was it for better stability across Tampa bay?

Next question is - now that you've had a taste of the event, do you have any desire to do the full 300+ mile Everglades Challenge?

Briggsy
Posts: 297
Joined: Thu Apr 30, 2009 6:59 pm
Location: Sarasota, Florida

Re: Watertribe Event in Florida

Postby Briggsy » Mon Mar 05, 2018 11:03 am

I did a few long practice runs in the Seda but the seat is a little skinny and started to become uncomfortable after 30 miles or so, I need to cut the seat out and glue in a foam seat. The small front hatch on the cetus was definitely a bonus, I stuffed it full of food to save stopping. I'm going to look at maybe fitting some kind of hatch there as the Seda has no day hatch either. After that rough crossing I will fit a small electric bilge pump in my kayaks. I learnt a lot and it was good to be part of an event rather than just slogging on for the sake of big distance. Everglades Challenge ??? Maybe!

NorwayLady
Posts: 1199
Joined: Wed Jun 22, 2005 12:03 pm
Location: Marshfield, MA

Re: Watertribe Event in Florida

Postby NorwayLady » Mon Mar 05, 2018 10:00 pm

Thank you for sharing your Watertribe story, Dave. Very interesting. I can’t imagine kayaking 62 miles in a day, and I think I would have been scared to death kayaking solo in the dark only helped by a GPS for navigation. You are a legend. Hats off to you for an amazing accomplishment.

FYI. I watched the Watertribe YouTube documentary. So for other Wild Turkeys that want to learn more, check out YouTube. One of the best I found was about an hour and a half long, and it was fun to follow all the participants from Tampa to Key Largo and get a sense of the camaraderie, scenery and what an amazing challenge this is.
Bea
Proud foster mother of Athena (P&H Cetus LV turquoise-white)


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