By Gary and Helen Blankenship –
Tallahassee, Florida - USA
This is a video and picture account of my recent trip in the 2010 Everglades Challenge. Duckworks (recently ran) a lengthy written account with photos that provides a much more detailed recounting of the event. This is sort of a visual diary, with what I hope is an illustrative chart thrown in here and there. It suffers shortcomings inevitable when the solo sailor attempts a photographic telling of an event. When the good stuff is going on, you're too busy handling the boat and/or dodging disaster to think of turning on a camera. Inevitably, some interesting events happen at night when you can't photograph them. And worrying about sound quality or whether the wind is wiping out your narration usually comes far down the list of concerns when sailing. Still I had fun shooting it and putting the videos together. I hope it captures some of the flavor of an Everglades Challenge, including the patience needed to complete one and the fresh and unique, well, challenges that each event offers.
This begins on the starting beach with a look at the fleet. Hopefully I've shown enough for the boat nuts to appreciate the variety without dwelling too long to be boring. Then it's the launch and the first day's sailing. About the time I'm showing my double reef while on the Intracoastal Waterway, the boats outside on the Gulf were experiencing steep seas that would capsize two of the competitors. The second day begins with sunrise on Pine Island Sound, then shows most of the long run down the Gulf coast between the sound and Cape Romano. It ends as Oaracle is approaching Marco Island.
This picks up at Marco while I'm ruminating on trying to go in Caxambas Inlet, an ultimately unsuccessful maneuver because of shifty winds. Unfortunately, the wild downwind ride from Caxambas was done in the dark, so the surfing in rough seas at more than hull speed and under the constant threat of a gybe is shown only by a squiggly line on a chart. The video clip behind Indian Key came after my first decent sleep of the trip, and I hope the succeeding shots show the grind of rowing to the second checkpoint at Chokoloskee. I was too busy to shoot anything on the intricate exit via Rabbit Key Pass, but that was compensated for by the stunning sunrise the next morning. Part 2 ends approach the to East Cape at Cape Sable, in company with DancesWithMullet, another competitor.
The long beat from East Cape to Checkpoint 3 at Flamingo begins this segment. Then there's more rowing, after a night at Flamingo, in getting through the narrow channel by Murray and Clive keys. My proudest achievement of this EC is getting through that channel without grounding or even hitting, thanks to steering by the autopilot and the careful use of the oars. Then there was a lot of sailing hard on the wind and beating to get around Florida Bay, since the southeast wind made the direct route too difficult, at least for me. Some camera difficulties prevented more shots here, and the final slog up the Intracoastal was done mostly in the (unphotogenic) dark.