2013 Everglades Challenge

The watertribe race means different things to different people. Some race other people, some try to beat their own previous times, and others only strive to finish within the race deadlines purposefully taking most of the week. I definitely fell within this last category. My goal was to find a sustainable pace that could be maintained for the duration of the race or even longer. I always got a good night sleep and sometimes delayed my morning departures so the sun could dry any wet clothes. I also had a goal not to have any race drama along the way with things going wrong. Of course, it is usually when things do go wrong that make the most interesting stories, so I will elaborate on the couple of time things did go wrong on my trip.

1. On the approach to CP1, I ran aground by not following the channel. In raising and lowering my rudder, I pulled out the rudder pull-down cable (that keeps the rudder in the down position). I was able to get into CP1 with the rudder kept down only due to its weight. I needed to fix this, though, to be able to effectively use the rudder for sailing later on. It is a simple operation to re-attach the pull-down cable but I had to take the rudder blade out of the rudder bracket assembly at the stern of the boat to do it. Since my Triak is awkward to get out of the water via floating dock, I decided to go swimming at CP1 to remove the rudder with the boat still in the water. I had to carry the necessary tools in my hands and mouth to do the job. If I dropped anything, I would be screwed. I got the rudder off, took it ashore, reattached the cable, and went swimming again to put it back on. Nothing was dropped. Mission accomplished.

2. On the approach to CP2, my asymmetric spinnaker was no longer effectively snuffing. When I tried to snuff it, I would get a wad of sail flapping that could not be retrieved in my snuffer bag. I was able to beach it and manually push the spinnaker back in but I decided not to use it again until the cause could be determined. I did not want to be caught out in a blow far away from shore with not being able to retrieve the spinnaker. When I next camped, I found the cause was a loop on the sail had come unraveled and needed to be sewed back on. Fortunately, my required survival pack had a sail needle and thread. I had also brought along a small pair of needle-nose pliers. With these tools, I was able to sew the loop back on and was once again able to reliably snuff the spinnaker.

3. On the approach to CP3, we experienced first close hauled conditions, then high wind downwind sailing, then close hauled again. Foreseeing these conditions, I decided to partially unrig the spinnaker. It would not be needed for close hauled conditions and can’t safely be used in high winds. I partially unrigged it by removing the control lines and leaving it in the snuffer bag on the bow of my Triak. I didn’t have a lot of room elsewhere to store it. I removed the control lines because it is always better to have only those control lines rigged that are needed. There is less chance of the spinnaker lines getting fouled with anything else since I would be sailing far from shore in order to achieve the best tacking angle and could not beach it to solve any fouling problems. This worked fine until the wind shifted and built to have a strong tailwind and following seas. My bow would burry after surfing down a wave and the spinnaker snuffer would then act like a break (being that it is just a big scoop). Also, the spinnaker itself in the bag/scoop had collected perhaps 30 pounds of water and was weighing the bow down. These things were slowing me down. I finally decided to remove the spinnaker and snuffer even though I was a couple of miles away from the coast. I decided to go overboard to take it off. Since a boat can drift faster than a person can swim to keep up with it, I first tied a safety line from me to the boat. Once I got in the water, I could tell how fast the boat (even on bare poles) was being moved by the wind. I was glad I had that safety line. I worked my way to the bow and untied the and got the spinnaker and snuffer off. I worked my way back to the cockpit and threw the stuff in the cockpit. I then struggled a bit to get back inside. I had to just jam the spinnaker and snuffer down in the cockpit with me under my spray skirt. It was the only place it would fit. With that off, I was able to effectively sail downwind surfing down the swells periodically burying the bow. I made really good time after that. I more than made of for the time the removal took with increased speed.

4. Crossing Florida Bay, I had only bothered to store one route in my GPS. This route turned out to be disadvantaged towards the end (after Manatee pass) with needing to sail against the wind. If I had planned a bit better, I would have had that alternative route programmed that did not have the upwind section at the end. At least I got in a few hours of upwind sailing practice to finish the race. I was paddle-sailing so I could point a bit better but I was trying to let the wind still do most of the work.

The following shows the boat lineup at the start of the race

The following is my Everglades Challenge compilation video:

The following is me commenting while panning through the course with GoogleEarth: