Everglades Challenge 2018 – TTG

6a00d8341c72e153ef01b8d26643c6970c-800wiRatty knows the score. To be on the water in any kind of craft can be therapeutic. IMHO the sound of the surf can only be equalled by the sound of the wind in the pines. Both together… heaven. You can’t buy that kind of therapy with a million dollars. One of the saddest things I often saw on the streets of DC was the herds of young, ambitious suits with ear buds in their ears, eyes and thumbs glued to their smartphones, totally oblivious to their surroundings. Borg aspirants, no? It is no wonder so much self serving and destructive idiocy is produced in Washington. As I have said for so many years now, I think we deserve a break… or at least a little vicarious diversion from the madness that surrounds us. 

Funny how this rings true year after year, no matter what changes occur in Washington. Once again, I invite the SST Committee of Correspondence to follow the running of the Everglades Challenge which begins this Saturday morning. The event is organized by a colorful group of adventurers who call themselves the Water Tribe. The Everglades Challenge is an unsupported, expedition style adventure race for kayaks, canoes, and small sailboats. It starts at Fort DeSoto in Saint Petersburg, Florida and ends at Key Largo. The distance is roughly 300 nautical miles depending on one's course selection. Updates on the progress and tribulations of the participants will be posted on the Water Tribe forums. There is also a WaterTribe Facebook page. It’s a closed group, but they let me in so they can’t be too picky. The boats are tracked by SPOT satellite. Their progress can be seen on this tracking map. There is also a tracking map provided through Race Owl. Between the two, the event should be well covered. 

To truly get a feel for this event, I recommend you set aside an hour and a half to view this video about the 2013 running of the Everglades Challenge. There’s some excellent banjo and fiddle work as well. 


This year close to a hundred boats will be taking up the challenge. Some will not make it to Key Largo. Some may not even make it to Fort DeSoto. It’s been said that half the challenge is getting to the start. I believe it. The winners usually make the voyage in two days or so. The allowed time limit for successfully finishing the race is eight days. I would take the full eight days. Why rush to shorten such a grand experience? I’m not alone in this thinking. One WaterTribe member recently commented, “Must remember he who spends the most days on course and still finishes in the allotted time wins. Trying not to race this year. Maybe I will race from camp site to camp site….”

The majority of craft in this challenge are either some form of expedition kayak or sailing catamaran/trimaran. That seems to be the developing trend. I’m drawn to the more traditional designs of small open sailboats. This year there is a Welsford Pathfinder in the line up. I’ve admired this solidly designed and built boat for many years and followed several construction projects.  It’s smaller sistership, the Navigator, features proudly in what has been my favorite sailing video for quite some time. The Pathfinder is being sailed singlehanded by “Deke.” It should be a comfortable journey as long as it can negotiate the various filters along the way such as the unassisted beach launching from above the high water line and dropping the mast to pass through low bridges.


Marty Whorline, “OffTheCharts,” is once again sailing his SCAMP named Fat Bottomed Girl, another Welsford design. He did it two years ago and these are his home waters. Should be easy, but anything can happen.


Joachim Roesler is taking his Angus RowCruiser, Kairos, out. Several of these craft have done well in the Race to Alaska, as did Joe last year. The design seems made for these kinds of challenges. I am pretty confident Joachim and his RowCruiser will do fine. Besides, he’s a fellow Nutmegger. He’s sailing/rowing under his WaterTribe name of TeamKairos.


Two Chesapeake Light Craft (CLC) designs are going to sail this year. HolyMackerel  will sail a CLC Southwester Dory singlehanded. Guitarman and Reader will sail a CLC Northeaster Dory as a double. They should also do fine. I wish someone was taking the CLC Waterlust sailing canoe this year. I’m curious to see how that design does.


The most eye opening design in this year’s challenge is Dave Gentry’s Indonesian Perahu Katir double outrigger sailing canoe. Gentry is a master of the skin-on-frame technique. Although this design looks fragile, it’s based on a design that proved itself in the South Pacific. This should be exciting to follow this year. Gentry is sailing under his WaterTribe name of Gentrification.


Yes, I still plan on doing this some day. Until the day I push off the Fort DeSoto beach, I content myself with some local paddling and sailing in my Pungo 120 kayak. We have some wonderful venues in Stafford, Virginia. Lake Mooney is our 500 acre reservoir that does not allow the use of gas engines. You see only kayaks and canoes now. On a rare windy day, my homemade sail rig moves my Pungo along quite nicely. We also have the Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve on the Potomac River. This area has been left pristine since the Civil War. The wildlife viewable here is magnificent. And the canoe/kayak launch ramp to the Crow’s Nest Water Trail is just flat cool. We also have Abel Reservoir for a short afternoon paddle and commune with nature and the Mallows Bay area just a brisk two and a half mile paddle across the Potomac on the flood tide.


I am still fickle in my love for boat designs. I often unroll my plans for John Welsford’s Walkabout and Iain Oughtred’s MacGregor canoe. I still a have the crush that I developed last year on the new CLC Waterlust Sailing Canoe. The rig is my beloved balanced lug. There is room to sleep within the hull, not a lot, but enough. Secondary propulsion is the Hobie Mirage Drive. This has been proven over the years in the Everglades Challenge. The prospect of using my aging, but still capable, leg muscles rather than my aging arm and shoulder muscles is enticing. I can still carry a Greenland paddle for the time when that new-fangled contraption inevitably gives out. A sailing canoe does not need a trailer, but may become a necessity as I age, and will take little space in my garage. Construction with the CLC kit will be a much simpler challenge. Those are significant selling points. Plus, my growing experience with my little Pungo and its diminutive Hokulea-like sail is convincing me that a sailing canoe is what I’m meant to sail.


I’ll end this the same way I ended it last year and the year before that. Some things will not change. In addition to building the boat and getting to Fort DeSoto, I have to obtain a release from SWMBO to undertake such a crazy-assed and dangerous adventure. She has stood by me through thick and thin and, quite frankly, has had her fill of my risking life and limb. She would be happy to have us live out the remainder of our lives quietly, happily and contentedly as hobbits in the shire. This sounds wonderful… but the ring still calls out for me.



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18 Responses to Everglades Challenge 2018 – TTG

  1. Sid Finster says:

    Forgive the digression, but the subject seems to be one near and dear to the Colonel’s heart.

  2. turcopolier says:

    All dogs go to heaven. People on the other hand … pl

  3. Lars says:

    They let me too on to their Facebook page and there is an amazing group of adventurers involved in this race and others. I spent 18 years in SE Florida, some of it on the local waters and it has its challenges. It appears the weather will be better this year, even if a little cooler than it has been.
    I will enjoy following their progress.

  4. Fred says:

    Just get SWMBO a week at Siesta Key and she can take the catboat from Ft. Myer’s to Key West to meet up where you two can do a little victory celebration at the Southernmost Pt.

  5. Sid Finster says:

    “I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the “lower animals” (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me.” – Mark Twain

  6. Barbara Ann says:

    Having done one of these sort of events a couple of times myself, all I can say is JFDI. Plenty of time for the shire later and if there isn’t – at least you did it. Look forward to your write up of the 2019 event here next year.

  7. Just a quick note since the windstorm took out our power yesterday. Even the cell phone towers are dark. Luckily, it’s not too cold nor too hot. Couldn’t have happened at a better time. SWMBO and I are having a hot meal at a very crowded local Bob Evans. They have public WiFi now.
    Looks like they left the beach at Fort DeSoto at 9:00AM with a one hour weather delay. I’ll try to catch up with them when we get power again.

  8. turcopolier says:

    You need a generator. pl

  9. Mark Logan says:

    Just spitballing, but the desire to incorporate some leg in the propulsion immediately made me think of sliding seat sculls. You really do use a heck of a lot more leg than arm when rowing one of those, and Whitehall has a great base I would be surprised if one could not find a way to stick a Laser rig into one.

  10. pl,
    Jubilation! We have power. SWMBO admonishes me about getting a generator every time we lose power. We have one up at the house in Saratoga, a whole house, automatic kick in, natural gas powered system. We were glad we had it during a snowstorm one year. I’ll probably break down this summer and get a portable generator just to power the refrigerator, a few lights and either a space heater or room air conditioner depending on the season.
    I spent part of last night reading by candle lantern (Yankee and Wooden Boat magazines). No sound except for the wind in the trees. All that was missing was a small wood stove. That would have been a lot better than a generator blattering away out in the driveway. At least now I can follow those oddballs sailing through the alligators, pythons and sharks and enjoy the camaraderie of SST.

  11. Mark Logan,
    The Angus Rowcruiser (teamkairos) has a sliding seat rowing rig. I think this may be the first such rig in this challenge. CLC also has a drop in rig that’s been used in several of their designs including their version of a Whitehall.

  12. Mark Logan says:

    It almost appears the event was designed around the Angus line of boats!
    I think one of their proa/ama configurations would be a must for 300 miles. Anything like a pure ‘yak and one would be glued to the seat the whole way, and with a wet butt that would get ugly. I like their double rig/big amas set up the best.
    That double proa set up in your post will likely be draggy as heck to turn, Single proa might be better, as most Indo boats are. Be interesting to see how that pans out.

  13. JPB says:

    TTG –
    I believe I saw a few of those fat-bottomed Scamp boats, or something very like them, at the Douarnenez Wooden Boat Festival in Brittany.
    It’s in July every other year. Lots of classic sardine boats. Many built or rebuilt with government historical grants. Wooden racing yachts too, across Biscay Bay down to Portugal. But I’m more of a fan of the working boats.

  14. Mark Logan,
    I think this race started with more kayaks in mind, especially with the “inside passage” route through the Everglades that will earn you an alligator tooth. On the sail side, the trend has been towards the cats and tris and more carbon fiber. They are fast. I remember the first time I saw a Hobie 16 cat with a rainbow hued sail at Waikiki in the late 70s. I was in awe how it shot forward in the slightest puff of a breeze. In the same way, last year’s Americas Cup races caught my interest. Those boats are carbon fiber hydrofoil cats with wings rather than sails. A good part of the crew are busy keeping hydraulic pressure up rather than sailing the craft. That’s exhilarating to watch, but it’s not for me. I like wood and canvas be it canoe or sailboat.
    That Indonesian double outrigger does look like it would have a hard time in rougher water, but I’m not in a position to doubt the age-old design of a race of seafarers. Perhaps the thinness of the bamboo amas allows them to cut through the water. The boat seems to be doing okay. I’m looking forward to seeing film of that boat in heavier water.

  15. JPB,
    I think such stocky little craft are common around England, Scotland and Brittany. I’m pretty sure they had an influence on the design of SCAMP. It reminds me of a VW Bug. So ugly, it’s endearing. I love both the Bug and the SCAMP. And I also share your love of those heavily built working boats.

  16. Mark Logan says:

    Only mentioned because every Indo beach fishing boat I saw was single outrigger. I do not doubt there are some doubles but probably only in the very large ones.
    I’m a canoe guy myself. More the kevlar ones though. Light is good, and we used to carry “Mach 2” tape just in case, a thin aluminum tape with a bomb-proof adhesive which was available from Boeing surplus quite cheap. Kayaks are fun but it’s impossible to carry a descent camp set up in one, and any trip deserves an overnight stop. The structure of weekends!
    I was also a skiff guy when it came to sailing. I14’s mostly, as I built my own, and am heavy enough to single-hand it if need be. All but certainly if I were doing this I would be using one. Multihulls sometimes, including some Hobies, so yes, I am a speed addict, but the one constant I came to accept is the definition of sailboat racing: “Two boats that can see each other.”

  17. Mark Logan,
    Built your own International 14. That’s damned impressive. I think you and Walrus might have a lot in common. He built an i550 with his son. Your boat building and sailing skills, like those of Walrus, are far beyond mine.

  18. Mark Logan says:

    Wish I could say I was in Walrus’s class, but in fact it wasn’t a big challenge. When Bieker started in the class he copied the Uffa Fox Mark 1, and built a jig for cold molding. When he moved on to his own designs he sold the jig, which was passed around between three of us locals, so I and they had help and I had a store of accumulated wisdom to draw from when it came around to me. Without that jig? Fuggetaboudit.

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