For the tenth year or so, I invite the Turcopolier Committee of Correspondence to check out this year’s running of the Everglades Challenge. I discovered this event now well over a decade ago. I still have dreams of participating in this challenge or the similar Blackbeard Challenge in North Carolina. 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. There is a time limit of eight days. Updates on the progress and tribulations of the participants will be posted on the Water Tribe forums. The boats are tracked by SPOT satellite. Their progress can be seen on this tracking map. There’s also a Facebook group. It’s a private group requiring a sign up, but it pretty easy unless you’re a bot or a complete asshole.
In 2020 Rob Waddell, his equally salty compatriot and their spouses made their way from New Zealand to Florida, bought and fitted out a boat and successfully completed the challenge. He said my annual reports on the Challenge inspired him to give it a go. So, even if I never make it to Florida, I take solace in knowing that in some meager way, I’ve contributed to the Water Tribe ethic.
Rob emailed me yesterday with news of his former “Southern Cross” and her continuing adventures.
The EC300 starts this Saturday 4th March at 10:00. The Dovekie 21 that Johnny Macdonald and I sailed this adventure race in 2020 was sold to Andy Hayward in 2021 as we could not continue our planned three race series due to travel restrictions.
Andy and sailing partner, Nate Vilardebo, have now equipped ‘Southern Cross’ with a conventional cutter rig with mid-boom traveller in preparation for a go at this challenge. They are keen sailors and I am so pleased that they feel confident with this boat. We all look forward to their progress down to Key Largo.
Winds don’t look too great for Saturday start with a brisk southerly but start veering westerly to northerly from Sunday. By Tuesday – Wednesday it is back to standard easterly in Florida Bay. Light but favorable conditions for the Dovekie. I will follow their track with great interest.
I am most intrigued by another entry. Vladimir Eremeev, aka Crazy Russian, is sailing an 18 foot long shunting proa of his own design called Drama Queen. It has a shallow draft, flat bottomed main hull with fully retractable rudders on both ends. He designed and built it years ago and is finally ready to give it a shot. In addition to the unique twin rudder design, I was struck by the number of lines used to control her. Simple it is not, but Vladimir is a seasoned adventure sailor and has already completed several Everglades Challenges. The question will be the boat, not the sailor. With my growing interest in shunting proas, I will be watching Crazy Russian’s progress down to Key Largo.
In this video Crazy Russian explains the sail rig on his proa. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=70MtdPetBo4
Here is that ingenious steering system that also provides needed lateral resistance for the shallow, flat bottomed main hull. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39JlbHJr7rU
And here is a view of the whole shunting thing in action. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHuWcjmHufM