The Everglades Challenge 2021 – TTG

I can’t remember what I asked for in the end. What I do remember is that Capt. B is to be kept away from any galley and removed from all cooking duties effective immediately. The boiling water part he got right but the instruction of stirring somehow was omitted!

With my bowl balanced precariously on my lap and one hand on the tiller, I buried my face into what I thought would be a culinary delight. Pockets of dry powder rose to the surface exploding just as I breathed in. I had been maced. My eyes flooded in tears and the hair in my nasal passages had burned to the roots. What the F@#K? I look up, coughing and spluttering, my vision blurred … I think I’m still sailing in the right direction! I’ve eaten more tender beef jerky than whatever this cooked meat was. I crunched on what must have been noodles and other dehydrated vegetables that had somehow avoided the boiling water. “How is it?” Capt. B asked. “Great,” I lied, avoiding the truth and averting my eyes.”  (JohnnyMac)

I damn near rolled on the floor laughing when I first read this account last year. John MacDonald’s story telling skills are good enough to give Mark Twain a run for his money. Surely this culinary misadventure was the result of fatigue induced by a lack of sleep, but as a trained and practiced observer of human behavior and diviner of hidden motivations, I saw a more sinister possibility. Here are two grown-assed men who clearly retain some degree of youthful rashness and impulsiveness or they wouldn’t have flown half way around the world, literally, to take part in the Everglades Challenge. What effect does a few days of living and sailing in a small open boat both day and night have on the minds of such a pair? Do real and imagined slights ferment in their sleep deprived minds after prolonged exposure to the elements? At what point in that fermentation process do those slights lead to homicidal obsessions? What calculations could have been racing through Rob Waddell’s mind in the darkness of the Gulf as he watched Johnny Mac snooze in the cuddy of the Southern Cross? Let’s listen in on the workings of a WaterTriber’s mind.

“What if I brain that big lug with an oar and roll him overboard for the sharks? No one would know.”

“Wait! That’s madness. I have to come ashore eventually and our wives would probably notice he’s missing… especially his.”

“Where’s my husband?”

“I dunno. He was here a minute ago. Are you sure got onboard?”

“Nope, that’ll never fly.”

“Ah. I have it. A revenge far more heinous than any uninspired murder at sea. I’ll throw some boiling water in a packet of freeze dried beef stroganoff, give it a half hearted stir and hand it to that insufferable bastard. He won’t know what hit him.”

And JohnnyMac chronicled what happened next. The perfect vengeance with no loose ends to tie up when the two came ashore. Did it happen this way? I doubt it, but we’ll never know. It’s a secret that will be taken to the grave. But if Rob and John read my tongue in cheek hypothesis, the next time these two sail the Everglades Challenge, neither may get any sleep… just in case. 

All kidding aside, I implore you all to read the accounts of the Everglades Challenge 2020 written by Rob Waddell and John MacDonald. You will be glad you did. You can also track this years race on the WaterTribe Challenge Mapper and keep up with the progress on the WaterTribe FaceBook page. You have to sign up for the FaceBook page, but their not too picky. They let me in without question. 

In addition to the Southern Cross, there are several other craft that interest me. I’ve watched Derek Kozlowski build his Angus sailing row cruiser over the year. I wasn’t sure he was going to finish it in time. He did and watching his progress in the Everglades will be fun. There’s a skin on frame kayak. My brother will like that. There are two Scamps this year. One is driving down from Washington state. I always liked that cobby little craft. This design conquered the Straits of Magellan back in 2017. They always do well in the Everglades, even though the first one grounded out in the shallows of Florida Bay years ago.

Oh yes, in case anyone still has questions about what the Everglades Challenge and the WaterTribe are all about, here’s their “About” statement:

“The purpose of WaterTribe© is to encourage the development of boats, equipment, skills, and human athletic performance for safe and efficient coastal cruising using minimal impact human and wind powered watercraft based on kayaks, canoes, small sailboats. Anyone with interests along these lines is welcome to join and share posts that support this purpose.”


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19 Responses to The Everglades Challenge 2021 – TTG

  1. Rob Waddell says:


    Thanks for the kind comments and links to the stories. It is expected that EC competitors submit a journal or video of their latest voyage to other members of the Tribe. My account, although factual, is quite bland and on that account JohnnyMac was requested to submit a more humorous account. To that end, he has succeeded wonderfully and I recommend this Twainian/Swiftian account, ‘An Unable seamans most excellent adventure’ to all Turcopoles.

    The TTGian murderous visions did not happen fortunately; we needed each other man! All the other stuff is true however but some artistic license appears.

    Dehydrated food is mandatory unfortunately. Strange thing is (apart from the incompetent cook episode), is that they taste better proportional to ones fatigue. I recommend the meat based stews i.e. beef stroganoff etc. above the more vegetarian based dried delights although this should be known to those who require them by necessity or choice.

    So yes, unfortunately we can’t make it this year and possibly not even 2022 but we will be back as soon as possible. Readers may want to know why we went all the way from NZ where untold adventures are possible all the way to southwest Florida to take part in the Everglades Challenge? There is the uniqueness of this adventure of course but (and I hope this does not sound too sucky-uppy) the friendliness of the American people and comradery of the ‘team’ is the main attraction.


  2. The Twisted Genius says:


    One of the reasons I found the story of the freeze dried ration gone wrong was that I have had nothing but wonderful experiences with them. I started eating them in grammar school when some friends and I would go camping for a few days or a week. We’d treat ourselves to a few Mountain House freeze dried meals. The beef stroganoff was always delicious, but the lasagna was out of this world. We’d always pour the hot water into the aluminized pouch so we wouldn’t have to clean a bowl. The secret was to use boiling water and let it sit for quite a while. Another trick was to add water to the packet during a rest 2 hours or so before meal time. Then you just heat the packet in the water you boiled for tea.

    The first government issued freeze dried meal I ate was during a battalion two day march from Hilo Airport to the Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii. It was 40 miles a climb of 6,000 feet. On the first night we filed by the mess teams where we picked up a long range patrol ration (LRP) and filled a canteen cup with boiling water. We poured the water in the meal packet and there it was. I remember I had chicken and rice. I prized those LRPs for years, although I never had the beef hash.

    One non-freeze dried item I miss is the Wilson’s bacon bar. It was a 3 ounce compressed block of bacon in a foil packet. You could add it to anything or just nibble on it from the packet. Those would be great on the EC. Too bad they haven’t been made for years.

    • Leith says:

      We ate the early versions of freeze dried rats while in Nam. Most were good. But the chili was unpalatable since the chili beans were crunchy no matter how long they were soaked and stirred and heated. Carrying enough water to both drink and to hydrate your meals was a problem. And the meals took on the iodine flavor of the halazone tablets. And if you had mixed powdered koolaid packets into your canteen to kill the bad taste of the halazone, you ended up with grape flavored chicken & rice or strawberry beef stew.

  3. EEngineer says:

    Well, fast motorcycles really get me going. Nothing like hooking 4th gear though a long sweeper as the needles go over the top and down the other side…

  4. Mark Logan says:

    Weather report shows there WILL be wind. Distinct possibility of too much in the latter part of the weekend. Hope everybody remembers the better part of valor.

    • The Twisted Genius says:

      I guess that’s why the Tribe demands two reefs in the sail and a demonstrated proficiency in reefing the sail. I think the ability to self-recover from a capsize is recommended if not required. I don’t remember if spray skirts are required for kayaks and canoes. I use one just for crossing the Potomac. You just never know. You can be crazy, but you shouldn’t be foolishly crazy.

  5. Fred says:

    Cold front moving in with some wind gusts but should be clear and sunny Sunday.

  6. The Twisted Genius says:

    We already have a race winner with Chaos and Sewsew on their catamaran. A second catamaran is also in. Not the way I would approach it. I’d rather savor the adventure as long as I could rather than racing to the finish, but what the hell, racing to be first over the finish line is also a hell of an adventure. As always, everybody seems to having great fun.

    Watching the beach start yesterday, I fully realized how wet the paddlers and sailors are from the git-go. It reminded me of my brother and I trying to launch an open canoe in the surf in PEI. It took us four or five tries to make it. Then we spent the afternoon chasing seals like we were a couple of Inuit hunters before paddling back to the marina in Montague.

    • Mark K Logan says:

      I’m unsurprised somebody did it that fast. All the cool kids are up on foils these days.

      On the topic of how I wouldn’t approach this kind of thing (sailing) that way either, check out what’s sailing for the Americas Cup these days. 20+ knots VMG to weather in 12 knots of wind, off the wind? 30k+VMG, I kid thee not…

      Ohfercryin’out loud guys, just buy a Bayliner, sez me.

      • The Twisted Genius says:

        All the EC winners are on catamarans like the Nacra 20. I think they look like mosquitos or water striders. I first saw a Hobie cat with a rainbow hued sail off Waikiki in the late 70s. I was surprised how fast it was and how it responded to each gust.

        Those America’s Cup boats are pretty wild. I first saw those foils last year or the year before. It was mesmerizing, especially that human powered hydraulic system. I guess that’s what raises and lowers the foils. I’m not surprised about the upwind speed. My windsurfer has a cammed sail that when properly tensioned is more like a rigid wing than a sail. Planing into the wind is a rush.

  7. The Twisted Genius says:

    Seems a lot of boats are pulling out at Flamingo, CP3. The NE and easterly winds have blown most of the water out of Florida Bay. One boat, a catamaran, grounded in the middle of the channel into Flamingo for a while. Kayaks and SUPs may be able to go due east, but I doubt anything else can. The remaining fleet will have to head south and follow the Keys up to Largo. I believe thats the route Robman and JohnnyMac took last year. Sounds good to me. There’s plenty of time to do it.

    • The Twisted Genius says:

      It’s Chokoloskee, CP2, that might be the race end for many. Don’t know why. It’s only Monday.

      • Mark Logan says:

        The “3rd day blahs” are common on expeditions, aren’t they? Takes 4-5 days for the body to adjust. The right parts to toughen up a bit.

        Can’t follow it, their site is insecure and frightens my wimpy browser, Norton too. Ah well.

        The grinders on the AC boats only power the controls, the foils are lifted by batteries. The class minimum weight for the foil-ends is 1,300 kilos, they wanted to make sure nobody skimped on structure to save weight and broke a foil off, which at 50 knots could be catastrophic. The crew wear helmets and Kevlar chest armor, carbon fiber splinters in an exceptionally nasty ways.

        Nevertheless it takes 8 guys working hard to power the foil-flaps and sail controls. The foil flaps are control surfaces and the boats are inherently instable in pitch. No human is fast (or strong) enough to fly it like an airplane. It’s “fly by wire”, tell the computer what you want and it figures out how to move the flaps, and just to keep it level it’s moving them a lot. At 50 knots water is stiff.

        • The Twisted Genius says:

          Those AC boats are more rocket ship than boat. Thank God the capsize this year didn’t end up anything like the recent Starship landings. Those AC races are fun to watch, but I’ll stick with the EC adventures in much simpler little boats. Actually, I’d prefer something more like this.

          That second video has some barefoot chainsaw work that’s as exciting as the AC capsize.

          • Mark K Logan says:

            I liked that nice 1″ plank he made for himself, that took some practice.

            If I were to do this my first thought is two-man kayak, seal one of the holes and rig with a sail small enough to tuck in the nose. Enough room inside for a sleeping bag, tarp, couple days food and water and that’s it. If I couldn’t pick the whole thing kit up and walk with it over my head I’ve gone too big. Doing the whole coast like that would be a trip.

  8. The Twisted Genius says:

    The Southern Cross had a bit of excitement just 18 miles from the finish on Largo. She caught her sail on a channel marker and shredded it. In their fatigued state, the crew called for a BoatUS tow and ended their race. Had they just paused and rested a few hours, had a good hot meal and a cup of coffee, they might of realized they could have made it by oar power for the last 18 miles. They had plenty of time, but fatigue definitely impairs your judgement. Another crew tore their sail about 15 miles out and rowed into Largo. Although I bet rowing that Lite Boat was easier than rowing the Southern Cross.

    We had a 25 foot wooden skiff when I was young. On one fishing trip, the Evinrude gave out about 10 miles out in Long Island Sound. My father didn’t think twice about rowing back to Milford.

  9. The Twisted Genius says:


    I’m also thinking about the a minimalist kayak rig myself. Something you can tie up to a mangrove branch and sleep in and definitely with a sail. I now use a Pungo 120 plastic kayak with a self-made sail rig on the Potomac. I love it. It gets me up into the creeks and carries me across the Potomac with ease. My younger son has something similar and he shoots the rapids with it.

    Robman gave me a good piece of advice last year. Don’t build a boat just to run the EC. Get something proven and go from there. That happened with Derek Kozlowski this year. I watched him build his Angus Row Cruiser most of the year. It’s a great design, but he didn’t have a lot of time sailing her before the EC. Something screwy happened with his daggerboard and he had to drop out in Florida Bay. After a good night’s sleep, he probably could have figured it out.

  10. Mark K Logan says:

    Good point about the mangroves. Being able to sleep in the boat is a biggie. Some of the larger two man kayaks might be able to accommodate but the Row Cruise has distinct advantages there, no doubt about it. Will be able to sail in a much broader range of wind directions and strengths too. That’s a nice boat.

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