Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Nice Paddle Day

Can you believe I took off without the camera?  So, I had to pull
a file picture of Ibi from the 2012 River Rumble on the Missouri.

The winds have been horrendous, torturous, and incessant for the last week.  Gusts have been hitting 45-50 mph, and that is without storm activity.  Today was supposed to be better, before we get back to gale force again tomorrow.  The winds were forecast to be low until mid-afternoon, and would be out of the east all day, veering from NE to E to SE.  If I stayed on the eastern shore of the lake, I’d be in the lee of the land.

First things first, however.  This morning was the start of the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge.  They pushed off from Fort DeSoto State Park, on the north shore of Tampa Bay, at 8 a.m., Eastern, for the 300 mile paddle to Key Largo.  I watched them all get started, and will now follow Class 1, which allows the use of a one-square-meter sail with no outriggers or dagger boards, and includes a couple friends who are participating.

I launched from the Longdale ramp.  This campground has been unusable for about eight years due to the severe draught.  Since there has been no maintenance going on, I found a bumper crop of sandburs.  I ended up with them everywhere, including inside my dry suit, so I felt like I was sitting on a mound of fire ants all day.   The draught had withdrawn water from the east shore a considerable distance, which allowed the growth of brush and trees in the fertile dry lake bottom.  With water levels back up, I could now paddle through a labyrinth of foliage, which was providing good habitat for ducks.  I was able to evade a good bit of the wind and experience a whole new and interesting environment.  I paddled to the south end of the lake and pulled out.  The cabled string of big orange floats that mark the swim area had been sitting in a dry field of weeds for much too long, and it was nice to see them floating again.  I sat on one above the shoreline, and enjoyed lunch as I watched water lapping against Ibi nearby.  

With lunch over, I got back on the water, turned Ibi to face downwind and into more open water, and popped the WindPaddle Cruiser sail.  We took off.  I reached 5.6 mph, which is the fastest I’ve ever gotten the canoe going.  The wind wasn’t steady, however, and gusts kept backing more forward.  It both drove me further offshore, and as I was already sailing on the edge of trying to hold a beam reach, backed the sail and blew it over my head.  The Cruiser is 1.6 sq. meter.  In a canoe, that’s big, and when it backwinds and flops over my head, I find myself sitting inside a big yellow tent as the wind, now gusting to near 20 mph, is trying to blow me sideways toward open water.  A couple times it got a bit exciting.  It would have been really nice if I could have kept the wind behind me, but it was backing more.  I finally had to furl the sail and just enjoy the paddle.  By gosh, spring is coming.  I can feel it.

When I got home, I checked in again with the WaterTribe.  In eight hours, Class 1 had traveled 40-45 miles down the Florida coast.  That blows my mind.  Canoe or kayak either one, that’s moving.  If you want to watch the track, which is updated several times an hour, check the site at:  Be quick, or this thing will be over.  To qualify with a finish time, they have to have completed the 300 miles in eight days. 

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