The Everglades Challenge click here to read or make an observation about this  article
Photos by Chuck Leinweber-Texas
Bill Paxton-Minnesota
Helen Snell-Florida

Part2-The Race - Part1-The Start

This is a photo-essay which is meant to be a companion piece to the article I wrote for Small Craft Advisor magazine.


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Barely into the Gulf of Mexico, off Longboat Key, we passed the Triton. It was a sweet victory and a rare one. We would pass only two other boats during the race.

Later that afternoon, we passed a class III boat. We were running downwind in 15-20 mph of wind and it was lumpy. This guy looked even more uncomfortable than we were.

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Sunday we decided to stay in protected water but got becalmed in Pine Island Sound. I took a nap in the cabin while Gary steered.

Sunday afternoon saw a steady stream of powerboats as we barely had enough wind to maintain headway.

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Occasionally big yachts would pass us and all we could do was hang on as the wakes shook the shape out of our sails.

We made it through the pass at Sanibel Island and sailed back out into the Gulf just as the sun was going down. With Fort Myers Beach to Port, we headed toward Cape Romano and darkness.

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I took the first watch that night. I was glad to have my polar fleece on over my lifejacket - it kept me warm even though it was soon damp from the night air.

Gary slept until about midnight. He got up and after a snack, took the helm while I crawled into the cabin for some rest - polar fleece and all.

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About 4:00 AM I woke up and asked Gary how he was doing. He was on his fourth cup of cocoa so I decided to get up and take a turn at the helm. The wind had died to almost nothing so while Gary got some more sleep, I steered us around Cape Romano and into Monday


As we drifted around Cap Romano, we saw some kind of strange building. Knowing we would soon be out of cell phone service, I called Sandra to report our position and tell her about the strange structure.

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Sandra was able to Google our dome and found it was an abandoned home. As we took a final look back at the cape, we saw a kayak rounding the point and heading our way.

It turned out to be a couple of fellows in a tandem. They easily overtook us as we drifted along in the still dawn air.

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Around 10:00 that morning, the wind came back and we sailed in to Everglades City and Chokoloskee by way of Indian Key passing a few tour boats on the way.

We sailed up a well marked channel to Everglades City where we turned left (southeast) to run about three miles down to Chokoloskee - a resort/marina/fishing camp - our second checkpoint.

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It's interesting to look at the GPS track from this part of the trip. Tuesday morning, we Left Chokoloskee against a northwest wind and tacked back up to the channel. On our first tack, we hit an oyster bed but from there on it went well.

Once back in the channel we were able to sail free and passed a few kayaks around mid-morning who were just coming into the checkpoint.

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Once past Rabbit Key, we turned southeast and ran down past the ten thousand islands toward Cape Sable and Flamingo, the last checkpoint between us and the finish of the race.

It was a long, day - rough until we got around the three Capes but calm enough after dark that we had to row the last bit into Flamingo. There, we tied up and slept for the night.

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We got up at dawn and left Flamingo so did not get to see much, but the little town had been hit by hurricanes the year before and was in tough shape.

Once out of the Flamingo marina, we found the tide was out and the only water was in the channel. Even the floating marker was aground.

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We had not gone far before we came on a Sea Pearl that was stuck in the mud.

They were able to get off the mud by using oars and considerable determination and soon were sailing with us toward the finish line at Key Largo some 30 miles upwind.

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The Pearl took the lead in Twistymile pass. You can see the mud just beyond the channel marker with the Osprey on it.

Later in the day, the tide came in and you could only see the channels by the wooden markers. This is the entrance to Jimmie Channel.

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Once we got into the eastern part of Florida Bay, the water turned an erie pale color.

Now I have to brag about Gary's Frolic2 again. The short tacks on the left are not too great because we were looking for Manatee Pass. But from there on, the tacks look pretty for a plywood boat with a freestanding balanced lug rig.

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We got to the finish line right at dark and there were folks there to meet us just as they did this kayak a little later that night.


We made it! We finished the race. In this event, finishing is the big deal. Many folks, like this kayaker do it as a personal challenge. Chief tries to meet each finisher.

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Every few hours a boat came in and most of the previous finishers came down each time to congratulate the tired crewmen.

Even the Sea Pearl that we passed on Wednesday made it in.

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Here is out little boat pulled up to the beach at Key Largo - it served us very well indeed.

Back to Part1-The Start...

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