KayakVagabond

the website of Greg Stamer

Everglades Challenge 2013

Posted by Greg on February 27, 2013

Bear Keeps a Nervous Eye -- He knows a trip is coming

“If you are not an expert paddler and/or sailor, do not enter this race. Even if you are a well-prepared expert you may DIE – yes, you may DIE. … ENTER AND PARTICIPATE AT YOUR OWN RISK – And have Fun!” — Watertribe disclaimer

Press Release:
OVER 100 BOATS TO COMPETE IN WATERTRIBE EVERGLADES CHALLENGE AND ULTRA MARATHON
A 300-mile adventure race for small boats paddling and sailing from Tampa Bay to Key Largo in 8 days or less.

On Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 7a.m. over 100 small boats with over 125 experienced and intrepid mariners from around the country will launch from Fort De Soto County Park on Mullet Key just south of St. Petersburg, Florida to compete in one of two adventure races: The Everglades Challenge (EC2013) and the Ultra Marathon (UM2013).

The EC2013 is a 300-mile trek along Florida’s Gulf Coast ending in Key Largo and must be completed in eight days or less. The Ultra Marathon is about 62 miles and finishing at Cape Haze Marina in Englewood. These races are open to boats propelled by human and/or wind power only. No tows, no rides. Modern GPS tracking units allow race officials and anyone with internet access to follow each race participant in real time as they make their way along their chosen route.
“I designed the Everglades Challenge to be the toughest week long adventure/endurance race for small boats anywhere in the world,” said Steve Isaac, founder and “Chief” of the WaterTribe, which sponsors the Everglades Challenge.

The basic race rules are simple: First one to the finish wins. Additional rules are designed for safety as well as define who should consider entering these races. For example, all competitors must be able to drag their boats, without assistance, off the launch beach and into the Gulf of Mexico near the entrance to Tampa Bay at the start of the race. This rule is designed to filter out large boats without a lot of rules defining the size of a small boat.

It’s an expedition! ….. No, it’s a race! Actually it’s an interesting blend of both.

Long on my bucket list has been to participate in the Watertribe Everglades Challenge (EC). This long, 300 mile race, where sleep-deprivation is the norm, is infamous, and is both revered and feared among endurance racers.

While literally in my back yard, this year will be the first time that I will participate in an EC.

My normal mileage for an expedition is about 40 miles per day. The record-pace for the EC is more than twice that, up to 100 miles per day – truly insane.  The course is not without its dangers. On the  Watertribe forum, competitors have discussed fears of sharks, snakes, alligators, crocodiles, poisonous trees (that the Calusa applied to  arrows to kill Ponce-DeLeon), razor-sharp oyster beds, water-stealing raccoons (that will eagerly gnaw through plastic bottles), sleep deprivation induced hallucinations and madness (with one competitor going in circles for hours before requiring rescue), and even Burmese pythons, that have escaped into the Everglades to wreak havoc.

In other words, it sounds like a good adventure!

My strategy is simple. Pack ultralight, plan a good route, keep the boat moving, and stop as little as possible. The execution will not be so simple. My goal, if conditions, luck, and my body allow, is to paddle 20 hours daily and sleep four.

My kayak is under 40 pounds, and my camping gear load (tent, pad, sleeping bag, stove, fuel, food, dry-clothes, tools, repair kit, hypothermia kit, cuben-fiber dry bags) is currently around 30 pounds (this doesn’t include water and kayak gear such as paddles, etc). If there is interest,  I’ll publish a full gear list with weights after the event.

Part of my preparations involved route planning to handle different weather contingencies. Unlike the expeditions I have been on, I spent hours on Google Earth, examining every suitable island adjacent to the route to land on, to have potential stopping points about every 10 miles apart. Click Here to view my prepared GPS routes.

I’ll be piloting the “Compass Rose”, an Epic 18x. The boat is named in memory of my Mother, Rose, who passed away a few short weeks ago.

I encourage you to follow my progress, and that of other racers, on the Watertribe Tracking Map.  With this map you can view the position of the racers in real-time. My EC name for the event is “KayakVagabond”. The race begins Saturday March 2 at 7AM EST.

The current forecast is for a strong breeze, with the possibility of a tailwind. Whatever the weather, it promises to be a wild, if not exhausting, ride.

  1. Gil Hidalgo Said,

    It’s been a couple of days hoping to read or hear any news. I believe no news is good news meaning you are paddling 20 hours a day, sleeping 4 and no time to post updates.

  2. Jack Said,

    Has the cold weather affected your progress?

  3. Greg Said,

    Gil and Jack, thanks for the comments, I returned home today. This race leaves no time that I would want to spend updating Facebook, even if I had a cell signal. To do your best either you are paddling or you are sleeping!

    The cold didn’t affect my progress, although there was a chilly rain falling while setting up the tent on the first night, and at 4AM when I got up to continue. It required a lot of will-power to crawl out of a warm sleeping bag and get back into wet paddling gear to push-on!

    The winds were strong and often challenging, but I prefer cooler temperatures to prevent overheating.

  4. Jim Palermo Said,

    Greg; I’m reading this on March 17th, well after the close of the event. I have two friends that finished this year. Anyway, I read here that your boat is named after your mother who recently passed, and I just want to offer my condolences….

    Jim

  5. Greg Said,

    Jim,

    Many thanks, I appreciate it! I was considering cancelling, but having something to focus my attention to proved to be a godsend.

    Greg

  6. george colethemoken1 Said,

    hey greg !!!! I also am a member of the tribe[internet only-no real water time in events].back when I lived in ORIENTAL NC .but back injuries kept me from joining in [damn it].I now live near DURHAM and bout 45 mins from “sandybottom”. do you ever use a biolite stove ??? I have come to luv mine .small as a jet boil and I can charge my cellphone or gps or camera . later George cole enjoy

  7. Greg Said,

    Hello George, thanks for the note and please say “Hello” to “SandyBottom” for me!

    I have read about the biolite, but as I was going ultra-light in the Everglades Challenge with no camera and only a spare (pre-charged) battery for my phone (to save weight), it would have been heavier than I prefer. For the EC the stove I used was a Caldera Cone, with an MSR Titan pot (7 oz for both) and a few Esbit fuel cubes (.5 oz) each. This was the lightest combination that I could find that would boil 2 cups of water (for freeze dried meals) in under 6 minutes. I have a Ti Jet Boil but use it for kayak camping trips.

    Around Newfoundland I had good luck with two small Solio solar chargers in a drybag. They kept my electronics topped up nicely. However the EC is a short race of only a few days, so a charger weighs more than just bringing some extra batteries, and the stove was never used for more than six minutes/day.

    It sounds like the biolite might come into its own on very long trips.

    One of my favorite stoves is still the Sierra Zip Stove — that burns small pieces of wood like twigs. I have done a number of very long trips with that stove and enjoy using it. It takes time and is a bit fussy, however, so would not be my choice for race.

  8. themoken1 Said,

    hello again greg !!!! well ya should always use what seems to work for ya lol have you ever used the “brunton flex solar wrap???they work great for me and weigh almost nothing .YES I will say “hello” to the dawn person lol seems she is busier now in retirement then when she was working—go figure ha ha ha !!!!

  9. natalia Said,

    unrelated but your dog is too cute, he looks just like a dog i had but ran away :/

  10. Greg Said,

    Natalia, that’s “Bear”, he’s been a great dog and companion. He’s more gentle than his name would imply. A few weeks ago we came up against a real black bear at night, a “Momma” with cubs. She huffed and did a bluff charge at us, and “my Bear” retreated behind me!

  11. Josh Gore Said,

    Hi,

    I am trying to write a story about the Everglades Challenge, but am struggling to track down the organizers. If you know anyone that could help me finish the story, please contact me at 305 853 7277 Ext. 16.

    Thanks,
    Josh

    Josh Gore
    Staff Writer
    Florida Keys Free Press
    305 853 7277 Ext. 16

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