Any water tribe vets?

-- Last Updated: Oct-18-14 8:03 PM EST --

I am looking to do the water tribe black beard challenge in 2015. I am looking to get any tips/tactics from anyone that has done ANY of these events or anything similar in a solo kayak. I am also look for any similar/ shorter events to do/ help prep. Thanks in advance!


– Last Updated: Oct-18-14 9:48 PM EST –

There are WaterTribe vets here. I'm not one of them, just an admirer of the Tribe.

Your best bet is to visit the WT forum . There is a ton of great information there.

You also should read the rules and list of required equipment. WT events are no walk in the park.

Water Tribe advice
I have completed the 300 mile Everglades Challenge twice (and go by KayakVagabond as my “tribe name”).

Definitely check out the WT forum, especially the “lessons learned” posts that are popular after each event.

Warren Ritchie provided the essence of a WT event as to get as little sleep as necessary and to just “keep the boat moving”. This is not a leisure cruise. Some of the front-runners cover the distance in 3-3.5 days, paddling up to 20 hours day. Others take a more conservative approach and get much more sleep. Sleep deprivation is a common topic of discussion.

The WT events are a cross between an expedition and a race. You can pick your own route, but there is always a lot of open water to deal with. Among other things you should be very adept with spending long hours in your kayak, paddling and navigating in all conditions (including at night), have solid bracing and recovery skills, have an efficient forward stroke and more.

There’s no chase boat out there, I have gone for over a day without seeing any other boats from the event. You have to be self-reliant. That said, some kayakers travel in informal packs.

You need to set a specific goal. There’s a big difference (in the suffering quotient) between wanting to finish a WT event and wanting to win a WT event.

The remarkable thing about these events (and an expedition) is that it puts you in situations that you don’t normally experience. For example one of my favorite memories is of paddling along the SW coast of the Everglades at night, trying to reach Shark River before the tide turns, with the milky way glowing, the southern cross visible near the horizon and Venus so bright you mistake it for an airplane or a sailboat. You paddle on and watch the moon rise over the water, struggle to stay awake, and then later watch in awe as the sun rises over the water. An hour earlier you worried you would fall asleep while paddling, but with sunrise you feel fully energized and push on to the next checkpoint…

Greg Stamer

Unless you are a high end paddler
and it is a three hundred miler, don’t do it with out a sail. You won’t keep up with the gang.

Also it costs a bunch when you factor in the cost of the Spot and PLB

Jack L

Two now
I defer to Greg’s knowledge of the longer distance events as I’ve onlu experience in the "shorter UltraMarathon distances of 64-100 miles.

Full details of my paddling of these at

Lots of recounting of the BBC currently on the WT forum.

My advice, if you’re up for it, go for it!

See you on the water,

Marshall (SeaDawg- WT handle)

The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

In case you haven’t already read it, here’s a link to a thread on the WT, started by Wingkeel, a new member of the Tribe who was just getting started when he posted. There’s some very good advice in that thread covering more than just self-rescues.

As far as the Spot and PLB requirements, you can rent a Spot for $49 and a PLB for $39.

A shorter event would be the NCC Challenge (100 miles) that Marshall mentioned.

Best wishes on your quest!

Is there a sail rig that many/most seem
to favor or just a mix of personal choices? R

Rent a PLB ???
Please explain:

As an owner of a PLB, it is registered in my name with NOAA and they have my name, and my pertinent info including who to notify if it is energized.

Each PLB has it’s own identifying number which goes along with the info to NOAA.

I don’t think NOAA would be too happy to find out that some rental agency has a bunch of them and renting them out.

Or do they have some arrangement with NOAA ?

Jack L

P&H Sail Systems made by Flat Earth Kayak Sails is what I’m familiar with. A lot of other Tribers use the FEKS original configurations. Falcon Sails and Balogh are two others that seem popular.

Here’s some info on my earlier set up with the P&H System.

The mounting plate has evolved to incorporate two more of the rdfs so it’s now very, very solid on deck.

A “shorter” WT race event would be the Okoumefest UltraMarathon. I’m hoping to do that one again.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

No idea about arrangments
But here’s a couple of links found with a Google search:

Rentals have been used in WT challenges:

Carolina Kayak Club
There are a few WaterTribers in Carolina Kayak Club. Look up Dawn Stewart / sandybottom. I think she has done the Everglades Challenge every year since 2004. An inspirational woman just doing her thing. She would likely know if anyone in your area has participated in any of their events. I’m pretty sure she organized the NC events.

a few ideas for your FEKS set up
Marshall, I looked at your set up of the P&H/FEKS sail.

I have a question and some ideas for you about cam-cleats that can be attached to the deck without drilling holes (I gather that you are not keen of holes).

Here is one:

I also see that you mounted the mast base on a piece of aluminum bolted to the deck.

Could you use this system instead?

I have a few more ideas if you don’t like the suggested ones.

Contact me if you want.


Gnarly - Sail rig
Hi Gnarlydog,

Sorry for the delayed response.

I definitely like the carbon fiber capped mount for the FEKS foot. I’ll send you a picture of my more Mad Max inspired aluminum mount. As to avoiding holes, yes. Eventually I’ll find a home for my CK P&H Cetus MV so I didn’t want to make too many non-OEM changes to it.

The Cleat plate is definitely an idea. With the Cetus MV and the deck hatch it presents some challenges. I think I’ll KISS the solution and bolt on a slat of Kydek or some other super tough abs relative to the two rearmost rdfs of the foredeck rigging/perimeter lines. Those should allow me to mount those low profile cleats.

Thanks for all the ideas. I’ll get them in play before the next Okoumefest UltraMarathon and I’ll post the experiment on my blog.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Water Tribe events, EC, kayak sails.

– Last Updated: Oct-21-14 4:48 PM EST –

My name is Patrick Forrester owner and designer of Falcon Sails.
I highly recommend any of the Water Tribe events, especially the Everglades Challenge.
I found this race 6 or 7 years ago, and thought it was amazing that anybody could or would do it.

After watching my customers compete and do so well in the 2013 Everglades Challenge I thought maybe I could do it. That is even though I have never participated in an endurance competition of any kind, never paddled more than 18 miles nonstop, or more than 25 miles in a day.

My first and only pre Everglades Challenge test was a 47 mile fully loaded boat solo day done with 1 stop. That was July / 9 months before my first EC. If you include the 2 mile walk with my boat on a cart, and the unpacking and carrying everything 100 yards over some rocks, its equivalent to 50 miles.
I finished that no problem, and followed it up with a few more 30 mile paddle sailing days with my normal thinking friends. After that I thought this 50 mile per day or so Everglades Challenge is within reach.

I am very busy with the family and running a business, so that is all the personal endurance testing, and serious training I could do. My main training was a zero laziness attitude 100% of the time. It was helpful getting ready for being on the move 16 hours a day, and helped make up for all the lost time doing the race. Since my local paddle area is frozen December, January, and February I did zero sea kayaking for all 3 months before the 2013 Everglades Challenge.

One thing I did learn before the EC is, I was not satisfied with my self-rescue skills. I have a decent roll. When you may be alone in the Everglades, you have to consider the fact anybody can miss a roll. Especially when its, dark, you are tired, delirious, cold, afraid, disoriented, you have a sail up, ect ect ect. So I took advantage of our local white water club pool sessions, and did hundreds of every kind of self-rescue you can think of. I did them in forward and reverse. With my eyes closed, no nose plugs, flooded boat, empty boat, ect ect. I did them with my white water buddies, doing everything they could to hinder me. I invited them to conspire against me without warning any time they like. The best self-rescue is a clean roll. If that does not work, I think the next best self-rescue is a re-enter and roll. If you can roll, a re-enter and roll is easy to do, if you take a little bit of time to practice and get use to the timing difference between a flooded and empty boat.

Anybody that makes it to the starting line of the EC, can write a book on just getting that far. I made it to the 2014 EC starting line, and was able to finish the EC. I did not finish with an amazing time, but since most first timers do not finish, I was very happy just to finish. If you do the EC for the first time you will have at least 1 major learning experience every day. I had big ones every day. A couple of them where significant. As you talk to other Water Tribers, you will find this is typical. Even the veterans have hard earned lessons on every EC.
In any case, I highly recommend you consider the EC, but realize, it is a major undertaking, that you cannot be over prepared for.

My particular specialty is kayak sailing. Without that, there is no way I could finish the EC.

From the beginning of designing the Falcon 1.0 square meter sail with carbon fiber rigging kit, it was focused on complying with the Water Tribe rules and also providing most reliable, effective, and easy to use rig. Falcon Sails Everglades Challenge results have exceeded my best expectations.
I wrote about it here.

If you are interested in kayak sailing, I just posted a video I took of some friends and I going out for a day that starts slow, and builds into a very exciting big wind sail. It shows a good variety of kayak sailing.
See the video here.

One last thing.
When somebody mentions Falcon Sails next to the others, I like to point out the differences.
There is a difference. To learn more about this see.

If you have interest of any kind in kayak sailing, give me a call.
My contact info is on our website.
Kayak Sails

Patrick Forrester
Falcon Sails llc

winning kayak sail

No hole sail rig jobs & riging locatoins
Here are a couple of points when it comes to mounting sail rigs.

#1 – No hole rigging jobs are always going to be much less solid and more cumbersome on the water than rigs that include a few holes in a boat. Just like a no hole deck lines, or rudder system, or seat may be. They are heavier, and take longer to rig at the launch site vs what can be done if there are just a few holes in the boat. They are likely to fail or move out of alignment with wind or capsizes. They may fail when the sailing is fun or scary, and go from fun to high maintenance, or scary to truly dangerous.

It is important that all rigging points always stay predictably in the same place. Temporary rigs may be handy for deciding locations. In my mind that is all they are good for. But even better, than experimenting is using proven math to decide rigging locations. Sail rig instructions should include clear guidelines on rigging locations to make things easy. Rigging locations are best driven by ergonomics, convenience, and balancing of forces.

Drilling holes in a boat is not my favorite thing to do, but it is not such a bad deal. If you want to kayak sail, it is really the only good solution. Especially when put into the perspective of doing Water Tribe adventure races which are very demanding on rigs, and does things to boats that makes them age very quickly anyway.

#2 - Mast base rigging locations are best driven by math. Holes and recesses for deck lines and compasses should not drive the math.

A well designed mast base assembly can be solid as a rock without using any carbon fiber or epoxy of any kind.

See the paragraph titled Mast Base Connection here

Heck, paddling 18 miles nonstop is impressive to me. Your EC 2014 story is something else. Well done!

Funny where our interests take us. Heard about the WaterTribe on a sailing forum a couple of years ago. Looked interesting so I started to follow the challenges and the forum. A very admirable group. I never would have considered kayaking, were it not for the WT.

Like the idea of a sail. And even amas. But that’s something for the future. Your rigs look very nice.

Yes, join the Tribe!
Where to start…

Most of it has been covered above. Definitely get on the tribe forum and get to know the other racers. They are the best bunch of folks you ever could meet.

I own a SPOT and rented a PLB and a VHF. I would recommend buying your own VHF and learning how to use it. The Challenges are gear and capital-intensive, for sure, but worth every penny spent.

Patrick sure had a lot to say about my experience with his Falcon sail rig. By all means, consider a sail. If you do not use a sail, you could enter Class 2 and not be racing the folks with sails. For me, using the sail on a long race is a no-brainer. Before just now reading Patrick’s account, I didn’t even realize I have the “record” time for Class 1 Kruger finish. I’m not a fast paddler and I was certainly not able to fully take advantage of a sail because of my inexperience.

Above all, you need to be able to stay in the boat for extended periods. For example, I left Chokoloskee around 2 pm, and didn’t get out of the boat until 9 am the next morning. Then I paddled to the final checkpoint at Flamingo, arriving around 10 pm. That was a 39 hour paddle more or less, with no sleep. I went without sleep only that one night. I stopped on a chickee in the Everglades, which has precious few places to do so. Well, maybe I’m giving advice on how to stay towards the front of the pack…but I’m really just trying to emphasize the point made above: you may be paddling across a lot of open water and be prepared to spend long periods in the boat for that reason alone.

Watertribe events are awesome. It will be a life-changing experience. It was for me.


Question for WaterTribers
When you write of 47-mile trips with one stop, or paddling for 39 hours nonstop, is that constant paddling? Do you ever just glide for a bit to rest, eat, or drink?


– Last Updated: Oct-26-14 12:37 PM EST –

So far, the longest I have gone without sleep is 108 miles (with a 45 minute stop at Checkpoint 2). That said, you still need to eat, relieve yourself, stretch, etc. I usually take about five minutes of break every 90 minutes or so, to eat, attend to necessities, etc.

Sleep management is a big part of strategy. Sleep too much and you are left behind; sleep too little and you "run out of gas". The current paddling record is by Artie Olson who covered the 300 miles (actually about 268 if you pick a good course) in 2 days 22 hours, with about 4 hours of sleep.

Keep in mind that a pace of 4.5 - 5mph would put you up with the front-runners. The challenge is to maintain a decent speed over hours and days, including into the night, and just before sunrise. Much easier said than done.

Being a minimalist, so far I have preferred to compete without a sail, so having a sail is by no means "required" for a strong finish. Class two, which is for kayaks without sails often finishes before class one (kayaks and canoes with 1 meter sails), but it often depends on how the winds are for any given year. That said, having a sail could be a great energy saver and I might try one in the future.

Greg Stamer