Headed to FL a few days early to paddle and sail. The reason for the trip however was to see firsthand the check in and start of the Everglades Challenge. My friend Rusty and I hope to enter next year’s challenge and wanted to learn what we could from those that have done and are doing so this year. We spent two days paddling Juniper and Silver Springs with Ken a former member here. He kindly let us stay at his cabin in Ocala National Forest. I will post that portion of our trip separately.
On Thursday we pulled into beautiful Ft. Desoto County Park where we had a camping permit for Shell Key which can only be reached by boat. Rusty pulled his sailboat down and we slept on it but had the permit in case we wanted to sleep on the island. We drove around and familiarized ourselves with the park then did some sailing and headed out into the Gulf of Mexico before anchoring behind Shell Key.
Friday we were up at daylight ate breakfast on the boat and headed back to the ramp to meet participants at the check in. What a wide array of boats take part in the Challenge. I had to stand back to keep from drooling on them. We had the pleasure of meeting Brodie at the check in and I have a photo of her with her Mirage Kayak on top the car.
The winds picked up to a high of 28mph sustained with gusts into the mid-forties as some contestants unloaded their boats on the beach. Because the forecast winds though projected to be somewhat less extreme for the start on Saturday would also be high and gusty. Folks were given a plan B option of launching somewhere else as long as it was above the first check point. This would keep them safer than crossing Tampa Bay and the shipping channel. There were only 5 kayakers that opted to launch from East Beach at the Park. Even some of the sailboats took option B.
We sailed back to our anchorage at Shell Key later in the day and as the winds had settled some, we sailed out Bunches pass to the Gulf one more time before dropping the hook for the night.
Saturday found us at East Beach waiting for the 10 AM start. I went directly to the group of 5 kayakers that did the beach launch. I met the kayakers and their support teams that would meet them at the finish in Key Largo. After the kayaks were off the beach, I walked over to watch the sailors launch.
Sailing over to Shell Key.
Foiling sailboards are fast.
Rusty seems pleased to be sailing.
The depth finder/chart plotter was handy as there are extensive shallows outside the channels.
View of Shell Key from the Gulf.
There are breakers on the shoals on each side of Bunches Pass.
Our anchorage at Shell Key.
We beached for supper on the beach then anchor out.
Friday’s check in.
Chef in charge.
Brodie and her kayak.
A few of the boats.
This is a prototype strip built sailing canoe that CLC is considering offering in the future.
This canoe isn’t in the race.
The wind was hollowing as the sailors unloaded and readied their boats on the beach.
Saturday at the start.
The 5 Kayakers on the beach.
And they are off!
A Proa that has rudders at both ends for tacking unlike any other sailing craft.