Chuck's EC Blog
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By Chuck Leinweber - somewhere between Tampa and Key Largo, Florida

I will attempt to call Sandra each day and she will post my comments (more or less) here. The latest post will be at the top of the page.

Saturday AM

Home sweet home! Chuck here. After a long day of rental cars and airports, have come home to my sweetie! She is such a trooper!

I want to thank Gary and Helen for letting me tag along on this great adventure. I had a fantastastic time. I also want to thank all you guys who followed our trip and posted the encouraging words or just thought helpful thoughts. I need to decompress for a day or two yet, but I will post a pictorial article in Duckworks plus a couple of articles by participants. I have also been asked by Josh Colvin, one of the editors of Small Craft Advisor to write some more comprehensive for them. It will take a few months to get all this done, so please be patient. Meanwhile, it's spring in the northern hemisphere so get out on the water, folks. You guys down under, think about writing about this past season and sending some articles to Duckworks about that.

Thursday PM

I talked with Chuck this morning. He wanted me to tell everyone thank you for all the encouraging thoughts and words. He said to report that the reception at Key Largo was a big deal, with all the competitors who had already arrived greeting new arrivals on the beach with cheers. He and Gary were both still rather boggled today, but they thought that with some real food and long NAPS, they would soon be back to normal.

Thursday, March 9

Key Largo at last. Actually, Chuck and Gary finished last night about 7EST. We had strong storms rumbling through Texas, and I had to shut all the computers down, so I am late getting this up.

Chuck said it was the longest day--he said that if one of them had fallen out of the boat, the one who fell out would have just stood there in the water until the other picked them up--it was that shallow most of the way. When they had to get out and push and pull, they went up to their knees in muck. I know that feeling--it is that way in places on the Texas coast. Plus the wind was coming from exactly the wrong direction.

When he called, they had eaten and were heading for their bunks. He is probably still asleep as I have not heard from him this morning. He was talking rental car and airport, but there are strong storms between Texas and Florida, not good flying weather, so he was planning to help Gary get things sorted and cleaned up and come home tomorrow. The next you hear will be from Chuck the Duck in person!

Wednesday, March 8

3:30 EST: They have a cell phone signal, and they can see Key Largo, but Chuck figured they are still about 4 hours away. The wind is smack on their nose, and they are just beating and tacking and hoping to be there by dark.

They left Flamingo this morning, went a little south and then turned east. He said the wind was in the north to begin with, but soon turned and came from the east. They spent the morning dodging in and out of small islands, getting out and pushing through shallows, trying to row. Frustrating, but still a beautiful warm day, so life in the islands, la la. They were probably wishing for mai tais (sp?).

He said he will call tonight and tell me more if the girls in bikinis leave them alone.

Tuesday PM, March 7 (10PM EST)

Chuck just called from Flamingo, the third and last checkpoint. He borrowed a cell phone--ours had no service, so we only spoke for a moment. He said they had a great day and were going to stay there tonight and head for Key Largo in the morning. It is about 35-40 miles as the crow flies, but that means nothing if the wind is not right. I will be crossing my fingers that the wind is perfect. At any rate, I can rest easy having heard, and hopefully they will sleep well too!

Tuesday AM, March 7

Chuck called at 7AM EST. The wind shifted during the night--now out of the north, and they were waiting for just a bit more light to take what will hopefully be a nice reach westward, back out into the Gulf, where they will then turn south and head for Flamingo.

I asked last night if they were going to go look for a place to eat, and he said he did not think there was anything there, but it turned out there was quite a bit of town--Chokoloskee is fairly well developed apparently--a tourist destination, and they had a restaurant meal and then slept on the boat--Chuck said he slept better than any night so far.

With those shark tooth necklaces (what you get if you finish) firmly in view, they are off once more. Next stop, Flamingo. They said they would call if and when they had the next cell signal.


Monday PM, March 6

Chokoloskee!! The fellows arrived at Checkpoint 2 about 2:30 EST. When I talked with them this morning, the wind was very light, and apparently, it stayed that way until 10:30AM or so. Then the seabreeze from the west got going, and they were able to fly (more or less) on into Chokoloskee. Chuck said they were passed by competitors in kayaks while becalmed, but that they all arrived at the checkpoint about the same time.

Chief rented a motel room, and they were able to take showers. The kayakers were crashed on the beds. I should have asked more about the spot--I know it is an island and a tourist destination--Chuck said they saw lots of Everglades tour boats and fishing boats on the way in. They were discussing the idea of staying there tonight. With the west wind blowing in, they would have a long beat back outside the islands, and did not think they could make it before dark. A new front is due in tonight from the north, and winds outside the islands tonight and tomorrow are predicted at 10-20, so they want to be well rested once they get out there. They may go looking for a restaurant and some real food. If he calls back later, I will get more details about Chokoloskee.

Monday AM, March 6

Gary and Chuck passed the halfway point sometime during the night. The wind died before they reached Cape Romano, and they ghosted along, rowing and sailing-- when Chuck called at 7AM (8AM there), they were just rounding the tip of Cape Romano and turning east towards Chokoloskee, the next checkpoint. He said they could see what looked like a series of domes on the beach at the cape, so I looked it up and it is a ruined dome house, right at the water's edge. They are slowly making their way to Indian Key Pass, and hoping the north wind will pick up soon and take them to the checkpoint and with luck, a shower. The plan is to make it a quick stop, especially if the wind begins to blow, as they still have a ways south to run before they reach Cape Sable, near the tip of Florida.

No alligators so far, no bikini clad women, just a few other boats about. Their world is birds and water and the wind and the GPS, and they sound as happy as clams. The cell phone is down to 2 bars, so that may be gone soon too. Should hear from them from Chokoloskee, so more later.

Late Sunday, March 5, 10PM, EST

The boys are still sailing, soon to be past the Naples condoplex. They say the conditions are too perfect to stop. Then the cell phone battery quit, so that is all I know. More in the morning.

Sunday afternoon, March 5

When Chuck called earlier this afternoon, they were almost becalmed in Pine Island Sound, ghosting along at 1-2MPH. This latest update, at 5PM (6 there), he said they finally started rowing. Everytime they would row a ways, the wind would start to pick up, so they would stop rowing and the wind would die. After several rounds of this, the wind became more steady and they finally reached the lower end of the Sound and passed out into the Gulf.

Almost instantly, they were traveling 4MPH. Chuck said the Gulf is beautiful, and with the wind from the North, like sailing on a calm lake. They have decided to continue past dark, taking turns napping, staying about 2 miles offshore, hopefully until they reach Cape Romano. There are shallow shoals there, and they will have to take care, maybe pull up the leeboard. Cross your fingers for them. Looks like it is still about 60 something miles to Chokoloskee, Checkpoint 2. Chief reportedly has a motel room there where they can take a shower and use the pay phone if there is no cell signal. Once they go past Naples, civilization will become a bit scarcer. Not a bad place to be.

Sunday AM, March 5

Chuck called last night about 10 (11 there) to say they had reached the first checkpoint at Placida. They had planned to continue non stop, taking turns sleeping and navigating, but said that night navigation took both of them being awake, so they decided to stop and get some sleep. They anchored next to 2 Sea Pearls, ate some green beans and pork rinds with aerosol cheese (gak!) (hopefully gary had something more appetizing), laid down, and the next thing they knew it was morning.

He was late calling in this morning, and I had them eaten by alligators or at the very least having dropped their one phone in the water, but he checked in at 9AM (10 there), saying they were now in Pine Island Sound with sunshine, smooth protected water, and a good north breeze. Onshore, the condos are mostly gone, replaced by houses and mangrove bushes. They are 83.6 miles from the start, top speed this morning 6.2MPH, average for the trip, 4.9MPH. They sound great--rested and enthusiastic. Chuck said they would not be able to make the next checkpoint before dark, and were planning to stop and sleep again tonight. If you have been reading the reports on Watertribe, Gary's wife Helen is posting Gary's reports as well. You can also read reports from the other racers. All interesting stuff! More this evening.

Bill Paxton was at the start, and he has posted some great photos of the preliminaries and the start in the photo section of the Duckworks Yahoo forum.


Saturday PM, March 4

Chuck the Duck called at 5PM Florida time--they have traveled 50 miles since 7AM, and he said they will soon be making the turn towards land and the passage to the first checkpoint at Placida, which they still hope to reach by midnight. I think he said it was 20 miles after they turn in towards land. They may lose part of the wind, though, and that could slow them down. They have sailed all day, max speed 11.3 miles per hour when surfing down waves, with an average speed of 5.5MPH.

He said it was chilly this morning, and he started out in his fleece jacket and fleece pants, but soon shed them as the sun warmed everything. The weather report for tonight says mid-50's, and he was thinking he would shortly be back in the fleece.

They think they are in fourth place in their division, but are not sure.

I asked what he had seen--dolphins? birds? sharks?, and he said "condos, lots and lots of condos". When he called they were about 1/2 mile offshore and can see the people on the beaches. Girls in bikinis no doubt. They have also seen every sort of boat in world--yachts to sailboards.

They were hoping the clear weather would hold and that there would be a moon tonight, and crossing their fingers that no fog appears, as that is what slowed Gary and Helen last year. More in the morning.


Saturday AM, March 4

I woke up at 5 this morning, thinking about Chuck and Gary, imagining them getting the last of their gear stowed and then picturing them working the boat down to the water.

Chuck called at 8:20am their time, 7:20am here. They are a little over an hour out and already out into the Gulf. Gary said that last year, it took him and Helen half a day to get that far. The wind is from the north, and perfect. Max speed so far, 8.3 miles per hour.

The start was smooth, and FOX news was there filming, so there may be coverage later today or tonight. Bill Paxton and his wife, and Tom Drake were there to cheer them off. Tom had hoped to have his boat ready for the race, but did not--hopefully next year. Over 40 boats began the race, with 6 or 8 in the class with Gary and Chuck. They thought two were ahead of them. They hope to be at the first checkpoint by midnight, and Chuck said he would call tonight with another update. I forgot to ask about the Swedish bikini team, but if they were there, I am willing to bet you will see them on FOX.

Friday PM, March 3

The boat is in place, the Captain and Crew are rested and will soon be fed. Chuck says Fort De Soto is a nice park. He has met and visited with Steve Isaacs, aka "Chief", organizer and head honcho of this sixth annual Everglades Challenge. Also there to see the fellows off are Bill Paxton and Bill Turnbull. Matt Laden, a fellow competitor will be competing in the Ultimate Challenge which continues on around the coast of Florida and then back across by land and lake to the starting point. Chuck showed me a video of a fellow doing the land part on rollerblades while he towed his kayak.

Tomorrow morning, 7AM eastern time, they roll (not sure about the method) the boat down to the water, climb in and take off. The wind is coming out of the north--not too strong, but a good direction. We discussed the girls in bikinis, and Chuck said they were hoping for the Swedish bikini team to be there cheering them on. I hadn't quite pictured it that way, but what the hey, why not? He is going to call and tell me about the start, so check back tomorrow.

Thursday PM, March 2

Chuck the Duck has arrived in Florida. Bruce Hector met him at the airport in Tampa--Chuck is staying with Bruce tonight and meeting Gary Blankenship (captain of Oaracle, their "ride" for the race) in the morning at Fort De Soto. They have an equipment check tomorrow and a captain's meeting. I just checked the weather, and it looks good for Saturday--sunshine, a north breeze (5 to 10), not too hot, not too cold, what more could they ask for? I know, girls in bikinis, but maybe there will be some.

Wednesday, March 1

All packed up and leaving in the morning

Tuesday, Feb 28

Testing: 1, 2, 3, 4