Monday, April 3, 2017

Team Kayak Lake Mead - Everglades Challenge 2017

Sunrise on Florida Bay for IronBob and TheJuice
Sunrise on Florida Bay for IronBob and TheJuice

This is the 2017 Everglades Challenge story of IronBob and TheJuice, sometimes we're known as the Sea Breeze Ninjas. This was a very strange year.

There was a small craft advisory in effect due to strong winds...

Saturday morning Druce (The Juice) and I (IronBob) and Sunshine (our kayak) were ready to race in all respects. But at 0615 the morning of the race it was announced the challenge would not launch from Ft De Soto until the advisory was lifted, yet the advisory was not likely to be lifted any time soon.

We were advised to clear the beach, find a launch point across Tampa Bay and begin the challenge the next day on Sunday 0700 5 March.

I thought I heard, but apparently I was mistaken (I'm doing a lot of that lately), that we were to find a place to launch somewhere south of Tampa Bay but no further south than CP1 at Cape Haze and depending upon where we started, our race times would be adjusted.

Our truck was in long term parking and we did not have a driver. So, we wandered around the beach for a while trying to figure out a new course of action.

Team Yoga Slackers, aka Piglet (Jason) and Angry Fat Kid (Daniel) were very interested in racing us as we were them. So, any plan we came up with definitely had to include all of us.

Kayakman7 (Jesse) and MizzonSpoon (Kristen) were the checkpoint captains for CP3 at Flamingo. They volunteered to help us get across the bay with the Yoga Slackers and drive our truck as far as Flamingo. Yeah! Thankyou kayakman7 and MizzonSpoon!!

So, at around 1100 hours on the Hwy 64 causeway of  Palma Sola Bay, we found ourselves alongside the Yoga Slackers re-preparing our boats for launch. From here we would make our way to a start beach somewhere, though we knew not where, and then starting the next day at 0700, race south 260 miles to the finish at Key Largo.

Both our teams would be starting behind of most of the field, up to 50 miles in some cases, as many Tribers had elected to start at CP1.

Druce and I would be racing harder and performing better than we ever had before. We would paddle against 260 miles of headwinds.

The blow by blow details are in the interactive map below...

MAP NOTES! This map presentation is 15 minutes long. Grab some coffee, or a beer, relax and watch it to its conclusion. Hit the pause button to more thoroughly read the text popups if need be. However, dragging the time line or using the controls to zoom or pan, slow down or speed up often discombobulates the intended map views and the timing of the text popups. So, if you have the time, just let it play. OPTIONAL, open and view in another tab, MAP.

NOTE: Concluding remarks are below the map.

WARNING! Watch and read to completion the interactive map above before reading the following (just kidding):

Were we tactically flawed for starting where we did, up to fifty miles behind much of the field? I don't think so. For one thing, we were following directions to find a start beach somewhere south of Tampa Bay but no further south than CP1 Cape Haze. For another, Druce and I drove all the way from Arizona for this challenge, and for this challenge we wanted every mile we could get, especially this year. Afterall, headwind miles have more value. You've heard the saying, the harder right instead of the easier wrong. For the Sea Breeze Ninja, it is the harder right instead of the easier right. If there is a hill in the way, take it. Those are my tactics.

Every year is a hard year. This year was very hard. The memory is already special. This year the ceremonial paddle and the shark tooth, or as the case may be, the alligator tooth, if one took the deeper, darker route of the Wilderness Waterway, I think will represent particularly special memories for everyone who had sailed, paddled, or rowed the entire distance to Key Largo. Those who gave it their all, but did not make Key Largo, deserve a salute and a handshake.

Official Results Link: Select Everglades Challenge 2017 from the drop down menu, 

Ron White (SwampMonkee), a Class 4 guy who sails with Mike McGarry (ChainSaw) has said, "I’m often asked what you get for winning or finishing the EC, and unlike most races, everyone gets exactly the same award… a two foot long wooden paddle with your class name carved into it and a shark tooth necklace. I’ve won loads of races over the years, and there’s only one trophy on permanent display in my house - the Everglades Challenge paddle".

There are eight such paddles each with their corresponding shark tooth on my wall in the White Hills of Arizona.

See you on the beach,



  1. I have watched this video 5 times. It is so well done and must have taken a ton of time to put together. It is much better than being there. It is a shame that they did not put in at the cortez bridge or even at cocanna beach.

    1. Hey Dudley, super thanks for checking it out. I am very happy you enjoyed it. My wife, Rebecca, just helped my with a bunch of spelling errors, mostly on those little popups. It did end up taking more time than I thought it would when I started, I wrestled with it some. I was a learning process. But I'm happy I took the time to do it. Yes, alternate starts are a conversation now, but Chief says he'll have a Plan A and even a Plan B should something like this happen again.

  2. I watched, read, and at the end, had tears in my eyes. Well done - as always.

    1. Man, oh man... thank you for reading and understanding.

  3. Thanks for taking the time to recap the travels of the Sea Breeze Ninjas 2017. Always interesting to read your follow-ups'. As I watched the start of the race this year (watch as in the tracking map), I wondered "why is IronBob and the Juice starting from 50 miles further away than most of the others". Once I got word that participants could start anywhere south of Tampa Bay and as far south as CP1, it made total sense that you guys would want to please the Master and choose "the harder right". Congratulations on your efforts that in the end resulted in a 2' paddle, but most importantly, gave an indescribable experience only known to you and Druce.

    1. Hey Bob, thanks for reading and commenting. I find writing it up gets it off my chest, so to speak, and sort of solidifies the memory. It only made sense to us to start as reasonably close to the original start as possible. Going further south never entered into our thinking or conversations. Plus, it was fun! Jason asked if I thought we'd pass those starting at CP1. I said, "we'll pass them all". We didn't, but we had fun trying.