Tag Archives: Kayak Camping

Everglades Challenge, the Days Before: Preparation and Gear Check

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

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Our preparation for the WaterTribe Everglades Challenge actually started more than a year before the event itself—in January 2013, when we decided that this time for sure, we were going to participate in EC 2014.

But it kicked up considerably following our Everglades Shakedown trip in December 2013. After that trip, we put together a detailed timeline covering everything from gym training to logistics to food and gear purchases—and more or less stuck to it. As we’ll detail later in “Reflections: What Worked, What Didn’t,” I started a serious lifting and high intensity workout routine in January, and tapered down in the weeks approaching the EC. And we found that dropping alcohol and coffee in the weeks before the EC—along with getting plenty of sleep—made a difference in our stamina and responses to hypothermia.

Meanwhile, we made lists and checked them off… purchased equipment… made hotel and plane reservations… got our SPOTs and PLBs, registered, and tested them… And of course, did training paddles when we could, though the Polar Vortex kept us from doing more than two moderately long trips in NYC.

But Murphy’s Law has a way of stepping in, and due to some work challenges I was concerned that at the last minute, I might need to cancel, despite all the planning. It wasn’t until the Friday, a week before the event, that we were sure we could make it.

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Everglades Challenge: Gear We Love

By Johna Till Johnson

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Gear in action

You can’t make a trip like the Everglades Challenge without relying heavily on your gear. And the quality of that gear varies. Some poorly-designed products break reliably. We haven’t yet found a “waterproof” headlamp that actually lives up to its name, for instance. And we’ve been through almost half a dozen in the past year. (So we make sure to carry plenty of backups.)

There are also those products that perform as they’re supposed to, day in day out. (Everything Kokatat makes comes to mind.) You rely on these products to do their jobs, and never think further about them.

But there are also are a handful of products that either perform infinitely better than you expect, or fill a need you didn’t realize you had.

For these products, you whisper a silent “thank you” to the manufacturers every time you use them.  I’m an engineer, so  I never lose sight of the fact that when there’s a product I love, it was conceived, designed, and tested by other engineers. And for the products below, I am devoutly grateful to the humans who created them.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Inside.

Inside our home away from home, pitched on the tiny Magic Key in Estero Bay, FL, we catch a few hours’ sleep before another night of paddling during the 2014 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge

Camped on Magic Key
Inside

More photos from the Everglades Challenge are here.

Everglades Shakedown, Day 6: Headwinds and Homelessness

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

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Start: Little Rabbit Key.
Finish: Sunset Point Park, Key Largo.
Distance: About 24 nautical miles.
Paddling time: Roughly 11 hours; average pace 2.2 knots.

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Everglades Shakedown, Day 5: Navigating the Shallows

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

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Evening in Florida Bay

Start: East Clubhouse Beach.
Finish: Little Rabbit Key.
Distance: About 16 nautical miles.
Paddling time: Roughly 7.5 hours; average pace 2.1 knots.

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Everglades Shakedown, Day 4: Portage, Paddling in the Pitch Dark, and Fending Off Furious Crows

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

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Fending off the crows

Start: South Joe River Chickee.
Finish: East Clubhouse Beach.
Distance: About 15 nautical miles.
Paddling time: Roughly 7 hours; average pace 2.1 knots.
Stop time: Roughly 5 hours (including portage at Flamingo).

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Everglades Shakedown, Day 3: Wind, Waves, and Chickees

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

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Ready for adventure!

Start: Highland Beach.
Finish: South Joe River Chickee.
Distance: About 23 nautical miles.
Paddling time: Roughly 10 hours; average pace 2.3 knots.

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Everglades Shakedown, Day 2: Barking Vultures, Beaches, and Bugs

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

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Toward the sun

Start: Darwin’s Place.
Finish: Highland Beach.
Distance: About 18 nautical miles.
Paddling time: Roughly 8 hours; average pace 2.3 knots.

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Everglades Shakedown, Day 1: Headwinds and Night Navigation

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

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Through the mangrove rivers and bays

Start: Chokoloskee.
Finish: Darwin’s Place.
Distance: About 21 nautical miles.
Paddling time: Roughly 8 hours; average pace 2.6 knots.
Stop time: Roughly 2 hours (30 minutes lunch plus a 90-minute stop at Everglades City to obtain permits).

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Everglades Shakedown: Challenges and Lessons Learned

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

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Christmas dinner, 2013

Christmas dinner, 2013

The goal of our Everglades Shakedown Expedition of December 2013 was to gain an understanding of the Everglades environment for the upcoming WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, and we’re happy to say it succeeded. Our biggest lesson learned was that we’d largely been worried about the wrong things. Snakes and crocs? No worries, mate! But midges and skeeters can be more than a nuisance—they can derail your trip by keeping you penned in your tent, unable to cook or pee.

Similarly, I’d been deeply concerned about paddling in the Everglades at night. It’s pitch-black (actually, not quite: the lights of Miami loom on the horizon) and the thousands of mangrove islands look all the same. Sure, we do plenty of nighttime paddling in New York—but that is our backyard, and even if you are a visiting paddler, the city is well-illuminated and chock full of landmarks, from the Statue of Liberty to the various bridges, so it’s fairly easy to keep your bearings. Turns out that with a compass and charts, a good flashlight, and ideally a mapping GPS, nighttime paddling in the Everglades is very much doable, as well. (And in some respects, it’s more pleasant than daytime paddling.) That relieved my worry about being limited to paddling only during the daylight hours in the Everglades Challenge itself.

And some things that seemed trivial from our perch in New York were not trivial at all. Headwinds across the shallow water that abounds in the Everglades generated chop and slowed us down considerably—our average pace for the trip was 2.3 knots, and that’s with fast boats and good technique. (Our standard average, in calm waters with no wind or current, is around 3.4 knots.)

Here are some of the highlights of what we learned:

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