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Here is my recollection of my Everglades Challenge in Carlita.
My impressions of The CS17 mk3 Carlita on her shake down cruise in the 2016 Everglades Challenge:
In her short life I have sailed Carlita more and harder than most owners will do in several seasons or ever. She was pushed in conditions that most sensible sailors would avoid. Without the clock ticking I would have elected to stay put or to sail to another place.
She went through it all perfectly, never gave me any cause for concern, and nothing broke or failed. The only issues were caused by the crew.
I managed to get the boat off of the beach by myself even though I was the only one in my area that put my rollers under the boat after the horn blew. I went slowly and carefully because if she went off of the rollers it would have cost me a lot more time. The only mishap was when Skinny Genes on the boat next to me snarled my mizzen halyard with his boom and pulled the halyard to the deck. I had forgotten to tie a stopper knot and therefore I had to take the mast down and re-reeve the halyard. Little did I know that stopper knots would cause me grief later on.
Saturday was a wonderful sailing day. It is usually sloppy getting out of Tampa Bay especially if you take the shortcut inside Passage Key close to Santa Maria Island. I did some experiments with the water ballast and was well pleased with the results. After my slow start it was good to have moved into the middle of the pack by the time we exited the bay showing that she was not slow. The wind was aft of the beam and fairly light as we headed down the coast, so I hoisted Alan's mizzen staysail off of the bow sprit. We passed some more boats, I opened up the bailer and dumped the ballast. Later the wind started to move aft and I could not keep all three sails working. I tried to tack down wind which has worked well on Southern Skimmer but I could not generate enough extra speed to make up for the extra distance sailed and was passed by a few boats so the staysail was dropped and I sailed the rhumb line. The wind freshened through the afternoon giving wonderful and fast sailing. I refilled the ballast tanks.
The self steering worked great and had no trouble handling the fast downwind surfing conditions. I took some video of it working.
Even though this is my sixth EC I have never been through Stump Pass because the first checkpoint has since been moved further north. As we approached the Pass I had a Sea Pearl about 200 yards ahead and Mister Moon (John Bell) in his CS17 was a couple of hundred yards astern of me. We were running fast parallel to the shore, I intended to shoot the surf about a quarter of the way out to the entrance marker as the channel is nearly upwind. Suddenly the Sea Pearl veered to starboard and headed to the entrance marker, I looked back at John and he was holding course. I vacillated for as long as I could and decided that I had better go in by the channel. I could not lay the outside marker without jibing twice so I elected to run by the lee to the second marker as the waves were not breaking there too badly. I eased the main out further to prevent an accidental jibe, I felt the stopper knot unroll in my hand and suddenly the mainsheet ran all of the way out with the sprit going all of the way beyond forward of the mast. I am now in the channel and needing to beat to windward to stay out of the surf on the south side of the channel and the mainsail is flogging with sprit disconnected from the mast. The lashing to the snap shackle broke. I was actually glad that it broke rather than breaking the sprit.
There is now a new rule aboard Carlita. All stopper knots have to have a tail of 5 - 6 rope diameters.
Suddenly I realized that if I did not act fast and smart I could lose my beautiful new boat. I put the anchor out so that I could fix the rig. You do not realize how fresh the wind is when running fast until you stop. In few seconds three battens flew out of the flogging sails. The two top battens in each sail were tied in and the two lower battens were sewn in. As I looked to the Sea Pearl I saw him get rolled in the surf and before long I saw him joined by another boat. It turned out that a number of boats came to grief there. Fortunately John stuck to his game plan and surfed in without incident. Lugnut told me that he followed John's route and a wave broke over him and filled his cockpit, he thought that he might lose his boat for a few moments.
Fortunately the anchor held and I was able to re-lash the snotter snap shackle. I tucked a reef in each sail and was able to beat into the channel. I was relieved to see the Sea Pearl skipper was okay but his mast step was torn out of the boat. By the time I got into check point 1, Alan was on his way out, we spoke briefly, John was long gone in Bandaloop.
Paddle Dancer gave me some warm soup which went down well. After thinking about my situation I decided to find somewhere to anchor for the night and get some rest and see what I could do about battens. I was very tired after driving all through Thursday night to make the boat registration and inspection and get the boat setup on the beach Friday. For some reason I only got about 3hours sleep Friday night.
I slept in Sunday morning and felt good. I had four short lengths of batten on board as they can be handy for jury rigging. I want to give a special thanks to West Systems Epoxy who handed out a repair kit to each boat. I opened mine up and was very pleasantly surprised at how complete it was. I think that every boat should carry one, it sure came in handy for me. I glued up three pieces to make the right length for the most important batten and used the extra piece although short for the next most important batten. I clamped the battens with duct tape to hold them in position until the glue dried. I then went about tidying up the rigging and a bit before noon I was underway again.
I had a good run down Pine Island Sound and passed a couple of Watertribers. I emerged into the Gulf just before dark. The wind vane was engaged and I planned a nice overnight passage. Unfortunately, the wind increased, it got pretty bouncy so I had to reef down. After midnight the wind eased and it turned into a nice sail. The vane was reliable enough so that I could go below and get Google to wake me at 20 minute intervals to make sure that we were safe. I passed Caxambus Pass in the dark and elected to carry on to Cape Romano. It was still dark but I picked my way through the shallows off the Cape with the aid of the GPS and headed close hauled for Indian Key.
I had a nice sail across Gullivan Bay to Indian Key and got some more sleep and called Carla before I fell into the Verizon black hole. I did not know that the fair wind to the Cape would be the last of the race. We arrived at Checkpoint 2, Chocoloskie at high tide around midday Monday. Reviewing the weather forecast showed a strong east to southeast air flow for the rest of the week and getting stronger. It made sense to leave immediately.
After gaining open water in the Gulf I sheeted hard in and could just lay the rhumb line course to North West Cape. The wind was strong and I was reefed all of the way down. As we progressed, the fetch got longer and the wave height increased making for a very rough night. I got to give the water ballast a thorough test as we got laid way over in the big gusts. She never faltered and came right back up. We were often laid over far enough for water to come in over the cockpit coamings. I quickly became a disciple of water ballast. Jarhead told me at Flamingo that he was a few hours ahead of me in his Sea Pearl. He also did the rhumb line and almost capsized a number of times.
It was good to sail in the lee of the Cape. I decided to anchor up for the rest of the night just north of Middle Cape, putting the pick down a little after 3:00 am. I thought that this must be one of the remotest places in North America except for a few mountain peaks. I did not find out until later that there were 4 other Watertribe boats around Middle Cape. They all saw me, but I never saw anyone; they all got going before I woke up. Lugnut later told me that he hugged the shore and had much smoother sailing and less wind. I got underway around 9:00 am Tuesday and beat around to checkpoint 3 at Flamingo.
Greybeard uses AT&T which works at Flamingo, he showed me the current wind prediction on Windflow, it forecast continuous fresh easterlies until the weekend. It made sense to head south, the long way because the narrow easterly passes are impossible to tack through when the wind is fresh. Most of the boats went this way also. I was able get most of the way south before dark. I got the anchor to take on the second try and had a good night. The next morning my concerns were proven right, she lacks lateral plane, my tacks were pretty poor, tacking through 120 degrees on a good tack. I tried pinching, fat and flat and in between with the same result. This made for a long day which was made worse by poor navigating on my part. Instead of pushing on in the dark I found an excellent anchorage in the lee of Cotton Key.
I got under way early Thursday morning, the wind was a bit heavier than the last few days and we knocked off the last 15 miles or so to the finish at Sunset Cove in about 3 or 4 hours.
I am going to remove the lead ballast tip from the centerboard and add a foot to the length of the board and put the lead tip back on.
This will require some surgery to the back of the trunk but it will be worth it.