We’re Ready, we think

Three days to EC 2014. Our stuff is laid out on 2 tables in Bill’s garage.

On standby...

Packed and ready to load..

The Hot Canary has been spruced up a bit and sits in the driveway anxious to get back in the water. We had a weather briefing today and we’ll get an update late Friday. Looks like light air downwind for the first couple of days and some conflicting weather models after that. We like light air. HC weighs about 800 pounds and has 600 square feet of downwind sail area. This year we might get some time to cook up our freeze dried food and take some videos with our 2 Go Pros and Iphones. Sounds like we might get some sporty winds by the time we get to Florida Bay. Then the question will be “which way around or through this nightmare”. The last 35 miles can be the most challenging. This Friday will be a fun day setting up the boat on the beach and seeing some old friends.

We couldn’t have made it this far without help from our sponsors and friends of the Challenge. Our main sponsor, Gougeon Brothers, Inc. made it all possible. Thank you Meade and all the good folks up in Bay City, Michigan for a fantastic boat. We know the boat is up the the challenge as Meade and Jan had a good race in 2011 under stressful conditions and with Jan recovering from surgery. We have dedicated our EC 2014 effort in the memory of Jan Gougeon. We also had help from Ronstan US  with rigging advice and some of their excellent gear. Thanks Ben Moon of Ronstan . New England Ropes provided all the hi tech lines that are on Hot Canary. Thanks to Tom Rinda for making this happen. People too numerous to mention have pitched in when we needed help, we thank you all. Our base of operations this Fall and Winter was the St. Petersburg Sailing Center. In our opinion, this is the finest public sailing facility in Florida, if not the country. We were surrounded by some of the best one design sailors in the country every day we worked on or sailed HC. Their advice and encouragement was invaluable to our effort. Thank you Lin Robson, Ed Baird, Ethan Bixby, John Jennings, Ron Hoddinott, Meade Gougeon and Mark Ploch. An impressive group. When these guys talk, we listen! We are members of various sailing organizations and we want to thank them as well. The St. Petersburg Yacht Club, West Coast Trailer Sailing Squadron and the Green Lake Ice Yacht Club are great sailing organizations that we are proud to be affiliated with.

We’ll be communicating via this blog and our Facebook page updated during the event. We have plenty of technology available to us and great shore support from our wives, Joy and Jayne. They’ll be posting on the Watertribe forum as we progress down the coast. Tech wizard Fritz Kloepfel has agreed once again to keep our blog up and entertaining during the race. Small boat pro and all around “good guy” Ron Hoddinott will be following us down to Key Largo with his big diesel pick up truck and the tiny Hot Canary trailer. We hope he won’t have to collect bits and pieces of carbon fiber from a remote beach somewhere. He says he’ll have a couple of cold beers ready for us in Key Largo. That’s good motivation. So, what’s left? The Challenge, of course. See you on the beach at 0700, March 1.

Final Prep – Where does the time go?

It’s been a long time since we updated the blog. The holiday season, business committments, and the flu played a big part in what seems to be a lost 2 months. We managed to sail the Hot Canary a few times and we sorted out our rowing program. This brings into focus what it takes to put a good effort together for the Everglades Challenge. It takes the right boat, lots of time, a surprising amount of money and the ability to stay focused on the goal. We had the good fortune to recruit the best shore crew available for this years event. Ron Hoddinott has agreed to join the team as shore support. Even though this is an unsupported race, it’s nice to have someone greet you at the checkpoints for moral support and also know that your trailer will be in Key Largo. Ron (tribal name Waterscribe) is a veteran Watertriber and small expedition boat expert. He’s logged thousands of miles along the EC route both racing and cruising. We look at him as our coach rather than just a shore support guy. We had a dinner meeting at his home earlier this week and used it as a tactics and planning session. We were joined by our friend and mentor, Meade Gougeon. Meade will be entering his 5th EC in a brand new sailing canoe. Look out Class 3. This could be Meade’s year. We’re forming an ad hoc team with Meade. His company, GOUGEON BROTHERS INC. (makers of WEST SYSTEM Epoxy ) is our major sponsor who we can’t thank enough for the opportunity to sail their company built boat, Hot Canary. Needless to say this was an epic planning session. It got us totally motivated.

Last year as rookies, our main goal was to finish with a good result in the standings as a secondary goal. This year it’s a bit different. Class 4 has what we believe is the strongest and deepest entry list in the history of the event. We’re no longer intimidated by the unknown elements of the race and we have what we believe is a faster and better prepared boat. Of course, we want to finish but we’ll be concentrating on better and more aggressive tactics and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the competition. Our old friends Two Beers aka Jeff Linton and Moresailsed aka Jahn Tahansky have entered in what they call the Frankenscott. This boat used to be a Flying Scott but is now what appears to be a fast, purpose built EC boat. Jeff and Jahn are some of the most accomplished competitive sailors in the country and they will be fast and well prepared. These guys are putting together a “pro” effort and it’s fun to see them preparing and training in a very similar way to the way we approached the race last year as rookies. Good luck to them. We hope they have a fast trip to Key Largo, just maybe a little slower than our trip. Maybe we can get Jahn to explain his unusual and unpronounceable tribal name the next time we see him.

At the end of registration it looks like there are 27 boats registered in Class 4 out of a total of 142 in all classes. We think out of the 27 boats in our class, there are 6 favorites (we won’t name them here). Some of these boats are known quantities and some are unknown. That’s why we sail the race I guess. We’ll know how this works out in 27 days.

We got kicked out of the Sailing Center along with everyone else for the last week due to a huge youth regatta (The Valentine’s Day Regatta). A little early for Valentines Day but none the less, we left for the week. This gave us a chance to put the final improvements together on Hot Canary. We’re going sailing today to test some of our additions if there is any wind. Then it’s back to the Sailing Center for 2 more good weekends of sailing. In our next post, we’ll show some of the boat improvements and maybe have some good sailing videos.

ExcitableBoy & RunsWithBeer
Out for now…

The Canary Chronicles

It’s 91 days now until Everglades Challenge 2014. Hot Canary has a comfortable dry slip at the St. Petersburg Sailing Center. It’s a perfect base of operations for our preparations and provides quick access to water. For competitive one design sailors around the world, the St. Pete Sailing Center is a well-known venue over the past 5 plus decades. Today it is the home club for a number of legendary competitive sailors. Every day we are prepping HC, we get advice from at least one of these people. Past America’s Cup winning helmsman, Ed Baird stops by often with advice and encouragement. Just yesterday local sailing legend, John Jennings and multiple world champion Ethan Bixby both weighed in with some training and rigging tips for us. The thing that is really amazing is all of these guys are aware of the Everglades Challenge and they keep up with the race and who is competing every year. The growing entry list in Class 4 of traditional competitive sailors is proof that the EC is becoming a main stream event. Chief may have to add a professional sailing class in the future. We’re also hoping to get some additional advice and tips from Meade Gougeon when he gets back to Florida for the winter. Nice to have so many coaches.

Back to our program; it is progressing along schedule. We’ve sailed the boat enough now to get a good feel for its performance and shortcomings. The re-rigging was completed when the box of high-tech rope arrived from New England Rope. Thanks very much to that great company and new sponsor of our program! We’ve padded the interior of HC with comfortable custom cut cushions, which is a great relief to our knees in this cramped cabin. Custom storage bags have been designed by Runs With Beer aka Bill Wright. They should be completed soon. Our power management plan is coming together. We’ll again have a solar panel powering our battery system. We’ll use this power for our iPad, iPhones, running lights, GPS, Go Pro cameras,interior lighting and autopilot. This will require some re-wiring which will most likely happen this weekend and next. That might sound like a lot of stuff in an 18′ boat but it’s all very compact. Our plan, besides attempting to win, is to document the experience for other people’s entertainment and to showcase the event. To that end, we’ll have 2 Go Pros going during the terror filled moments and we’ll do some documentary stuff with the iPhones. At least that is the plan. A 30 knot cold front may force us to sail and survive instead.

The sailing has been refreshing and enlightening so far. The Hot Canary is a predictable little sport boat with mostly good manners. She goes upwind well if sailed on the chine and as flat as possible. Once over powered she is slow, a situation we need to avoid. We find that with our combined crew weight of 360 pounds, we have to reef at about 10 knots to go upwind well. The consistent advice from the above mentioned superstars is to rig a trapeze system to overcome the boats tenderness with a crew of 2. We’ll put that on the to do list. That’ll help to add to the horrific and terror filled moments out in the Gulf of Mexico, I’m sure. Reaching and running are a different story. The boat is easy to steer and very fast. The mast head spinnaker and articulating prod put a lot of sail area in the right place. Speeds equal to and sometimes above the windspeeds are pretty common. Once planing, it’s easy to stay on a wave and the speed just keeps going up. Yesterday, we had about 10 to 12 knots of wind and were broad reaching at 11 in total control and comfort. We took the chute down and jib reached back into the yacht basin at over 9 knots most of the way. How about some strong northeasterly/easterly winds for the EC. That would make for a fun and fast reach down the coast.

The sail program is sorted out and a good one, we think. We’re going to use the dacron main and jib that came with the boat. We have re-rigged the code zero spinnaker that Meade and Jan didn’t like and we think it could be a super good sail and easy to handle in the usual EC conditions. We’ve tested a smaller asymmetrical spinnaker taken off of my Sakonnet 23 for use as our “storm chute”. So we’ll have 3 spinnakers to choose from which should be sufficient for all conditions. The main is a full batten sail which is taking some getting used to. The shape is excellent and it doesn’t flog when reefing. It does lay up hard against the swept back spreaders when broad reaching which may present some chafing problems. Headstay sag is a bit of a worry but we think it’s inherent with this type of rig. We tack through about 90 degrees which is sufficient.

That’s the story so far. A bit more re-rigging and re-wiring and the “to do” list will be complete. Some good weekend sailing to continue to get comfortable in all conditions and possibly an overnight training mission is in the future. We’ll keep you posted.

Here is a video of our latest sail..

Road trip to Bay City

Soon after the infamous meeting in Cedar Key a date was set to travel to Bay City, Michigan to pick up the Hot Canary. We discovered that Meade is a busy guy during the short summer sailing season in the upper midwest. The only time he had available was the week of August 5. He wanted to show us the boat and gear, go sailing and also give us a tour of the famous Gougeon Brothers Epoxy Works where WEST System products are invented and produced. We agreed this was the best approach and we cleared our schedules for what would be a fast trip to Bay City and back to Florida.

We left St. Pete early in the morning on Saturday August 3. Bill rigged a couple of Go Pros in strategic locations on my Jeep Grand Cherokee and we were off. (see the video at the end of this blog) We had an iPad for navigation and entertainment, Sirius radio and a cooler full of food. Next stop Knoxville, Tennessee (the halfway point) and what would become a theme of sorts, a Comfort Inn motel. After 1350 sometimes grueling, sometimes boring and occasionally scenic miles we were at our Comfort Inn Suites motel in downtown Bay City.

We got to Bay City right at cocktail hour, got settled into the room and called Meade. He picked us up an hour later and we headed off to dinner and to catch up on the happenings of the summer in Meade’s world. That’s about the time we discovered that Meade and many people in Bay City don’t really ever stop at stop signs. They kind of glide through while looking both ways for oncoming traffic. It’s a folksy, sort of midwestern way to at least try to make a legal stop. We wouldn’t get used to this in our short time in that fine town. Over a cold beer and dinner, we made plans for the next day. We’d start early with a tour of the Epoxy factory and then sail and organize the boat for the trip home. An ambitious schedule but heck, we’re Watertribers right?

The Gougeon Brothers operation is a somewhat sprawling compound right along the banks of the Saginaw river in downtown Bay City. The first thing you see coming over the bridge is the masthead flotation device at the top of Jan’s last project boat, Strings.

It sits at the Gougeon pier after just being launched and rigged for an upcoming regatta.

We rolled in and met Meade in the orignal boatbuilding shop down by the water. This is clearly Meade’s “man cave”. It’s hard to describe how cool this building is. It’s a living history of the Gougeon Brothers operation over the past 40 or so years. Immaculately laid out work benches and tools over a well-worn pine floor.

Luke bonding with the bandsaw…
Got to love a saw encased in wood.

The walls are covered with photos, memorabilia and trophies from past ice boat and multi hull regattas and championships from years gone by. You can just sense you are in a place where dreams were created and launched. Right in the middle of the floor sat Hot Canary on her trailer. Meade was over in the break area making coffee and planning the day. This was going to be interesting.


We headed across the parking lot to the new buildings that house the corporate offices, research and development labs and production facilities. Meade led us on about a 2 hour tour which went fast as it was so interesting. We met most of the department heads and many of the staff. Jan’s presence is felt throughout the facility and you can tell he is dearly missed by all who worked with him. The newest building is the research and development building and it is dedicated to Jan. We saw super secret stuff in development as the Gougeon mad scientists worked away in the immaculate, state of the art facility. I guess Meade thought it was OK for us to see this stuff as we are too dumb to know what we were looking at. We’re end users of the product, not chemists. We finished up in the corporate office and met company President, Alan Gurski and Marketing Director Ben Gougeon.

Overall an impressive and humbling tour and meet and greet. All of the staff knew we were there to pick up Hot Canary and it was an honor when we sensed they had confidence in us taking the company boat down to Florida for the Everglades Challenge. Just a great company and group of people to be associated with. It kind of puts on a little pressure to perform.

Back to the boat shop and the launching of Hot Canary. We got the mast up and boat rigged in about 40 minutes. Meade hooked it up to his van and 2 minutes later we were on board pushing off from the dock into the Saginaw River.

The plan was a quick overview of the sails and some pointers from Meade. We sailed a mile or so up and down the river between two bridges for a couple of hours. It was puffy and the river is narrow in that area. The boat accelerated quickly and felt super sensitive even with a crew of 3. Meade sensed our building concern and assured us the boat is easily reefed and was manageable when he and Jan sailed it in EC 2011. Their combined crew weight was almost 100 pounds less than ours will be so we calmed down some. Of course the most wind we had was coming back into the dock and of course it shifted a minute or so before we got there. We found ourselves almost planing downwind into a narrow and short channel and visions of crashing Meade’s boat on the trial sail started to develop into a real possibility. Bill and Meade saved the day with a quick douse of the main and I was able to swing the boat around with a couple of inches to spare. Mission accomplished. A good crew makes the helmsman look like a pro.

We spent the rest of the afternoon packing the boat and listening to Meade tell endless great stories of iceboat and multihull regattas and adventures. We hopped into Meade’s van and rolled through all the stop signs in town out to his home on the shores of Lake Huron. There we were greeted by his lovely wife, Janet who took pity on us and got out some snacks to tide us over until dinner. Meade got out his supply of Bacardi Gold Rum and we had an enjoyable cocktail hour on his patio overlooking Saginaw Bay.

Beach at Meade’s house, GOUGEMARAN in the background.

All was right with the world for Excitable Boy and Runs With Beer. Janet tolerated our boat talk for an hour and then sent us out to dinner so she could have a break. We rolled back through Bay City for a last dinner in Bay City, a bottle of wine and more story telling back and forth. A perfect end to a magical day with one of the most colorful and unique people in the sailing community.

We must have had a good time. The next day it was tough to get up and the thought of beginning the drive back was rather daunting. With pounding heads, we met Meade at the boat shop and got some last minute advice and encouragement from him. We were on the road by 10:00 am and headed south. I’d like to report a routine trip back but a flat tire slowed us down a bit. We had a spare but it was too weak to go very far. We ended up in a dry town in Kentucky for the night as the tire store didn’t open until 8:00 am the next morning. At least they had a Comfort Inn. Then Runs found a Ruby Tuesday restaurant in this dry town that had a bar. Some loophole in the law. We watched the Cincinnati Reds game with some locals and I got them all riled up with the classic National League versus American League argument about the DH rule. We got out of there while the tempers were still under control and left the locals alone wondering why they didn’t kick our butts.

You have to have a favorite billboard from the trip..need I say more..

Getting to the end of this saga quickly now. We made it back to Florida by Thursday night safe and sound.


Hot Canary spent a month in the parking lot of the Doyle sail loft while we re-rigged it to our liking and it now sits in its new home at the St. Petersburg Sailing Center. Thanks Meade and the crew at the Gougeon Brothers. We’ll learn to sail Hot Canary and see you on the beach in Ft. Desoto the first Saturday in March. Hopefully we’ll have time to keep this blog up as we prepare the boat and ourselves for EC 2014 in the Hot Canary.

We’re Back!

It’s been a long hot summer on the west coast of florida. We didn’t make any plans for another EC and didn’t even talk about it for a couple of months. When we started thinking about a second attempt, changing boats was one of the considerations. The Sea Pearl worked, but it is not suited for hard offshore sailing and big seas. We had plenty of conditions during the 13 version of the EC that we felt were above the performance and safety levels of the Sea Pearl. Avoidance of a rescue if capsized was high on the list of priorities. We also craved a bit more speed and upwind ability. The elimination of the old check point one and the need to take your mast down and row into Grand Tours got us thinking that Meade Gougeon’s i550 Hot Canary could be a good candidate for another EC. We briefly discussed this option with Meade in late April. Then we had a few rum drinks with him on the porch of his rented condo at The Island Place in Cedar Key during the small boat meet in May. By the time we all headed off for dinner a plan had been hatched.

Meade wanted to see the boat in the EC again and he had plans of his own to further his quest to single hand his beloved Woodwind sailing canoe in future EC’s. The Hot Canary project was meant to be a team effort for Meade and his brother Jan. They collaborated in the building of the boat and planned to sail it together for years. Unfortunately, Jan’s health took a turn for the worst and he passed away in December 2012. The boat remained in the Gougeon boat shop in pristine condition since being put away just after Cedar Key 2011. A handshake deal was made for our team to take over Hot Canary for at least a year and possibly longer if we were up to it. We made plans for a trip to Bay City Michigan in early August to spend a few days with Meade, learn about the boat and sail it at least once with him before heading back south. So…suddenly we found ourselves committed to another Everglades Challenge with a new boat and full time jobs and lives outside of the EC. That’ll be an interesting juggling act that our wives will reluctantly put up with. After all these years, they know we’re nuts. The weekends will be busy. We’re pretty comfortable with a high performance boat like the i550 but we’ll need to do some mods to the layout and a bunch of sailing over the next 5 months if we expect to be competitive in Class 4.

Hot Canary on the beach before the 2011EC. Should have seen this coming… Luke already was plotting

As for the Sea Pearl, Excitable Boy can now retire it to cruising which was the plan when it was purchased. The mods we made for the EC will only make the boat better for it’s designed environment along the west coast of Florida. The SP is a great boat and past EC performances including ours would make a good aurgument for staying with it. That can be debated by others as we are committed to the Hot Canary project. For now, she sits on the trailer waiting for easy duty daysailing or camp cruising in shallow water. No other boat can equal the Sea Pearl in the right conditions and there are lots of miles left to explore in the little yacht, Allez.

Our trip to Bay City was an epic event. More on that in the next post. See you on the beach in early March.

Tracking Maps of the Adventure…

Here is a pretty picture of our track, downloaded from our SPOT messenger. There are a few gaps courtesy of operator error.

I have also included the .KML file which will open in GOOGLE EARTH if you have it. That will allow you to zoom in and see all the exciting places we visited on our trip..


(Someday I will figure out how to add this file directly to our blog. For now you need to download it and open in GOOGLE EARTH)