A lot has been written and discussed among the tribe regarding the “required gear”. Chief makes it very clear in the rules that this event is a “self supported expedition style” race. As we read through the rules it became apparent that safety and proper preparation were going to be a big part of the EC experience. Watertribe provides a list of required equipment and suggestions of what to purchase. There is an equipment inspection the day before the race and if any of the required equipment is missing, you are not allowed in the race. So…we took an inventory of what we had to start with.
We had most of the Coast Guard mandated stuff. PFD’s (life vests), nav lights, thowable cushion, flares, whistles etc. We even had some pretty good camping and backpacking gear that is perfect for this type of event with an open boat. The race is run in the winter and even though it’s Florida, March weather can be nasty. Chief puts a lot of emphasis on avoiding hypothermia and staying warm and dry in challenging conditions. If nothing else going over the required equipment gets you to think about what could happen and how to prevent the many bad things that can make the trip miserable or end it prematurely. So like most things marine related, the quickest and easiest way to fix the situation was to get out the checkbook. Or better yet, call a friend. We relied on the JSI/Island Nautical connection again and some great companies helped us out with discounts and free stuff. We did each purchase a PLB (personal locator beacon) which is a new requirement this year. We chose the ACR ResQLink model. They cost about $300 each but that is cheap, cheap, cheap life insurance. They are a personal version of an EPIRB. Essentially, if you get in a serious and life threatening situation, you can activate the PLB which sends out a distress signal and your position. How great is that if you find yourself treading water in 5 foot waves, 60 degree water, 5 miles offshore in the middle of the night. We never want to use ours but it sure will be comforting to know they are securely attached to our life vests. A bonus at the time we bought the PLB’s was a free first aid kit (shown in the video) and a personal strobe light also made by ACR. These products purchased separately would have cost another $150.
We also spent some money at Bill Jacksons in St. Pete. For those who don’t know this is a fantastic outdoor outfitting company with a knowledgable staff. They had everything needed for the required hypothermia and fire starting kits. We also learned a lot about freeze dried foods there but that’s for another blog post in the future.
We made a real amatuer video starring Excitable Boy looking a little beat up after a hot afternoon working on the boat. EB may not look or sound his best here but he manages to get through the gear checklist. After the making of this video, Runs with Beer did his thing and produced a couple of cold Tecate’s which improved the mood of the team considerably. All of the gear you see in the video easily fits into 3 medium sized dry bags. Total weight is less than 25 pounds.
So there you have it. A couple of not so “safety first” kind of guys who got educated by Chief and his strict safety rules. After spending some time now on the Sea Pearl in windy conditions and cold weather, we have become believers in proper preparation for what we know will be a grueling event. Let’s hope most of this stuff stays in the dry bags.