Their names are Eddie Mack and Josh Murphy. To their adventurous peers in the WaterTribe, they are better known as Coastie and his adult son Clam Counter, four-time (soon to be five) successful finishers of the 300-mile long Everglades Challenge, an annual 8-day race from Fort Desoto to Key Largo, Florida.
“Our quickest time was four days and two hours (the sooner they arrive, the sooner island time starts). Only the first year that we entered in 2012 did we fail to finish,” retired US Coast Guard officer Coastie says. Clam Counter is an accountant. Their chariot? A Hobie Getaway, one of the company’s more comfortable and durable sailboats. “She’s indestructible. We can be adventurous and surf in. The rudders pop up,” Coastie adds. While it is outfitted with accessory bench seats, it’s as open to wind and weather as any recreational sailing cat.
“We’re the fun catamaran. We just want to enjoy the journey the best we can, to see what adventure we run into,” Coastie says.
Fun might mean running for 24 hours straight, camping right aboard Ms. Marie (they have plenty of room, two trampolines) or, if they miss a tack in notoriously shallow Florida Bay, wading through sucking knee-deep muck.
“The second half of the course is more complex. It will certainly put your team to the test. Having the opportunity to experience these adventures with your Pops is a priceless opportunity,” says Clam Counter, the more technical sailor of the two.
Here are four hard-won tips shared by Coastie and Clam Counter:
Don’t lose your mascot: South Florida lawns are synonymous with pink flamingos. Coastie and Clam Counter have one too, a well-travelled yard bird dubbed Fred. He perches aboard their spinnaker pole. He went missing one year, leading to fallen morale. Fortunately another WaterTriber found him and shipped him home. “He’s tied with a bowline to the boat. He’s not going anywhere,” Coastie says.
Prepare like your lives depend on it: Coastie and Clam Counter take safety seriously. They don dry suits for the race, carry marine VHF radios, a Spot GPS tracker, and numerous other navigation and safety aids.
“We do all the things you do on a Coast Guard cutter on a small level. I’m the ultimate safety observer,” Coastie says. That includes keeping careful track of the weather. “You never know what you’ll get. In March it could be really strong winds or no wind. You have to be prepared for everything.”
Never skimp on the tunes… or the snacks: Their personal playlist runs on a Bluetooth speaker. They plough through the munchies. A favorite is peanut butter pretzels. It keeps them busy and well fueled for the grueling race. “It’s a good team effort. It isn’t until day three or four that we start to yell at each other,” Coastie jokes.
Practice, practice, practice: “We’re pretty fortunate. We sail every weekend. We can take Ms. Marie offshore and sail an 18-mile loop offshore,” Coastie says. They go out when the weather’s rough, and practice how the boat handles in all different conditions.
“Can you tack and gybe when it’s snotty out? We practice how the boat handles in all different conditions. We have practice righting the boat,” Clam Counter says.
The 2017 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge runs from Saturday March 4 through Sunday March 12. Follow the competitors live via the WaterTribe Tracking Map.