I learned about the Safari sometime in the beginning of the year 2001 when searching internet for some winter sea kayaking possibilities around Corpus Christie. I found Bob Brooks TWS webpage, got hooked, and started to gather all possible information: reading reports, lurking at the safari discussion board and then asking questions, studying results and split times from previous years, watching the safari videos (again and again ...).
I didn't have a chance to prepare for the safari in a couple of months but together with my wife and a future team captain, we decided to travel to Texas and watch the Safari 2001. I shot a lot of pictures at Rio Vista and Cottonseed as well as later during the race. As a first safari training, I paddled almost 1/3 of the race course in my homebuilt CLC Patuxent 19.5 kayak. The trip resulted in my Paddling Observer Report.
Soon after returning from Texas we made another long trip, that time to Michigan. We brought home the Sea Wind canoe built in Lansing by Verlen Kruger. It was ordered several months earlier before I even heard about the Safari. The Sea Wind is a tough expedition canoe, very comfortable for long distance paddling, though quite heavy at 60lb.
I started to train using my Sea Wind in local lakes in northern Colorado, then I discovered the Dismal river in the Sandhills of Nebraska, a small, swift, twisty river fed by springs with plenty of sweepers. It looked somewhat similar to the San Marcos River. The Sea Wind was doing doing great on the Dismal River but, soon, I realized that something lighter would work better for portages and logjams of the Safari.
After some research, I made a crazy decision under influence of DevoMan and ordered a solo boat from Spencer Canoes.
It was ready sooner than expected. In the end of October I drove to Texas again to pick up my
new X-treme from Jack Spencer together with a spray cover manufactured by Tom and Paula Goynes.
I did a little bit of paddling: upstream from Staples to Cottonseed and back, and from Westerfield to San Marcos and back. The boat was doing great, except that I capsized under the low water Martindale bridge (exactly speaking, I simply slid from the slippery seat overboard). At Staples I met a bunch of old safari paddlers with Zoltan Mraz (it was just before Martindale triathlon) who tried to convince me "these boats never finish!" (they were admiring my new boat and joking, of course). The boat was named later Q-continuum and got the lucky number 13 at the TWS 2002 entry list.
I returned back with the new boat to cold Colorado and still managed to do some paddling before
all local reservoirs froze over at the beginning of December.
Another big trip to Texas. Together with Connie and Worf, our Newfoundland, we drove to San Marcos to spend 12 days of Christmas and New Year and do some serious training. I had a pleasure to paddle with John Stockwell, Norm Thomas, Devo and Erin Magee. I learned a lot from them. It was very high water with really a few obstacles. I covered the entire San Marcos River with some extra trips from San Marcos to Staples and Luling, and one segment of the Guadelupe River from Hochheim to Cheapside.
I supposed I looked quite exotic in my drysuit which I used for my semi winter paddling in Colorado at that time. Most of the time I was too hot, except the last two days of the year 2001 when I was starting at sunrise from San Marcos with near freezing temperatures. We spent one non paddling day at the beach of the Padre Island.
During late winter and spring of 2002 I did a lot of river training with Q-continuum including
South and North Platte River and
Gunnison River. My confidence in the boat improved significantly.
However, my participation in the safari remained for a longer time really uncertain.
I had some, arthritis related, problems with my right shoulder. For a while it looked like a question: surgery or safari? After some shots and many meeting with my chiropractor I figured out that I should be able to paddle at least for 100 miles. I was more worried about lifting and portaging my boat though.
And a more critical issue: my mother from Poland was visiting us and was going through some thyroid treatment. Everything would depend on how she would be doing in June. We couldn't go to Texas for any additional training or to run in preliminary races but in the end of May we decided than we could take two weeks off and go for the safari.
The last week of May was really hectic for me with all packing and boat preparation. I managed to have everything
done including equipment list by Sunday before the race. I was even successful to pack somehow all this stuff
into our car. Fortunately, I didn't need to pack our dog.
We arrived to San Marcos on Monday night (June 5). This gave me three days to do some paddling and scouting the river. I believe I used that limited time wisely: Palmetto-Gonzales, Tivoli-Seadrift, and Westerfield-Staples. We checked-in at Aquarena Springs on Friday morning and tried to rest before the race.
The 2002 Texas Water Safari started on Saturday, June 8, in San Marcos, Texas and ended 260 miles later
on the Texas Gulf Coast at Seadrift, Texas. This year safari was really tough due to low water levels
in San Marcos and Guadelupe Rivers and temperatures above average.
120 entries from solo to 7 person boat, actually started 111 boats and finished 72
within 100 hours limit.
Visit Texas Water Safari webpage for more information.
I finished in 78:18 hours: 46th overall and 6th in solo class (12 finishers from 25 solo boats at the start). I was much slower than I planned but my main goal was to finish. The miles in the lower part of the race course were really long ...
The safari was an incredible experience for both of us. I didn't encounter any major problems or disasters during the race. My shoulder was holding well. It was really a nice surprize. The boat was doing great. The idea of not finishing or quitting never came to my mind. It seems that I was quite well prepared. Of course, we have collected a long list of possible improvements to be implemented in our next safari. Perhaps, the most important is that as a team we returned back to Colorado in a better shape than we were leaving.
When you are reading safari reports and listening to stories you are naturally filtering out and collecting together all possible disasters waiting to happen. Everything is possible and you need to be prepared but it doesn't need to be that bad. Maybe, I was lucky but nothing bit me, even a mosquito, during the safari. I was somewhat nervous about night paddling since I couldn't practize it on San Marcos. However, I really enjoyed it: cooler, incredible sounds, beautiful stars, fantastic shapes around, some big fish jumping, snakes zigzaging away from my boat. Just mayflies were not so nice.
I tried to reconstruct my race despite of some memory gaps. This attempt includes
a "scientific" analysis of my two bay crossings.
I was brave enough to ask Connie for her version of the safari experience as a team captain. Let's allow different perspectives here.
I am still going to prepare some more technical comments about my boat rigging and other safari gear, lights, sleeping, and food. I am not a safari expert but I would like to share that information from the perspective of a first-time safari paddler. I asked many questions before the safari and got a lot of great information and tips from the safari veterans.
It seems like it is the time to start thinking about the next year safari. It would be nice to improve my time.
And there is even more crazy idea wandering in my mind: How to paddle (efficiently!) and shoot pictures (good ones!) during the Safari?
gift ideas for paddlers, racers, and photographers ...
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