Dispatch 5 [2016]

06/21/16 AT 11:08:19

4 weeks from this message we will be at Kaw Point launching hundreds of human powered craft for the world's longest non-stop river race.  Things are moving along well at our end.  We hope your planning and preparation is going great.

Please, please re-read the previous dispatches and make sure you're clear on when and where you sign in on Monday, July 18th for the MANDATORY safety meeting. 

Also, we hope you've taken the opportunity to download the MR340 Checkpoint Text In app made by Jon Marble of Marbleware.  This will be a very valuable tool to help you and your ground crew keep you checked in at each checkpoint.  The app is FREE.  Download it and test it to make sure you know how to use it.  Super simple.  Type in a boat number, choose a checkpoint from the drop down menu, hit IN or OUT.  Done. 

Please check the roster at and make sure you see your name and everything is correct.  IF it says you need a new boat number please contact me immediately.  If it says your partner is TBD please get your partner registered.  If you've written us to say you can't make it, your name will likely still be up there.   That's ok.  We will account for you at the sign in and determine no shows at that point.

A few questions I've received recently should probably be listed here because it's likely some of you have the same questions.

Does my boat need nav lights?

  Yes, all boats are required to have nav lights.  Red and green on front, white at the back.  These are the best we've seen out there.

These will burn 100+ hours no problem.  Glow sticks ARE NOT good enough to meet Coast Guard requirements as nav lights.  These led lights above can be seen from over a mile away.  Glow sticks are nowhere near that good and are hard to distinguish from starlight or moonlight on the water. 

Does Rivermiles supply our boat numbers?

No.  You will need to get reflective numbers minimum of 3 inches high placed on both sides of your bow.  These are basically mailbox numbers and can be found at any hardware store.

Is Katfish Katy's still a checkpoint?

Yes.  Katfish Katy's was sold over the winter and is being converted into river side venue for food and music.  They are renting the grounds to Rivermiles for the two days that we use it for a checkpoint.  It is locked up otherwise and can't be used for training runs. 

Do we have to stop at each checkpoint?

No.  You can float on by as long as you check in (or have your ground crew check you in) as you pass the checkpoint. 

What if we don't have a cell signal at a checkpoint.

You can ask one of our volunteers aboard the safety boat stationed there to text for you.  Or, you can text later after you get a signal.  Very often, your ground crew will have a signal as soon as they drive up the hill from the riverbank.  It's no big deal to wait and text us a bit later as long as we get the message.

How much water should we carry between checkpoints?

That's a very personal decision that is hopefully made based on training runs.  You don't want to carry too much and weigh yourselves down, but you sure don't want to run out.  The good thing is, if you know after a few miles that you're carrying far too much, you can dump some out.  IF you find you're carrying too little and think you're going to get in trouble, flag down a safety boat and they will give you some water in an emergency. 

That first 50 mile stretch to Lexington will teach you a lot.  If you have a ground crew, have them shadow you at a ramp in between KC and Lexington (there are a few) and you can holler at them if you need to stop and get more water. 

You will use more water during the day than you do at night.

Can my ground crew meet me at Hills Island?

Hills Island is only accessible by water.

Can my ground crew meet me at places besides boat ramps?

Only public places reachable by car are allowed for handoffs.  We do not allow handoffs by boat out on the water.  We do not allow trespassing on private land.  There are plenty of places for legal handoffs.

Can we leave our boat at a checkpoint and sleep in a hotel for a few hours?

Yes, if you've banked enough time for this luxury, AND if you inform the safety boat there, AND if you are back well before the checkpoint closes.  We can't leave the checkpoint until all boats have left.  Nothing irritates a safety boat like sitting in the hot sun waiting on one canoe to leave while the paddlers are snoring in an air conditioned hotel room somewhere. 

Do I have to leave my smart phone on the entire time I'm paddling?

No, but check it from time to time.  Your ground crew, virtual or physical, should have theirs on non-stop.

Is there food and water available at the checkpoints?

Yes.  Most are non-profit operations like boy scout troops and the like.  They cook and sell basic burgers and hotdog fare and sell water and gatorade most places.  Some are higher end food like a bbq truck at Katfish Katy's and Thai food at Cooper's Landing. 

If you are far at the back of the pack, pickings can get scarce at these places as they tend to pack up and leave if there are just a handful of boats hours behind.  Our safety boats won't let you starve.  But staying up with the pack is the best strategy.

Will my spouse, grandparents, etc, be able to find the checkpoints?

Yes, and they will be part of a traveling circus of ground crews.  Tough to get lost in that conga line.  Get them some maps (in a previous dispatch) and type them up some instructions if need be.  But they will have hours of time to kill between checkpoints.  Even if they get lost, they'll have time to get lost again and one more time.

What time is the awards ceremony?

7pm Friday night.  Not every boat will be in.  Finish deadline is midnight.

Do we have to attend awards?

No.  If you plan to leave early, visit our finish line headquarters (motor home at finish line) and ask for your trophy or medal early. 

What's the toughest checkpoint cutoff time to make?

Lexington.  Followed by Waverly.  If you can make those two... and drift gently through the night to Miami, you've set yourself up nice for the rest of the race.  I'd say Glasgow can be tough for those who linger too long at Miami.  But if you can make Glasgow, take a little two hour nap and get out of there before got this. 

If you're feeling like you'll likely be near the back of the pack but you are determined to finish, here's your daily schedule. 
Day 1: Kaw Point to Hills Island
Day 2: Hills Island to Katfish Katy's. (or Franklin Island Access, minimum)
Day 3: Katfish Katy's to Hermann
Day 4: Hermann to St. Charles.

We know this works because this is the formula the last dozen boats end up using every year.  But it's all predicated on making Lexington and Waverly day 1.  Not a lot of margin for error on day 1.  You have to stay in the boat and keep a rhythm.  You can put the paddle down to eat, or pee, or do a quick stretch while drifting..  But that's about it. 

And to help you keep a good pace, may we introduce...

The Reaper

The Reaper is one of our safety boats.  But it also plays the role of pace boat, traveling exactly the minimum speed required to barely make the checkpoint cutoff times.  This offers you a very visual representation of where the moving cutoff time is on any given mile of the course. 

The Reaper will leave Kaw Point at approximately 8:05am after the tandem boats have all started.  The Reaper crew has an itinerary minute by minute of each mile marker and when to pass there.  If you see the Reaper approaching, or passing, it's time to pick up the pace.  If the Reaper arrives at a checkpoint before you do... you are out of the race.

The Reaper is identified by a yellow safety boat flag.  All our safety boats fly this yellow flag.  In addition, the Reaper flies a large black flag with the race logo.  This is flown about 10 feet above the water.  No other safety boat does this.  The Reaper is also singled out by a pair of demonic eyes on her front windshield.  Safe to say, you will know it's the Reaper.  Tall, black flag... red, evil eyes.

There are times where the Reaper is not acting as a pace boat.  This is likely on Day 2.  More likely on Day 3.  Very likely on Day 4.  That's because those still in the race on those days are usually well ahead of cutoff times and so the Reaper would be all alone, miles behind the pack.  That's a waste of a good safety boat so we lower her flag to signal that she's not in "Reaper Mode" and she is stationed to fill gaps along the course. 

I'd guess the Reaper "reaps" 5-6 boats at Lexington on a normal water year.  Probably another 5-6 at Waverly.  But very few, if ever at Miami.  And I don't think it has ever caught anyone at Glasgow or below. 

Reaper spends night one at Hills Island.  But she is up at dawn and on the hunt again at first light.

The dispatches will be more frequent now that we're in the home stretch.  Visit this thread often and feel free to post questions here or send them to me.


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