We skipped hot breakfast and just had pop tarts and Spiz. Another benefit of sleeping in the boat was that we could get packed and underway a lot quicker. Unfortunately, while packing the boat, I noticed that Emily's hydration bladder was empty, and mine was getting close. I realized that I had forgotten to fill them at CP2, uh oh... All together, we had about 13L of water to get us to CP3.
We started sailing under partially reefed main as the wind was fairly strong, even this early in the morning. As we approached Pavilion Key, we started the experience the same pointing issues that had stopped us the night before. We made it through the channel to the east of Pavilion Key. We headed out into the Gulf, but found it difficult to make headway in the short, steep waves.
Looking at the conditions, our VMG, and the charts, we decided to give paddling a try. We turned towards shore and beached in the Huston Coves. I pulled down the mast, packed up the sail, and removed one of our ama / aka sets.
We pulled / paddled our way to the entrance of the Chatham River, hoping for a break from the wind. Unfortunately, since the wind was from the east, we were paddling dead upwind and we did not get much protection from the mangroves. The farther we went... the tougher it got... the more we started to think about quitting. I kept looking at the charts, trying to figure the distance from where we were to CP3. I didn't know the exact distance, but I figured it was probably about 80 miles. We kept listening to the radio, hoping to hear that relief was coming... no such luck... in fact it sounded like we were going to have more of the same for the next couple of days. It was getting near lunchtime and we were near The Watson Place campsite. We were hoping to tie up, eat some lunch, and come up with a plan. Unfortunately, the site was occupied, so we paddled up the river a bit more and pulled up next to some mangroves to eat. As we floated, we discussed our options. Based on how things were going, our limited water supply was really worrying me. We didn't feel like we had enough strength to paddle all the way to CP3 in the present conditions. After much agonizing thought, yes even some tears, we decided to turn back towards CP2 and drop from the race. We turned up Huston Bay channel and enjoyed a tidal current and tailwind push towards Huston Bay. In the small bay just north of Huston Bay, we crossed paths with PaddleMaker and SavannahDan. The tried to talk us into continuing, even offering to share their campsite with us, but we were really finished. After chatting for a while, we went our separate ways. One thing that really surprised us was how open the wilderness waterway was; lots of big bays that were getting pretty choppy in the strong winds. A few times, we would stop paddling and just hold our paddles up in the air and get pushed along at a pretty good clip.
As we neared CP2, we kept trying to make cell phone contact, hoping to call my dad in Key Largo to come pick us up. However, cell coverage is extremely spotty, and we never did get a call out. Finally, just after sunset, we landed on the beach at Chocoloskee (again at high tide, so no mud) We were met by the checkpoint volunteer, Scully (not sure about the spelling...) who told us that we were the third boat to return that day. He also told us the Chocoloskee hotel had no rooms left, but offered to give us a ride to Everglades City to find a room there. We got the boat pulled up and covered up and hopped into his truck. He dropped us off at The Captains Table Hotel, where we got a beautiful room. We both took nice long showers, then headed to a restaurant across the street.
After eating, we took a walk, then headed back to the hotel. We were pretty beat, so after watching a little TV, we went right to sleep, looking forward to seeing the kids and my dad the next day.