Boats

Would you circumnavigate 1,300 miles of Florida's coast conservation?

And would you do it in a skiff? Without docking even once?

If you would, you’d qualify as one of the crazy skiff captains competing in the 2021 Skiff Challenge later this week.

Yes, people actually do this. They get in an 18-foot (max) skiff in Pensacola and literally do not stop, minus the halfway point for a tiny media break until they get to Fernandina Beach almost two days later. This can take anywhere from 38 to 50 hours. If you’re not familiar with a poling skiff, they are fantastic boats for getting into mere inches of water for targeting species like tarpon, bonefish and permit, but would say in general, they are not meant for the bone crushing beat down of open-water running for hours on end.

I would liken this kind of masochism to getting in a race car with the tightest suspension possible and going as fast as you can as long as you can — down a dirt road with potholes, washboards and exposed rocks. In the dark. In a blinding rainstorm. With hidden obstacles to avoid. In short, this is an incredible physical challenge — for both the boat and the captain. And that doesn’t mention the mental hurdles this challenges poses.

After talking to Captains for Clean Water’s co-founder, Chris Whitman, last week about the event he likened it to a religious experience, he gave me the rundown of the history and explained how others can follow along, and even take minutes off certain teams times by pledging a donation in honor of one of the five teams involved. At this point over $60,000 has been raised, with a goal of $100,000. All of the money raised for the event will go to the Captains for Clean Water general fund which “works to advance science-based solutions through efforts focused on awareness and education, and empowering people like you to speak up for our water quality and hold elected officials accountable in the state of Florida.”

Click here to get more detailed info on how to donate, follow along with live GPS tracking, or learn more about the challenge. It starts this week on April 8, and aims to wrap up on April 11.

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