Day 15: Way down upon the Suwannee

Last Wednesday, Monitor reporter Warren "Sharkchow" Richey reached Fort Clinch, a state park on the northeast corner of Florida. He'd paddled his kayak 25 miles in cold, 20 m.p.h. winds. "The longest 25 miles I've ever paddled," he says. His parents drove up from Stuart, Fla., to meet him. He relaxed, got cleaned up, and hung out, then started his westward inland paddle up the St. Mary's River on an incoming tide.

By noon Saturday, Warren was in Fargo, Ga., relieved that the 90-mile paddle - and especially the 40-mile portage - were over. He'd walked Friday until 10 p.m., then camped in a grove of trees between the road and some railroad tracks. Trains passed as he slept, he says, but he liked the sound of them. At 2:30 a.m., he resumed his trek, pulling his kayak behind him on wheels. At some point, he passed a sleeping "Manitoucruiser."

Later that morning, Warren saw this bicycle coming up behind him: It was Manitou, riding a fold-up bike he'd carried from the start and pulling his canoe behind him. Manitou beat Warren to Fargo by 1-1/2 hours. They overlapped there for a while, then Manitou started down the Suwannee River. An hour later, midafternoon Saturday, Sharkchow started his own paddle downriver.

Warren is days ahead of his nearest competitors in Class 1. But he's not relaxing - he wants to catch Manitou, who's in a sailing canoe. And both want to catch Wizard, in a sailboat. None of the other four competitors in the round-Florida race has reached Fort Clinch.

Early Sunday, "Sandybottom" - the only woman in the race - had a close encounter. She sailed into shallow water to avoid a barge, and startled a sleeping manatee, which flipped her boat upside down. "SB changed clothes and pumped the boat dry on a nearby island," her husband reported early Sunday morning. "Other than needing some duct tape around the base of her stern light pole, no harm done. Paddling north again now."

For the latest on Richey's progress and the race see: www.csmonitor.com/floridarace and www.Watertribe.com

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