Following the Texas Water Safari
by Mark Andrus
My sister, Lynne Andrus, requested that I help her team captain, Lynn Vance, in the Texas Water Safari. Lynne got a friend, Paula Scotney-Castle, a United Kingdom national who now lives in California to be her tandem partner in the race. They set up a Minnesota II canoe for the race. The team captain brings the ice and water to the boat. My job as helper was to assist the team captain and provide additional encouragement. My sister has rejoined Houston Canoe Club after being gone for 20 years, since the Austin Paddling Club has become inactive. She moved to Austin in 1992.
||Paula Scotney-Castle at the bow,
Lynn Vance delivering water,
and Lynne Andrus at the stern
of the Minnesota II canoe.
I had to be at a presbytery meeting in Houston on Saturday morning so I met them at the Luling Highway 90 West checkpoint. I had dinner at the Luling Bar-B-Q before I met them. The San Marcos at the Highway 90 West Bridge must be the town swimming spot since there were many people swimming. The checkpoint after that was at Grogan’s Mill which had a short portage which they made shortly before dark. I stopped at the Bucees on the Interstate to shop before I made it to the next checkpoint at Palmetto State Park. I slept in the bed of the pickup truck and woke up to see them cross the low water bridge in the middle of the night. Another team had broken their boat in two by being caught against the bridge. A different team had an aluminum canoe stuck against the bridge which they were having a hard time getting unstuck. No one else could assist them because only the team can handle the boat.
The next stop was at Gonzales right after the San Marcos had joined the Guadalupe. Lynne and Paula came through about noon on Sunday. I swam in the river there. The checkpoint after that was Hocheim which was under a bridge. I slept again in the truck bed when I could that Sunday night. The only way to get the water and ice down to the river was climbing down a rope for support on steep rocky slope. After that was Cuero where about the only decent place to eat was the Dairy Queen. The team captain did not need me overnight so I could go to a motel in Victoria for Monday night. I managed to get a room in the fourth motel I tried. It was nice to sleep in a bed and take a shower. I got to the Victoria City Park in time to help carry the ice water to the river. In the middle of the day, I helped at the next stop which was the Highway 59 bypass south of Victoria. The next stop was around the former DuPont plant. There was good shade there. Lynne complained that the actual distance to that stop was longer than what was stated in the materials. She was tired at that point. Lynne was worried about the bay conditions so I went to Seadrift to check the bay. I looked at the bay about 9pm and saw that the bay was very smooth. I saw Tom Goynes and he agreed that it was unusual to see the bay that smooth.
We waited at the salt water barrier for the team to come in and then we waited. We heard that one team had called in to give up and then about a hour later our team gave up. There about 5 teams lost in the portage around the log jam that night. After it got to be daylight, some one with a power boat picked them up and towed the canoe behind our team. The way back was slower than going to get them since a canoe can only be towed at lower than its hull speed. One of the five lost teams made it to the salt water barrier before the 8am cut off time, but a couple of others were disqualified there when they came in a few minutes later. The reason for the cut off time at the checkpoints is that they would be unlikely to make the 100 hour cutoff time to get to Seadrift.
We loaded the Minnesota II on my sister’s car with her team captain driving it since Lynne and Paula had had little sleep. After we had loaded everything, a thunderstorm came up. The rain was starting to pound and the lighting flashes were coming too close, so we left in a hurry. Mary Wilson, a race official helped open and close the gates to get out of the Salt Water Barrier. We went to the banquet at Seadrift. It started with a prayer for the person who died on the Safari, which was the first in the 50 year history of the race. The winners and finalists were recognized, including the team that finished with only 15 minutes left, which was the team that got to the Salt Water Barrier a few minutes before eight. After the banquet, I visited with a relative in Seadrift. We met at the house of a friend of his close to the pavilion. When I was visiting the friend’s son came in. The friend’s son was one of the tandem paddlers who finished 15 minutes before the end of the race. We talked about the race,
The person who died had been drinking an extreme amount of water and developed a low sodium level as a result. He was helicoptered to San Antonio and died in a hospital there. He was from Dripping Springs, Texas.