Race to Alaska
I haven’t bought a plane ticket home. It’s hard to guess the duration of a 750-mile no-motors boat race, and I don’t want to pay the change fees if there’s too much or too little wind, or if we have to bail and get home from Canada instead of Alaska.
We figure we’ll finish in three weeks at most, so that’s how long we’ve each told work we’ll be gone. If so, we’ll be running a tight ship by then: bodies adjusted to six meals a day and staggered work/sleep shifts of six hours’ rest per four hours active, some good system for stowing the sleeping bags and dripping raingear of five people neatly around the three berths.
Maybe I’ll even be good at sailing by then.
Race to Alaska takes any kind of craft: from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska, vessels have ranged from pro-grade trimarans with serious sailboat race teams to a now-legendary stand-up paddleboarder running it solo.
Our craft, the Betwixt, is a lovingly repaired 25-foot sailboat, onto which we’ve lashed a couple of bike frames. Every Sunday since March, whichever crew members can make it have been down at the Des Moines Marina, repairing and replacing: caulking in new windows, cutting out and re-coring soggy bits of rotten deck, rewiring cabin lights, installing a now-not-leaking marine head.
The bike frames are for when the sails won’t fill. They’ve been cut and welded to let us drive 3D-printed propellors by pedaling facing sideways to the boat: leaned up against the cabin and legs sticking out through the lifelines to meet the pedals over the water.
These seem silly, but they should be enough at least to let us steer when the wind dies — and hopefully progress, currents permitting. I had to climb the mast to clove hitch on their deployment system: a pulley for each, so they don’t get ripped off by the waves when we’re sailing. Hopefully we don’t lose them, or at least not early in the race.
I wouldn’t be able to introduce our crew better than the Race to Alaska bloggers have already done, but the highlights are: five of us, four of us engineers, one I’ve met only once. Intrepid all; sailors, three out of five.
The race starts early Monday morning and keeps going until either we get there or something important breaks in an unfixable way.
You can follow along! I’ll blog, assuming there’s some cell service and I’m not exhausted, but the race itself has a documentary crew with daily updates and a live map of each team. Look for a Zebra-striped monohull in video feeds, or a little dot labeled Rho Your Boat — most of the time, you’ll know more about how we’re doing than we do.
Next: Race to Alaska: Start
(The links above are “friend links” and shouldn’t cost you views on Medium)