Race to Alaska: Repairs

There are major perks to being part of a nearly all-engineer crew. In addition to the very real upsides of shared vocabulary and dumb engineer jokes (see: our team name of Rho Your Boat), there’s a lot to fix out here.

By Liam’s estimate, we have more spare parts on this boat than there are things to fix. We have upcycled Talenti gelato containers caulked under the quarter berth shelves by their lids: nuts, bolts, shackles, cotter pins.

Good thing, too. I’ve lost count of the number of times we have needed to fix the marine head, the depth sounder, or some part of the pedal stations.

The shackle at the front foot of the jib sheared clean off in some fortunately light wind and had to be replaced. The hand-pump sink devolved into total non-functionality but is now in a peak condition. The bilge pump works better than ever. Sharp bolt ends have received acorn nuts and dabs of epoxy so we don’t get scratched.

Realistically, though there are four engineers on board (three mechanical), Ert is the true ship’s engineer. He’s more or less the standard-issue superengineer from any spacefaring show, tinkering around the ship at all hours and leaving a wake of stuff that works better now. It seems like there’s little that can’t be fixed with bits of line, adhesive caulk, and mixed-underway epoxy.

Ert also designed and built our pedal propulsion systems, welding frankenbikes that drive custom propellors. The props themselves are a thing of beauty, and by far our most-admired asset by people who see them out of the water. They’re 3D printed and then strengthened with epoxy- which has held up even against bumps with rocks.

The propellers were custom designed to maximize the efficiency of comfortable, sustainable cycling speeds against expected conditions. We even did a spring-scale drag test in the marina to get good parameters for the force it takes to move our boat.

In calm conditions, with both stations in operation, we can pull a couple of knots, for many hours in a row. Last night we were able to best a stiff current into Campbell River- not by pedaling extra hard, but by pedaling smooth, steady.

Our starboard pedal station had a rough go of things in our early-morning transit of Seymour Narrows; heeled way over, the hoisted-but-not-stowed pedal station dipped its prop for long moments in very fast water. The prop spun crazy fast but held up great- but an existing bend in the shaft that holds the propeller in the water deepened severely.

When we finally anchored up at four or five in the morning, Ert did not sound hopeful for the pedal station’s recovery. But this morning, he’s been up and about, switching it to a port-side prop to give us a one-side-two-bikes pedaling configuration that might ease the strain on the shaft.

It’s been too windy to test (which is great, we’re tacking beautifully up Johnstone), but all hope is not lost; we may yet make Ketchikan with fully functioning manual propulsion.




An adventurer, woodland creature, and engineer. Currently working on data ownership models, environmental accountability, and intentional community.

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Kelsey Breseman

Kelsey Breseman

An adventurer, woodland creature, and engineer. Currently working on data ownership models, environmental accountability, and intentional community.

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