2018 Day 17: The Sweeper—The Boat, The Myth, The Legend (reprinted and updated)

All but five teams are on the done side of the ledger board. Four little boat teams and one house/boat team still plugging away rowing, sailing… you know the drill. Other than hitting refresh on the tracker and looking at the totem poles (again), there’s not a lot to do up here in Ketchikan. Just sitting on the dock of the bay until the next 16-feet of storyline rings the bell and spills its contents, fresh and flopping all over the internet. For now, we’re just pacing the hotel lobby along the geometric patterns on the carpet, feeding our Fitbit with fresh steps and making the other guests nervous enough to double lock their doors.

We’re keeping busy, thanks for asking. The following is an excerpt of a fictitious interview we just had with ourselves about the only thing left to talk to ourselves about: the sweep boat, the hotly contested subject of race fans worldwide.

R2AK: Tell us about the Sweep Boat.

R2AK: The first rule about the sweep boat is, “Don’t talk about the sweep boat.”

R2AK: Hahahaha, good one. No really, does it exist?

R2AK: Of course it does, it left Victoria five days ago.

R2AK: Really, no one can see it on the tracker map.

R2AK: Of course not, it’s not a race boat.

R2AK: That’s pretty weak. Some of the racers left their trackers on and we could see them going to the store in Reno and well, other places… It seems like if we could watch that then you could spare one for the central antagonist of the back of the race.

R2AK: Fair point.

R2AK: So, where is it?

R2AK: Theoretically, it’s right around Cape Caution.

R2AK: And actually?

R2AK: Actually that’s none of your business. The chief weapon of the Sweep Boat is surprise…

R2AK: Spare me.

R2AK: OK, what if I told you that the sweep boat is a little green motor boat that has been cruising around the course for weeks. That’s how I’d do it, wouldn’t you? I mean, no one is going to drop out before Bella Bella anyway, so why wouldn’t you just go cruising when you felt like it, and then just Rosie Ruiz back in whenever the theoretical miles catch up to you? What if I told you that the sweep boat position isn’t much more accurate than the Santa Tracker that all of the weathermen put on the green screen on Christmas Eve?

R2AK: But they use satellites and stuff…

R2AK: Right, same satellites. We just clear out the Command Bunker when Santa NORAD needs to take it over.

R2AK: I can’t tell if you’re making fun of me right now. But given the inverse seasonality it seems like it would work great. You wouldn’t need two sets of computers, redundant tunneling machines, and we could pool for maintenance and janitorial staff…

At that point we walked away. The conversation was starting to alternately drift and get redundant. We lost interest. As far as we know, those two parts of our subconscious are still talking about the finer points of low altitude radar on reindeer fertility, and whether or not the crew on the Sweep Boat have the same health plan as Santa’s elves (“Last I heard they were on an HSA…”)

Back to the point. Global warming, peer pressure, Wonder Woman’s Invisible jet: just because you can’t see a thing doesn’t mean it’s not real. And the tracker-less Sweep Boat is making ominous and theoretical progress up the coast, fangs out and a bone in her teeth. At 75 miles a day, the line of disqualification is at Cape Caution tonight, Bella Bella by Saturday, and it’s all over on the 10th. Teams Oaracle, TRAK, and Kairos seem to be clear of the hook, Ravenous is in limbo, and Dock Rat is feeling the heat and potentially the sound of the Sweeper’s bow wake. As of yesterday, they needed to average 73 miles a day to reach Ketchikan in time, to their running daily average of 19—even if you take out the day and a half they spend on the beach, unless things change, “The Verminator” will get tapped out within a horizon or two of their goal.


Clemency is a pleasant sounding impossibility, but the boys on the Sweep ain’t Santa. They are hard forged, tough like a girl, give no quarter, and mean business. Did you ever wonder who the 33 people were who got free R2AK tattoos? Two of them are on the Sweep Boat reaper crew. We hear they’re getting a tat for each boat they run down to DQ. We’re hoping for a jailhouse teardrop. Lil Wayne will be proud, and we’re pretty sure he’s real.

Stay tuned, race fans, there’s a race to the finish even here at the shovel end of the R2AK parade, and it looks like it’s even odds.

photo credit: Sea Shepherd