Day 14: Falling titans, toes for math, and the Grim Sweeper

Field Report
photo: Team Seas the Day by Julian Laffin

Seven teams are on the playfield as opposed to five in 2019 at the same juncture, and two teams found their way to done yesterday, in two different ways.

Team Seas the Day (still not totally happy about puns for team names) sailed into Ketchikan in 14th place to an audience electronically bolstered by a family Zoom call of 8+ people and 70+ viewers on Facebook. What was their newfound advice imparted to the airwaves, you ask? “It doesn’t matter how much you prepare; you will never be prepared.”

Lillian of Team Interstice finished her race in the arguably more complex but other acceptable option. In a single text from Bella Bella, “Sorry friend; my heart of hearts says, go home,” she created her own finish line. For years, Lillian had been throwing herself against any challenge we conjure, completing R2AK in 2019, WA360 in 2021, and every single year of our human-powered race, SEVENTY48 (though she was disqualified in 2019 for leaving the race early to go to an R2AK party).

Field Reporter Lynnette Oostmeyer tagged along with Lillian for a few days in Bella Bella. Her piece is included below and gives a glimpse into why stopping before Ketchikan became the most important decision Lillian could make.

However, we are keeping busy with seven teams still in play; thanks for asking. The following is an excerpt of a fictitious interview we just had with ourselves (reprinted and updated) about the only thing left to talk to ourselves about:

  • The sweep boat.
  • The hotly contested subject of race fans worldwide.
  • The rolling disqualification line that’s making progress up the coast.

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 a day ago.

R2AK: Really? No one can see it on the tracker map.

R2AK: Of course not, because: tracker. If we didn’t spring for a functional one for the teams trying to win the race, why do you think we’d waste the few shekels we have left on the sweeper? It’s not a race boat.

R2AK: That’s pretty weak. It seems like you could spare one for the central antagonist of the back of the race.

R2AK: Totally disagree, but point taken.

R2AK: So, where is it?

R2AK: Theoretically, it’s right around the north end of the Strait of Georgia.

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 meteorologists 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 that kind of collaboration would work great. You wouldn’t need two sets of computers, the radar could be re-tuned from boats to sleighs, tunneling machines are expensive, and you 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 the effect of prolonged exposure to 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 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 in the Strait of Georgia tonight, Bella Bella by Tuesday morning, and it’s all over on the 9th at noon. As long as they keep moving, Teams Don’t Tell Mom, Let’s Row Maybe?, Oaracle, and Fix Oder Nix seem to be clear of the hook. Teams Bangarang and Fire Escape are in limbo, and if Sockeye Voyages doesn’t cease the plankton sampling shenanigans, they’ll be feeling the heat and potentially the sound of the Sweeper’s approaching bow wake. As of this morning, those three final teams need to average just shy of 30 miles a day to reach Ketchikan in time. Right now they all are averaging less than that. Unless they plan to succumb to the Sirens of Bella Bella, there’s a Ketchikan urgency that they should hear like a clarion call.

Death, taxes, and the sweep boat: the Grim Sweeper cometh.

First photo Team Seas the Day by Zach Carver, second Team Interstice by Rebecca Ross, third Team Fix Oder Nix by Rebecca Ross

Field Report: Difficult decisions in Bella Bella: Team Interstice bows out of R2AK

By Lynnette Oostmeyer, Field Reporter

Lillian Kuehl, Team Interstice, rowed alone for five days after her unplanned racing partner Bob McCall, Team Zen Dog, had to bow out due to serious blisters on his hands.

“So there’s this thing that happens sometimes when people are on medications for their mental health,” Lillian said. “They get on medication and their issues are resolved, they feel better. They’re like, ‘This is awesome, my issues went away, I think I can wean off of these medications now.’ And then of course the issue reappears because the medications were the solution. That’s how I felt about Bob leaving me.”

After they had met up in Seymour Narrows, Lillian had been feeling better about the race overall. So when Bob left, he took with him some of her newly built confidence. She was facing some of the most infamous sections of the course, including Cape Caution. These five days tried her patience to deal with her fears. She described seeing orcas, and instead of the usual wonderment and joy it would bring her, it just brought dread. Her boat sits so close to the water and has an unfortunately similar shape to that of a seal… Keep Reading