Team members: John Calogero, Tara Watkins, Olivia Lord
Hometown: Friday Harbor, WA, USA
Race vessel: Bolger Schooner Trimaran
Human propulsion: Sliding seat rowing, fix seat rowing, pedal drive
Connect: website, facebook, instagram, youtube
TL;DR: Tampons, QWERTY, Where’s Waldo, constipation, plus there are a lot of goddamned flags in this one. . Over.
If you are one of the estimated .03% of people who are International Signal Flag Code enthusiasts, when you see a flag with a blue border around a white rectangle, your blood pressure goes from a resting lub-dub to near-stroke turgid.
Unpacking that, for the statistically “everyone” of the rest of you: In the early proto-internet times, pre-radio humans developed ways of communicating that lacked the warm, QWERTY overlay we enjoy today. Who can forget the carrier pigeon, smoke signals, talking drums, flashing lights, and the language of flags? Back when cotton and weaving was the Bitcoin of the day, signal flags evolved from a thing you marched behind on the battlefield to make sure you were only killed by the right people, to an intricate and agreed upon visual language in which you could communicate almost anything to everyone as long as they were close enough, it was daytime, and not too foggy. Every letter had a flag and a name: F was Foxtrot , U was Uniform , and because of the special code that was created*, rather than FU being a piece of direct and specific feedback, “Foxtrot Uniform ” was the internationally agreed-upon signal to designate a search area for a downed airplane.
Today, signal flags are largely used to notify others that there’s a boat parade and that you are at least slightly drunk and feeling decorative. More than festivities, in the nether to mid-navel years of the 20th century, flags meant something—or, more accurately, they could mean damned near anything. Want to say yes? Hoist the Charlie . Want to say no? November . Want to convey that you are abandoning your vessel which has suffered a nuclear accident and is a possible source of radiation danger? Mike Uniform .
It’s more or less intuitive.
Back to the flag with the blue border around a white rectangle. That’s “Papa ,” the P-Flag that is less for this PFLAG (an important organization for LGBTQ+ people, their parents, families, and allies) and more for indicating the letter that comes after “O” and/or for signaling that a vessel is preparing to leave the dock. While any vessel about to depart may also be supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, vessels hoist the P flag because they are outward bound.
This brings us to a world record for elapsed time before an R2AK bio arrived anywhere near the point of talking about a team. While they may also be supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, Team Sockeye Voyages flies the P flag for another reason: all three souls onboard are Outward Bound Instructors. If you don’t already know, Outward Bound is arguably the worldwide flagship of outdoor education, and their chosen logo is the P flag—not because they knowingly co-opted the LGBTQ+ community but because, that’s right, it means “Outward Bound” in flag language. (See what they did there? P flag = Outward Bound? See what we did? Flagship flag? Killing it! Bravo Juliet to us!)
The origin mythos of OB (no, not the signal code for “minimum required water depth,” just an acronym for Outward Bound. Yes, also for the tampon) is legend. Oddly similar to the no-frills promise of the same-named tampon, founder Kurt Hahn’s “cold water and suck it up” style of training for WWII merchant mariners was aimed at reducing casualties from torpedoes. Hahn offered character-building experiences designed to push mariners’ limits before U-boats and torpedoes offered the same opportunity in a less supportive environment. Since then, Outward Bound has grown to a global household name of what to do when you or your kid’s high school shoplifting charge and/or post-college/quarter-life crisis comes calling. Yes, for the students, but just then we were referring to the instructors. Outward Bound hammers young minds into old souls against the anvil of adventure—mountains, rivers, and the sea. (We’re clearly not sponsored by them, but it’s a great program. Click here to learn more)
An application from a team of all Outward Bound instructors raised the obvious questions:
- With a 24/7 race, how do you schedule the daily reading of inspirational quotes?
- With no students, who would be blamed for cold, burnt food with sand in it?
- What will be more upsetting? When the team from NOLS inevitably wins, or when the three crew of Team Sockeye Voyages try to debrief the loss OB-style (not the tampon) but realize their attempts at “circling up” can only result in a triangle?
“OK, let’s circle up.”
Regardless of the geometry, Team Sockeye Voyages arrives at the R2AK with a ridiculous amount of experience on the water, these waters, this race, and what we can only imagine is the clear temptation for the non-tampon OB founder Kurt Hahn to zombie up and join them.
Starting with the team’s elder statesman/ honorary GILF/ Where’s Waldo stunt double, John Calogero’s background includes sailing ships, building boats, and building peace in war-torn countries. The central pillar of his cred is 20+ years of Outward Bounding on both coasts and at least two counties. John’s trained and inspired decades of students and new instructors, who have themselves gone on to inspire generations of others. While he would never claim the 20,000 person legacy of the metaphor, given the number of young instructors he has inspired, John is hands down the hands-off Wilt Chamberlain of maritime education, or at least OB’s Amway Godfather. Most importantly, he completed the R2AK in 2017 (Team Grace B). Bravo Zulu .
Personal experience aside, his recruiting game is on point. Rounding out Team Sockeye Voyage’s crew manifest are a couple of low-key, next-gen OB rockstars who humble shrugged then hit go on their race applications, while they were on two different boats, in two different jet-set/ bucket-list destinations: British Virgin Islands as mate on a sailing ship, Gulf of Mexico as Outward Bound instructor in a canoe. Foxtrotting gold.
When they’re not ruining incredible experiences by submitting online document requests, Tara and Olivia rack up combined resumes in a way that somehow packs far more experience than their combined 55 years could possibly allow: Outward Bound instructors in multiple elements and countries, licensed captain, wilderness first aid certifications, open ocean crossings on sailing ships, half marathons, yacht racing, and somehow the time to make metal art on the side.
Their boat? A weirdo machine of their own making. A 23’ gaff-rigged sailing canoe, the Bolger Light Schooner is weird enough by its own merits, but one that has somehow been turned into a trimaran and wants to go to Alaska? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot , over. When you wind up India Lima , don’t say we didn’t warn you. November Echo , FFS.
Welcome to the Romeo 2 Alpha Kilo (R2AK), Team Sockeye Voyages. Wishing you Mike Echo Golf 2 Alaska. But, and we can’t stress this enough: if we say Sierra November , we mean Sierra foxtrotting November , copy? (FTW, we’re India Tango with the flag shit, amirite? R2AK out.)
*Footnote! “Pub 102” is the rosetta stone of all signal code references and flag language in general. Decode all the nonsense here.