Team UnSalted Nuts

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Team members: Heather Jankens, Homer Williams, Greg Flanigan, Pelayo Secades Roncero, Micheal Breske, John Flanigan
Hometown: Omena, MI, USA
Race vessel: 2006 Henderson
LOA: 30′ 8″
Human propulsion: Row
Connect: website, facebook

Team UnSalted Nuts hails not from the hallowed aisles of Trader Joes, but the pallid isles of the Great Lakes, and sails just about anything: tall ships, viking ships, championships, and whatever you call a hollowed-out mango tree. And these unseasoned, seasoned professionals are ready to get shell-shucked, maple-roasted, and salt-sprayed all the way to Ketchikan.

The cumulative effect of Team UnSalted Nuts’ adventure resumes is so chock-full of ridiculous details it reads like the sweet-tea-induced fever dream that would be your Aunt Charlene’s directions to a 1980s supervillain lair: 

Alright, honey. Now, first you’re gonna wanna grab your ice motorcycle and ride until you see the Dairy Queen. That’s where you’re gonna park and get on the viking longship and sail until you get to Mt. Batur volcano. Make your way through the den of small-but-ill-tempered monkeys and try not to get bitten like it’s a fresh Rae Dunn Day at the Park Center Homegoods. Next, put on your scuba gear—because you’re gonna need it—and make a left when you get to the shipwreck of the old SEARS where Beth Anne used to work—you remember Beth Anne? She had such an unfortunate face, bless her heart… Right, well finally, you’re gonna need to dangle over the shark-infested waters—or swim through them—I’m not gonna tell you what to do…

All that’s to say, we’re certain they’re well-qualified to handle whatever adversities the race course is going to throw at them. The real question is: can they sail a regular boat?

We sat down with Heather from Team UnSalted Nuts over a bowl of sea stories to talk about whether it’s more inclusive to Great Lakes sailors to call them ‘water stories,’ those restaurants where they throw peanut shells on the floor, and how to pronounce ‘Draken Harald Hårfagre.’

What are the necessary components of a good adventure?

Friends, a boat, Possibility of death or dismemberment, generous dose of misery and a pinch of a once in a lifetime awesomeness.

What’s your claim to fame?

Four of us have completed the Kraken Cup, a remarkably stupid endeavor off the coast of Africa, All but one of us have spent an inordinate amount of time on a Viking ship. We’re a strange group. We don’t have a claim to fame—we have a history that is one whacked out amalgamation of chaos. This is where our website might be handy; our bios are fun. 

It’s drizzling, freezing cold, and you’ve missed the tide. The cabin is leaky and the stove won’t light. How do you keep the good vibes going?

That sounds like our idea of a good time.  Add cookies and coffee and we are good to go. 

Forget the 10k or the steak knives. What does success look like for you and your team?

Some good stories for the personal libraries, kissing the dock in Ketchikan with everyone accounted for.

Defend your vessel. What makes it worthy?

We wanted boat that go zoom. Boat go zoom.

She’s fast, sleek and has slightly more protection than a hollowed-out mango tree or a Viking longship. Ironically, choosing a modern sport boat is the best thing we could do to remove this team from our collective comfort zone. Sticking us on a half sinking log with a square sail and planks as paddles would just make us feel at home.

Blank space, baby. Share some things:

The fact that we found our vessel in Montana is weird. Homer drove out and drug her back to Northern Michigan in the middle of winter. Because …Homer. We originally wanted to roll with a classic vessel but when we had to alter that plan, we took a pretty hard turn to the modern (we are still mourning that, for the record). 

We are also using our participation to do some good in Northern Michigan and raise some cash for an 1845 reproduction schooner named “Madeline,” owned by a local not-for-profit. She has been sailing the Great Lakes for 33 years and was built and is crewed and maintained by volunteers. She sails for free for her community.  In a region where access to on the water experiences are limited to those with the financial ability.


Google says you should limit yourself to “one to two handfuls of nuts per day” lest you add too many calories. To that we say, “No one likes an Almond Mom, Google.” When it comes to UnSalted Nuts, we’re squarely on the side of ‘more is more.’ Welcome to Race To Alaska.