Preparing the R2AK Hitia 17 for a race ’round Mercer Island

Tomorrow Manuoku — the Wharram Hitia 17′ that Thomas and I built for the 2015 Race to Alaska — will compete in the Sound Rower’s “Sausage Pull”.  I’ll be pedaling with Kevin Flick, trying to take 10-20 minute turns at keeping the Hitia going 7 kph or faster.  This will be a unique opportunity to see what sorts of speeds we can get over a multi-hour course when the boat is lightly loaded and free of the drag from its mast, sail, and rigging.  If we can maintain a 7-8 kph average, we should finish the 23 km course in 3-3.5 hours.

The full race course is 23 km long.
The full race course is 23 km long.

For comparison, here are some full- and half-race mean speeds from previous Sausage Pulls attained by local Michael Lampi in various pedal boats over the years.  The range is 7.7-11.1 kph and the mean is 9.8 kph.


I’m hoping Kevin and I can get close to the 7.7 kph and that Matt is able to top the 11.1 kph!  Either way, I expect we’ll learn a lot about our boats and set a personal best in these boats to try in future years.

For further comparison, here are the mean speeds for 24-hour world record distances set in human-powered boats.


It’s noteworthy that Michael’s full-race (~2 hour) speeds are right up there with Greg’s 24-hour world record speed.  All these numbers can be further examined in this Google spreadsheet of human-powered boat performance data.

When Thomas and I circumnavigated Mercer Island as part of our 2015 R2AK training, our boat Manuoku was fully loaded and had a sailing rig.  As I recall it was pretty calm that night.  The iSailGPS screengrabs show that our speed was 4-6 kph for much of the time.

In contrast, I attained speeds of 6-8 kph during speed tests earlier this week, comparing performance of the Rick Willoughby custom propeller and an APC propeller of comparable diameter.  The rig was still up (I’m going to pedal/sail to the start of the race tonight), but with the boat was much more lightly loaded than in 2015 (much less gear/water, and only 1 person aboard).   Overall, the speed results were surprisingly pretty similar between the two props, despite the fact that the APC was not snugly fit to the shaft at all (need a bushing and a locking nut as the non-locking one I used fell off sometime during the tests!).

The start and finish line is Mt. Baker Park beach!





18 hour trial on Lake WA: nighttime circumnavigation of Mercer Island

As Team Sea Runners prepares to run back to the sea (or at least lake) again, it seems a good time to reflect back on our first lake trial, providing an account of the adventure and some performance data.  Starting on February 22, 2015, in the mid-evening from Sail Sand Point, we pedal-sailed for almost 18 hours around Lake Washington.  Along the way we circumnavigated Mercer Island, were startled by the sounds of mid-night maelstroms, and met a misty, frosty dawn by securing our craft to “the shish-kebob stick” off of St. Edwards Park.

From a R2AK training perspective, we learned a lot.  First, don’t put the 2:1 90-degree drive on backwards, unless you want a really high cadence for very little propulsion!  Second, with the right tools you can fix such problems on the beach.  Third, don’t drop nuts on a cobble beach if you plan on seeing them again.  Thanks to some help from Mike and Enzo, Thomas got Matt’s pedal drive (2:1 Mitrpak, carbon-fiber sleeved bent shaft, and carbon-fiber prop) working well.  Our sail rig was the 13~m2 crab claw on the A-frame windsurfer mast raked forward about 20 degrees.

We also got a good sense of what it’s like to pedal on a watch schedule through the night.  Pedaling for a couple hours is doable, especially with water and snack food handy.  Observing the shoreline takes away some of the monotony, but we can now report that the Mercer Island population uniformly watches big bright screens on Sunday nights, in stark contrast to the residents of Lake Union who commonly exhibit postprandial coital activity.  While Nature may provide us with entertainment aplenty along the BC coast, bringing some music or books on tape may boost morale during the R2AK if we run into multiple no-wind days.

Mother Nature did provide us with some wonderful experiences.  It’s always amazing to night sail on Lake Washington — alone even in the summer months as the metropolis sleeps around you — but on this longer voyage we were privileged to witness two new phenomena.  Around 2 in the morning as we tacked north from the 520 bridge we kept sensing dark patches of water ahead — as if a localized gust were approaching, riffling the darkened waters.  As our range closed to a couple hundred meters, the patches would emit an intense sizzling noise and slowly disappear.  Eventually we resolved they must be enormous flocks of sleeping birds, but we heard no calls and never got close enough to identify the species.  Another treat was sailing through sea smoke in the pre-dawn as a chill northerly wind swept over the Lake and us off St. Edwards Park.  With ice forming on the deck it was other-worldly to ghost through the broken trunks and skeletal branches of the numerous trees that have fallen into the Lake from the Park.  Ethereal forms seemed to rise from the Lake and drift through the dim arboreal hulks, like pirate wraiths patrolling the shoreline

Wind data

The overall wind situation was a light northerly breeze.  As we set out from Sail Sand Point at around 17:15 and pedal sailed south to Seward Park (reaching it around 20:30), the northerly was blowing, but quickly decreasing from ~15 km/hr.  The breeze was steady at ~<10 km/hr from midnight (through when the sea smoke was most active) until about 9 a.m.  After that it slowed until we got off the water just before noon.

150221_520-wind 150221_I90-wind


Performance data

This gentle, fairly steady northerly led to an opportunity to compare our downwind and upwind mean speeds.  The screengrabs from iSailGPS show downwind speeds of 6-8 km/hr, while upwind legs typically have speeds of 4-6 km/hr.  North of the bridge, where Scott pedal sailed through many tacks, the boat speed peaks near 8-10 km/hr — mostly during pedaled close or beam reaches.

Below are some results from GPSar:

TN: 6.24 kph, 7.7 km — Downwind SSP to 520
SV: 6.1 kph, 4.7km, 46min — Downwind 520-I90
TN: 4.4 kph, 3.5km, 47min — Downwind (but weakening wind) to S Mercer
SV: 4.1 kph, 4.1km, 58min — In lee of Mercer and upwind up east side
SV: 5.1 kph, 16.2km, 3:12 pedal-tacking — Upwind
SV: 3.6 kph, 2.3km, 37min upwind pedal  – Upwind
TN: 2.9 kph, 1.9km, 28 min upwind pedal – Upwind
TN: 4.3kph, 9.9km, 2:17 downwind pedal – Downwind
SV: 4.9 kph, 4.2km, 52min pedal-sail — Across wind

Overall: 4.17 kph, 62km, 13:26 (sements missing)
VMG=6.68/3:13= 2.1 kph during tacking phase
Max: 7.0 kph sustained over 1.4km on a beam reach



R2AK Hitia 17 reassembled with new pedal drive

After three weeks in the shop, Manu-o-ku is reassembled at Sail Sandpoint. We went from truck top to pedaling away in 1hr 20 minutes, then spent about the same time pedaling and paddling.

Here are the ship track and speed plot screengrabs from iSailGPS.

It is a synch to maintain 6.5 kph, but you have to mash & suffer a lot of noise (especially belowdecks) to hit 8. Not bad for the first iteration using Gary’s SS shaft & Rick’s SS propeller!

The tramps worked great, including retracting quickly to allow paddling on the inboard side of each hull.

Next step is to finish up the new mast and prepare to consult with James & Hanneke next week about the rig (in Greece)!

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Pedal Sailing

Tested out the latest way to move along.  Northerly winds felt like 5 to 10 kph at pedaling altitude.  Tried the following variations:  rig up – sail furled pedaling straight into the wind; rig up – sail set pedaling various points of wind and sailing from the recumbent seat; and self-steering engaged and sails trimmed for hands free.  Looks like steady course.

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SeaCycle mounted in its new fore-aft aluminum beam.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 5.05.48 AM

A little further analysis by Scott using Thomas’s GPX file in GPS Action Replay:

Wind history from Sail Sand Point Wunderground.
Wind history from Sail Sand Point Wunderground.  Thomas was out 11-3pm when winds were steady, but temperature was on the rise.


GPSar grab for Thomas's solo lake voyage in 10-20 kph NNW winds.
GPSar grab for Thomas’s solo lake voyage in 15-20 kph NNW winds.


Thomas (single-handing the Manu-o-ku) averaged about 5.6 kph upwind (for 12.7 km), 8.9 kph downwind (for 6.2km), and 8.1 kph reaching back and forth (for 7.8km).  SSP says wind was 15-20kph out of the northwest — probably a pretty typical situation for our race (though there may be chop).  Overall average of 6.76 kph over 26.9 km!

For light wind, those are some impressive tack angles (90-125, avg ~110).  Impressively, most of that upwind work was without pedal power assistance!  In terms of velocity made good (VMG) under just the 13m^2 crab claw, this is promising: 3.45 km/hr VMG towards Kenmore during those ~9 tacks (7.2 km in 2 hrs 5 minutes).

That’s enough to make progress against the average contrary current (max speeds 4-5 kph) we’ll see in Discovery Passage outside of the flow restrictions like Seymour Narrows.  Of course, to be realistic we’ll need to do similar tests beating into Puget Sound chop…


“Say YES More”

The more I think about the #R2AK and the more I research about human powered travel, the bigger the tribe becomes!  All of these folks could be part of this race.

More paddling, More Sailing!

More footage from out recent outing in heavier winds with the modified mast and big sail.  This time, I don’t think we were feeling like it was about to be an explosion of fiberglass and bamboo splinters!

Sparkly voyage to Jake’s R2AK talk at the Center for Wooden Boats

A couple days before his #R2AK 101 talk at the Center for Wooden Boats on (1/16/2015), Race to Alaska Director Jake Beattie queried us via Facebook: could we bring our boat down to display dockside?  We said that sounds like good motivation to do some night sailing/paddling from Sail Sand Point (where we thankfully have a lakeside home for our Hitia 17 “Manu-o-ku”) and got permission and a slip from CWB.  Little did we know what lay ahead of us: not only interesting bits from Jake, but also paddle-sailing upwind speed data, adventure, reunions, and a mini-R2AK micro-raid with our new friend Brian McGinn at 1 a.m on Lake Union!

The back of Kevin's and Thomas's heads.  And Jake Beattie introducing Seattle to the R2AK.  (Instagram by CWR -- )
The back of Kevin’s and Thomas’s heads. And Jake Beattie introducing Seattle to the R2AK. (Instagram by CWR — )

Oh, and the talk itself proved to be rich in laughter and even a bit of beta on new collaborators who have entered or made it through the full-race application process.  Here are my notes:

How this started: In 2013 there was a beer tent at the wooden boat festival.  A 2nd beer was had last March (2014).  Then there was a Race.  Instigators were at least Josh of small boat advisor, Colin, & Jake

Overarching motivation: Democratize the water (SV: hear echoes of Wharram’s ethic?)

Inspiration: Tourd’Divide; some sort of X-Games for boats

Full-race registration update: 17 thru or in app process; 10 in prep/negotions (most of Jake’s job at the moment); highlights:

  • Team Dartagne (big group, serious sailors, e.g. 2014 Record 900 nautiques)
  • Shane Perrin (World record 24 hr distance SUP holder)
  • Team Uncruise (Family including a daughter)
  • 2 women in a sliding seat row boat

A reason to have a sail?  “Nothing’s more dumb than rowing downwind”

Invited tribes, but no response

Questions (only a few noted):

Is land based human travel w your boat ok/encouraged?  Short portages ok, but it’s a boat race, not bike, hike/etc.

How to checkpoints work?
— Don’t have to stop.
— Thomas Basin June 18 – July 4
— VHF VTS check-in is ok, or SPOT or photo

On the way to south Lake Union, leaving SSP around midnight, Thomas and I paddled and sailed (almost entirely upwind) in a gentle southerly.  It was spittling when we started, but was pleasantly warm & dry for most of both night sails.

Here are some data and analyses from the passage to the CWB:

Sail Sand Point wind history
Sail Sand Point wind history: note the 12-5 a.m. y-axis ticks at top (clipped in subsequent grabs)

The wind was definitely flukey, especially in the lee of Sand Point and in Union Bay.  It was on the nose for most of the Lake Washington segment (seemed more S than SW sometimes), then more of a beam or broad reach in Union Bay, the Cut, and Portage Bay, and then back on the nose as we headed south in Lake Union.

GPS Action Replay display
GPS Action Replay display for leg from Sail Sand Point through Union Bay

GPSar (above) and iSailGPS (below) agree that the upwind paddle-sail speed (using voyageur style paddles this trip) during this first ~10 km was about 5-6 kph with some peaks around 8.  We entered the cut at about 2 am.


In retrospect, these are encouraging results for our first upwind stint with these paddles and the 13m^2 crab claw.  Paddle-sailing with intermittent 130ish bpm effort from 1 or both of us in moderate steady winds on flattish water, we were tacking through 120 degrees at ~5 kph (and through ~90 at lower speeds?).

Polar plot shows we were pointing pretty high for a cat!
Polar plot shows we were pointing pretty high for a cat!

After paddling through the cut unmolested (we saw only one boat that night — a little power pod in Union Bay), we had a really serene broad reach in a light smooth breeze and slipped past the UW’s Tommy Thompson and my old grad school stomping grounds.  The southerly picked up after we paddled under I-5 and we paddle-tacked upwind through Lake Union.

GPSar display of 2nd leg.
GPSar display of 2nd leg.

Average speeds were 4-6 kph, with top speeds of 8-9 kph.  With some paddle assists we were tacking through ~110 degrees (101-129ish).

U District wind history
U District wind history: seems like it picked up around 2:30 when we crossed Portage Bay


Lake Union wind history
Lake Union wind during our trip: ~10 kph out of the SSW

Overall it seems like we averaged 4-6 in the spotty winds, and then 6-7 in the steadier wind on Lake Union.

iSailGPS boat speed screen grab
iSailGPS boat speed screen grab


We got in around 4 a.m., found the slip, and ran home in time to get the kids going on their Friday.  After a day of work, we had a grand time at Jake’s talk.  We of course enjoyed hearing about the Race and listening to the (somewhat drunken) queries of the CWB community, but an unexpected highlight was bumping into old friends afterwards.  Thomas reunited with lots of old CWB pals, and I caught up with Chris Jones, an acoustician I met back in grad school who is active in Sound Rowers and might participate in Stage 1.  This Race is proving to be a powerful catalyst for friendships.

That manifested shortly thereafter when we tracked down Jake and some of his friends at a local pub.  There was lots of laughter and many a yarn.  At my end of the table, we got to hear about the 40′ sloop Sparkle from Brian McGinn and its preordained decision to win the Race to Alaska.  Amazingly, no matter what Brian does (e.g. neglecting to pump 2 feet of water out of her bilge; arriving late), she just wins races.  So watch out.

Shortly afterwards (around midnight) we found ourselves back at the CWB dock saying adieu.  While most of expected Brian to grab a taxi after Thomas and I, and our 3rd crewmate and trainer Kevin embarked on the return trip to Sail Sand Point.  Instead, he hopped in his rowboat, put a headlamp on backwards and began to row for home (Gas Works Marina).  Thus ensued a riotous race with us tacking into a faint northerly breeze and paddling like hell when we were not watching Brian methodically pass us mid-Lake and ultimately beat us to the north shore (apparently by running into it).  We yelled congrats and adieu, and bore off into Portage Bay — marveling at the bustling cityscape as we headed for home.

It was a very calm, warm night, conducive to a slow paddle and lots of chatting.  Kevin produced a bottle of something that we collectively nursed through the voyage, though he spent the last 45 minutes or so testing out how cold he could get in one of the hulls (with no pad or insulation).

520 wind history
520 (no) wind history


Our route back to SSP.
Our route back to SSP.

We went 14 km in about 3.5 hours, averaging about 4 kph.  But as the final plot (below) shows, we spent about a third of the trip drifting.  When we paddled (1-3 of us) we typically made 4-6 kph, and during the race with Brian we hit 7.5 kph a couple times.  As I recall, having the sail up as we paddled into the wind wasn’t helping us…

Boat speed screen grab
Boat speed screen grab

Nav Lights, Burgees and Anchor Testing

We held Tiki Tuesday on Thursday night this week as Kiko came to town from Hawaii yesterday.  He brought us a couple of gems;  a big bright yellow sail made by Warren Seaman himself and an intriguing option for the human propulsion side of things.

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Nav light
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#R2AK Burgee (prototype)
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Anchor testing 😉

Shop time was mainly used to catch-up and work on a project for Kiko so he can get his Pahi 26 in the water tomorrow.  Thanks to Tim for sharing awesome beer and cat food can alcohol stove designs, and to Ty for lending a hand again.

Opinion about race speeds and what team will win.

Colin Angus has written a great entry on his blog at Angus Rowboats about who he thinks might win the R2AK.  Totally worth reading if you are wondering!  Better yet, buy one of his row cruisers and enter the race to win!