As Click and Clack Tappet used to say, "Well, it's happened again."
Another eleven and a half months have passed and it's time for the annual Everglades Challenge race. Which is, as I suppose most of my dear readers know, an unsupported adventure race that sends a flotilla of human-powered water vessels down the left coast of Florida from Fort DeSoto beach in St. Petersburg all the way down and across the Everglades to Key Largo.
Don't know about this? Want to waste a perfectly good period of time? Go over to the right, scroll down and click on "Everglades Challenge" and read all I've had to bibble-bable tittle-tattle about it.)
My favorite skipper (and boat-builder), known as "TwoBeers," heads a team of friends who designed, built, sailed, modified, sailed, modified, sailed, and modified yet again a boat called Spawn of Frankenscot.
The boat is a sloop of 22 feet designed by OH "Ningee" Rodgers. TwoBeers sails with Jahn "Moresailhesaid" Tihansky. He's supported by Amy Smith "Bookworm" Linton, Mark "EnsignRumsDOWN!" Taylor, and ––new this year!–– Charlie "Gaagii" Clifton.
The sweet sloop has changed over time, but the current freshness involves the water take-up system.
This chapter begins on a dark but not-too-stormy night.
The setting: a fantastic oyster bar (the kind that serves beverages, not the kind that plagues our team's path to Key Largo). BTW, if you like lively viands such as oysters on the half shell, go to Eustis and check this place out: The Oyster Troff.
Next thing you know, the take-up system for Spawn's water ballast (see here and here for last year's explanation) has been finessed so that the team doesn't have to pump water into the ballast tank by hand.
Instead, H2O will be scooped up by ingenious plumbing. Jamey used a 3-D printer to fashion the spring-loaded cartridge that allows our team to lower the PVC pipe so that gallons of ocean shoot right into the system.
That salty goodness whooshes up a hose to the cross-beam.
Then it flows into the tank, where it provides a righting moment at 8 pounds per gallon. The 35-gallon tank is roughly the equivalent of one hefty but non-complaining, non beer-drinking gurgling dude.
Jamey created a super-nifty, bling-y, customized air-vent for the tanks, since, as we know, a vent can provide an unexpected way for water to make its way into the tank. If things were to get, you know, flippy-whippy, a person does NOT want water to fill one of these water wings.
You might not be able to tell, but that vent is made of sparkly gold plastic.
Jamey claims that color plastic was the only material at hand for the 3-D printer, but I think we can all agree it looks pretty dang gangster. And that's good.
The story varies.
In any case, Galápagos mockingbirds are also distinctively different from mockingbirds on the mainland. And they are different from one Galápagos island to another.
Which leads, step by painful step, to Darwin's theory of evolution and the eventual publication in 1859 of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Phew.
Sidebar drama: Interestingly enough, as a Christian, Darwin was troubled by the implications of what he discovered. However, when a naturalist pal of his, Alfred Wallace, came up with a parallel theory, Darwin's misgivings subsided enough for Darwin to polish up his own manuscript and send it to a publisher. It became an overnight sensation.
While we were doing our own exploration in the Galápagos (zero collection of specimens, thousands of photos, great guides, and a tidy ship thanks to AdventureLife), we stumbled across a little mockingbird family drama on Floreana.
I've got a theory or two (as usual) about this scene. It might be a long-held rivalry between the matriarchs who were born sisters but grew to their own greatest rivals. It might be a fresh incursion between an upstart gang and the Boomer family they rejected.
Or maybe it's a daily show staged to entrance the tourists –– 14:00-15:20 beached walrus pups, 15:20-15:40 mockingbird display, 15:40-whenever tortoise crossing.
After five Everglades Challenge campaigns, Team Spawn has grown, shall we say, more laid-back in the pre-race race.
Oh, we expect a last-minute Amazon or Sierra Trading Post order, and for sure a midnight run to for groceries, but the process of preparing for the event seems less daunting each year.
And as far as super-neat-o modifications? This year the focus has been on the water-ballast supply system. What is known in the biz as "plumbing." TwoBeers and I have spent some quality time contemplating white PVC elbows at the hardware store.
TwoBeers is working with a friend from the military-industrial complex, a former youth sailor and current engineer (Hi Jamey!) to speed up and refine the pump/drain system.
The Top Secret plans involve springs, 3-D printings, and the Home Depot. Glimpsed here are some of the highly technical and science-y parameters:
No, seriously, it's written in Sharpie on the back on an old envelope. As we followers of Spawn have come to expect...
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