Launching the Lifthrasir Rowboat

Last night we launched the refurbished Lifthrasir rowboat into the flat evening waters of the San Francisco Bay. The Lifthrasir had been in the boat shop since April for a strip, overhaul, and varnish. The launch happened after 3 hours of last-minute touch-up and assembly work by 20 members of the Dolphin Club Rowing Club, including my friend Jason Zanetti and me.

A bit of history on the boat, the Lifthrasir was donated to the Dolphin Club in January 2010 by three members (TOppendheimer, PDrino, J/PSancimino) including the wooden double Viking class boat itself, 3 sets of oars, trailer and miscellaneous equipment/gear. She was built in the 1970s by Jeremy Fisher-Smith, who built all the Viking class wooden single and double oar boats at the Dolphin Club and Southend Club. Jeremy is the builder of the Thor wooden single Viking class boat that I was seen rowing in the previous SF Chronicle photograph.

It was rare to be involved in the launching of an overhauled vintage viking-class wooden rowboat. The boat wright, Jon Bielinski and a cadre of regular boatnight members, have worked on this boat overhaul since April. It was inclusive that they chose to share this occasion with all of us. For our part, Jason and I were charged by the boat wright to sand the gunwale, remove the excess caulk from the oar locks along the gunwale, affix the foot stretchers to the boat, and help carry the boat out of the boat room and into the water.

Wooden rowboats need to be overhauled every 5 to 10 years, depending on use. The picture at upper right is taken from the first overhaul back in 1985.

Here are some photographs from last night. There was also a dinner afterwards by chef Mattie, which I do not have pictures of, but will soon.

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Sunday SF Chronicle

I went rowing this weekend to watch the Blue Angels and the America’s Cup sailing race. The SF Chronicle was out on the town, snapped a picture, asked my name, and put Tenzing and me in the Sunday print and online edition. Thankfully the “spills” on the headline is in reference to one of the racing sailboats, and not my rowboat.


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Back from rowing 1000 miles across the Arctic

In July I left to row across the Arctic Ocean. I ended up spending 41 days in a rowboat at sea without touching land once. We rowed 1000 miles from Inuvik Canada to Point Hope Alaska. Along the journey we collected plankton samples to predict future whale migrations, saw a polar bear and her cub, almost got crushed by ice bergs, frostbit my finger tips, lost 25 pounds and learned a lot about ocean rowing.

General pictures (first set)
Science pictures
Video of ice berg

Here’s what we accomplished.

  • Longest non-stop row in Arctic history, measured by duration and distance
  • First non-stop international row over 1000 miles in Arctic waters
  • Pioneered a new route for modern ocean rowing spanning the Beaufort and Chucki Sea between Inuvik, CA and Point Hope, AK
  • First  non-stop row covering all of Alaska’s North Slope
  • First ocean row in the arctic to combine human power exploration and marine science

It’s good to be back, but I do miss the simplicity of expedition life.

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Arctic Sea Ice Melting Faster Than 2007

This week the pack ice extent was lower than 2007, the previously lowest year in history. There’s even a nice graph (below).

There’s two sides of this, here’s how I view each side:

  • Liberals love this graph. They print it, shove it in their leather briefcases, drive their V6’s to their corner java shop and use the graph to bemoan earth’s fate–note the conflict.
  • Conservatives say that it’s 2 year’s data in quick succession, too small of a data set. They recall the 1960’s concerns of an “ice age” because of quick data analysis similar to this. They also print this liberal-rag graph, hand it to one of their many children, drive their Suburban to McDonald’s, and forget they ever saw it because they are so busy feeding their family of 4–note the hilarity.

Now, scientists fear that although the data set is small, the result will differ from the 1960s supposed ice age. The reason is the positive feedback loop . When snow or ice melt, they are replaced by darker melt-water pools, land or sea. As a result, the Arctic surface absorbs more solar heat. This causes local warming, therefore more melting, which causes more warming, and so on. This positive feedback shows how even a small change to the Earth’s systems can trigger much greater ones. Which means it won’t be a blip.

As a data-jock, I feel this positive “feedback loop argument” above is a veiled attempt to hide from a lack of data.

As a citizen of low sea-level city, I feel that if we wait it’ll be too late.

That’s why I’m rowing across the Arctic Ocean to see it for myself, after which time I plan to make an opinion and spend the next years spreading that opinion far and wide.

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Meeting Roz Savage

I met the most prominent rower in the world today, Roz Savage. She’s the only woman to row across the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, all solo. She wrote a book about her Atlantic Crossing. She was in San Francisco this week to prepare her boat to row across the Atlantic. She was super kind, gave me a bunch of tips and wished Arctic Row well. I wished her well also, her rowing expedition leaves in a couple days.

Roz Savage and Neal Mueller
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