This is the day we’ve all been working towards. The day that we will truly put our railboats to the test. I wake the house up early and we get everybody fed and up to the barn by 9. It’s a miracle.

As a group, we exude a heady mixture of excitement, trepidation, bravado, and cautious anticipation. The prospect of racing along, driven by the winds, skimming just a few shy inches above the ground seems to predispose us to fits of giggles.

But, we must first make repairs and modifications based on the results of yesterday’s shakedown cruises. The tools come out and we get to work. The barn soon fills with the sounds of cordless screwdrivers, hammers, the sewing machine, and technical chatter.

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First order of business is to figure out how to stop chewing up the guide-wheels. One team plans to adjust the height of the wheel so that it contacts a better part of the rail, and the Kablooi decide to replace the rollerblade wheels with tubeless wagon wheels.IMG 1382
The Piki team discovered that a full load of passengers caused a dangerous flex in the deck of their boat. A sheet of luan is fastened to the bottom to correct this.

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The Kablooi boat was missing a license plate evidently.

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And when you turn over the license plate…

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Rhody whips up an embroidered pirate flag for the Nooi boat.

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While Serena invents a foot hammock for the riders on the front of the Nooi boat.

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Gilon takes safety seriously.

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Sam is a teenager, prone to teenager moments.

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With all of the necessary repairs and modifications complete, the Piki get their boat loaded on the trailer.

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As the teams get a little cocky, the boats start to express some, not so subtle, trash-talk.

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The new jib on the Piki boat catches the eye of the team as it rises up the mast.

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Luigi kind of wishes he had cut it a little bigger, but is generally pleased with it as an addition to the boat.

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As a finishing touch, Rhody adds her freshly minted Jolly Roger to the Nooi sail before it is raised.

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The Kablooie boat is quick to assemble (despite the fact that they forgot the long screws they needed to mount their new guide-wheels), and Sam (aka Nigel) goes under to affix the mast to the mount.

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It’s a little tricky to get everything lined up and in place so that the bolt will go through.

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The Piki team spent some time putting their monicker on their boat. We’re all particularly fond of the way the last ‘I’ in ‘Piki’ is rendered.

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It’s “anchors aweigh!” and off to Far Tortuga (aka Santa Cruz), eleven miles hence.

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But wait! They left without Anita!

View from the poop deck on the Nooi boat.

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The railboats move through the landscape like boats on canals. Sails partly obscured now and then by bushes and shrubs, passersby doing double-takes, and life aboard settles into a hypnotic routine.

Until… the boom breaks, and you have to repair it with a hammer and duct tape.

And then the urethane skate wheels practically explode after a few miles of fast railing.

Leaving a trail of crumbling urethane and a very complicated problem to solve in the field – how do you replace a wheel when you have no spare?

Some of the other wheels are doing no better as they lose material to the razor sharp edges of the rusting rails.

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Meanwhile, back at the dunes, the Piki boat is also suffering from wear and tear under a full passenger load.

And a few miles away, the Nooi have come up with a solution for replacing a destroyed wheel – swap it with a skate wheel and make a new guide-wheel out of duct tape!

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Then it’s “raise the sails!” and they are whispering down the rails again.

After half a mile, the duct tape guide-wheel seems to be doing the job.

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Cars honk and passengers lean out the windows to cheer as the railboats pop into view.

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The long canyons where trees encroach are collectively referred to as “The Doldroms.”

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The teams perfect various methods of pushing, kicking, and pulling their boats down the rails to get to good wind.

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The duct tape guide-wheel finally wears out – and is quickly replaced with a new hand-made wheel.

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Out in the clear wind, the boats are downright sprightly.

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At 7pm, the wind dies, leaving the Kablooie team stranded in the brussels sprouts fields.

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At the end of the rail, we celebrate with pizza at a nearby restaurant – a first in the history of Tinkering School – we’re just too hungry and tired to drive home and make dinner.

In the end, the Kablooie boat went seven miles, the Piki went a little more than nine, and the Nooi pushed and pulled themselves all the way across the city limits into Santa Cruz.