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Tinkering School

The Blog of the Sleep-Away Program at Elkus Ranch – Updated every night during camp

Month / July 2012

Day Six – Breakdown Cruise

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. Continue Reading

Day Five – Shakedown Cruise

Our goal today is to take the railboats out on the rails to see what breaks, what doesn’t work, and what could work better – shakedown cruises. It takes a bit of work to get the boats really ready, so we head up to the barn early (by this Seniors session standards – 9:30) and start loading the boats and parts that are ready to go.

Editor’s Note: I’ve been misspelling Nicki as Nickie, and I mis-identified yesterday’s beach as San Gregorio when it is actually Tunitas Creek. Thank you for your patience.

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Serena wrangles the mast, boom, and sail into the trailer. Continue Reading

Day Four – Take a Break When You Need a Break

Looking at the timestamps on the photos from yesterday, we calculated that work started at 9:30 in the morning and we turned off the lights in the barn at 10:30 at night. By our reckoning, that’s a thirteen hour workday… Perhaps that will help explain our slow start today.

People sometimes ask me what “tinkering” means. My definition is that tinkering is the thing you do between when a project is “done” and when it is “working.” At the end of the day yesterday, the Kablooi team estimated that they were within “half an hour of being done,” this morning they spent three solid hours tinkering with it – now it is ready to test.

Every project has a plateau somewhere near the 75% point. This is where it takes tenacity and persistence to keep the project moving along. You can see the goal on the horizon, but right now you just have to work on the rigging. It’s not glamorous, it’s not really fun, but it needs to be done so you have to keep doing it. This is what this morning is about – pushing the projects over the hump.

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The Kablooi are happy to see their sail filling in the gentle breeze. Continue Reading

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