Photographed by Liam Pearce
“Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They’re the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them civilization is out of whack. And that’s why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it, he can handle life. That’s what he gets from rowing.”
– George Yeoman Pocock Boys in the Boat
The Latin word Credimus, translated to English means — We Believe. In 2019 five adults and thirteen students from Platte County High School in Bailey, CO believed they could tackle a crazy ‘boat’ race up the Puget Sound in Washington State, called the Seventy48. Team Credimus was the only team made up of students to enter and, after paddling their hearts out for seventy miles in 17 hours and 42 minutes, they placed 23rd out of 109 finishers. Thrilled with their accomplishments they couldn’t have known the ripple effect their courage and determination would have.
At this point you might be asking yourself, “…and this has to do with land-locked Wasatch County how?” Keep reading it’s a pretty cool story — at least I think so — but then again I’m a bit biased.
The Seventy48 Explained
In 2018 the Northwest Maritime Center introduced the Seventy48 — an inaugural pre-race to their Race to Alaska (R2AK)1 adventure. Racers have 48 hours to complete 70 miles up Washington State’s Puget Sound; starting in Tacoma and ending in Port Townsend. The rules are simple: no motors, no wind, and no support — you can pedal, paddle, or row — human power only.2
All Hands on Deck
After hearing about team Credimus’ experience and success participating in the Seventy48 race Ryan Greene, Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind principal and Director of Blind Campus Programs, had an idea and shared it with fellow USDB teacher and Director of Deaf Outreach and Online Programs, Adam Billings — who just happens to be a tall-ship captain with extensive experience sailing and building boats. If you’re wondering what a tall-ship is; think of the Mayflower or the infamous (yet fictional) Black Pearl. Adam shared, “Ryan showed up to my office and said, ‘Hey, I heard about this high school that built a boat and did this race. Can we do that?’” The answer of course was a resounding ‘Yes!’ The two enlisted Brandon Watts, Director of Outreach Services for the Visually Impaired, and the three of them went to town (or Sea — literally). After getting the go-ahead and funding from USDB administrators — the USDB Yacht Club was official and team All Hands on Deck was created.
The next steps would include getting the word out, putting together a crew, (hint, here’s where Wasatch County comes in to play), and building a boat. It was going to be a challenge for sure; but Greene shared that challenges like this were what drew him, Billings, and Watts into working with deaf and blind students. Greene and Billings reached out to the crew in Colorado, who built their boat by hand and were more than willing to help out. This partnership quickly turned into more than just helping another team build a boat. The PCHS Yacht Club not only helped USDB obtain building plans; they donated both the stern and the bow of their boats as well. In addition, Steve Hanford and Kip Otteson (PCHS teachers, mentors, and coaches), along with several student crew members came out to Utah to help with technical and moral support. It was also decided that both teams would do a training session together at Lake Powell in early spring of 2021. Since the Seventy48 was canceled in 2020 team Credimus was anxious to return and would be racing alongside team All Hands on Deck.
Enter Wasatch County. Landon, who has low vision, and has been homeschooled since Kindergarten, first heard about the Seventy48 through USDB’s outreach program in February 2021. Initially he was not sure he wanted to join the team; however, the opportunity to build a boat was too good to pass up. For the next three months Landon went to Salt Lake City to help other deaf and blind students build their 36-foot Catacanoe. Landon has goals of being an aerospace engineer; designing rockets for SpaceX and, although it’s a ‘ship’ of a different kind, he appreciated the chance to learn and enjoyed working with the wood, and the other students and teachers. He shared, “There was a lot to learn about the boat and the best way to build it. And, it’s cool to be able to say ‘I helped build that.’ Once we took it out on the water it was great to see it float and work well.”
The day of the race finally arrived and expectations were high; team All Hands on Deck and team Credimus were the only two student teams to enter the race. There was a lot of buzz surrounding the fact that a bunch of deaf and blind, land-locked kids, some who’d never even been to the ocean, let alone on the ocean in a boat they made, were going to attempt this crazy race. According to Landon the race was an adrenaline rush, it was amazing, it took blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of willpower and team work. He shared that it was also extremely heart crushing. Seventy48 2021 experienced the worst weather in the race’s history; more than half the teams did not finish due to heavy rainstorms, high winds, whitecaps, and six-foot swells. After rowing a grueling but incredible 50 miles (so close!) the USDB Yacht Club was advised to set shore and withdraw. It was a devastating blow and certainly not what they had planned for. But that was last year…
On Thursday, June 10th 2022 the USDB Yacht Club will once again enter the Salish Sea with the goal to paddle seventy miles up Puget Sound and ring the bell at City Dock in Port Townsend before 7:00 pm on Sunday, June 12th.
Only two of the students from last year’s crew, both with a score to settle and a point to prove, were able to return. Landon and fellow crew mate, Ashton, will be teaming up with six other students representing Sanpete, Washington, Utah, Salt Lake, Summit, and Wasatch Counties. Landon is looking forward to taking on more of a leadership role this year and shared that, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to go back again and help students who haven’t done anything like this before.” He spoke of having reservations about being on the ocean for the first time last year and knows that some of his crew mates have similar worries. “I want them to know that we can get past our fears — especially together as a team helping each other. It’s easy to say ‘we can do hard things’ but when we are in the middle of hard things it’s also easy to just bail. I want to help others understand that ‘bailing’ is usually not the best option, I mean last year the weather decided for us, but I hope to help everyone know that they are capable of finishing and actually doing the hard things. It just takes work, and a willingness to get out of your comfort zone, and not giving up, and not letting others tell you, ‘you can’t’ or ‘it’s okay your blind’, being blind or deaf or whatever doesn’t matter — the only limits are what we put on ourselves.”
Each crew member has different reasons for joining the crew in addition to various concerns and unique challenges to overcome. Josh joined the crew because he loves new experiences and has enjoyed preparing both mentally and physically for the journey. “I do at least 30 minutes of training each day after work; mostly my arms and upper body. I’ve also learned a lot about team work and how working as a team on a boat applies to life…” Dillon said he joined the crew to make new friends and get out of his comfort zone. He shared, “I never thought I’d be doing something like this in my life. I had a seizure in a pool two years ago so I’m afraid of falling in the water; I’m going quite a bit out of my comfort zone for this race.” For Emily it was about getting in shape and motivation. She admitted that being motivated can sometimes be a struggle for her. “Consistency, that’s the biggest challenge for me. I know I can do it — I just need to do it — you know there’s a certain amount of motivation for the race because you don’t want to be the weak link…and I like getting out of my comfort zone; that’s where you really learn.” Hannah shared, “I saw the footage and everything about last year’s team and I was like I want to try it. So, now here I am.” One of Hannah’s biggest worries is fatigue and having her muscles give out on her due to Low Muscle Tone, but her attitude is very positive. “I was born with a condition called Miserable Malalignment Syndrome; where my bones were twisted the wrong way and I’ve had to have multiple surgeries where they’ve had to break my bones and put rods and screws through them. It’s helped me because I got through that hard thing so I can get through this hard thing, and it’s [her attitude about her experiences] showing other people that they can get through hard things too.” Erica joined the crew because she loved the gear; but in all seriousness she shared, “I like being able to do hard things; being able to say ‘Hey, I did that!’ I think it’s important to have a positive mind set and good attitude during the race and seeing how strong I am. I don’t know how strong I am but maybe I’m stronger than I thought.”
There’s something that resonates with all of us in each of these statements; and I believe that Michelle Ward, a teacher at USDB, said it best when she shared, “I love doing everything outside. I love to hike, and climb, and I used to row in college. Being legally blind myself, you get a lot of people, who think it’s encouraging when they say things like: ‘You’re an inspiration’ when it’s like I just want to do the things. I think the misconception, truly, is that if you’re legally blind you’re not going to be able to do anything wild and crazy; so, the fact that we get to do this wild and crazy thing is really cool.”
This year All Hands on Deck will be the only student team; PCHS Yacht Club is taking a break. However, they will be there in spirit as they donated their vessel to the USDB Yacht Club; christened the ‘Credimus’ the boat and her new crew are an ideal symbol of grit and determination. We Believe and All Hands on Deck form the perfect combination. It will take all hands on deck to paddle through the night, the waves, the possible storms, and the ‘hopefully’ smooth as glass waters; it will take willpower, team work, and the mindset of ‘We Believe’ that no matter what the seas or life throws at us — together we are strong — together we can make it through the blood, sweat, and tears to finish what we start — in this race and in life.
USDB Yacht Club 2022 Crew
Ryan Greene, Keri Ostergaard-Welch, Michelle Ward, Alex Westergard, Liz Wood, Rikki Myers, Vince Dimov, Matt Houston, Landon Pearce, Ashton Hintze, Hannah Hart, Josh Taylor, Dillon Dodge, Emily Groves, Erica Emery, Tyler Workman
Dig Deep! USDB teacher, Keri Ostergaard-Welch, shares some great advice with the crew:
Remember to have fun even when things are tiring. Dig deep – we can do more than we think we can. Just because we get uncomfortable doesn’t mean we have to stop. It means we find ways to get through it and often times our bodies will surprise us.
Follow the Crew
Beginning June 10 seventy48.com