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Friday, 10 June 2016


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Rock on man. The more I read about Steve's projects, like his *online* bicycle from the *eighties* where he could type while biking across the country, the more I'm... Just dizzy.

There are some cool videos about him on youboobs. I think this is the link (but otherwise just search for Steven K. Roberts):


I suppose every field has these guys. As a former sailor who's got a couple years of boat design under my belt, these guys irritate me. There's a whole genre of bloggers who are basically just messing about in boats (there is no finer thing!)

The blogs, however, make it sound like they're supermen, basically Robinson Crusoe only better, and super high tech enabled (often, but sometimes they're willfully low tech, whatever sells)

My dad disliked Kerouac for the same reason. Having actually done much of what Kerouac wrote about in On The Road, dad could testify that it wasn't actually all that cool. Kind of ordinary and often dull, in reality.

I never sailed with a 3d printer, but I don't see how it would make it all that much cooler. Also, a gallon a mile? Those big fat dual diesel beasts are a blight.

One Category 5 hurricane, rogue wave or tsunami, and the whole thing goes to waste. I guess the same could be argued for homes & natural disasters on land, but this seems more ... exposed?

I first heard about Steve the Technomad and his ongoing projects around 1990 when he was working on his 580 lb., 105-gear recumbent bicycle name BEHEMOTH, as part of his electronic suite included one of our then-tiny SPARCstation workstations (for then also new Internet).

I was most impressed by his comment at one point that he'd never had to actually get off and push the vehicle, given the wide gearing. I've sometimes wondered if it was more a testament to good engineering, outstanding route planning, or sheer cussedness that kept him going on those hills. Going *down* the hills, what with mass and marginal braking, was something else entirely.

Here is one place to begin poking in to something more than a bit obsessive (and I say that with all due respect): https://leanpub.com/technomad

Mike, are you sure Datawake isn't a compound of data and wake, (the trailing wave left behind a moving boat)?

At current prices for marine diesel($2.50-2.80), filling his engine tanks would buy a decent camera, or very good lens. As for the rest of his outfit, the cost would pay for completely outfitting with high end gear, a photographer, studio and all kinds of travel and high living. With $$ left over. Ah, how the 2% live! {Full disclosure: As a former sailboater, I
have no love for power boats.}

You live near a large body of water, you don't have to maintain an outline on the water, you're more or less contented where you now dwell, the red chair has a home and has been photographed, the two dogs are current family,
you have finally hung out your shingle at the end of the drive, and most of us now know your address. Then too you are within in a day's motoring of somefabulous museums and scenery.
Yes winter could well be hibernation time, however you do have neighbours, within reasonable distance, and know do know how to cope with winter having dwelt in Wisconsin.

So let somebody else sail their boat up and down the lake past your front window and if they invite you to go for a ride, do so. Don't expect to buy or rent a boat; an outline on water into which you pour money; is often more expensive than photopgraphy.

I remember running into him away back when he was doing the digital nomad thing with a recumbent bike from Easy Racers. Good to see that he's still out there.

Inasmuch as I am a Yacht Broker and spend most of my days writing descriptions of Twin Diesel Yachts in that 30' - 70' size range and Photographing interiors and engine rooms imagine my surprise, going to my hobby website for a pleasant respite from all that and..... BOOM, there it is ! I live in Cabo San Lucas, the sport fishing capital of the world and a lot of the boats go 40 knots these days and burn up to 100 gallons an hour of diesel fuel at $4.00 per gallon. Datawake is a very clever name and I would classify her (yes, boats are she) as a very classy Pacific Northwest boat. I am not going to comment on the photos.

I remember him from when he built a 1.5 million dollar bicycle with a Sun workstation , satellite link and so on.

The coolest part was getting other people to pay him to do it.

Andrew - yes, these big old diesels are a blight... loud and smoky, and completely alien to me after 7 years with an efficient sailboat hull and a Yanmar. Fortunately, their issues lowered the price enough that a hybrid repower is part of the plan.... she'll never get up on plane again after I do that, but that's fine.

My back became a disaster, and I found I was not getting my Amazon 44 sailboat off the dock. With deep reluctance, I sold her to an engineer who could appreciate her robust tech... and he is preparing to sail down the coast and through the Panama Canal. This is something I had hoped to do, but health got in the way.

Wanting to live-aboard with all my favorite toys, I reluctantly went over to the Dark Side... better that than swallowing the anchor.

This is all a long way down the road from my decade of wandering the US on my "computerized recumbent bicycle" (now a rather quaint-sounding term, I know), but I'm still combining my passions into a lifestyle as best I can... incorporating the little Microship I built a decade ago. There are a lot of ways to do this...


Actually the coolest thing is that now you can gaffer tape an iphone to your handlebars and save most of that 1.5 million.

Yes re the smartphone... maybe with an added ham radio and a few other essentials... but indeed, if I were to take off on a bike trip these days, there would certainly be no need for such a beast! That took on a life of its own back then, and it is really important to note that much of the adventure was the toolset... which was of course not all necessary for the adventure itself. Actually, the previous version (Winnebiko II) was a much more practical balance of weight and functionality; BEHEMOTH was just too damn heavy to be fun once actually on the road. Fortunately, I had already done 16,000 miles on the saner versions, so it didn't take long to wind that down and start looking at water.

The bike went off to the Computer History Museum, and I worked for a decade to replicate that functionality in a boat with the Microship, an amphibian pedal/solar/sail micro-trimaran. That was a fascinating engineering challenge, though it never really reached escape velocity... I did a few mini-adventures in Northwest waters, but living in a heavy canoe hull was too much like camping... I was starting to get creaky.

Then the sailboats (Corsair 36 for a while, which was the wrong boat, a cramped rocketship) and then my lovely steel Amazon 44 pilothouse cutter (Nomadness).

The reason I'm jumping in here with all this is to clear something up. I have a long-established contempt for stinkpotters, especially the jerks who throw huge wakes and foul anchorages with gensets and Webastos. I keep a collection of photos of horrible apropos boat names spotted in the wild, and find I rarely have much in common with their owners. Now I own that kind of equipment myself, which is embarrassing. No house; this is it... I can barely walk, and could no longer make the physical space of a sailboat work (especially if I wasn't going to do "open-ended voyaging" after all.

As I mentioned in the linked article, the plan is very clear: once I get done building my console and getting it all safely nailed down, I'll pull it all out (temporarily), then get the beast over to the yard in Sidney where Big Motor Guys can pull out these two 3,600-pound monsters and make them go away. We'll then drop in two industrial electric motors with thrust bearings, controllers, an efficient genset, and a bank of whatever the appropriate battery technology is at the time this happens. Basically, a serial hybrid, with both dock and solar charging as well as the ability to run at some compromise speed via a generator at its sweet spot in the power curve.

This will make it vastly less annoying, and I don't really care about going fast (I'm an old sailor, after all). The real fun will be gunkholing quietly around, dropping the hook, crane-launching the Microship for local exploration, having my toys all integrated into a low-noise system, yakking on the ham radio, building gizmos, and working on my writing projects until I'm too old to continue.

BTW, since photography is the theme here... one of said toys that I am eager to receive in October (Kickstarter backer) is a Trident ROV with 100-meter tether... an underwater drone, basically. Doing transects and surveys of anchorages sounds like a blast, and will add to my existing obsessive documentation of everything (Nikon P900 and S6 for image-capture above the waterline).

Oh, on the value of the bike... that $1.2 million was by no means out-of-pocket! I've been pretty much hand-to-mouth all these years... that was a casual estimate of the value including human time and donated gizmology.... and the number kinda stuck. It was a 3.5-year project (the last of three bike versions), and I had lots of wonderful help in the Silicon Valley skunkworks hosted by Sun Microsystems.

Jason is correct - the portmanteau name, Datawake, is exactly that, with some added re-parsings. One of the core projects is a database that slurps in all internal and external sensor data (including nav N2K stuff), making it graphically available via any browser on the LAN and streaming reduced-rate telemetry along with images to a public server. That used to be such a big deal, but now a $35 Raspberry Pi does most of the heavy lifting.

Cheers from Datawake, which is sitting quietly in the marina....


Steven, it goes beyond amazing to me that you spent a flippin' decade living outta that bike!? Me, I am an out-and-out comfort junkie. (Spiritually I consider myself very brave indeed, but sadly that can't be proven, haha.)

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