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Lehi Latter-day Saint group voyages across Utah Lake on bike-powered barge

By Curtis Booker - | Jun 4, 2024
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This photo shows the Lehi Eaglecrest 3rd Ward priest quorum on a barge near the Saratoga Springs marina Thursday, May 30, 2024.
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This photo shows the 12-foot-by-30-foot barge that a group of men and youth from Lehi's Eaglecrest 3rd Ward built and navigated last week on Utah Lake.
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This photo shows a group of young men from the Lehi Eaglecrest 3rd Ward around a nighttime campfire during their barge adventure last week. The group built a bicycle-powered watercraft and ventured together on the lake, visiting various Utah County temples along the way.
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This photo taken Thursday, May 30, 2024, shows Lehi Lehi Eaglecrest 3rd Ward priest quorum on a barge they were rowing across Utah Lake.

Imagine rowing across Utah Lake on a boat made partly of wood and water barrels, powered by bicycles and propellers. One group from a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ward in Lehi just set out on such trip across the large waterway for their church activity and one unforgettable experience.

The priest quorum of the Lehi Eaglecrest 3rd Ward spent four days and three nights paddling on a 12-foot-by-30-foot barge they built themselves.

Bishop Ryan Kirby, who led the charge, says the creation came about through a combination of ideas. “It was kind of a collaborative idea of coming up with building a barge and then it turned into something that we could row across Utah Lake, and then it turned into something that we could go visit both temples and beyond the water. That’s kind of the genesis of the idea,” he said when reached Saturday while the group was on its aquatic adventure.

In early spring, 16 young men began building the barge, from collecting dozens of water barrels and coming up with the design to the actual construction. “When we started building with wood, a lot of the boys had never used a miter saw or a Skilsaw, a nail gun or even impact screw gun,” Kirby explained. “A lot of them were really reluctant in the beginning to get involved, and then by the end of it they were all really accomplished builders, actually.”

The vessel was powered by two bicycles that were connected to two propellers, which all the passengers took turns pedaling. “For every rotation of the pedals, it turns the propeller three times. So we figure we’re getting about 100 rotations per minute … out of the two propellers,” Kirby said. The barge was guided by a steering system connected to rudders on the bottom of the craft.

After months of building and preparation, along with some trial and error, Kirby and young men set off on their voyage, launching early Wednesday morning from the American Fork marina. Clocking their speed at about a mile an hour, they made it to the Lindon marina before they changed clothes for their first visit at the Orem temple.

At each marina stop, parents and ward members would pick up the group to drive them to the temples and return them back to the barge after the visit.

The journey came with its set of challenges, such as encountering rough waters and windy weather Wednesday afternoon while they were heading toward the Provo marina. The intense weather even blew away a makeshift restroom the young men built for the barge. “It was really about four hours of really, really intense storms, 6-foot swells and all that until we made it to the Provo marina, and that’s where we spent our first night,” Kirby said.

After 14 hours, they were able call it a night and rent a slip that they tied from the barge to the marina to prevent the vessel from blowing away. Following the next day’s visit the Provo City Center Temple, their journey over the next two days would take them to Saratoga Springs and the north end of Utah Lake before wrapping up the adventure Saturday morning back in American Fork.

Aside from pedaling, pulling anchors and pushing the boat at times, the experience together as a priest quorum featured bonding, campfires, fishing and a lot of teamwork to overcome obstacles on the lake.

Preston Kargis, priest quorum first assistant, was one of the young men on the vessel. He says the experience was like living a childhood dream. “Like, a lot of kids I think grow up and they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah. I want to build something like a boat or a treehouse.’ I don’t know, I guess this was an opportunity to make our childhood dreams come to reality,” he said.

He said there were a lot of lessons taught over the four-day/three-night experience, but the biggest was working together as a group. “Knowing how to work with each other (and) knowing, like, what to do in order to solve a problem that you might face,” Kargis told the Daily Herald.

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