MakeShift — Against the Wind

MakeShift — Against the Wind


The Scenario:

You’re an experienced and avid open-ocean kayaker, setting off early from your favorite coastal launch point for a restorative and invigorating day on the water. You’ve checked with the Weather Channel and the National Weather Service, and both have predicted sunny weather, slight clouds, and virtually no wind. So, after donning some sunblock and checking your gear and supplies, you’re off.

The launching goes OK, but you take on a little water fighting the breakers. When you finally clear them, you paddle steadily until you’re about 1 mile offshore, which you confirm with your GPS. Venturing out a little farther, you paddle parallel to the shore for a few hours. Then, adjusting your life vest and seat cushion to make yourself more comfortable, you stop to relax and enjoy the scenery, but between the warm sunshine, the gentle roll of the ocean, and the hypnotically reflective water, you nod off.

The Challenge:

When you wake several hours later, the ocean is choppy and a strong, southerly wind has picked up, which has pushed you at least 3 miles from shore and continues to grow in strength. You dig for your cellphone just in case you need to call for help, only to discover that the saltwater you took on earlier has rendered it useless. You paddle hard for shore, but even after a relentless hour, the winds and currents seem to erase all your progress and the tall beachfront hotels are becoming mere dots on the horizon. You realize more paddling might be fruitless and only exhaust you completely. So what do you do now?

What You’ve Got:

Two gallons of fresh drinking water and a basic survival kit with a compass, a lightweight 6×7-foot survival blanket (silvered on one side and dark on the other, in a pouch), heavy-duty nylon tape, and a coil of thin but strong nylon rope. You’ve also got a Swiss Army knife (or similar tool), some marine binoculars, a GPS unit, your waterlogged cellphone, some basic medical supplies in their own self-contained marine emergency medical kit, and an extra paddle. You also have a lightweight, waterproof windbreaker and some foul-weather gear stashed in the small but useful front storage compartment.

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Lee D. Zlotoff

Lee D. Zlotoff is a writer/producer/director among whose numerous credits is creator of MacGyver. He is also president of Custom Image Concepts (

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