MakeShift Challenge: Against the Wind: Most Creative Entry

John Ashford’s Most Creative Winning Entry
by Lee D. Zlotoff
October 20, 2009

You are an experienced kayaker, and you are on the ocean. Paddling is not working, so sailing is the next option. It is not stated where you are afloat, but a southerly wind has pushed you 3 miles offshore, so you must be on a windward shore, and the longer you drift, the further you have to travel to get back, and the bigger the waves get.

To sail, the vessel must be more stable, and that means adding an outrigger. While you work, switch on the GPS to check the direction of drift, and to confirm the favored tack to head ashore.

The first thing to do is to fit a lanyard to the Swiss Army Knife (you can’t afford to lose it in the excitement) and tie it to your deck fittings.

Then make the buoyant outrigger float. This is made from the windproof windbreaker, filled with everything that is buoyant: life vest, seat cushion, water containers (emptied — drink some of the water and keep a little in the First Aid Box), and any canoe buoyancy foam. These items are arranged inside and it is trussed up like a sausage, using nylon tape.

The main paddle will make the outrigger spar (or “aka”). Checking the GPS, you will decide on the route to shore so that the vessel will be on a beam reach (a canoe will never be able to tack to windward, so the best option is to get ashore any way you can, even if you are 10 miles along the coast). If you are brave, you will decide to put the outrigger to windward and use it as a water-skimming counterweight, but if you are sensible you will opt for having the outrigger to leeward — sailing slower, but less liable to capsize.

Tie the float to one end of the paddle about a third of the way from the front of the float, and tie the other end of the paddle to the kayak on the foredeck using nylon cord or nylon tape. Take the ties right round the hull for good measure.

Now that the outrigger is installed, make the rig. Take the spare paddle (usually a jointed one for stowing). Tie the two blades together with nylon cord, then pull them against the lashing and fix a cord like a bowstring between the shaft ends. The shaft ends will be about 6 feet apart. Take the cord round the other way to tie to the blades.

Then take the survival blanket and fold it round the “bowstring,” then round the opposite side cords, after which, roll the loose material as tight as possible and use cord to tie the rolled blanket to the shafts. (Use the knife to make small holes). NB, if the spare paddle is not a jointed one, then you will have to bend the shaft by putting your feet against the middle and pulling with both hands.

The rig is held in two hands like a paddle, and the angle can be varied, much like a windsurfer rig, to both steer and push the outrigged kayak along. If the kayak has a rudder, that will be able to help in steering the vessel. The main problem will come from the drag of the outrigger float, and you will need to monitor both the GPS and the compass to ensure that you are heading shorewards, as you adjust the position and angle of the rig.

One positive aspect of the survival blanket is that being silvered, it will be visible on RADAR and may result in you being spotted by a passing yacht.

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