Wing and a Prayer: A Duct-taped Shuttle Rig


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Strapping It Up
By James Collins

“So, what do you think?”

The question was from my son Henry. We were looking at the weather, which had decided to degrade from abysmal to just south of appalling. The temperature had also dropped appreciably, aided by the steady rain accompanying it.

“Seems fine to me.”

That basically sums up our approach to most of our canoe trips. While the weather sure wasn’t cooperating, the crowds were. Though it was Memorial Day weekend, the miserable weather had made many stay in their campers or at home. We had the lake to ourselves.

We had selected Alder Lake in Washington State for our excursion. Created as a reservoir by the local power company, it was a pristine lake surrounded by heavy woods and breathtaking scenery. But it was also reaining and fifteen minutes into the paddle, we needed to climb into the lake just to dry off.

“So, what do you think?” my son asked surveying the clouds dumping on us.

“Oh,” I shrugged, “it’ll let up soon.”

We paddled down toward the electric power dam. It rained. We decided to go around the island in the middle. It rained harder.

“Well, maybe not.”

After completing a full circuit of the lake, we were thoroughly soaked. In fact, the only appreciable difference in being in the canoe as compared to be in the lake was that we still had the possibility of getting even wetter.

“Dad…” Henry began.

“Let’s pull it in.”

We disembarked on the lonely pull out quickly and we ported the canoe the 100 feet or so to the rig. Throwing the PFD’s, paddles and water-logged lunch bags into the back, we hefted the canoe onto the carrier on top.

In hindsight we were tired, wet, cold and miserable. I’ll stick to that defense. We also had little patience when the canoe wouldn’t go forward anymore. So we shoved. Hard.

A sound of the front loader bar crashing on the hood shattered the air.

“So, what do you think?” Henry asked as I surveyed the damage.

The car was fine, but the loader bar not. It was broken and not repairable – at least not up in the rain, in the cold and 40 miles from home.

“We’ll find something.”

A well prepared canoeist would have stashed extra straps, rope and materials for just such a possibility. We, however, we as well prepared as FEMA during a hurricane. Not withstanding the lack of a cell phone to summon help, we had to rely on one tie down strap and a roll of duct tape.

“So, what do you think?”

“I think we’ll have to improvise,” I responded. An hour later, we were the proud owners of numb fingers and a canoe duct taped to the top of an SUV. We had run the tape through the open windows, effectively strapping the canoe to the top via the entire cab of the truck.

I think we were quite proud of our little bit of ingenuity. At least until we tried to open the doors. Being tightly held to the roof via tape, they wouldn’t budge. We crawled in through the windows.

The first 10 miles home were uneventful, the rest a bit less. With the windows cracked open, the pelting rain soaked us even worse and the wind would the tape and our hair together in a big clump.

I saw the State Trooper’s card as we crested a big hill. Moments later, Henry spoke up again.

“Dad, I think he wants you to stop.”

The officer came up to the window and peered in.

“Sir, can you step out of the car?”



“Err, I really cannot.”

“Excuse me?” asked exasperated officer.

“Well,” I said, “you DID ask.”

The trouble with State Patrol officers isn’t that they can write you a ticket for having an insecure load and your doors taped shut, but they can howl hysterically while they think about writing you a ticket for an insecure load and your door taped shut.

“Oh sorry,” he said, wiping the tears from his face. “I’ll let you go this time, but could you be a bit more prepared next?”

We finally arrived home, put the canoe away and fixed the rack. The next day, the rain had stopped but black, threatening clouds circled us menacingly.

“So, what do you think?”

“Seems fine to me.”

Staff Post
Paddlers writing about all things paddling.


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