No duct tape for me, although I was wishing for some at first. I’m glad now that I didn’t have any. It forced me to become so creative that my girlfriend accused me of going “all MacGyver” when I told her about my morning adventure of “the sinking kayak.” Umm-hmmm. That’s right, a sinking kayak, but luckily not sunken.
I noticed my peril just in time to paddle furiously and sprint the last few hundred yards to shore. And not the shore I started from. To get back to my truck and where I started I would have to cross a mile and a half of open water, with no chance of land fall anywhere in between… A sink or swim situation to get home, if I couldn’t figure out how to do a some sort of fix on my kayak. (Oh, and did I mention that it was so early in the morning that it wasn’t even all the way light out yet?)
While draining many, many gallons of water from my kayak, I did a quick mental inventory of everything I had in my kayak with me, trying to think of a way to keep myself afloat long enough to get me home.
- Two layers of clothes (no worries about freezing if I was to be stranded for days)
- Expensive camera equipment (useful for documenting the dilemma not resolving it)
- Burrito (at least I wouldn’t starve)
- Metal water bottle full of water (I didn’t need more water in the kayak)
- First aid kit
- Spare paddle
Tools(Ummm… left them in my other jacket?) Patch kit(Do they sell those for my types of kayak?) Plugs(Been on my “to buy” list for a couple of years now)
Unless I could devise something from what I had, my plans for the day were shot (plans like surviving). You know, this really is starting to sound kind of like MacGyver.(Perhaps I too could have been an eighties icon… MacLeeds or MacGalen… Sounds so Scottish… Maybe a Sean Connery accent?) I thought in circles for a while before I came up with the aluminum foil wrapping from the burrito and some fancy band-aids that I always carry in my first aid kit as the perfect method for repair. No tools required other than imagination.
I bunched up some of the foil to make a pointed plug that I could stick into the hole, nearly the same diameter as the nearly dime size gaping wound in my kayak (I put my finger in the photograph to give it a little scale, and then thought since I was using my finger for scale I might as well point at whatever part of the repair job I was working on). I pushed the foil in tightly, letting the gash compress it as I pushed it in. I made sure to keep some of the foil on the outside however, because this is the key to the (w)hole repair right here- I flattened out the extra foil on the outside of the kayak, molding it to a small area a little larger than the damaged area itself.
I thought of it like this. The water wanted to get into the boat. If I made something that was in the water’s way (like a piece of smushed foil) the water couldn’t get in. In fact, the more the water would push against the foil, the more firmly it would push the foil into place, increasing the seal, and making it harder for the water to actually get in. The bandaids? I’m not even sure that they were really necessary, but I figured they were just a little extra insurance against the foil plug somehow popping out or from getting scraped off by rocks or sand (which is how I think the hole came to be in the first place… being dragged on rocks and sand as I pull the kayak on and off of the beach). That and they were really good, fancy second skin style bandaids, which are rubbery and can kind of seal water out on their own (hydrocoloid bandaids for burns). So, taking some of the sterile cotton gauze from my first aid kit, I made sure the foil and the kayak were dry enough for the band aids.
I wouldn’t have trusted the bandaids on their own not to have come off or to hold their seal on their own. With the foil on there though, plugging it in a mushroom or rivet style, I suddenly felt very confident in my repair. So I decided to throw caution to the wind, and instead of paddling directly back to my truck (mile and a half over open water remember) I decided to just go on with my morning paddle, and to keep taking pictures.
And it seems like I made the right decision. There is a hatch in my kayak that I can open to peer into the hull, and while there was a tiny bit of water left inside that I hadn’t been able to drain out before my repair, there was no new water. It was the most water tight my kayak has been for months (I had had just a slight leak before, but nothing to really worry about, a couple of cups of water after an five hour kayak).
It was a beautiful and enjoyable morning after that. I photographed and filmed Willits, Harbor Seals, Cormorants, and so much more, thanks for my emergency kayak repair of aluminum foil and band aids. From now on, a spare piece of foil will live in my kayak, and another in my kayaking bag. It’s magical, and it really saved my bacon this morning and kept it from becoming very soggy bacon.