The Complete Outdoorsman

Ropes and Boats

Field & Stream Online Editors

**Skill #37 Load a canoe **
Like a good beard, it's all about the trim. For most conditions you'll want the boat slightly heavy in the stern. Keep heavy goods low and centered side-to-side and fore-and-aft, and fill large water jugs for ballast to adjust the trim. It's best to pack with soft-sided dry bags, which can be wedged into smaller spaces. Unruly dog? Keep Bowser away from the bow and stern by hemming him in between the center thwart and gear.

**Skill #38 Lash a canoe to the roof of a car **
Start with the foundation-a rock-solid roof rack mounted firmly to the vehicle. Tie a small loop into one end of each of two 8-foot lengths of 5mm climbing rope. Put each rope around a crossbar, passing the free end of the rope through the loop. Snug it down tight. Turn the boat upside down and center it end-to-end on the racks. Lash the craft down with a tightly wrenched trucker's hitch and two half hitches. Pay attention: Keep all knots and loops snug against the gunwales to prevent the boat from sliding around on the crossbars. Add crosswind insurance by tying the midpoints of two 12- to 15-foot sections of climbing rope to the carry thwarts on bow and stern, and knot the rope ends to the corners of the vehicle's bumpers.

**Skill #39 Fix five common small-outboard failures **
(1) Broken shear pin. What numskull wouldn't pack a spare? You? Replace with a small bolt or stout fishhook, but go easy on the throttle. Hit bottom and you'll really wound the engine.

(2) Water in fuel or fuel line. Remove the drain plug from the carburetor fuel bowl and drain the spoiled gas. Detach the fuel line at both ends and flush by pumping the primer bulb. Now empty the tank into a clear jug and let it settle for an hour. Water will sink to the bottom.

(3) Fishing line wrapped around prop. Tip the motor up and carefully unwind line off the propeller shaft. Remove the prop if you have to, but be sure to get it all. Leaking gear oil indicates a sliced prop seal-limp back to the dock, adding oil if you have it.

(4) Bent or broken prop. Straighten a severely bent prop blade with a rock or log "anvil" and similar "hammer." If you lose a chunk of metal, take it s-l-o-w back to port.

(5) Primer bulb malfunction. Is a dry-rotted primer bulb not sending juice to the kicker? Hold the fuel tank above the motor and let gravity do the job.

Skill # 40 Tie a bowline and clove hitch
The bowline is a very secure knot that won't slip, regardless of the load it holds. Tying it is like reciting a nursery rhyme: Pass the free end (the "rabbit") through the loop (the "hole"), behind the standing end (the "tree"), and into the loop. Like this: "The rabbit runs out of the hole, around the tree, and back in the hole." Tighten.

The clove hitch is Boating 101-good for a temporary stay to dock or piling.

** Skill # 41 Tie a boat to a cleat**
Take a full turn around the cleat, then make two figure-eight loops around the cleat horns. Finish with a locking hitch: Twist the line so the free end passes under itself. Snug it tight, and loop or coil remaining line out of the way.

** Skill #42 Set an anchor**
Head upwind or upcurrent and lower the anchor all the way to the bottom. Anchors only grab when they first lie down. Reverse the engine and slowly back away a distance of seven to 10 times the water depth.

Skill #43 Fix everything with duct tape
To patch rips in a canoe or kayak, round off the tape ends to reduce peeling and warm the tape with a lighter to boost the sticky factor.

Blow a hose? Give it half a dozen wraps. Or fashion a backwoods replacement by taping a grunt call or wash-down hose in place, then limp to the nearest shop.

Cut yourself far from shore? Duct tape is an HMO on a roll: Close a gash with a butterfly-shhaped bandage for better wound drainage, air circulation, and yelp-free removal.

Splint busted fishing rods (or tent poles, trekking poles, etc.) by overlapping the ends of the broken rod and winding tape around them.

If electronic gadgets are running out of juice, supercharge weak batteries with an air-activated hand warmer duct-taped to the outside of the battery compartment of a GPS, two-way radio, or motorized decoy.

Skill #44 Paddle a canoe in a headwind
The right way seems wrong: Trim the canoe slightly bow heavy to keep it heading into the wind. Kneel in the bottom of the boat, and use short, quick strokes. Feather the paddle on your return stroke, turning the blade parallel to the water surface so it won't catch the wind. Keep the boat pointed into the waves and use every bit of windbreak possible-even distant land points can provide relief from wind and swell.

Skill #45 Paddle a canoe with power and grace
The much-lauded J-stroke kills a canoe's forward momentum. Try this: Finish off a traditional forward stroke by rolling both wrists over and away from the boat. This turns the paddle blade perpendicular to the water surface, like a rudder. Now give a slight push away from the gunwale as you bring the blade out of the water for the next stroke, and the bow tracks back in line. You can correct course and make all but the sharpest turns without losing steam.