When packing for SEVENTY48, one of our drybags is the “Oh, $#!+” bag. It has several supplies in it that would be useful in the moments when you might exclaim, “Oh, $#!+”. It has a trowel and toilet paper in case we’re being literal. We include a roll of Flex Tape for emergency fiberglass patching. Tenacious Tape for Dry Suit, Dry Bag, or tent repair. A Leatherman is our compact tool kit and we have a chemical warmer in case we get cold. Finally, we include a bunch of paracord, because you can never have too much rope.
What You Think Might Break and What Actually Breaks
As you can see from the packing list, we are prepared for an accidental rock strike puncturing the hull. We have what we need if a barnacle or pointed stick rips a Dry Suit, Dry Bag, or tent. We are ready if a screw decides to start backing out or if nature calls while we are far from a bathroom. You’d expect that this is more peace of mind than a necessity for a 48-hour trip, but unanticipated failure modes can cause a real issue.
The First Failure
Melissa’s kayak is the oldest kayak of the three. The hatches on Melissa’s kayak are different than those on the newer kayaks. When the hatch manufacturer we’d used for nearly 20 years went out of business, we started testing different hatch suppliers. We did this by fitting them into our personal kayaks to see how they performed. The hatches in Melissa’s kayak performed well, but some were difficult to install or became hard to find. The aft hatch on Melissa’s kayak is the same design we use now but made with different materials. Those different materials made all the difference.
After 4 years of using the handles to secure and unlatch the hatch, the handles failed. The first one failed as Melissa was closing her hatch after getting warmer clothes out to continue paddling into the evening. I put a piece of Flex Tape over the hole the now-missing handle left, but it wouldn’t stick. We had tested this tape as a fiberglass repair, but not on the textured plastic of the hatch cover. I then tried the Tenacious Tape and it stuck slightly better, but still not well. So I put Melissa’s throw bag over the barely attached tape and bungeed it down so we could continue to our next stop.
Not My First… Er, Strobe
The next failure had nothing to do with the kayaks; it was my emergency strobe light. For some reason, I go through a lot of these. Mine are constantly failing. Our paddling partner’s and Melissa’s have always been fine. We put new batteries in them each year and they are good. I even bought a brand new one for the race since my last one had decided to be a very bright flashlight that you can’t turn off. Somehow, I managed to break my brand-new strobe in 24 hours. As I launched, it started flashing. I thought it must have gotten a big splash of water on it to set it off. I reset it, but it wouldn’t stop flashing, even when I turned it to the off position. I had to get Lara to untether it from my PFD so we could stow it where it wasn’t telling everyone we needed help.
The Next Stop and the Next Failure
We landed after dark and started unloading the kayaks to set up our campsite. After Melissa unloaded her aft hatch, she turned the handle on the one remaining latch. The handle broke off, just like the other one had a few hours before. Now not only does the hatch have 2 separate half-inch holes in it, but there is also nothing keeping it closed. We decide that this is a problem best dealt with in the daytime and finish setting up camp.
The Daytime Perspective
After just a few hours we get up before the sun. I start looking at the broken hatch and thinking about how to make it sea-worthy. I see it as two problems. The first: is holes that need to be plugged. I solve that by taking the broken pieces from the latch, wrapping a bit of Tenacious Tape around them, and forcing them back into the holes. Even though the tape doesn’t stick to the plastic very well, it does stick to itself, and the added thickness of the tape makes it possible to put the round part of the latch back into the holes with a friction fit.
The second problem: the hatch won’t stay closed. If it doesn’t have enough downward force on it, the hatch won’t seal. Since the hatch is fairly flush to the deck, I knew that I can tie it shut with some paracord. But it wouldn’t be sealed. To get the downward pressure we need, I grab a piece of driftwood. Using the Leatherman’s saw, I notch the driftwood so the paracord will keep it securely in place when tied down. I tie the paracord to the safety lines on either side of the hatch and use a Trucker’s Hitch to secure the driftwood block onto the center of the hatch. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough.
On the Move Again
With our ad hoc repair completed, we launched from Eglon and headed to Point No Point where we looked at the weather forecast and checked on the repair. Then we continued on towards Foul Weather Bluff.
Although we take the “Oh, $#!+” bag on virtually every paddle, it’s a rare occurrence that we have to open it. And this time, we used nearly every item we carry.