How to Scavenge Wood With a Kayak




Introduction: How to Scavenge Wood With a Kayak

About: skin on frame kayak builder since 1987

Much lumber washes up on beaches and can be used for a variety of applications from fuel for your wood stove to carpentry projects.
I build traditional style arctic kayaks with lashed wood frames. When I first started building kayaks, I always used lumber that I bought, but after a while, I got the urge to see how well I could do with scavenged lumber. After all, Arctic kayaks used to be built entirely out of scavenged wood. So I started looking out for nice pieces of lumber that washed up on the beach.

The lumber on beaches is good but has a short shelf life. People use it for making fires. City crews remove it and believe it or not, you and I are not the only ones who harvest this natural resource.

So if you want a better selection of lumber, you might want to look to break waters and remote locations inaccessible from land or from the water in conventional motorized boats. The kayak is the ideal craft for getting at this lumber. It has a shallow draft and can be landed on the beach. And surprisingly, even though the average human only operates at 1/7 horse power, you can tow some fairly large pieces of wood behind a kayak. Because lumber is long and thin, it slides through the water easily.

Step 1: Tools

You will need a kayak, a paddle, a quarter inch diameter rope at least 20 feet long and some time to go exploring.
Your kayak will need some kind of deck fitting that you can tie the rope to and that is also strong enough to endure the stress of towing the lumber.

The kayak in the picture, by the way is made at least partially with scavenged wood and the rope is also scavenged off the beach. In other words, the artful scavenger can scavange many of the scavenging tools needed for more complex scavenging.

Step 2: Locate Your Wood

Once you have a kayak and the desire to scavenge wood, you need to go out and find some wood. If you are a kayaker, you will probably be paddling around anyway except you will now be scanning the shoreline for telltale signs of sun bleached wood gleaming in the sun.

Once you have located the piece of wood you want to take home, drag it down to the water, close to the boat.

Step 3: Attach the Line to the Lumber

Now it's time to attach your towing line to the piece of lumber.
A series of hitches will do the job. These tighten up as you pull on the rope so they are not likely to slip off.
Attach the line about a foot and a half from the end of the board.

Step 4: Tie the Tow Line to the Boat

Tie the other end of your tow line to the boat. Use a slip knot so you can easily unhitch the lumber in case it starts endangering your safety.

The idea is to have enough line out so the lumber doesn't interfere with the paddling but not so much line that the piece of lumber is out of sight and can get tangled if you have to paddle close to obstacles and can't see what your lumber is doing.

Step 5: Tow Your Lumber Home

Towing a piece of lumber is not overly difficult. Chances are that if you have the strength to move the piece of lumber to the water, you also have the strength to tow it. Once in the water, the lumber floats so that you are no longer working against gravity. And as long as you haven't tied the lumber so you are dragging it through the water sideways, it offers relatively little resistance to forward motion.

Step 6: Take Your Lumber Home

Having arrived at your destination, untie your scavenged lumber and move it and the kayak to storage using your car or your bicycle cart. Or if your shop happens to be just across the street from the water, carry them across the street.

The astute reader will notice that the destination beach in this photo looks just like the one that the piece of wood was found on. This is true. The series of photos was only a simulation and the piece of wood was just paddled around in a circle. However, I have done this sort of thing for real. As a matter of fact, the piece of lumber in this picture is waiting to be used in a curragh, an Irish skin on frame boat.



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    17 Discussions

    Great instructable, man! As a whitewater paddler I recommend a good dive-knife to anyone taking a rope onto the water. This is the one I carry:

    I just wondered but is this like a hobby to take lumber from these places? What do you do with the lumber you find? I'm guessing the wood you find is sort of nice because it is drift wood.

    1 reply

    Mostly it's kind of like research to see what sorts of boats i can make with scavenged lumber. It's about seeing what is possible with limited resources. It's what people in the arctic had to do.

    Isn't it, though? I was envious of how the sunlight illuminates the skin, myself. Gorgeous craft.

    that is a really nice kayak... don't bother posting the instructions, i have nowhere near the patience required to do that. i would take the PVC / tarp / ducktape route.

    1 reply

    Now I miss my kayak. It is stored over 600 miles away :(

    Besides the recycling aspect you are also doing other boat users a favour. Floating timber can cause damage to hulls and props.

    This is a interesting idea, I've always collected drift wood scraps. Once in a while I whittle away them. Its never occurred to me, to go out and hunt down the best pieces.

    I saw you steamer instructable and now this one very nice. I like the Kayak and the recycling nature of your projects. Please let me know when you post your process for making kayaks and paddles

    Nice instructable... As a paddler myself, I really enjoyed this. Of course, a deck-mounted safety towline can always be used for the same purpose.

    Please add the pictures! Those kayaks are really nice, especially the Greenland style one.

    Did you make the Kayak that is in the pictures? I think this is a great idea, you are also doing a clean up service to the community and getting free lumber. Great job.

    Very nice. Please post one about kayak building too. Good work.

    That's a beautiful kayak. Especially in Step 6, where we can see all the ribbing backlit in the sun. You going to post an Instructable about making kayaks, too?