Dec 2011

Blog, North America


Winches? We don’t need no stinkin’ winches!

During our trip we’ll be looking for ways to wriggle ourselves into the lives of the people who inhabit the places we go.  Like a thorn in the side.  How did it get there?  Nobody remembers, but it’s there so you have to deal with it.  And what better way to do so than to make ourselves look as pathetic and hopeless as possible so as to invite the pity and charity of those who stumble upon us?

On our test trip to Baja California, this happened twice; once when our engine started acting up, and again when we drove Nacho into deep sand in the middle of nowhere.  Without these experiences we would have missed out on meeting the wonderful people who, seeing the hopelessness in our faces, came to the rescue.  So how could we ensure that this happens on a regular basis in the future?  Well, we still drive a hippy bus, so mechanical trouble is a certainty.  To seal our fate, we put together a system whereby we would get Nacho stuck and then try to pull ourselves out with a rope and our arms.  This would be sure to invite universal pity wherever we go.

One obvious equipment choice for any overland expedition is a winch.  The winch is a roll of cable mounted to the bumper that can be extended, clipped to a stationary object, and then retrieved with a motor.  Stuck in the mud? Just winch yourself out.  Andy Dacey and Duncan Barbour, whom we met at the Overland Expo, urged us to forego a winch in favor of a block and tackle setup.  They were probably joking, but you never can tell with the British.  We listened, and now somewhere in the British Countryside, Andy and Duncan are belly laughing.

We went online and ordered all of the pieces for our “Inviting Pity Kit”.  It includes several D-shackles, a tree strap, a towing strap, a static climbing rope, a cord loop, and two triple snatch blocks.  The next step was to get stuck somewhere close to home and try it out.  Getting stuck was the easy part; we just turned up a dry wash and started driving.

The first thing we tried, before pulling out the big guns, was to lower our tire pressure and see if we could get unstuck.  We dropped it to 8psi and easily got back up and running.  If we are to get stuck in too remote a region, or if we fail to win the pity of the people, this will be our first plan of attack.

Next it was time to test Andy and Duncan’s joke and see if we could pull ourselves out with the rope.  We attached a D-shackle to our front receiver hitch and attached one of the triple snatch blocks to it.  The block is basically a set of three pulleys with a spindle through them.

We ran the rope through the both blocks, and attached the second block to another shackle, and then to the tow strap.  The blue cord in the above picture is tied in a Klemheist knot, and acts as a brake in case we let go of the rope so that Nacho won’t go careening off of a cliff/into the ocean/down a ravine.

We ran the 30 foot tow strap out to a big tree, looped the strap around the tree, and hooked it to the tow strap with a shackle.

This is the point at which we are sure to start attracting pity.  We simply grab the rope, pull like hell, sweat profusely, whimper a little, fall down, and get in an argument.  By now, groups of sympathetic locals will hopefully swoop in to the rescue.

If that doesn’t work, then we put Sheena on the rope and I will hide somewhere.  This will be our secret weapon.

To our surprise, and surely to the dismay of our saboteurs Andy and Duncan, this system actually worked. By using two triple blocks we multiplied our pulling power by 6.  That means that if we manage to sucker 10 people into helping us, it will be like having the pulling power of 60 people.  Better than a team of Clydesdales.  It took a few minutes to set up the pulleys, but after that it was a pretty efficient process.  Sure, it’s much more fun to do this in the balmy Arizona weather than it will be to do it in a rainy Cambodian jungle, but we’re (okay, only I am) ready to get this puppy stuck.

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