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.

attenzione cialis rezeptfrei, wie sie tadalafil günstig kaufen können Cialis lo rende facile – acquistare cialis. Effetto veloce con Cialis garantito!


  1. Doug

    As a suggestion, consider carrying a hand winch called a “come-a-long” to generate serious pulling power. As you’ve illustrated, wherever the van is stuck, the surface will also be poor for you to lean back and pull – loose sand, mud or snow. So you may only be able to generate a measly 50lbs or so in an actual stuck. These hand winches are cheap, light and stow in a very small space. With your triple pulley setup, you’ll be able to generate enough force to pull the van over rocks and stumps to get on your way. As a bonus, you could be doing this without sweating while sitting in a chair and swinging away on the handle. As always, be sure your vehicle mounts are solid and your gear is properly rated for the loads. Also, most recovery experts recommend that an elastic strap or stretchy ropes not be used with a winch because if something fails, the snapping effect can easily injure anyone in the path. Say someone with their handle on the hand winch…

    Be safe and looking forward to reading more. A great resource on your van and travels is a website called “The Samba”.


    Comment by Doug on December 10, 2011 at 8:02 pm

  2. Thanks for the suggestions Doug. I’ve been thinking about a come-a-long, but have to see how much space we have when Nacho is packed up and ready to go. Our minimum rating for everything in this setup is 13,500lbf. The rope is a static climbing rope, so has pretty low stretch, but if we ever end up pulling the line with a come-a-long or a vehicle we’ll be sure to throw a blanket over the line.



    Comment by Brad on December 10, 2011 at 8:34 pm

  3. Spike

    Hi Guys,
    I am also a VeeWee camper owner (4th one) and have travelled USA, Canada and Mexico. My son recently left Seattle on his sailboat for his round-the-world voyage and is now in La Paz, He plans to leave in a westerly direction, like you. Want to race? Ha. Good Luck from Austin, Tx

    Comment by Spike on December 11, 2011 at 4:24 pm

  4. Dennis

    Of many good times in Baja one of the best evenings was spent camped next to our buried honda accord in Punta Baja with a pair of young fishermen/gravel gatherers who kindly got us rolling the next morning. I heartily endorse your trust in knowing you’ll get out one way or another.

    Comment by Dennis on December 11, 2011 at 6:08 pm

  5. Charlie

    Very cool project! I was always going to get a come-along to carry under the back seat of mine but it just hasn’t happened yet. The block an tackle is something I hadn’t considered but is painfully obvious. Great Idea. I’m curious how you attached the receiver to the front.

    Comment by Charlie on December 12, 2011 at 7:03 pm

  6. I love the efforts you have put in this, thank you for all the great articles.

    Comment by Demetrius Kleindienst on January 3, 2012 at 5:56 pm

  7. Wayne V.

    I just found your website and applaud your gumption….do this while you’re young!!
    You may have considered this but if not, I’d recommend a Hi-Lift Jack…most dedicated off-roaders use them…and they double as a hand winch!!
    You’ll want the additional lifting capacity and height for the places your going…The all-cast version is about 30 lbs and is 48″ long…its big and heavy but will be a lifesaver…especially since you don’t have a syncro..
    Safe travels..

    Comment by Wayne V. on January 21, 2012 at 10:46 pm

  8. […] up to his truck and settled in for the short three mile haul to Susacón.  The alternative was our winchless self-recovery system, which somehow felt far under qualified for the job.  Instead we just sat there, Sheena […]

    Pingback by Drive Nacho Drive » Lost in Transmission on August 5, 2012 at 9:06 pm

  9. […] got us out.  We were reminded (after the fiasco) by our cyber-friends and fellow overlanders Drive Nacho Drive, that if we lowered the air in the tires to 12 psi, it would have been no problem to get out- a good […]

    Pingback by Return to South Brazil | Our Open Road on December 5, 2014 at 4:47 am

Leave A Comment!