Sunday, May 01, 2016

Jazz Up Your Birdhouse With Some Birds

One of the collection of front porch birdhouses my wife hung from the eaves attracted a hive of hornets. After I  So I plugged up the holes with some of that green styrofoam floral block cut to fit in the holes. The only problem was that we didn't get birds anymore. So we bought some.

Stuff You Need:

  1. You need a staple gun and some 1/2 to 3/4 inch staples
  2. You need some fake birds. 
  3. You need some bird houses

Where You Can Get the Stuff You Need:

  1.  Staple gun and staples can be obtained at the hardware store if you have a male person about the house who is worth a flip, just look in the garage or the tool box on the back of his pickup.
  2. The "Everything's a Dollar Store" or almost any one of those dollar stores or arts & crafts places have them. I  bought 4 nice little birds made with real feathers and only paid a buck a piece for them.  They come with a spring clip on the underside where the feet go.
  3. If you are a proper householder, you should already have a birdhouse hanging about somewhere. If not, Hobby Lobby and Michael's probably have some good starter birdhouses.

How to Mount the Birds:

  1. Find a nice spot on the wooden birdhouse and tap in a staple. Leave a gap so that the space between the staple and the perch or roof of the house or wherever you mount the bird is wide enough for the clip on the bird to slide through.
  2. Clip the birds to the staples on the houses. 
  3. Voila' you've got birds that don't poop sitting on houses that aren't full of hornets.
How cool is that?

© 2016 by Tom King

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Boats & Floaty Things" The Homemade Canoe Stabilizer.

It's coming on springtime and time to get out on the water in the old canoe; perhaps to do a little fishing.  A canoe, by it's very nature is an unstable platform for fishing. In fact, any activity that involves a lot of moving around heavy equipment, standing or climbing into and out of the boat in deep water. Canoes are not good platforms for scuba diving and they definitely are not the best watercraft to stand up in and wrestle with an active trout, pike or other large fish, unless, of course you like being pitched headlong into cold water while weighted down with fishing gear. My whole life, I would hear news reports almost every other weekend of the fishing season of sheriff's department divers searching the lakes, rivers and bayous for some fisherman's water-logged corpse after he'd fallen overboard from some unstable boat. 

If all you have is a canoe, however, there's good news.  An easy solution to the instability of a cone was invented centuries ago by the Polynesians. The Pacific Islanders for millennia only had coconut palms and other skinny trees from which to hollow out boats for themselves. Skinny trees do not make for stable watercraft and the sea is a wild and wavy place. So these clever folk created outriggers for their sea borne canoes to increase their stability. There are a lot of commercial outrigger setups that are available for canoes, but they can be relatively expensive, especially if you're only using the canoe for fishing rarely. Here's an effective solution. It's not terribly stylish, but it will keep you from drowning yourself while fishing by making your boat less tipsy.

The trouble is that canoe-based fishermen may forget, in their excitement to get out there and hook themselves a lunker, that the water is still cold. Fall in and hypothermia may get you before you can get to shore, particularly if you're wearing a heavy jacket, boots or are loaded down with one of those vest with all the pockets and you have a lot of led sinkers stuffed in a few compartments.

Here's what you need to make this.


  • Zip ties
  • PVC cleaner
  • PVC cement
  • Knife
  • Hacksaw


  • Styrofoam swimming “noodle” with hole in the center
  • 12 feet of 1 inch heavy duty (stiff) PVC pipe
  • Two 1 inch PVC “T’s”
  • Two 90 degree 1 inch PVC elbows
  • Two large u-bolts. They should be wide enough to fit over the center thwart of your canoe and long enough to clamp the thwart and 1 inch pipe together
How to put it together:

  • Measure and cut the pipe - Measure the width of your canoe at the center thwart (the one you will
    Crossmember with elbows cemented in place
    clamp this rig to.  Add enough length to it so the pipe extends 12 to 18 inches beyond the gunwales of your canoe.  If, for instance, your canoe is 22 inches wide, add ag least 24 to 36 inches to the width of the canoe and cut the pipe that long. The reason for giving you a range is so you can adjust it to your own preferences. A shorter outrigger pole is less stable, but more stiff, so it flexes less when you are standing in the boat. The longer length will make your outrigger more tip resistant, but less strong and more prone to flexing. If you want a longer outrigger that is more stiff, simply buy a heavier gauge pipe. You cold even use a light metal pipe of the sort used in electrical conduit, but it will significantly increase your cost and may not help that much.
  • Once you've cut the pipe, cement the two 90-degree elbows to ends of pipe so that both openings.
    Crossmember with down pipes and T's in place
    When attached both elbows will need to turn downward.  The cementing part is easy. Clean the ends of the pipe and the insides of the elbows with PVC cleaner. Spread the pipe glue on the outside of the pipe and inside of the elbow and push them together.  The cement will set pretty quickly.
  • Cut two 4" to 6" pieces of 1 inch pipe and glue them to the open ends of the elbows so you have both pointing the same direction (downward when the rig is in place).

  • Now glue the two PVC “T’s” to the end of the down pipes so that their openings are perpendicular to the cross pipe.  The openings should be parallel to the sides of the canoe.
  • With a knife, cut two 24 to 27 inch long pieces from the Styrofoam swim noodle.
  •  Slit the noodles lengthwise so the cut goes halfway through to the hollow center of each noodle.
  • Now you'll need to cut four pieces of pipe so that they are 12 to 14 inches long. Measure and cut
    Noodles wrapped over perpendicular pipes
    the pipes so that with one stuck into each of the openings of the PVC T's will equal the same length as the piece of swim noodle that will be your outrigger's flotation.  
  • Cement one pipe into each end of the two T's.  Let the pieces set for ten minutes before moving the framework around.
  • Now pry apart the lengthwise slits in the Styrofoam noodles wrap them around the pipe assemblies attached to the "T's".  The pipe should settle down into the hole at the center of the noodle. You'll have to push the “T” down into the slit and there will be a gap there. You can trim around it with your knife for a close fit or just pull it tight with the zip ties. Your choice. When you are done you'll have two stiffened foam floats running parallel to the sides of your boat once the cross-member is clamped into place

  • Wrap zip ties around the noodles spaced evenly along either side of the “T’ joint to hold them in
    Zip tie close to T's then space along length of noodles

  • An easy way to streamline your outriggers and cut drag is to cut the bottom out of 12 ounce water or soda bottles.  With a screwing motion you can force them over the ends of the foam noodles. Once they are in place, wrap a few turns of duct tape around them to hold them in place. If you want something more permanent, you could drill through the bottles, the foam and the pipes underneath and run a small bolt through it all and add flat washers to both ends and lock washers to the nut side to hold it in place. I wouldn't go that far, though. I always keep some duct tape with the boat for repairs. If the tape gets soggy, just replace it. 
  • With your U-bolts clamp the cross member to the center thwart. I'd pad the thwart between the
    Bolt crossmember in place, Cover ends of noodles
    with soda bottles for streamlining effect
    bolt and the thwart to prevent scratching but that's up to you. An easier way is to zip tie the outrigger/stabilizer cross member to the center thwart with heavy duty zip ties and you’re ready to go. 
You may have to fiddle with duct tape or something to keep the cross member for rotating or sliding right or left. You could custom design some sort of over and under shaped wood mounting saddle for the cross member with bolts and wing nuts to hold it in place.

References for commercial resources:

Outrigger Stabilizers for Canoes and Boats: Castlecraft

Canoe Stabilizer: Sailboats to Go

Outriggers for Canoes: Easy Rider Kayaks

Dan’s Kayak

Canoe outriggers to stabilize your canoe: RM Specialites

© 2016 by Tom King

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Boats and Floaty Things: Homemade Drift Sock

This is a commercial drift sock with a durable
straps sewn over the cone for added strength.
I'm basically a canoer with occasional lapses into fishing. I've never been a big fisherman. I'm kind of ADHD and don't have a lot of patience. Frankly my sympathies have always lain with the fish. But, anytime your doing stuff in a boat, you may find yourself needing to sit somewhere on the water without drifting into the weeds.  I've used this little trick to park offshore and do nature photography. If you're into murdering like, Bambi and Thumper you could probably make your canoe or boat or raft sit still for you using a home-made drift sock.

This thing we're going to make is a takeoff of an old sailor's trick called a sea anchor. Basically, a sea anchor is a line or chain, attached to a boat at one end and to a big something or other full of water at the other end. You can also use something like this to help keep your nose into the wind or your boat on course in a heavy breeze. A drift anchor is a smaller version of the sea anchor and comes in very handy in high winds or choppy seas. A very small one can be used to help you stay on course at the cost of a little drag. If you've ever tried to paddle in a stiff breeze, keeping the boat on course can be a real challenge. Even a small motorized skiff can struggle to stay on course for home if a wind comes up.

We sailors are nothing, if not innovators. There are several ways to go at making a drift sock. The quickest is to tie a line to a five gallon bucket and throw it overboard, tying the other end to the loop on the stern of your canoe or to a yoke at the end of a rowboat or skiff.  You can use a smaller bucket if you're trying to keep the boat turned into the wind. A larger bucket will help you not to drift. I've even seen a workable drift sock made from an open umbrella tied by the handle to a drag line behind the boat. 

Here are several other ways to create a quick emergency drift sock. You can fill a garbage bag with water and drag it along behind the boat. One interesting solution I've seen involves tying 4 to 6 ropes to the hem of a dress like a parachute. A bit of wire can be used to keep the dress open. Don't sew up the top of the dress (use a dress not a skirt).  The skirt part will balloon out as you start moving and catch a lot of water. As the water hits the waste of the dress, it slows because the hole is smaller.  The narrowing at the top will slow the forward motion by funneling the water together while still allowing it to pass through so that the dress doesn't act like a parachute and kill your motion altogether.

You can buy a commercial drift sock for $20 to $100 depending on the size of your boat and the amount of freeboard it exposes to the wind. If you have a low profile canoe, you can get away with a smaller drift sock. An Indian-style canoe with high gunwales is a lot more lively in a stiff breeze. A drift sock is simple a cone shaped something or other that is held open at one end and narrow or closed at the opposite.  Commercial ones are made of durable rip-stop nylon or canvas. You can make one yourself by taking a piece of nylon, canvas or polyester and stitching it into a cone shape. At the wide end, hem a wire loop into the edge of the cone. Add 4 grommets evenly spaced around the large end just below the hem. Most craft stores have two or three foot wire hoops that work nicely in this application.

To attach it to the boat, create a simple harness. Tie four ropes or some parachute cord to the 4 grommets at the large end and tie them to a steel loop or carabiner about 4 to 6 feet from the cone.  Then clip the carabiner to a line that you attach to the stern of the boat and drag behind it. If you're lucky, the stern of your boat has a cleat or loop you can attach the drift sock to and you won't have to jerry-rig it. It's not hard to do in any case.

To set up your sock to prevent your boat from drifting, throw the drift sock upwind of the boat and let it fill up. It won't stop you from drifting entirely, but it drag will definitely slow you down in a stiff breeze.

© 2015 by Tom King