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Rigger Tricks: Truck-Powered Course Removal
posted on June 6, 2012

click for full-size image!
Spindle bolts to wheel; spool slides onto spindle, & locks w/ nub on right so it spins together
click for full-size image!
Set-up includes a hitch-mounted cable guide that fills the spool evenly
click images for full-size version
contributed by John FX Flynn, row2k

Pretty much any job is made cooler by two things: first, using a custom-made gizmo, preferably of your own design and, second, doing the work with a power tool--the more over-powered, the better.

If you can accept that Rowing Hack premise, then we give you maybe the coolest "custom-made, overpowered" hack tool we've seen yet: the diesel crew truck-powered rowing course buoy line retriever.

Yeah, that is a mouthful, so let's call this gadget the B.L.U.R.--for Buoy Line Uptake Retriever--a one-of-a-kind hack that allows the boatman at the University of Minnesota to pull his race course in pretty much by putting the crew truck in drive.

Basically, he jacks up the back of the truck, bolts a specially built spindle onto the left rear wheel that allows him to mount an empty spool, hooks up the near end of the still-deployed buoy cable--which snakes through an also-custom-built cable guide that fits into the truck's hitch--and then he puts the truck in D, hits the gas, and the line gets spooled, in a B.L.U.R.

Usually, the process involves a launch and a big wheel of cable: you install the course by motoring slowly along, unspooling the line and clipping on buoys as you go, and then reverse the process, following the line as you re-spool it, unclipping buoys furiously as you go, to take the course out.

The B.L.U.R. gizmo speeds up that endgame significantly: you just back up to the shore, spend a couple of minutes modifying the truck, have someone unclip the line at its far end, and vroom-vroom.

Of course, it would be extra cool if this hack actually let you pull the lines in at a blurry 40-50 miles an hour, but anything faster than 10 mph makes it hard to unclip the buoys as the line leaves the lake--and puts a bit too much tension on the line. But, when you consider this as a job that usually involves a full day out on a launch in the hot sun and, inevitably, someone getting wet, then standing on shore watching the truck do the hard work of re-spooling the cable is a pretty slick trick.

A couple of caveats, of course: you need shore access to at least one end of the buoy lines, you need someone to fabricate a spindle that will fit your truck (like any truly great hack, these are not sold in stores, folks), you need metal cable reels to handle the extra weight and torque, and you need a little bit of patience to set the whole thing up--but, that done, you can basically stand in the shade for a few hours and watch the line roll in.

We know there are other, simpler ways to just get this job doneā€¦but that kind of thinking really misses the point: you are getting to use the whole crew truck as maybe the coolest power tool ever--and that, my fellow Hackers, makes all the difference.

Two other cool design details on this hack: the spindle was designed so only half the lug nuts on the truck need to be removed to bolt it on; the other lug nuts fit into extra large holes, which means the whole tire can stay on the truck for a quick getaway when the job is done. Also, the cable guide (in bottom photo) slides back and forth, so that the spool fills evenly--and even features a nice t-handle.

Have a cool course removal tip or neat truck trick? Share your ideas--and hacks--in the comments below.

Have a great rowing hack for future inclusion here? Send it to us!


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