Build an Alaskan Suction-Bailer for your Kayak
The Aleut and Yupik hunter-kayakers of Alaska have an ingenius method of removing water from their
kayaks: A cigar-shaped tube, powered by the paddler's lungs. Why use such a thing nowadays
when hand-pumps are available? The suction bailer has the following advantages:
1. No moving parts.
2. One hand operation.
3. Practically free.
4. Very pretty.
To use one, just drop one end down to the keelson through your sprayskirt, then suck on the other end until you
get a mouthful of water. Then put a finger over the upper hole and lift it out and dump the water overboard.
The volume of the bailer is well matched to a comfortable lung-full of air-- your lung's and/or bailer's
capacity may vary.
The following replica suction bailer is based on an example I measured at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau.
You'll need a hunk of wood (ideally cedar) about 3" thick and 21" long. Drill a 7/16" diameter hole
about two inches deep in the center of each end. Round the hunk of wood and taper it towards the ends as above.
The finished diameter in the middle should be about 2-7/8" or so; the end diameters should be about 7/8".
Once you've shaped the siphon, re-saw it down the middle. It doesn't have to be a straight cut at all,
but its good to cut through the centers of the holes you drilled at each end.
Next, get a good gouge and carefully hollow each half, leaving a wall thickness of about
1/4" or so. This can be done by feel, sound, and by eye-- you'll know when to stop (hopefully
before you see daylight through the other side).
Now wrap the two hollowed halves togetherwith string. You can rasp five slight channels to hold the string in place.
Cotton lineworks very well for this. Note the image above: This shows how to terminate the wrapping. When
you reach the end of the line, stick it through the loop that you've been wrapping over.
Then you pull the end of the loop to draw the line's end under the wrapping;
cut the ends off when the loop is well under the wrapping.
Four more of these wrapping will do it. Don't use glue and don't finish the wood. The siphon may dry out and be leaky
if it isn't used often, but just a few minutes' a-soaking will tighten it right up again. Enjoy!