Mad Max Makeshift Magic

Boom repair while on passage. Picture by Birgit Hackl and Christian Feldbauer

Cruisers often have to rely on their own resources when something breaks, needs to be replaced or invented, especially for must-have items.  Sometimes the parts used for make-shift repairs or gadgets do not quite fit (together) and look like something from the Mad Max movies, but they do the job until a proper replacement can be found. On Pitufa we have many items that started as temporary solutions but have become permanent features as we got used to their weird looks and grew fond of them. Mad Max style gadgets are unique and add character to a cruising boat. Items made from recycled material go easy on the cruising kitty and it is eco-friendly to make a virtue of necessity and turn disused material into something useful. Here are Pitufa’s top ten makeshift/recycled items:

1. Main boom repair

Our main boom broke on the way from Rarotonga (Cook Islands) to Tahiti (French Polynesia). With no land or a welding shop in sight and 350nm to go close-hauled, we had little alternative but to fix it en route. Drilling 40 holes into the boom and riveting five scrap metal straps in place on the swaying deck was not easy. The straps held all the way to Tahiti where we had the boom professionally repaired.


2. Nautilus-style throttle lever

Years ago the plastic throttle lever in the cockpit yielded to material fatigue. A metal sleeve taken from an old man-over-board pole helped, but the material underneath kept crumbling. We added a hose clamp on top and honestly planned to replace it soon. Somehow we never got round to ordering one and in the meantime we have become fond of the hold-it-all-together magical hose clamp. Captain Nemo would appreciate the Nautilus style.


Nautilus-style throttle/gear lever. Picture by Birgit Hackl and Christian Feldbauer


3. Improvised mast slides

Plastic mast slides have a limited life expectancy. When they suddenly started breaking, one after the other, far from chandleries, compassionate fellow cruisers offered old batten cars and Christian cobbled together creative-looking yet functional slides that fit our mast track.


Homemade mast slides. Picture by Birgit Hackl and Christian Feldbauer


4. A bushing for the windlass motor

We were in a picture-perfect, uninhabited atoll when our 30-year-old Muir anchor winch started making nasty sounds. Cranking up the chain manually when changing anchorage with each wind shift wasn’t a fun prospect, but we also did not want to leave. Christian opened the winch and found the culprit: a damaged bronze bushing. He manufactured a new bushing from a brass hose connector on our tiny lathe and the anchor winch purred happily again.


Fabricating a bushing for the windlass motor. Picture by Birgit Hackl and Christian Feldbauer


5. Outboard crane

Lifting the outboard engine manually onto Pitufa’s high stern was a challenge for my back and outright dangerous with the boat pitching in waves. Finally, Christian took pity on me and mounted a construction made of threaded rods on the radar arch. Meant as a temporary solution the crane proved so convenient that it is still there four years later.


The outboard crane can save you from damaging your back. Picture by Birgit Hackl and Christian Feldbauer


6. Hatch covers

I’m no wizard on the sewing machine, so I tend to postpone tricky projects. When the covers of the deck hatches started tearing, I kept sewing patches on them until hardly any original Sunbrella remained. When I finally tackled the project, fitting new covers from our old Bimini material proved much easier than expected.


Recycled hatch cover and wind scoop. Picture by Birgit Hackl and Christian Feldbauer


7. Dinghy cover

Anyone who has ever fabricated a cover for the dinghy knows how fiddly that job is. Christian’s a perfectionist whereas I tend to work quickly with varying results. To go easy on our relationship we did the job in tiny steps, one segment after the other with long breaks in between. It took us a year to finish the perfectly fitting pajamas from an old, extra-strong canvas cover off a truck.

8. Windscoops

When our elderly gennaker ripped, we knew it was no use wasting any more repair tape. It still felt like a shame to toss the beautiful dark-blue and turquoise sail, so I sewed colorful wind scoops in different sizes (so we can reef when the wind picks up) for all our hatches.

9. Saltwater tap

In our former life as landlubbers we had fish tanks and before we moved to the boat we found new homes for our scaly pets, but kept some of the tank equipment. When we installed our watermaker and a saltwater tap for the kitchen sink, the green plastic pipes from our old aquarium turned into rotatable and height-adjustable faucets.


We fashioned fish tank pipes into a saltwater tap and water maker outlet. Picture by Birgit Hackl and Christian Feldbauer


10. Anti-slamming devices

Our first downwind passages caused locker doors and the toilet lid to slam repeatedly and drive us crazy. On arriving, we installed the handle of an antenna mount over the toilet and fashioned brackets for the cupboards from scrap wood and straightened hose clamps.


Simple but effective anti-slamming devices make life onboard more peaceful. Picture by Birgit Hackl and Christian Feldbauer


No more back attacks! Picture by Birgit Hackl and Christian Feldbauer



Birgit Hackl, Christian Feldbauer and ship’s cat Leeloo have been exploring the world on their yacht Pitufa since 2011. Visit their blog: