The Y-er: A Homemade Tool for Paddlers to Bypass River Wire

The Y-er - A DIY river wire bypass tool for paddlersWe’ve encountered more wire strung across rivers in Southwestern Wisconsin than any other region in the state. Paddling up to and making your way under, or over, can be a little nerve-racking, and dangerous to say the least. Be it barbed, electrified or non-, they can be awkward to navigate past safely. Sometimes water levels necessitate portages around wires, but often a pushy current coupled with a “suprise wire” downstream doesn’t even make that an easy option.

And that was the catalyst for Scotty, from Platteville, to create a solution. He reached out to us to share his (rather ingenious) idea for a homemade tool that he created to help him and his family explore driftless area streams in a safer manner. After being hesitant to do the Platte because of the barb wire “issues” documented here and in guidebooks, he got to thinking, “How can I navigate under barb wire without having to grab it by hand, use my paddle to lift it, touch it with anything metal (and potentially get shocked), portage around it, or find a deep spot in the river where the wire is high and just coast under it?”

Being a family handyman, he got to work creating a solution that has thus far proved useful and we encouraged him to share his idea with others. After some back-and-forth, the “Y-er” (because he too, enjoys puns) was born – a simple DIY tool to help safely manipulate barbed wire to paddle through fenced livestock pastures.

“We simply keep the tool on the floor of our kayaks, get straight as we approach it, stop paddling briefly as we grab the tool, give the wire a hoist, and we are off again. I made the top of the “Y” big enough so you have some margin of error in grabbing the wire.”

Below is the full how-to guide to make your own Y-er.

“I’m just happy to share my simple idea with others to keep them safe and to help them enjoy kayaking on rivers where barbed wire can be a hindrance.”

This tool is intended to lift barbed wire out of your way while allowing safe clearance below without getting stuck by wire barbs or even get shocked. If you can cut small diameter PVC pipe and swirl some PVC cement, you can make this tool in less time than it takes you to portage around your next barbed wire fence or do the awkward boat limbo while hoping that you clear this countryside hazard.

So why is it called the “Y-er”?  Imagine you are kayaking down a river with a group of friends and the first person sees a string of wire ahead strung across the river, they yell “Wire!” or “Y-er!” and start swirling their Y-shaped tool in the air to get your attention. Your group quickly creates a gap between each boat, prepares to grab their “Y-er” as they approach the wire, and one-by-one uses their Y-er to lift the wire safety overhead.

The Y-er - A DIY river wire bypass tool for paddlers

Shopping List:
» 1 PVC pipe:  ½” x 5′ schedule 40 PVC pipe (Menards item #6898504):  $1.25
» 1 Tee: ½” PVC tee (Menards item #6896645): $0.30
» 2 Elbows:  ½” 90 degree PVC elbows (Menards item #6896467): $0.60
» 3 Caps:  ½” PVC cap (Menards item #6896674): $0.90
» Cement: 4 oz. LoVOC PVC regular clear cement (Menards item #6931160): $2.50

Total Approximate Cost: $5.55 + tax

Fabrication + Assembly:
Step 1: Cut PVC pipe to the following lengths using a hacksaw or other fine toothed saw:

Two 2” length pieces of ½” diameter PVC pipe for horizontals
Two 3” length pieces of ½” diameter PVC pipe for vertical forks
One 20” length piece of ½” diameter PVC pipe for handle (vary as you desire)

Step 2: Assemble using regular PVC cement to glue the pieces together. Cement primer is not necessary. Assemble the pieces on a flat surface such as a table to keep the assembly on the same plane. It is recommended to protect the tabletop as cement may drip on it.

Step 3: Place it in your boat and hit the water. All you need to do now is cautiously approach the wire, identify where you want to pass under, grab the Y-er, take aim, give the wire a hoist and float on under.

(Download Printable Y-er Instructions)

Questions or Suggestions:
Feel free to send Scotty, the inventor of the Y-er, an email if you have any comments, suggested improvements or questions.

The Y-er in Action:

Photo Gallery:

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