“Hawaii Five-O” it wasn’t but commuting on the Oahu interstate made me think fondly of home. The best thing about consulting for a TV production crew if you’re lucky. They love to eat great food and indulge in a proper pint of beer. Eating decent food is number one with me. I see now that my chance of survival with these Britt’s is looking good.
Bear Grylls Desert Island and I’ll have a pint of that!
A funny thing about being an expert… they hire you as one, and then they ignore everything you say.
Some may think that working as a survival expert for Man Vs Wild is exciting. Well, it is most of the time. For instance, pointing at people, places, and things saying such phrases as,” no, no, no, that is really tacky.”
Or perhaps, “what could you be thinking of?” And this one of course, “if you insist on eating that poisonous plant, I can guarantee you a slow agonizing death.”
Whoa, the Director is in a class all by himself. He will ask wonderful things from you in a polite and professional way only once. Once is all you get.
As we were slurping our beers one night in a swinging hot spot, where young men come from all over the world to drink and vomit in the urinals. We met up with another film crew on their way back home.
I asked the director if he had any words of wisdom for me, he did. He said, “Mark, give the director exactly what he wants, nothing else will do.” “Cheers, and good luck,” he said, and off he went leaving me curiously pondering what this could mean for me?
The Director the Raft and the Cruise
Some directors inspire you, “I need you to build me a raft, Mark Ole boy, two rafts to be exact.” The Director cheerfully stated looking straight into my eyes. He went on: “The rafts must be built by hand using a dull knife and your teeth if you must. And use all-natural materials, completely rigged and outfitted for a cruise.” “A cruise?” I choked.
“This raft must be able to sail into the wind. Oh, and survive a journey of at least fifty miles out to sea. Mark, have this done in one week please. And oh, make them so we can take them apart and put them quickly together again, yes? One more thing, make sure both rafts float!” What could I do?
I remembered the wisdom of the other Director, nodding my head up and down quickly, and planting a big “you betcha can do” on my face. Off I went in search of a how-to book on “Building a Raft in 48 hours… that floats.”
Bear Grylls and the crew are some of the finest folks I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Professional, considerate, generous, and dedicated to the work in bringing you exciting TV entertainment.
Bear Grylls Desert Island Raft
I’m proud of the raft Celeste. Bear Grylls was truly kind in naming the raft after my head staff member who couldn’t make the Desert Island episode. The deck of the raft frame was made from bamboo I harvested on Oahu in the forest.
I seem to remember getting a boil on my elbow after returning home from this project. The Doc said it might have something to do with the bamboo. Anyway, that’s another story.
Chinese Sailing Rafts
The Chinese sailing rafts were designed in such a way that the hull of the raft became part of the wave. Allowing the raft logs to ride smooth and steady through the ocean waves. The cabins or super structure were built on top of the log deck.
I decided on twin hulls built of wrapped bundles of bamboo logs which would increase the buoyancy. Much easier to handle cut, transport, bundle, than singularly big heavy logs.
The hulls had a gap between. Which I concluded would reduce wave friction allowing for water to pass through quickly allowing greater performance over the classic log raft design.
Knife Saw Fire
The raft did its job though after several trips out into the Ocean the hulls began to loosen from towing the raft behind a motorboat. The bamboo from the forest I cut using a folding saw and a Bolo knife. Once on the beach I used the primitive technique using fire to burn the poles into the lengths I needed.
I also used several knives for the project. The one I used most was called a Bolo. The original designed was based on the Philippine version. It was a good chopper and I ended up using this much more than the folding saw.
Bear Grylls Desert Island Challenge
I enjoy a good challenge and this raft building business what right up my ally. Exciting stuff for a survival skills instructor. Or those brave folks who share my same feelings for adventure.
I had never been to the Hawaiian Islands before and my knowledge of flora and fauna was at best limited. Lucky me I got to make the trip to paradise a few weeks before the crew showed up. So, I went right to work.
I visited museums, read books on Hawaiian ethnobotany, spoke with locals on trees and plants of historical use. Gathered up a lot of reading material.
The Shrub that Binds
I read up on the shrub Hau and found an especially useful plant for helping in raft building. The bark had excellent fiber for making cordage or rope. I also discovered that is was the best wood for the Polynesian fire technique, the Fire Plow.
Hau also works great for the Bow Drill friction fire method and is one of best or close to the best woods for the Bow Drill. The wood is light and If one had access to larger trunks of this wood it would make a great raft because of its lightness and buoyancy.
Banana Tree Fiber
One early morning as I was organizing my raft material on the beach, I saw a good-sized tree trunk had washed up overnight. I had to investigate. I could tell by the ageing of the log it had been in the water for quite a while as the log was rotting.
As I looked closer, I discovered the banana tree is not made up of wood like a Pine tree. The whole inside of the banana trunk is fiber. I was ecstatic. I wanted to use as much natural materials as possible in wrapping the raft together.
In the End
And banana fiber was a gold mine of coarse, long fibrous strands that could be easily twisted and wrapped into rope. Using mostly Banana fiber and some Hau we twisted the fibers into rope and tied the bamboo together.
It was a job working daylight to dusk. But we got it done. And the best part it was a team effort. And even better still it was fun.