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Inventor sails the open prairies

There isn’t anything this man won’t tackle. He wants a wind-powered turbine, he’ll build one. He wants a pool, he’ll dig one. He wants to sail in the middle of the prairies, he’ll build . . . a prairie schooner?

Andy Klassen, 21, from rural Manitoba is the MacGyver of our day. Where there’s a challenge, he’ll tackle it, usually with success as the end result. The story of his prairie schooner is no different. He created his design based on a picture in a magazine and made adjustments and changes as he went along. Having built the first model and realizing it was lacking in some areas, he built a second, bigger version with a frame that sits higher off the ground and an actual sail that uses a mast and a boom (like you’d see on a sailboat). These improvements have made for a much better cart that allows Andy, usually the one controlling the sails in the rear, and another person up front who steers the cart with their feet, to travel at speeds of 40 to 45 kmh in winds gusting from 60 to 70 kmh.

“It’s a challenge, something new. You have to think about it,” said Andy when asked why he’s always making things. “Every turning mechanism, every swivel, there’s a reason why it’s there.”

The reason he thinks more people aren’t creating things is because it’s simply more work. A person can just go out and buy a kit and make it. If you create it yourself, you have more insight into what you make, he said.

“Like when I go sailing, I know the stress points, I know more about the machine and that’s the way I like it. Maybe other people just don’t want to think so much. They want it simple. It’s easier to buy one. And most people live in the city so they’d have to take it out.”

For Andy, his prairie schooner exists for no other reason than the pleasure it brings. This includes the process of creating things or catching as much speed as he can and pulling in the boom to steer the cart onto two of its three wheels (minor injuries have occured). He also loves the silence of drifting along a wide open road.

Issue 19

This article first appeared in Geez magazine Issue 19, Fall 2010, The Wild issue.

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Issue 19, Fall 2010

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