How to botch the shuttle. Actually you will find that this bit of technique will come surprisingly easy, in my case I found that it was really quite intuitive. On the surface the basic idea of a shuttle might seem too straightforward to mess up; two or more vehicles are utilized so that the group can paddle from point A to point B and have a car waiting for them at point B. River trips almost always require a shuttle, as do a lot of long distance expeditions. Short shuttle are usually the ones that are easiest to mess up, and I would really recommend all novices sticking to shuttles of less than an hour (one way) until they have figured out ALL the subtle (and not so subtle) ways that a shuttle can be botched.
The classic botch is to leave the keys to the vehicle at point B (the take out) in the vehicle at point A (the put in), this is known as the "Wrong Car" botch. This is really kind of a cliched botch. It usually goes something like this: new boater leaves his vehicle at the take out, rides in friends car to put in, gets changed, leaves clothes (with keys in pocket) on the seat of the friends car, and heads off in the water. Shortly after arriving at the take out, the dawning of awareness in the new boaters eyes is such a give away: let me guess, you just left your keys in my car at the put in didn't you... got a spare... of course not....sigh. Yep, been there done that, I mean been there seen that... yawn, that one is soooo overdone. For the novice learning to botch the shuttle this one is kind of a weak starter.
I recommend trying something slightly more creative, but still easy to accomplish with a bit of carelessness. You could, say, leave your car at the take out, and just forget to top it off with sufficient gas to get it back around to the put in... this is particularly easy to do when everyone just sort of assumes that you'll be driving back during normal daylight hours when there would surely be an open gas station somewhere along the way. I mean who planned to be driving back well after midnight, and who'd of thunk that the little gas station in that little one station town would close the pumps down after dark??
The "Out Of Gas" botch is also kind of basic though, and you should absolutely move on to other forms of botching as soon as you feel ready to do so. Pulling the "Out Of Gas" botch more than 3 or 4 times is really pushing it, and your paddling friends may loose patience with your lack of creativity. Another really simple botch to practice, and broaden your technique with is the "Rope-less" botch. The "Rope-less" botch may in fact be THE easiest botch of them all, simply leave your car at the take out with little to no tie down straps or ropes. The solutions to this lack of tie downs are often quite humorous and will endear you to your paddling partners for years to come for the the hilarious stories that you helped to generate (I swear on one shuttle that I participated in we even used the laces from a pair of roller blades, we even left the roller blades attached for the full humor affect).
This is really all just kid stuff really, if you want to impress your paddling partners you'll need to get more creative. I, for example, once left my keys in my pants pocket in the one car that we'd paid a driver to have "professionally shuttled" (and I use that word VERY lightly) from point A (put in) to point B (the take out), meanwhile my car was at point C (somewhere in between). While this technically would not have been much of a botch at all, it proved to be a major factor when the put in vehicle, with ALL our keys in it, was NOT in fact shuttled from point A to B (or C or D for that matter). Imagine our surprise when we arrived at take out (point B) to find no car and no keys... and then when we were able to hitch hike a ride to point C whereupon I informed my friends that my keys were still at point A... oh man, THAT was a good botch. The five mile hike in wetsuit booties on a jagged rocky road (lumsden road, for those familiar with the Tuolumne river) really helped to lock that one into our memory for a while. Note that this is the sort of botch for experts only, I'd been botching shuttles for two decades prior to that one, you must start small and gradually work your way up.
I have just one more botch that I'll share, since it is such a common one I'm not really giving too much away here, and this one will further broaden your botched horizons. When you've pulled the Rope-less botch, the Out Of Gas botch, or perhaps the Wrong Car botch, it's time to try something a bit more subtle: the "Lost" botch. There are a few ways to accomplish loosing the keys to the take out vehicle, putting them loose in a mesh pocket is kind of obvious, but far better is to secure them in some foolproof manner to the kayak itself. This will really impress EVERYONE who's not seen the Lost botch yet, since it seems like the keys are perfectly secure and there would be NO way they could go missing. Of course this will only impress the novice to intermediates of the group, as anyone who's been around to see a variety of shuttles botched will see this one coming a mile away. The Lost botch will occur, obviously, once the boat gets pinned badly enough on a rock, under a log, in a cave, or simply gets swept away from the group while they are busy trying to save you. Like I said this one is a good step up botch, but it is common enough that you don't want to try pulling this one if you're in a group with a bunch of long time paddlers; in this situation you might instead try letting one of them come up with some really creative and challenging way to botch the shuttle, then you'll have even more ideas in your bag of botches.
There are ENDLESS ways to botch the shuttle though, so these are just a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing. Don't feel that you're limited to only botching a shuttle that you drive yourself; on the contrary some of the best botched shuttles are those where a non paddler is used (literally) to drive the shuttle. Messed up directions, unfamiliar vehicles, unmarked roads...etc, have great potential for some real quality botches.
A few final sage words of caution and I'll let you get out there and start botching shuttles yourself. While learning, it may be needed to keep a list of some of the basic things to avoid, otherwise the learning curve might be just too slow for your liking. In order to maximize your odds of botching a shuttle you should avoid the following at all costs:
-Don't bother leaving dry clothes, or towels at the take out vehicle. These are a sure way to minimize the real impact of almost any botch.
-Even worse would be cold beverages (in warm weather), or hot beverages (in cold weather) in the take out vehicle, a cold beer on a hot summer day, or conversely a piping hot cup of Chocolate on a cold winter day, and your friends just might not take much notice of anything else and your botched shuttle will likely be forgotten all to quickly.
-Leaving Munchies at take out is of course totally going to take all the wind out of most any botch, and therefore should NEVER be done, particularly not as a growing novice.
-Extra tie down material, maps, spare tires, tools, cell phones etc... are really frowned on as they sort of take all the sport out of it... I mean really how much of a challenge is it now that you break out waterproof matches and fire-starter and begin a little roadside barbeque at 2 in the morning? A casual citizen observer type might just think that they had stumbled across some low life riff raff out for a wild time in the hills... and don't think that the police officer they call in to take care of you will likely think much different.
-I hope that this would go without saying, but spare keys really get in the way of a good botched shuttle. In so many ways the car keys are really, well..."key" to botching an otherwise normal run of the mill shuttle, so having a spare set (or two) in various locations just takes that one right out of the equation...
Just remember, start small and build gradually. Stick to smallish shuttles to botch for a while, remote wilderness botching is for the dedicated ONLY. Multi day, expedition style botches are NOT for the faint of heart, so try some shuttles a bit closer to home for a bit. International botched shuttles, complete with language and possibly even cultural challenges, add many more dimensions for the experienced paddler (having someone who is fluent in the local language IS very poor form in this case).
Don't be disheartened though, in many ways botching a shuttle gets easier all the time. With technology, things ALWAYS get easier. Take for example electronic locks, mixed with water and you have an almost guaranteed botch...In fact ALL the electronic and automatic stuff has really helped in all sorts of ways never previously imagined, and has just pushed the envelope for what was possible to botch.
If I see you with your thumb sticking out over the side of the road someday, all wet, soggy and cold... then I'll know you're learning. I'll be sure to honk and wave...