Friday, January 27, 2017

Aleut Kayak Sail - sutu-x^


Sails on Aleut kayaks were used early on though probably copied from western sailing craft.  Early sails were made of grass matting or skins though later of canvas. The sail was called sutu-x^.  In Attuan, the sail made of skin was called chiyug^asi-x^.  Sailing was done primarily down-wind which in Unangam Tunuu is slam chidug^-ag^i-i. The mast was called aqax^tayuuchi-x^.  To sail was called chidux^-six^.  When wind was calm or opposing the direction of travel, sails were taken down.
The mast was set into a mast step that was lashed to ribs adjacent to the keelson.  The mast entered the hull through a sleeve sewn into the skin.  The mast was probably also lashed to the deck beam to minimize stress on the skin.
Sailing against the wind would have required lee boards and additional lines on the sail, encumbrances which the Aleuts apparently chose to avoid, probably because they weren't worth the trouble.
Kayaks rigged with sails did, however, have a rudder which was controlled by the paddler in the rear cockpit.  More details on that in a separate post.
Although some single kayaks used sails, the sails were primarily used on doubles which were the preferred craft for hunting sea otters under the Russian regime.
This photo shows a group of paddlers in two-hole kayaks.  The kayak farthest to the right looks like a three-hole kayak.  In all cases, the mast is behind the front-most paddler. The sails are lowered and laying on the decks.
This kayak from an illustration by Elliot shows the sail in its raised position.  Most likely, when the kayak was on land, the sail would have been lowered, but Elliot is allowed some license. The sail was raised and lowered by a line which went from the top of the sail through a hole or block at the top of the mast to a block on the deck.  The line was controlled by the paddler in the rear cockpit. The illustration also shows the rudder.  The rudder was controlled by a line which wrapped around the rear cockpit.
This photo shows kayaks on land.  Spray skirts are tied at the middle and raised up by a stick to form conical tents that prevent rain from getting into the kayaks.  The masts are acting as clothes poles to hang paddling jackets from.


This is the block through which the line runs that raises the sail.  The line goes from the mast right behind the front-most cockpit down to the block and then back to the cockpit behind the sail where that paddler trims the sail.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Deck Load, the Bailing Pump, muunhma-x^, muunma-x^, puunpa-x^, liivira-x^, liivri-x^, chxuusi-x^

Aleut kayakers carried bailing pumps or bailing tubes on the decks of their kayaks.  To use the pumps, the kayaker would have to loosen the string that cinched the spray skirt around his chest and push the pump down along his chest down between his legs to the bilge of his kayak.  Then he had to bend his head forward to suck up water into the pump, then stopper the bottom opening, lift the pump out of the cockpit and drain the contents of the pump over the side. I have not made one of these pumps but my experience with bottles is that when turned upside down, the contents run out, so most likely, the kayaker needed two hands to pull the pump out of the cockpit without having the water run out the bottom hole back into the bilge.
The bailing pump also had to be sized to be about as long as the distance from the bottom of the boat to the chin of the paddler.
This drawing shows the type of bailing pump or tube that is shaped the same on both ends. The tube was usually carved out of red cedar in two halves which were separately hollowed out and then mated together and held together by three or more sections of twine.
Names for the bailing tube varied from place to place and over time.  The name puunpa-x^ appears to be an adaptation from the Russian word for pump.  The Attuan names liivira-x^ and lliivri-x^ are derived from liv'er, the Russian word for siphon. The name chxuusi-x^ appears to be derived from chxu-x^, the name for sponge.  This hints that the carved wooden tube is a late invention and that in the past, natural sea sponges were used to get water out of the bottom of kayaks.
This bailing pump has a bottom and a top.  We are looking at the bottom end here.  Others were made so the top and bottom ends were both shaped the same way.

The mouth piece is to the right.
As the model shows, the bailing pump slides under one of the deck lines of the kayak.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Chag^a-n, Charms and Amulets

For the linguistically curious, chag^a-n (amulets) is the plural of chag^a-x^ (amulet).  Charms and amulets probably varied quite a bit from one paddler to the next since they were probably a personal affair.  What worked for one paddler would not necessarily work for the next.  But let's look at some things that might have been charms.
This figure is made out of bone.  It may have had inserts where the holes are in the eyes, chest and the chin.  The chin probably had labrets.  Who knows what was in the eyes. It has also been suggested that this figure may have been attached to a wooden hat.  That might explain the slanted cut on the figure's own right side.  The angle of the cut would match the slope of the side of the conical hat.

The groove around the back of the head  of this fellow may have had hair attached to it with a string, or maybe it was just a place to tie a string around so it could be worn around the neck.

This fellow is made out of  wood.  Nothing more can be said about him.
Whether any of these figures were carried in ditty bags is not known.
There were other carved figures about the kayak though some had practical uses like cleats at the ends of deck lines that kept deck gear like paddles from slipping off the deck.
These sea otters were attached somewhere on the kayak, most likely not to deck lines but more likely to a vertical part of the kayak in its interior.

Black sea otter.

This drawing  shows various otter carvings in use on kayaks some on deck lines, some not.  The one on the top right was attached to the vertical brace inside the kayak that ran from the keelson to the deck stringer. Right underneath the figures is a cutaway of the deck showing the brace that maintains the distance between the keelson and the deck ridge.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

ug^ada-x^, the Aleut Kayaker's Sea Bag in Unangam Tunuu

I decided to fight my way through Knut Bergsland's Aleut Kayak Terminology a piece at a time. Rather than starting at the beginning with the kayak itself, I have decided to start near the end, not with the kayak itself but with the sea bag or ditty bag, ug^ada-x^ that an Aleut kayaker would carry with him inside his kayak. The ug^ada-x^ contained a bunch of small items that the kayaker would need to repair his kayak or clothing and also some items he would need to start a fire on shore.
The terms listed here come from page 154 of Contributions to Kayak Studies.
For background on Bergsland see an earlier post of mine on this blog.

Bergsland's notes on the kayak terms is here in this picture. Click to enlarge.
This is Bergsland's explanation of where his information came from. The key information here is the explanation of the abbreviations EA, AA, and Au for the principal Aleut dialects.

This is the snippet of Aleut Kayak Terms that deals with the ditty bag.

My illustrated version of Bergsland's text.  Click on the picture for a larger view.
I should mention that in drawing up the diagram of ditty bags and ditty bag contents, I did not have any images of what these things actually looked like.  Bergsland mentions that the ditty bags were about two feet long.  That's all I had to go on.  Dry grass, yeah, we know what that looks like, but whether it was just in a lump or if people twisted it up, I don't know.  Likewise, I don't know what Aleut fire drills looked like.  They could be the type I showed which is a pump drill.  But there are other types of fire drills.  I drew a pump drill because Mike Livingston had students make these at Aleut Culture camps.  Same goes for amulets and charms.  They could be just about anything from a pebble to elaborately carved ivory.  As for caul of baby, look that up.
And part 2 of ditty bag contents.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Handline Assembly for Kayak Fishing

Here's some info on the handline rig I've been using to fish from my kayak.  I got the design from my friend Marc who introduced me to his fishing grounds.  This kind of rig makes it possible to fish from a sit-inside kayak.  You don't need a sit on top with rod holders, bait wells, fish hatches, etc. etc.
Much of the complexity of commercially sold kayak fishing setups comes from the fact that the industry wants to sell gear.  It's that simple, and guys being guys want to buy gear.  But you don't need all that much gear.
So here it is, the handline rig.
This photo shows the rig which consists of a wooden spool, 200 feet of  300lb braided spectra line, 8 feet of  60 pound mono leader, a  12 oz sinker assembly with swivel hooks followed by 4 feet of 40 pound mono leader snelled to a 5/0 circle hook.

This is what the rig looks like set up for transportation.  Fits nicely in a one gallon ziploc plastic bag. If the wire of the sinker assembly were a little shorter, it would store even better.  This rig has 250 lb braided line with an 8 ounce sinker.
And here's a schematic of the handline assembly.  Some additional comments on the schematic.  The 300 pound braided line comes in various lengths, but 100 meters is a good spool size, that's about 300 feet of line.  You can wind half of that on your spool or even all of it, depending on how deep you want to fish.
The spool itself is made out of wood. A scrap piece of one by six will do fine.  Before you commit to any dimensions, try wrapping your hands around a length of wood that is 3/4" thick by 1-1/4" wide and has the edges rounded. If the wood needs to be wider or narrower to feel comfortable in your hand, adjust the dimensions on the spool accordingly.  If the long dimension of the spool is longer than 8 inches, you need fewer turns to spool up the line when you're retrieving a fish.  On the other hand, a longer dimension will put more torque on your wrist.
The length of the sinker assembly, which consists of a piece of coat hanger or heavy gauge copper electrical wire with a sinker attached to it  should be about the same as the length of your wooden spool.  This makes it easier to wind up for storage.  Weight of the sinker should be roughly one ounce for every ten feet of depth you are fishing.  That would be 10 oz for 100 feet of line, for instance.  Rate of drift and weight of main line also makes a difference.  You want your line to be as vertical as possible so you can know how close you are to the bottom.  This is where a drift chute comes in handy if there is a wind blowing.  The drift chute slows down your kayak and allows the line to hang more vertical.  Some drift is ok, but you don't want your line going out at 45 degrees.
Snap swivels should have a breaking strength at least that of the lines they are tied to, in our case, at least 50 lbs.  I bought some that were 150 lbs which is overkill.  Overkill is ok sometimes, but the 150 lb wire snaps are pretty hard to get open with bare hands, especially cold bare hands.  And carrying pliers in a kayak is a nuisance.
The idea with this rig is that when you are fishing rock reefs where there is a possibility of snags,  you want the leader to break and lose maybe your hook and bait but not your sinker.  You can carry more snelled hooks and bait, but the sinkers assemblies are more bulky and you want to avoid losing them.  Worst case, you snag the sinker and the 60 pound leader breaks, but you still have your main line.
All the knots mentioned in the schematic can be found on the internet and youtube.  I tried using a double uni knot to tie the 60 pound mono leader to the 300 pound but the mono line was too stiff in comparison to the braided line so that the knot didn't work and ended up using an Albright knot which worked fine.  It takes a while to get the hang of some of these knots especially if you are watching a bad youtube or if you are working with stiff monofilament, but practice pays off.
Thanks again to Marc who taught me this stuff.
The lincod is resting on a plastic rice bag which I keep in my lap when fishing and into which I shove the fish that I catch.  

And here's some fish caught by handline, lincod, and two rockfish.  The little guy is bait herring.  These guys were caught with octopus for bait.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Gift of Lead

Sinkers off the street plus a few hooks. 5lbs 6oz total weight.
Now that I've taken up kayak fishing, I need sinkers to attach to the ends of my lines.  The other day, my wife and I were walking down the street in the direction of the local boat ramp and ran into a whole bunch of broken plastic laying in the street.  Random litter we thought at first, but as it turned out, the litter was pieces of a plastic tackle box that had probably fallen off a boat that was being towed on a trailer away from the boat ramp.  A little closer examination revealed a whole bunch of lead sinkers whose gray color camouflaged them very well against the background of gray asphalt. With my wife's help, I was able to fill two coat pockets with sinkers.  I think I'm set for sinkers for a while and some unlucky fisherman needs to get him a bunch more.
Sinkers arrayed on a white background.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

14 Foot Baidarka Rebuild - New Ribs

In the last segment of this series, I took everything off the boat that it didn't need.  In this segment, I'm putting in new ribs. And I should mention that I didn't break any ribs. I was very careful to not use any of the rib stock that had grain runout.  Straight grain the the bending stock is the best insurance against breakage.  The rib stock was white oak.  Adequate soaking time is also important as is good heat in the steambox.  Let's look at some pictures.

 Here's the steam setup, an electric wallpaper steamer with about a gallon of water in it.  The hose coming out of the steamer goes in the back of the steambox which is nothing more than a plywood box with a towel hung over the front end. The towel allows for a good flow of steam through the box without letting out too much heat.
 The ribs have been soaked in water for several days.  Here they are cut to working length which is about 10 inches longer than the distance between the gunwales at their respective new homes. All the ribs are marked with a number to minimize confusion when several ribs are in the steambox at the same time.
Here's my adjustable bending jig for the ribs.  The left wing is stationary and the right wing moves to the needed width.
 At any one time, I have three ribs in the steamer. Steam time is not specific, The rightmost rib is the one pulled first, New ribs are fed in on the left so there are always three ribs in the box.  By the time the leftmost rib gets to the right, it is ready to bend.  In the meantime, I am clamping the active rib into the bending jig, letting it sit for about a minute to cool down, then removing it, clamping it into the boat and resetting the jig for the next rib.
Here are all the new ribs clamped in place.  Next I eyeball the ribs from the ends of the boat to make sure they are all clamped in symmetrically.  Then I mark them and trim them to their final length and pop them into their mortises.
Once the ribs are all in place, I let them sit overnight to dry out and take a permanent set. Then I number them. Next day, I pull the ribs out and stain and varnish them which is much easier to do while the ribs are out of the boat than when they are lashed into place.
Here's all the ribs in place but not lashed yet.  Note that the keelson kicks to the right at the tail end of the boat.  We will be fixing that in the next installment of the 14 foot rebuild.