Friday, December 31, 2010


Somebody suggested that the post apocalyptic boat from the last post was a jangada, a design native to Brazil.  Could be. Here's a picture of a jangada.

Hull shape looks similar, but all the jangada pictures on the internet show them rigged for sailing.  Who knows. Ongoing mystery.

postapocalyptic I can haz cheezburger boat

If you've never been there, the I can has cheezburger site is a place where people post pictures of their pets and put funny captions on them.  The captions are written in a babytalk/imaginary pet language with its own orthography. In any case, they have branched out into other realms.  I am posting a photo from that website here because it is obviously a prime example of post-apocalyptic boat building.  If you want to see it in its original environment, go here. Then you can also look a funny cat pictures. 

Some points worth mentioning: The upright rowing posts and the oarlocks, a piece of rope or rag tied around both oar and post and the fact that the boat is rowed by the rower facing forward place it somewhere in east Asia.  Normally, the person rowing is standing, but who knows, maybe they need a break sometime, hence the lawn chair.

Monday, December 13, 2010

ok, I'm turning on the word verification thing again

The no word verification thing on comments was good for about a week or two.  I don't get huge amounts of spam, but enough to annoy me after two weeks.  Spam is bad enough, but having it archived on a hard disk somewhere in my comments section goes against my basic don't waste principles. And I don't feel like monitoring comments or cleaning out ridiculous stuff.
Some examples here of stupid stuff that you probably don't want to read any more than I do,

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Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Appropriate Technology???":

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Planting Boat Parts

So today I went out to this willow patch and got some willow shoots to plant behind the shop. Chopped them up into foot long sections and stuck them in a bucket of water.  In a week or so they should be sprouting roots.  I know this works because one time when I had harvested more rib stock than I could use right away, I put the excess in a bucket of water to keep them pliable and after a week or so they sprouted roots.  Once they have roots I will plant them.  I know they will survive into spring.  Who knows what happens after that.  I can water them for a while till their roots get thoroughly established.  After that, they will be on their own.  They will either send roots down till they find water or they will dry up.  I hope they make it.

I also stopped by the quince trees.  I don't know why they are where they are. They are not native.  Someone may have planted them long ago before this was park land.  The quince were all gone. I got there a little late.  The deer ate them all.  There's deer tracks all around the trees.  Maybe the deer munched the quince when they were younger and got them to send up all those skinny straight shoots.  They bend nicely.  Would make some good boat ribs.

Reinventing the Folbot

A while back I picked up this book called Fabulous Folbot Holidays at the local used book store.  I got it mostly for the pictures, I thought.  I loved the vintage 70's era photos.  I took the boat home and stuck it in the bookshelf and didn't look at it for a year.  A week ago I pulled it out again for whatever reason and started reading it.  Really quite entertaining.  It's part stories and testimonials by people who owned Folbots and part advertising copy for different Folbot models like this one following.

 Hey, it's the 17-1/2 foot Super.  Looks a lot like my first baidarkalounger which comes in at 18 feet and is 32 inches wide.  Only the Super is 37 inches wide.  If you click on the photo, you'll get a large view and can probably read the specs and the advertising copy. So what I discovered was that a boat that big is too much for one person to paddle casually, though I've done it.  It's not impossible.  It's just not desirable, It's just more work than I typically want to do.

So then I built another baidarka, this one a little shorter, 15 feet and 30 inches wide.  And wouldn't you know it, Folbot had a 15 foot boat as well. They called it the Sporty and made it 32 inches wide.  You might almost say that I was channeling Folbots for a while there. 
I don't really know how these things happen.  I wasn't thinking of Folbots when I made my baidarkas.  They just turned out proportioned like slightly slenderized Folbots.  I was really taking my inspiration more from sailing canoes of a hundred years ago, at least on a conscious level. 
And then I started thinking that yes, back in the 60's my dad had a Folbot and I used to paddle that but it didn't make any kind of impression on me that I could tell at the time.  Never had a desire to own a Folbot, but here I am building baidarkas that are shaped an awful lot like Folbots.  The workings of the boat building mind are truly mysterious.
And the weirdest thing about these Folbots is that they really are not bad boats.  They are a little wide by today's standards, but they are stable and probably paddle a heck of a lot better than plastic sit on tops.  Who knows, I might be tempted to build a real Folbot, one that fols up into a bag.

more thoughts on coppicing

I picked up a copy of Eric Sloane's America at our local used bookstore the other day. What becomes apparent if you read even a little of the book is the prodigious amount of wood consumed by the early European settlers.  There were so many trees to cut that they didn't have to bother with twigs.  As Kilii points out in a comment, native dwellers did coppice, most likely because given the tools they had, it was easier to collect twigs than to cut down whole trees and split them. And Kiliii and his crew are keeping up the tradition.  So I am happy to hear that somebody beside myself collects twigs for boat building. 
And finally, here is a picture of pollarded willows.
The picture is from the back cover of a book I had read as a kid.  It shows a medieval German landscape.  Willows grow here and there next to the road.  But they are entirely lacking in branches.  Every winter, the thin shoots are cut for basketry and brooms and whatnot and every spring, the willows put out new shoots with enough leaves to nourish the tree and keep it alive for another year. 

dry ride in an ulux^tax^ (two hole baidarka)

Dave Wilhelm asked me if I had any thoughts on how to build an ulux^tax^, an Unangan (Aleut) two-holer in which the bow paddler stays dry.  I gave him a brief reply and told him I would post some pictures here for the benefit of a slightly larger audience.  So here goes, a picture.

The really apparent thing here is that the front 3 feet of this boat are sticking out of the water.  This seems to be an extreme case.  Most of the time only the front 2 feet of a double would stick out of the water, but you get the idea.
What makes for a wet ride in a double is that the bow spears a wave  and the water on deck douses the bow paddler.  The trick is to prevent the bow from spearing into the face of a wave.  Elevating the bow is one way.  Making the boat flexible is another. A long stiff boat with some momentum to it has no option except to spear into a wave unless it has a good deal of rocker and enough volume forward to lift the bow.  Having flex lets an ulux^tax^ pick up rocker as needed.
Although much has been written about the flexibility of baidarkas, little has been said about the role of the skin.  My observation is that regardless of how flexible the frame is, a tight skin with little stretch to it will limit flex of the boat as a whole considerably.  I have no experience with hide-covered boats, but I suspect their ability to stretch would have affected how flexible they were.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


I got some feedback on whether to turn on monetization or not.  Nobody seems to care, so the next time I'm in the mood for jumping through the requisite hoops, I may turn it on.  I got thumbs down on word verification for comments, so I turned that off.  We'll see how many spam comments that allows in.  What the heck, bad attention is better than no attention at all.

Friday, December 3, 2010

coppicing and pollarding

You don't hear much about coppicing and pollarding in America. And right now, as I'm typing this, the editor is putting red squiggly lines under both of the words because they aren't in the editor's dictionary. So, in case you haven't figured out what coppicing and pollarding are, let me tell you. Coppicing is the practice of sawing off a young tree at ground level. All the roots of the tree are intact so next year, it puts out several shoots from the stump you have left behind, and in a few years, how many, depends on how big a piece of wood you need, you have several straight pieces of wood suitable for things like fence posts, hurdles and other application.
Pollarding is similar to coppicing, except you prune all the branches off an older tree and just leave stumps. Next year, the stumps put out new branches, each one a straight shoot especially suited for things like basked weaving.
I really don't know why coppicing and pollarding isn't practiced much in America, but I know that it is in England.
The reason it is practiced there, I am theorizing, it twofold. One is that coppicing and pollarding works best with certain species of trees which seem to like the British climate. The second reason is that Britain has been densely populated for a long time and so mature logs are not as plentiful as in North America. As a consequence, the British have come up with a way to quickly raise useful wood in less than full tree dimensions.
And as I already alluded, coppicing trees looks like a good way to grow boat parts like ribs or stringers, and for small boats, even gunwales. What appeals to me is the idea of growing boat parts to the proper dimensions so all you have to do is peel and trim which is a very low tech way of processing wood. No running full grown trees through a saw to produce lots of sawdust and a few usable planks. Anyway, I'm looking to do some coppicing provided that I can find some suitable wood species that will grow locally.
Stay tuned.

The west end of Alameda, a former salt marsh topped off with dredged fill, mostly sand. Will anything tree-like grow here? It's raining now & I can probably get some willow shoots going. But no rain from March to November. Who knows what will survive.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Coppicing Wood to make a Yurt - a Shamans Life - by

So as a seamless segue, here is a guy showing how to cut wood to make a yurt. Same concept would work for gathering kayak materials.
Certain locales work better than others, but even here in the SF Bay area which has an arid climate, there is water in low places that favors some growth of sticks suitable for boat wood.

И. Растеряев. Моя деревня Раковка - My village is Rakovka.

a few posts back I put up a little youtube video clip of a Russian Aleut accordion player. So most recently, I got a friend invite on youtube from sunfish737, another Russian accordion player, not Aleut though. Check him out. he has a bunch of videos of himself playing accordion. sort of a punk sensibility. The accordion seems to be to Russians what the guitar is to Americans, a medium of proletarian expression.
But OK, so what does this have to do with boat building? Check out the background in this video. It is what the British call a hurdle, I think, a fence made of small diameter sticks woven around verticals stuck into the ground. Anyplace that can grow these can come up with wood for a skin on frame boat.
Anyway, enjoy the accordion playing.

everything is connected

everything is connected - a corny concept, perhaps somewhat discredited by blatant overuse by the new age crowd. Nevertheless, if you have an active mind, you can connect everything and anything with anything else.
So in short order, I have managed to connect the Russian Aleut accordion player with another Russian accordion player with coppicing with boat building with new age thought.
Anyway, the idea of connectedness was not invented by new age thinkers, it was simply revived by them. The central concept is animism, I think, that everything has spirit which is the substrate that connects all things. So there we go. Animism is still the major explanatory concept throughout most of the world, much more popular than materialism which is what drives industrial cultures.
I don't know if this is a valid connection, but it seems that where materialism is the intellectual substrate of industrialism, animism is the intellectual/spiritual substrate of pre and possibly post industrial societies.
So here is my proposal for the day: animism is the driving force of post-apocalyptic boat building.