There were some other paddles in the mix that weren't winners but they were instrumental in helping me figure out the specifics of what made the winning models work. I have made Greenland style bent shaft paddles before and quite by luck come up with the right design, but this time, I did some deviation from the winning model only to find that the original was still the best. The Greenland style bent shaft may actually have originated in East Greenland as reported by John Brand who found some examples of these paddles in museums and originally thought that they were just straight paddles that had warped over time, but after some reflection decided that they were actually made that way on purpose.
The bent shaft Aleut paddle is not completely new. I had made two of these before for a friend but never actually paddled them myself. This time around I did use the bent shaft Aleut paddle and found it to be a useful variation on the standard version that I usually make.
|Four paddles out for a test run. From left to right, a Greenland breakdown for a customer, an Aleut with some bend in the direction of the ridged face, a Greenland style with significant bend and another Greenland style with moderate bend.|
The same is true of the bent shaft Greenland paddle. The slight amount of offset of the blade has it either leading or trailing the axis of the loom depending on how you hold it.
My insight while doing the testing on the bent shaft paddles was that when you pull a paddle through the water, you move it through an arc during which the angle the blade makes with the water changes. The efficiency of the paddle is at its greatest when the blade is perpendicular to the surface of the water. As the stroke progresses, the angle the blade makes with the water changes from the vertical and the amount of force you exert that translates into forward motion decreases. At the same time, the boat is accelerating forward and the water is accelerating backward so that as the stroke progresses it becomes less efficient. So having the shaft bent to make the blade more vertical at entry into the water improves its efficiency.
On the other hand, when the paddle is used in a low angle cruising position, that is, with the loom held low and close to the deck then the paddle held so that the blade trails the loom makes the blade self orienting and requires less of a tight grip to keep it properly oriented. While this stroke generates less thrust than the high angle stroke, it is more efficient at lower cruising speed and less tiring in headwind conditions or against the current conditions.
Whether my understanding of the mechanics of these paddles is correct or not, the fact is that they work in practice as confirmed by speed trials with a GPS.