Friday, March 14, 2008

How's the Book Coming, Part zero?

Every few weeks or so, I get email asking me how the new version of The Aleutian Kayak is coming. Then I type something to the effect that I have taken all the photos and have written a good deal of it and have all the chapters in place and all that's left is editing and more artwork - line drawings and then layout and so on.
If you've ever done a book or pamphlet or anything of the type, you know that that means the book is only about halfway done. If it were text only, a month of sequestration and lots of coffee in the morning and beers in the afternoon and a sore butt and calloused fingers later and the thing could be done. But it's more complex than that. Every time I sit down to work on the book, new ideas arise and I go off on making notes for new stuff to add to the book or revise stuff I've already written. At that rate, the book will never be finished. My wife perceives my dilemma accurately. Recently she asked me what I was doing and I said, working on the book. And she said, oh yes, the never ending book project.
But honestly, I want to finish this thing. For one thing, people want me to write this book. For another, I have more good info to share since the first version. After all, a decade and a half have passed.
No doubt you can't wait to hear what the real reason for the three-part keelson is, or the bifurcated bow, or the bones or the transom stern. All these mysteries will be turned into non-mysteries by the new book.
So anyway, keep writing me and asking me how the book is coming, because the more people I tell that it will be finished soon, the greater the pressure will be to actually finish it.
And someone at SSTIKS 2006 told me that they thought the first version was funny. I promise you, the next version will be even funnier. I don't remember putting any jokes in the book. The humor must have been unintentional. Still, if people want funny, I'm willing to give it a try.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Survival at Sea, Update

See below for pictures of three survival at sea books that I posted about. I've read two of them completely now and skipped ahead to the end on the third book.
First of all, the fact that these are true account type books ruins the suspense. You know that these people will get rescued eventually or arrive safely on land. So you read a day by day account of thirst, hunger and increasing weakness and encounters with storms and so on, but after about half a book's worth of that, you want to skip ahead to the last chapter.
But secondly, and this is a valuable lesson for anyone who finds themselves lost. In all three of these books, there was at least one person who had some sense of navigation and where they were and where they wanted to head. They were not aimlessly drifting. They tried to control their progress, so that even if they couldn't steer their rafts, they put out a sea anchor when the wind was blowing the wrong way. But more importantly perhaps, having some idea of where they were gave them an important morale boost because they all had hopes of arriving somewhere at some point so that their situation wouldn't seem hopeless. And when they did have some food and water, they knew how long it would have to last. Lacking a goal, their survival would have been much less likely.


When I need to buy boaty stuff, mostly exotic plastic string, I go to the local chandleries, of which we have two. Pictures below. Mostly, I avoid these places since as anyone who has ever worked on a boat knows, if it's used on a boat it's twice as expensive as the same thing used on land. But it's not my point to gripe here. It's more about pointing out that Alamed is a two of town, kind of like the ark, it has two of every kind of business, two McDonalds', two voodoo candle stores, two Walgreens and of course two chandleries. Just thought I'd share photos.
This is the West Marine store, a chain housed in what looks like it used to be a supermarket.
And this is Svendsen's, housed next to a marina where people are forever sanding fiberglass and applying more epoxy.

Plastic Fantastic Container Bloat

Don't get me wrong; it's nice that when I buy a tool, it comes in a container. Makes it easier to carry to the imaginary job site. But storage racks at the boat shop were getting crowded and I had to figure out ways to free up some space, I found that the easiest way to do it was to take tools out of their plastic boxes and store them directly on the shelf or in a drawer sans box. Instant space savings of up to 90 %. The thing with these gizmo boxes is that they're mostly trapped air with little actual usable space. This Dremel box does the best job of looking like some sort of George Lucas Spaceship fantasy. And who has time to put each little accessory back exactly in the place where it is supposed to go and wind the cord just right so it fits in its little cubby?

This box with the router bits does the best job of wasting space. It wins the award for most space saved when I tossed it.
And the worst sin of these boxes is that if the tool breaks or wears out, the box is so oddly shaped that it's useless for storing anything else.

Logo Wear

I'm helping a friend install display panels at a sporting goods manufacturer's new headquarters. The manufacturer has been eminently successful and needed to expand their offices. I've heard of the brand before. I'm not sure what all they make. I think tents are in their lineup of goods. But like many of these outfits, they have discovered that the real money is in the rag trade, that is, clothing. And the clothing is outrageousely expensive. And each item of clothing is prominently emblazoned with the manufacturer's logo. This is nothing new of course. But like many things, one needs to see it in the flesh, at the source, to fully comprehend the physical reality of it.
The formula for companies like this one seems to be as follows. Make some high quality sports gear which attracts a following, establish a recognizeable logo and then put that logo on everything from baseball caps to shirts to shorts to windbreakers to shoes. There's a finite amount of money in selling tents or rock climbing gear or whatever, but an almost unlimited amount of money in selling clothes.
So the business model for kayak builders would be to create an attractive brand of kayak with a distinctive logo, then sell clothes with that logo on it. Then make more money selling clothes than kayaks to where you can make the kayaks just as a sideline to maintain the illusion that your business is about adventure rather than clothes.
Kayak logo wear anyone?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Survival at Sea

A friend of mine mentioned that he would be doing some extended sailing in a catamaran of his own construction. He has done extensive voyages before and run into some problems. This time he is reading up on survival at sea before taking off. I offered to lend him some books from my own survival at sea library. I had them sitting on the shelf but never actually read them. So I decided it was time to read them.

I got this book at Ralph Freese's Chicagoland canoe base. The canoe whose journey is chronicled by this book was sitting out back of Ralph's shop. This isn't a shipwreck story. The author intentionally set out to cross the Atlantic with a canoe and outrigger. But his radio and navigation equipment quits on him and the adventure begins. The author runs short of food and water at some point but is in the shipping lanes and flags down ships who give him food and water. The sailors in the other books weren't as fortunate. They were not in the shipping lanes and got no outside assistance.

The raft is the story of three navy men in a 4 x 8 foot raft floating about for 43 days before they find land. This story takes place during WWII and their journey is complicated by the fact that they want to be picked up or find land, but the ship might be Japanese or the land, Japan occupied. In either case, these sailors fear for their lives.

A family sailing somewhere to the west of the Galapagos islands has their boat rammed by killer whales which put a hole in their boat and caused it to sink. After that, they drift about in a raft and dinghy. Later the raft sinks and all of them end up in the dinghy.

All three books are good reading and anybody who goes out on big water in kayaks will get something out of these books. The stories are scary but also instructive. Survival at sea is possible.

Elevated Storage

the black and white images are all from the U of Alaska, Fairbanks archives. I checked their website and there was no mention of special permissions to use the photos. Generally, museums are hard up for money and try to make some by selling rights for use of their photos for commercial use. Anyway, I aim to pursue this issue to set my mind at rest for future reference and whether or not to pull these photos off the blog in case permission is not forthcoming.
End of Addendum

I go vertical to maximize storage space at the shop. But elevated storage is nothing new. People of the Arctic were always fond of vertical storage. But it wasn't so much to save space as to keep animals from chewing on their stuff. Still, regardless of intent, the look is similar.

A sealskin poke hoisted on ropes.

And kayak gear hoisted into the rafters.

And boat yards then and now.