Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Post-Apocalyptic Boat Builder

Kevin Kostner, Hollywood's version of the post-apocalyptic builder

Every once in a while I feel the need to examine why I build skin on frame boats. As for any other thing that we do more or less compulsively, the best answer is probably, because. Just because. I don't know why. Why do people get tattoos or wear their pants around their knees? Because.

But seeing as I try to make a living of sorts promoting the building of skin boats, I feel the need to come up with an answer that sounds more insightful than because. I feel the need for giving some pragmatic reason for wanting to build skin boats.

Actually, I doubt that there is any kind of sensible reason for skin boats but the one that sometimes suggests itself is that it might be useful some day to know how to build skin boats. You know like after our civilization collapses.

Yeah maybe. The post-apocalyptic boat builder. Trailing a hand cart he roams abandoned subdivisions and with a crow bar and hammer strips plywood and two by fours out of old buildings. Back at his waterfront lair in what used to be a surf and turf supper club he and his cohorts work on a boat lashing the members together with electrical wire and cover the whole thing with a skin made of awnings sewn together. Yeah, maybe.

I have at one time put together a whole kayak with materials I did not buy. Everything was either scrounged, beach combed, harvested (willow ribs) or salvaged (a skin made of scraps left over from other boats).

Whenever I build a boat, I like to use some materials that are just laying around. For the most part, it's a piece here and there from the scrap pile, but large parts like gunwales invariably are easier to buy than scrounge. So yes, some scrounging and re-use goes into my own boats, but the building of an entire boat from scraps is more like a stunt than a practical means of going about the process.

But there are places in this world even today where people don't just go to a lumber yard to get their boat materials. They scrounge or harvest local materials. For them, this isn't a stunt. It is necessity. They may be too poor, or they may have had an apocalypse for real, like the Vietnamese who had their economy destroyed by a long war. They build boats with what they have.

Skinboat building lends itself to the spirit of survivalist post-apocalyptic boat building even if it really isn't. But people built skin boats not because it was a cool thing to do. It was in a way, the only sensible way to build boats given what they had for materials.

Anyway, further musings on this topic may arise, in the meantime some photos and links.

The following photos are from the boats and rice website dedicated to indigenous boat building industry of south east Asia. Actually, a lot of what I think of as post-apocalyptic boat building is really just third world boat building. That's probably because the third world is essentially a world before a whole lot of technology and money, a lot like what a world after a whole lot of technology and money would look like as well. If you like this sort of boat, check out the Indigenous Boats Blog of Bob Holtzman. One of my favorites.

This definitely qualifies as post-apocalyptic boat building. Nothing store bought almost. The whole thing scrounged, except for some nylon monofilament line used to do the lashing, but that could have been done with local materials if need be.

Decked over basket boats. I like the one on the left, quartered automobile tires serve as fenders. looks like wooden barricade parts making up the seats, but maybe that's just artistic flair on the part of the builder. Also check out the oar locks on the boat in the rear, rags tied around vertical stanchions.

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