Sunday, July 29, 2012

Why not King Island?

After I built my first King Island style kayak a few years ago, I realized that it had quite a few good features and would no doubt be a good boat for kayak replicators to build.  However, the boat did not have any kind of reputation and people weren't building too many of the King Island or for that matter, any other of the Bering sea kayaks. I was going to write something about this at the time but didn't. Then I got a call from Dave Wilhelm who makes King Island kayaks and we talked about how this kayak type is under-appreciated.  You can read about Dave's appraisal of the virtues of this kayak by following the link. Meanwhile, I will give you my theory of why some kayaks are more appreciated than others.
The reason is really quite simple.  The Unangan kayak, or baidarka has a larger following than most of the Bering Sea kayaks because George Dyson's book, Baidarka did a lot to propagandize it.  George provides a lot of quotes from explorers who when first encountering these kayaks were impressed by their excellent performance.
Nobody has done this kind of promotion for the other kinds of Alaskan kayaks. David Zimmerly published the book Qajaq which shows plans for a number of Alaskan kayaks and he also did a book on the Hooper Bay kayak but unlike George Dyson, Zimmerly never did the kind of sales job that George Dyson did.  And so, these boats remain underappreciated.
But some of the lack of Bering Sea kayak replication is also practical.  Bering Sea kayaks are large volume kayaks made for carrying up to 900 pounds of gear.  Most recreational kayakers do not need this kind of cargo capacity and the extra volume makes for a slower boat than one built to be paddled empty.  Of course, the Bering Sea designs can be scaled down for recreational use, something that few people have done although Dave Wilhelm has moved in that direction and Skip Snaith and Sean Gallagher have as well and their efforts will no doubt popularize the type and put more of them out on the water.

Kayak Seats

While looking for something which I did not end up finding, I ran across these pictures taken several years ago at SSTIKS, the South Sound Traditional Inuit Kayak Symposium which takes place every year in the vicinity of Tacoma, Washington.  It's time to dust off these pictures and share them with the world.
(Side note 1 - Dusting off is a metaphorical term from the age of printed photos.  Since these photos have never left their digital format, the dust they may have gathered is strictly figurative.  Digital of course is forever or at least as long as the storage medium lasts and as long as you have some display technology and so they do not gather dust, not even figurative dust.  In real life, they just seem to disappear never to be found again.)
I have no particular agenda to this posting other than pointing out that when you make your own stuff, you get to have it your way, within the limits of your ability, of course.
 This is a molded seat which you can just stick into your kayak or if ambitious, you can glue it in place with contact cement. Note the coaming attachment.  (side note 2 - the white stuff on the ground is oyster shells, hard on bare feet.)
 This boat may be one of the Tom Yost model kayaks.  Coaming rim looks to be plywood. Back rest is a block of foam and the seat cushion is of uncertain origin, possibly foam inside a cloth sleeve or maybe one of those inflatable seats.
 Here's another back strap version, adjustable, possibly home made.  Seating is foam pads.
 Yet another foam solution.  The seating mat seams to have a sculpted seat under it.
 The frame of this boat is made out of bamboo and the mouth has a fanciful dragon design painted on it. 
 Cushions of the dragon boat have a tie dye fabric cover on them.  Note the hull stringers of bamboo.  If you click on this photo, you can see the innovative joining of stringer parts with the skinny end of the tapering bamboo pole overlapping.
 And yet another seat cushion.  This one looks like the level of complexity that I usually aspire to.  One reason my boats have no fancy seats is that it never occurred to me to put fancy seats in my kayaks since a simple mat on the floor seems to work.  However, if you come to DIY kayaks from the commercial realm, you are more likely to feel like you should put a fancy seat in your boat like the commercial kayaks have.
One last seat.  Looks like commercial back band with foam seat.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kayak Stability

Yesterday I had a prospective boat building student try out some kayaks so he could see what would be suitable for him.  Turned out he wanted a small boat that was light weight and stable.  Also turned out that his idea of stable was much different than mine.  Also had a light come on in my head that illuminated the part of the stability equation that connects stability with boat weight.  The long and the short of it is that aside from form making a boat stable, weight also does, especially for a small boat where the weight of the passenger can easily exceed that of the boat. 
So my prospective student was essentially asking for two conflicting characteristics in a kayak, light weight and stability.  Furthermore, he illuminated once again what I already knew but need to be reminded of periodically that operating a small boat takes some minimum of physical dexterity and strength.  And my prospective student was below the bar on both counts for traditional kayaks.  I could have put him in my sixty pound plus baidarka lounger boat and he would probably have been fine, but he kept telling me that he wanted a light boat. 
So as you might expect, the deal fell through.  No sale on the building of the boat.  Still, I learned something. I know I could have had him build a boat that was sufficiently stable even for his needs but his fear of the boats I did have available was greater than any promises of what I could do for him.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Urban Unangax^ Culture Camp

Day 9, Saturday
Culture camp is over. All that's left is the closing ceremonies and celebrations.
 One last session with the lion.
 And another one.
 It's another sunny day.
 They finished slapping new siding on the back of the motel. Soon the whole place will look like this.
 We have some time so we head downtown to the sun city cafe for breakfast.  Turns out there's a one hour wait.  We head back and go to the Village Inn cafe where you can get coffee within 3 minutes and breakfast within 15.
 Before we leave downtown we stop by to admire the statue of Captain Cook whom the Cook Inlet is named after.
 Then we load up some kayaks and head off to the Alaska Native Heritage Center.  On the way, we pass the Parkwood Inn where we stayed last year. The place was pretty shabby and we referred to it as the Crackwood Inn.
 At the heritage center we are having a potluck lunch in the Athabaskan ceremonial hall.
 But first the blessing of the food.
 I put some of this on my plate, not knowing what it was, maybe some jello product with blood in it.  Turns out it was mucktuck.  The pink stuff is fat. The black stuff is skin, all from a whale. Tasted pretty good though a bit chewy.
 Then we carried kayaks we made in the past up to the pond.
 The Orthodox father blessed the boats.
 And then, everyone who wanted to got a shot at paddling the kayaks.
 I think this could be a picture of a bald eagle.  There were some ducks in the pond and the eagle was dive bombing the ducks, but without catching any. 
 Mitch Poling, boat builder from pt. Townsend and his wife Sandra.
 Mitch was building two three hatch Sugpiac kayaks with the help of a number of assistants.
This place was near our motel.  We passed it every day on the way to the apia though we never went in.  Still haven't.
And a final shot of the rug. No more empty food boxes.  We think our fast food neighbor  had moved out.