Friday, September 21, 2012

Unangan (Aleut) Kayak Accessories - Sprayskirt and Kamleika

Spray skirts on Unangan kayaks were affixed to the cockpit coaming of the kayak and stayed with the kayak when it wasn't in use. When the paddler wanted to take off in his kayak, he stepped into his kayak and sat down and then pulled up the skirt and threw the strap that held it up over his shoulder. The top of the skirt had a draw string that the paddler could tighten to minimize entry of water. According to Jochelson (1925) some kayakers had a way of tying the shoulder strap by means of two rings which allowed the kayaker to quickly disconnect the shoulder strap in case of a capsize.

Back view of a kayak model showing the spray skirt and the single strap that goes over one of the kayaker's shoulder to hold up the skirt.  The bottom of the skirt is tied around the rim of the cockpit coaming and the top of the skirt has a draw string that the paddler can tighten to minimize entry of water into the kayak.

This model shows the paddler wearing his rain jacket  in conjunction with the sprayskirt.
Unangan hunter fitted out with a water proof gut skin rain coat that also doubles as a paddling jacket.  He is also wearing a bent wood hat and water proof boots that would allow him to get in and out of his boat just off shore  to prevent damage to the skin of the boat that might occur if he ran the boat up on shore to get in and out of it.
The sprayskirt worked in conjunction with a raincoat that everyone wore both on land and while kayaking. The raincoat reached below the knees and was also fitted with a hood.  In addition, in times past kayakers would wear wooden head gear while out in their kayaks.
In the rest of the Bering Sea region, kayakers wear gut skin jackets similar to those of Unangan kayakers.  However, in the Bering Sea, skin jackets are fitted with a draw string on the bottom that fits directly over the coaming and eliminates the need for a separate spray skirt.  Part of the reason that Unangan kayakers did not use this method may be that their cockpits were relatively small and a jacket fitted to the smaller cockpit would have made the bottom of the jacket too narrow to walk in comfortably.

Paddlers on shore with their kayaks drawn up on the beach.  Spray skirts stay attached to the coamings of the kayaks. These kayakers are relatively modern and have adopted Western style hats to replace the bent wood hats and visors that they would have worn in the past.
If the kayaks were being stored for a little longer time, the sprayskirts could be cinched up at the top and held up with a stick to form a roof over the cockpit opening to keep the rain out.

No comments: