Saturday, November 23, 2013

Eastern Arctic Kayak - Historical Construction Photos

I have some historical photos of Eastern Arctic kayak construction.  I have no idea where I got them.  But here they are.  Mostly what I want to comment on is the fact that while these photos don't reveal all that much, they do reveal some general specifics about Arctic kayak construction methodology.
The most important revelation to me is that these boats were built without the benefit of any sort of building platform other than what looks like pretty bumpy ground.  What this means is that in order to get a symmetrical boat, the builders had to rely on the parts of the boat itself to achieve symmetry.  The deck, once built became the building platform for the rest of the boat.
This boat frame appears to be almost done.  The builder appears to be doing some trimming with a hand saw, or maybe he is just using the deck of the kayak for a saw horse to cut a piece of wood.
Meanwhile, a little earlier in the building process, this builder has inserted some rib blanks into their mortises.  Bending and trimming the ribs remains to be done. 
Women are covering a finished frame in canvas.  It looks as though they will have some canvas left over.  The fact that they are using canvas indicates that this photo was taken very near the end of the era of kayak construction.  And the building site is remarkable for its ruggedness.  No nicely swept floor, strictly open air.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What Killed the Kayak? Aleut Version - Akutan, Alaska

Akutan, Alaska is an island in the Aleutians and once a place where people paddled kayaks as a part of making a living.  Nowadays the biggest industry on the island is a fish processing plant.  Trawlers scrape the bottom of the ocean for fish and bring them to the processing plant to have them turned into product suitable for sale in the lower 48. The Aleut population of the island actually has very little to do with the fish plant other than extracting rent from them.  Still, the kayak as a tool for hunting, fishing and whaling is no longer in use.
The fish plant at Akutan.
Photo courtesy of Kurt Schmidt

The big  rusty things are doors on a trawl. Picture a net like a large sock with one of these doors on either side sliding along the bottom and funneling fish into the sock.  Nothing escapes.
Human added for scale.
Iron weights hold the bottom of the net close to the bottom of the ocean.

Bye, bye Akutan Kayaks.

What Killed the Kayak? Aleut Version - Sand Point, AK

Sand Point, Alaska is home to one of the larger fishing fleets in the Aleutians.  The pictures below show the boats which have replaced the kayaks of the Unangan (Aleut) hunters.

Good bye, kayaks.

What Killed the Kayak? Hudson Strait Version

Down in the lower left corner you can see what appears to be a rowboat.  Someone standing in a rowboat is looking on at the starting line of a kayak race about to start at Port Burwell. 
In hindsight, it is easy to see that the end of the Eastern Arctic kayak is not far away.  Once you put an outboard motor on a small skiff, the kayak becomes obsolete.  Everything you can do from a kayak, travel, hunt, fish, you can do more easily from a motorized skiff.  But it is really the motor on the skiff that killed the kayak, a skiff without a motor is no match for a kayak, but a skiff with a motor and a hunter with a rifle makes the kayak an antiquated novelty.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Eastern Arctic Kayaks - Hudson Strait

Here's a bunch of pictures of Hudson Strait kayaks.  They came to me by way of Bill Samson, I believe.  They are labeled something like Burwell1, Burwell2. Wikipedia has some info on Burwell Here.
These kayaks are among the longest kayaks ever made.  Why they were made the way they were made is probably a matter of evolution in response to local conditions.
This photo is called, "going ashore at Port Burwell."  Looks like plenty of ice in winter.  Apparently kayaking here was a summer activity.
Caption: "Port Burwell, 1919." Looks like a sheltered Fjord suitable for the paddling of flat bottomed kayaks.
Wow, look at that nose.  Overhang on these things was up to 4 feet.  So if the boat was 22 foot long, length on the water was more like 18 feet.  The long overhang appears to have about as much function as fins on a Cadillac, but I suspect that it actually is a useful way to get a flat bottomed boat over a wave without undue pounding. Also note the long paddle.  Looks to be about ten feet long with narrow blades, 3 inches max, maybe less.
One more time a little more from the side.
And here they are racing.  The paddlers are generating a good deal of froth like they would at the starting line.  Note the paddler farthest right with his high angle of attack on his paddle.  For normal cruising, the paddles were supposedly held much lower down, even balanced on the foredeck to spare the paddler's arms.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Flat-Bottomed Kayaks of the Eastern Arctic

I am about to launch off on construction of a flat bottomed kayak of the Eastern Arctic type.  Since I know nothing about these kayaks, I don't know what to expect.  Supposedly they are reasonably fast in spite of their flat bottoms.  The big plus of these kayaks would be their stability.  We'll see.
Eugene Arima has an article on this boat type HERE from which the illustration above was excerpted. The U of Alaska Press also has a book out on the kayaks of the Eastern Arctic. 
I also just paid ten bucks to get a manual from David Zimmerly on this type of kayak.
Zimmerly also has a reprint of his article in Sea Kayaker Magazine available.
And Harvey Golden has created a replica of the type of boat.
More to come.

Yurt Design - Canvas Shrinkage

Canvas shrinks.  I knew that. So when I designed the roof pattern for the yurt, I should have allowed for shrinkage but didn't.  Oh well, nothing that can't be fixed with a little more sewing.
Not only didn't I allow for shrinkage in the roof, I also didn't realize that the canvas shrinks unevenly, more along the length of the material than across it.  Something to be conscious of next time.
Now that I think of it,  I doubt that I could plan for shrinkage in any sort of exact way since the shrinkage is non-isotropic.  I suppose I could just make a roof cover uniformly oversize, then when it shrinks, regardless of whether it does it evenly or not, it would still be large enough to do the job.
For now, not having tried to it yet, I am leaning toward pre-shrinking the canvas.  Unroll however much canvas I need, hose it down, dry it in the sun, then cut it up and sew it into whatever shape I need. Everything I haven't tried yet sounds like a good idea.  Whether it actually is, doing it will tell.
Meanwhile, some before and after shrunken roof cover pictures.
Before: the yurt roof cover on its maiden voyage in Kings Canyon National Park. I trimmed the fabric so there would be about 8 inches of overhang.  Sewing the seam at the edge reduced that by about an inch.  Other than the wrinkles which I hadn't dealt with yet, not bad.
After: Overhang of the roof fabric has been reduced to about 4 inches at the max and two inches at the minimum.  The wall fabric likewise has shrunk some top to bottom and side to side. Time to make some corrections. Canvas work is not an exact science.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Baidarka Chair

What do you do with an old baidarka (kayak) once it starts falling apart?  Why you make a chair out of it.
I don't know the details behind this picture other than that it came to me from people living in or once living in the Aleutians. I won't mention their names just in case they would rather not be named. On the other hand, if they feel like they would like to be named, I would be glad to name them.
The question here is whether making a chair out of a baidarka is considered creative re-use or an act of vandalism, or worse yet, sacrilegious destruction of a valuable cultural artifact.  Who knows.  Probably the kayak was falling apart and someone did some creative re-use.
Regardless of what is going on here, let's try to identify some baidarka parts that might have gone into this chair. The skinny rods that form the back look like hull stringers.  The larger upright pieces of wood that form the sides of the back look like sections of the stern parts of gunwales.  The rest of the pieces are hard to identify other than that they might be deck beams.  And the seat looks like a piece of kayak skin. 
Rock on.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wood and Canvas Canoe Restoration - Impending

I am about to launch into another wood and canvas canoe restoration, assuming the owner is willing to spend the money.  A new one of these kinds of canoes is about $4000, so anything less than $2000 for a restoration is probably a good deal.  Perhaps you would pay more if the boat was an heirloom and you have some emotional connection with it.
This boat looks like a good candidate.  The hull is in fairly good shape. It needs some varnish stripping, some new planking, new skin, paint, interior varnish, outwales, gunwale caps, thwarts and seat restoration and seat hardware. And after all that was replaced or fixed, the boat would once again look spiffy. And of course it would have that old-timey wood, paint and brass, handmade look.

The canoe minus its canvas skin.  Planking is white cedar over white cedar ribs.

A view of the top of the canoe, partially decked in mahogany.

Interior view showing ribs and assortment of rotted wood trim. 

Closeup on the rotted trim.  The curved piece at the top left is one of the exterior stems.