Thursday, December 14, 2017

Why a Skinboat

There's no question mark in the title just like in Hillary Clinton's book What Happened because I'll tell you Why a Skinboat.
There's also a reference to Why a Duck here, one of two jokes that I can remember, the other one starting with, a duck walks into a bar.
But enough about sentences that start with Why and on to the real meat, the reason for building skinboats.
There is more than one reason for building skinboats.  I don't know what yours are, so I will tell you mine.
Fundamentally, in the back of my mind, I like things that have a short supply chain, reason being that I distrust long supply chains.  Just about everything these days has a long supply chain, but not everything, especially stuff you make yourself.  Supply chains for those not steeped in the language of goods delivery are all about how stuff gets to the end user. Let's take something simple like a tee shirt.  First someone needs to grow cotton which depends on farm implements and fertilizers.  Next the cotton has to be turned into yarn.  Then the cotton is spun into fabric.  After that it is dyed, or maybe before and after that it is sewn into the finished garment which is then shipped to some distribution center from which it goes to the retail store where you buy it.
And that is just a very simplified version of how you get your tee shirt.  Every step along the way has more supply chains backing it.  The chain is in fact more like an inverted tree in which you trace the path from every leaf up to the trunk.
Skinboat technology appeals to me because it has a short supply chain, at least in the original cultures before the arrival of modern intruders into the Arctic.  The person making the boat collected all the materials needed by himself and fashioned all the tools to make the thing by himself and with the help of other men and women of the village put a boat together.
The boat builder could get everything he needed in his immediate environment which did not include stores or So why does this matter?  It probably doesn't matter if you are comfortable with your reliance on industrial society to provide you with all the stuff that you need. 
I have to admit that I belong to the pessimist fringe that thinks it might be worthwhile to have some backup plans in case our industrial arrangement runs into problems.
Ergo, I like to look for technologies that don't rely on a whole bunch of industrial technologies.
And yes, I realize that the nylon string I use to tie my boats together with and the varnish I paint them with and the polyester skin I cover them with are all  industrial products. Still, I feel that if I had to, I could make a kayak out of materials in my immediate environment.
And quite frequently, people ask me why I don't use carbon fiber or whatever the latest development in materials is.  I really can't find a reason that a person who is in love with modern technology would understand. So I just nod politely and tell them that I use carbon fiber and epoxy and whatever else on occasion in addition to power tools and electricity, & & for the sake of convenience.
But the key thing I like about traditional technology is that it is possible to deploy it without modern tools and materials.