In late July I traveled to Sitka, Alaska to teach kayak building.
Jackie and I stayed with Kitty who lives on a nearby island. The daily skiff ride was fun.
and false solomon seal.
Kitty hammering it together.
Sam giving it a few whacks.
Not sure what's going on here, but I'm sure it's important.
Kitty and Jonothan.
Jackie and I borrowed a couple of fresh boats and caught a motor boat ride to the outer islands where locals were dip netting sockeye salmon at a lake entrance.
This archipelago of glacially formed islands is ringed with kelp beds that teem with sea ottters.
An unlikely granite belt cuts through the outer islands forming this rare white sand beach.
...and the rarest thing of all, the elusive Sitka sunset.
The fishing is excellent here so we brought very little food.
My camp 'stove', simple and effective.
Plotting a course through dozens of rocks and islands in the fog. This is why we learn to navigate.
The quintessential southeast Alaskan image, a troller in the mist.
A natural hot springs is powerful motivation to find our way accurately.
Our last day back to Sitka is a longer day so we stop in a kelp bed to eat and rest. Draping kelp over the boat keeps the swell from pushing us into the rocks.
in June I flew to Maine to teach kayak building
there were lots of big, weird moths
and we built some kayaks
standard outfitting for the post modern adventurer, ready for a gasoline shortage, or a flood
building kayaks and playing with kayaks
then south to New York for a quick paddle in the Graveyard of Ships, on Staten Islanda
then making kayaks in the Catskills
Jen stops by for a quick paddle
Rob gets the idea to brand his paddle with heated bailing wire, it looks cool
headed to the water to launch kayaks
meanwhile on the other side of the pond, a gorgeous cold molded wooden racer meets a very different type of skin-on-frame
little frogs prefer Snap Dragon spray skirts
one day we meet up with the Great Hudson River Paddle, a water fight with a local kayakers ensues
this is way neater than tough guys on dramatic expeditions
thirty-one fourteen-hour work days, and three days of camping, time to go home.
The Bay Area could be considered the unnofficial home of the Mariner Coaster. For chasing short chop in the bay or getting wild with the tide rips underneath the golden gate the Coaster has long been considered the weapon of choice. Original Coasters are lusted after with a fervor that has broken friendships when two people vyed for the same used boat. Thank goodness Matt and Cam are producing them again! Everywhere I travel people balk at the dimunative and stubby SC-1, my skin-on-frame version of the Coaster. Not so in the Bay Area, these are people who understand short sea kayaks, these are my people.
I had a great week building SC-1's in Berkely with Bay Area Sea Kayakers members Glen, David, Leslie, Doug, and Irv. Thank you for inviting me. BASK is a highly skilled and remarkably active sea kayaking club that should be an inspiration to all of us. I look forward to my next visit to the Bay Area. http://www.bask.org
....deep into the Pennsylvania winter I was called to action. Kayak students desperately needed someone to lead them after a summer of relentless assault by the British Canoe Union. Privately I feared we could not build an army of Greenland paddlers during the cold and miserable tri-state winter, and when I arrived the cavernous and crumbling old factory hardly seemed fit to house men for the project. It was biting cold and there were no soldiers, but in a turn of luck the weather eased to an unseasonably warm temperature and General Ted Danforth procured the neccesary provisions and helped as we transformed the barren camp. For seven days the men worked tirelessly and despite some long evenings and moments of hunger and privation, we suffered few injuries and no loss of life. With renewed vigor our brave men paddled forth to face the British kayaks once again.
It's no big secret that I am travel averse. Exporting my class across the country is hard work, and invariably there is some sort of shipping catastrophe. So for the most part I stay at home and try to lure people to the rainforest paradise of the north Oregon Coast. Every year, however, in the cold and wet and economically dwindling winter, I make an exception to refresh the coffers that fuel my insatiable kayak habit. This winter is was Mimi who took advantage of my situation and brought me to Raliegh, North Carolina. She filled not only one class, but two! We built eleven kayaks in 16 days.
Camille was my host for the second week, and as you might guess, she is a lot of fun. We drove to her house where ten kayaks and two canoes sat in the driveway. Inside paddling magazines littered the floor, paddling books lined the shelves, camping gear spilled out of tubs on the floor and across the kitchen table, and paddling clothes safety gear hung from every possible surface in the bathroom. It was just like home! Camilles a doctor on the weekdays, but she speaks of it almost as an afterthought, as far as I can tell she's a professional paddler with a medical degree.
One of the more interesting things about this class was a custom racing kayak I agreed to build with Ty, a 6'3" 250lb triathlete. Students in the second workshop stayed late, but also learned about prototyping from scratch. We built this kayak very differently from the others, keeping the weight to an absolute minimum.
Check out the complete web page on this kayak for more photos and info
Jane couldn't wait to sit in frame. For most people a replica Greenland kayak is a low volume curiosity, but for people lucky enough to be 110 lbs like Jane, a replica can actually be one of the only sea kayaks that has ever fit them. Add a skeg to help with the weathercocking and this will be a sweet ride for her, not just a rolling boat.
Lee obsessively documented the entire process and is putting together a tutorial, which I think is pretty neat.
Fitting it all together.
There is always time for a little levity.
Cutting out paddles with a very weak bandsaw, I don't stress out about power tools because people are naturally afraid of them, it's japanese saws and chisels you have to watch out for!
All you need to know about building a Greenland paddle.
Ralph treated us to an oyster bake, Lee brought shrimp, Camille brought beer, Mimi made her famous chocolate cake, and I brought my copy of Cockleshell Heros to watch. This is real reason why we build our own boats, to reconnect not only with the water, but with each other.
Then it was time to launch. We built quite a variety of kayaks this time. The two F1's in the foreground were built with a flat front deck section.
Sometimes a white boat is just so classy. Amanda, Lee, and Jane all chose a heavier weight cloth for extra protection against the wicked oyster beds.
Camille is the first person who's been brave enough to try a multi-color kayak, I think it looks pretty good.
This is absolutely hands down my favorite Greenland kayak ever, I wanted to give Steve his money back and ship it home. This 1931 Disko Bay IV-A-375 was supposed to be a proportional scale of 7% but Steve changed his mind at the last minute and we built it with the scaled gunwales but left the widths and depths the same. The result is 17'4" instead of 16'4" which sits it just a little higher and makes it a little faster. It was nimble and stable, (for a greenland kayak). I'm making more of these babies. People always talk about the Anas like it's some sort of legend, but for my money this is way better than the Anas, and scaled up just a touch it is a decent low volume sea kayak. I'd like to see this in fiberglass.
Here is a full 7% scale IV-A-375, built by Gary, 6'2" 200lb ex Marine Special Forces. Guys like that don't do well in normal size replicas.
Ty contemplates the width of his kayak and the temperature of the water.
Ty contemplates the width of his kayak and the temperature of the water.
I hate group photos, it's just so posed looking.
Finally we go our seperate ways. Travel teaching is still hard, but the Carolina crew made it as easy on me as it could possibly be. Well, except for the night Mimi made me pour out four pots of dye trying to get the right color, :) Thank you all for supporting my work. This class will pay to finish development on the race boat and probably get me through my surf kayak project, and a greenhouse we desperately need on the farm.
It's no secret that I love power tools. Like any fine instrument a quality power tool is an extension of the mind of the sculptor. For me, sliding a carbide steel miter saw blade down a perfect pencil line evokes deep satisfaction. My work is clean, probably as clean as it will ever get. Yet, after building dozens of kayaks I felt the need to cast aside the precision steel and milling equipment. It was with uncertainty that I contemplated building a kayak with hand tools out of found wood. To help with the project I collaborated with Kiliii Yu, hunter, forager, and native skills expert.
Together over the course of four days we constructed this kayak from wood we found on the beach and in the scrap piles of my wood shop. We even made tools on site; a mortise chisel from an old screwdriver, a drawknife from a carving knife, and a drill bit from a sharpened bronze nail. Camping in beautiful lowland meadow on a narrow spit between Nehalem Bay and the Pacific Ocean, Kiliii (also a professional photographer) taught me how to use my digital SLR camera. In a not so traditional manner, we shot seals and deer.
In September Kiliii will take this kayak frame to the Rabbitstick Rendezvous to skin it with animal hides!
An avid paddler, builder, and teacher, I'm passionate about sharing the strength, lightweight, and beauty of skin-on-frame boat building.