Here’s about where I left off yesterday – the deck is fully assembled (beams and gunnels), and the tung oil mixture has soaked in, bringing out the color and beautiful details hidden in the wood.
The joy of seeing these parts (and the class) come together continues, as does the anthropomorphizing – though now it’s not just me (no, I’m not talking about voices in my head). My Baidarka has body parts. But first, I want to show you some of the amazing wood we’re working with.
Looking a bit closer, the wood has changed from a dusty, dull yellow or brown into all these amazing hues. If it wasn’t obvious why it’s called “Red Cedar,” look again:
And the two beams that frame the cockpit have colors and all these amazing, flowing grain lines. Here’s one of the beams:
We continued adding pieces today, starting with that keel I routed yesterday. Turns out the routing creates grooves which gather silt, pebbles, sand, and all the tiny things which might end up in the bottom of a boat. Gathering all that junk sounds like a bad thing, until you realize that it’s going to get in anyway, and you want to keep it from lodging between the frame and skin on the boat. Having this catch-all space actually makes cleanup easier, and the entire craft is designed such that turning it upside down allows you to drain everything out the cockpit hole (not hard to do with a craft under 30 pounds).
A narrow keel edge also makes for a faster boat, so there’s that.
First it’s sawn to fit and attached to the bow. A neat trick to get the correct angle for this – with the deck upside-down hang the aft end of the keel up high to point the fore end down. (This better fits the parts together because, when the boat is complete, the keel will curve between the bow and stern. We’re faking that curve at the attachment point.)
I also realized why I like lashing: first, because it’s fairly easy to set my brain on autopilot and get all meditative. Second, I like the interplay between two hands, the twine, the needles, the wood, and all the finger work. Very tactile. Maybe this is what it feels like to play the guitar well – lots of intricate finger and hand movement on different textures (strings, frets, soundboard) that happens semi-automatically.
After finishing at the bow, the keel must connect to the stern. The length and curve created here are known as the “rocker,” and impact the speed, handling, and overall geometry of the craft. Corey discussed this just a bit, and it made my head spin – there’s “rocker” (the curve in the keel), “sheer” (the curve in the deck), “dead rise” (the curve in the ribs – which can change from bow to stern). Changing any one of these alters the volume (or hold capacity), stability, speed, and overall look. In the end, he set the pieces and we had to trust in his 30 odd years of boatbuilding to determine which was the fairest line to draw.
Pulling strips of yellow cedar from a long steaming box sitting on a stove top (a bending box), he pulled them into curves and fitted the ends into the mortises along the gunnels. Another part of the process where we deferred to his experience and ability. Trim the tip of one end, place in a gunnel mortise, bend up to touch the keel and then back down to the far gunnel. Cut, trim the other tip, place in the far gunnel, and then step back to check the resultant curve. It was amazing to watch – no measurements, just his eye.
After five of these – which he called “stations” – he handed the frame back to us, where we measured and tied the keel to the center of each curve. Then we lashed three stringers on each side (long dowels which run the length of the boat).
With the stringers lashed on, we handed the boat back to Corey and moved on to the next student’s project. Corey, meanwhile, fitted the rest of the ribs. Nobody was idle today.
In a nice change of pace we, the four students, worked as a team lashing the stringers to the white pine ribs as Corey ribbed the next frame. The work flowed -having two or three people aligning each stringer made the whole job faster and easier, and I imagine the original builders would similarly have family or other members of the community helping out. We listened to music, tied, and chatted away the rest of the day – not a tribe exactly, but definitely a community coming together. It’s hard not to be social when working at the same project, inches away from each other, interdependent almost to the point of interlocking.
That’s as far as we got on my Baidarka – all the stringers on, but only five ‘stations’ bent and placed.
Only one Baidarka was fully ribbed; a second is almost complete. It takes a good bit of time – when Corey hands one back to us we lash every rib to each stringer (again, working as a team). Six stringers and some 35 ribs on four boats – multiply it out and you get what… a crapload of lashing?
Yeah, that sounds about right.
She Has A Body
My last observation before closing: the boat is a body. I have this hazy recollection of making some point about the keel being a spine, but today the metaphor continued.
Getting into that meditative flow while lashing the keel, I looked at the twine and curved needles and had this flash that I was sewing a suture after surgery, putting a patient together. Not that I’ve ever done surgery (though when much younger I did pull a needle and string through the epidermis on my fingers – am I the only one?), but it really had that feeling.
My Baidarka now has cheeks (picture below), and tomorrow gets the rest of her ribs. Note also that in western culture boats are feminine – always “she” and “her.” The Aleuts considered the Baidarka a wife of the hunter, to the point that a human wife was never mentioned around the vessel, and it was taboo for women to touch Baidarkas (I imagine they traveled in Umiaks).
So there’s definitely a body theme going on here, with a specific gender. And the yellow cedar steamed like a newborn when it came out of the bending tank. Hey, I’m in labor, giving birth to a boat! That would explain why my hands ache, right? Though I hear it’s more painful with human progeny, and the discomfort is a bit lower down….
Yeah, on that note – goodnight.