Here are the gear runners (above) and stringers (below) lashed to the ribs (wide and light) of my rapidly evolving Baidarka. It doesn’t have anything to do with ‘personalization,’ but I really like the picture, so I’m putting it at the top.
And since you’re looking at it…
notice how the gear rail lashings -above and to the left, lighter in color because they weren’t oiled- don’t wrap around the stringers even though they were added later? This gives the rails a tighter grip on the ribs, as well as reducing the amount of twine on the exterior of the hull – which becomes an important consideration when we attach the skin.
Speaking of skin, I asked Corey about the traditional Baidarka covering. It was five seal skins which lasted about a year before they rotted away (or were chewed off by dogs… not much kibble up there in the Aleutian Islands). So I assumed the Aleutians wore seal pelt clothing too – but apparently they wore clothing made of salmon skin. To which I said, “Whaaaa?” I thought he was kidding. But he wasn’t. And then, just to blow my mind, Alex (another boat-making student) showed me the salmon skin patch she’d sewn onto her jumper.
So that was a crazy coincidence. Just like when I was bending a rib (Day 5) and the song “Bend Me, Shape Me” came on. (There was another song-activity pairing earlier, but I can’t remember what tune seemed so appropriate when I was tying lashes.)
For anyone who was wondering, here’s a picture of the pulley I installed yesterday. Tiny and very useful:
Here’s a picture of the workbench I use, with a bunch of the most-frequented tools:
And here’s a picture of the four students with their partially-completed Baidarkas. Note that the other three have gone with flat deck beams in the rear, which better suits their rolling style. As I don’t have a rolling style, mine is the traditional style. Also, they’re a bit further along in their construction than I am.
The Build Continues
I started the day by finishing all my gear rail notching, lashing, and frapping, then moved on to the floorboards. These are exactly what they sound like: thin boards upon which your feet slide during entry and exit, so they’re not constantly getting hung up in the ribs, or pushing on the skin.
Starting with blanks, we mark a curve on one or both ends – whatever kind of curve we want, it doesn’t really matter – and cut. Again with the beautiful, old growth red cedar.
From here it’s a handful of holes for the lashing, with grooves in-between to protect the twine.
All along the way, I’ve been going on and on about the wood, but it might not seem impressive if you’re not working with it yourself. Part of my joy with this wood comes from working it into the correct shape (cutting, planing, sanding, etc…) and just seeing this flat, dusty-light-yellow wood. Then it’s oiled, and suddenly the colors pop, the grain stands out, and it just… glows! So I took this picture of the floorboards after sanding, but with only one side (the back) oiled so you can see the difference.
Any better? If not, you’ll just have to see my boat in person.
Continuing on, here they are mounted on the ribs.
Then I moved on to the deck stringers, which sit on top of the deck beams and form the shape of the top of the boat. They’re angled from the bow and stern up to the cockpit, which allows you to turn the baidarka upside down, hold it by the bow, lift it at an angle, and the water just empties. Kinda brilliant – maybe I can get a picture of this position later.
Corey marked out the position and shape of the stringers on some lumber, which I then cut out and finished.
Where the stringer joins with the bow, it’s another very interesting (and to me, pleasing) shape. Another smooth transition for the skin.
Once they’re all cut and placed pretty much amidship, I lashed them to the deck beams – just to hold them steady.
Then we brought them exactly on to the center line and drilled holes for pinning. The pins are all placed vertically, except those two in front of and behind the cockpit – which are both angled to eliminate any movement. And that was the end of the day.
Personalizing My Baidarka
We should, it occurs to me, add ‘skin’ to the various body parts I’ve mentioned in anthropomorphizing my Baidarka. Also a face, which appeared in the bookended floorboards. I’ve decided it’s yawning as it wakes up, and hopefully soon it will be singing. Why singing? What does that have to do with being on the water? Nothing. But it kind of looks like a screaming face otherwise, so I decided it’s yawning and then singing. Just go with it.
And that’s a picture taken before it was oiled – it looks amazing with all the color and lines sharpened.
One more thought about personalization occurred to me as I was lashing in the runners this morning – I realized how I’d touched every single part of this vessel, all 500-some knots, every piece of wood, all the little nicks and bumps and imperfections which make it unique. I can understand how the Aleut hunters had such a close bond with their Baidarkas – it’s an extremely intimate process, all this shaping, fitting, and polishing. It’s definitely a feeling of creation, like sculpting a figure out of a plain block of marble. That’s what I’m enjoying – the intimate process of creating something which will soon take me safely out on the water and back.
Corey has, in the past, described the Baidarka not as a boat, but as a prosthesis for traveling on the water. Each boat made specifically for one person. Without rulers, all the measurements were made against the body of the builder – finger widths between the stringers, hips plus two fists for the beam of the boat. The feet rest not on pegs (I learned today), but on the next deck beam forward of the cockpit; there was no need for adjustable foot pegs, because only one person would ever fit into the craft.
I’m making my own transportation, and it fits me perfectly. In a world of mass-produced everything, that’s pretty cool.