Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kayak 2.2, the Historian Builders:Harvey Golden

Harvey's Book, Kayaks of Greenland

Detailed drawings from KoG

Harvey's "living room" showing where he stores all these replicas

My favorite, the Netsilik

Saint Davids Straits kayak frame, Nunavaat, and the hut Harvey lived in while making it.

The finished kayak

Two hole Badairka frame

1819 Aleut replica

Harvey in an East Greenland replica

The deck accoutrement of East Greenland kayak
Thamaku, a proa replica

All photos courtesy Harvey Golden

Harvey Golden is the guru of kayak replica making. He's as much historian as builder, and all of this is avocation. He has built well over 60 replicas since the first in 1994 and has documented  and surveyed innumerable museum boats,  over 200. His travels in search of source material have taken him to the arctic, Greenland and Europe.This  is  truly a beautiful obsession. His book , an eight year research project, Kayaks of Greenland, is over 580 pages and contains more than 400 figures, photos and drawings of kayaks and paddles. It is an inestimable resource. He does all this while working and raising a family. Harvey is very generous, answering my numerous email queries, and also responding to questions posted on the Qajaq USA Greenland forum with enthusiasm and insight. He's also posting photos and commentary on his latest builds on the same site. Harvey has not limited himself to the Greenland kayak. The one I want to copy is a Central Canadian kayak, the Netsilik above, and he's replicated kayaks from all the Arctic regions producing kayak, including Siberia. Harvey has ventured further abroad, replicating Thamaku proa, and a canoe yawl among others. You can find his latest Greenland build here and his most recent Aluet here. Anyone with the slightest interest in traditional kayaks MUST visit his website. It's a treasure chest of information, skill and guidance and contains information, especially on the lifting of offsets from scale drawings, applicable to any kind of boat drawings, which I challenge you to find elsewhere.

I'll leave you with these words from Harvey on building kayak replicas:

"Other very helpful things to have on hand when building and using a kayak replica are trust, patience, and an open mind.   I've built kayaks I couldn't keep upright and kayaks I couldn't steer.  Are they bad kayaks?  I could've easily thought so and chopped 'em up for firewood, but I knew that someone had once used the same design, for hunting no less-- and in the Arctic.   I trusted their sensibilities as designer, builder, and paddler-hunter, and I ought to at least stick with it long enough to master its nuances-- to gain comfort and capability in the same design.   (Sure as I didn't throw my first bicycle out after the first try!)    Familiarity with the original kayak's context is also key. . . . as in don't take a lake hunting kayak out in the surf and expect to enjoy it. "

Other very helpful things to have on hand when building and using a kayak replica are trust, patience, and an open mind.   I've built kayaks I couldn't keep upright and kayaks I couldn't steer.  Are they bad kayaks?  I could've easily thought so and chopped 'em up for firewood, but I knew that someone had oncee as I didn't throw my first bic

Sunday, April 19, 2009

rkj Day April 22

Messing About's Adam Turinas is celebrating Knox Johnston's achievement on Thursday, the 40th Anniversary of his completion of the first Golden Globe.

Here's the late Don Holm on Robin:

The Circumnavigators - by Don Holm

CHAPTER 30 –  “A Tortoise Among the Hares”

I could not accept that anyone but a Briton  should be the first to do it, and I wanted to be  that Briton. Nevertheless, there was an element of selfishness in it. I was sailing around the world simply because I bloody well wanted to and I was thoroughly enjoying myself.(l)

ON THE DAVID FROST TELEVISION TALK SHOW ONE NIGHT early in 1970, there appeared as one of the guests a young bearded man of remarkable poise, engaging of personality, with a well-modulated British accent of the kind that seems to fascinate Americans.  Unlike many of the tortured, self-righteous, bearded young dissidents of the period who populated this production, this one seemed almost disgustingly "normal" in political views and reaction to social stimuli.
In fact, Mr. Frost had some difficulty keeping his guest's mind off one of the other guests a beautiful and voluptuous movie starlet. What had he missed most, Frost asked, on his 313-day nonstop solo voyage around the world in Suhaili?  
The young man leered at the other guest and replied: "What do you think?"  
The bearded young man was, of course, the winner of the Sunday Times Golden Globe round-the-world race of 1968-1969, in which he had sailed alone in his 32-foot ketch some 30,123 nautical miles at an average speed of 4.02 knots, without putting into a port, without anchoring, and without any outside assistance.(2)
Many people since Captain Joshua Slocum's time had sailed around the world in small vessels, many of them alone but none had done it nonstop. This young man, a professional merchant marine officer named Robin Knox-Johnston, had achieved a real first in bluewater annals, a fact which he himself tended to pass off casually, and which was largely unappreciated at the time because the general public had become pretty well surfeited with dudes sailing around the world, which after all had become ruddy commonplace.(3)
After all, three young Americans, also the previous year, had circumnavigated the moon for the first time in the history of man, and returned with a spaceship load of epochal scientific data a voyage of infinitely more importance than a frivolous yacht race. This may have been partly the reason why Knox-Johnston did not receive his country's official blessing in the from of knightship from Her Majesty, as had both Chichester and Rose for lesser feats of sea-manship.
Almost the direct opposite of Sir Francis Chichester, Robin caught the fancy, however, of a large cross-section of the public at the time.  He almost perfectly fit the British image of a young, plucky merchant seaman which, indeed, he was. His boy-next-door charm, outgoing personality, and obvious competence had wide appeal. Moreover, as has been noted by perceptive British journalists, such as Ron Hall and Nicholas Tomalin, "his judgment was impeccable... and he had an uncanny gift of saying and doing the right thing at the right time" (not the least of which was winning the Golden Globe).(4)
As Knox-Johnston himself puckishly noted in his own book, he had been sent to a psychiatrist before and after the voyage so that the mental effect of such an ordeal could be assessed. On both occasions, the head-shrinker found him "distressingly normal."
His only eccentricity, for one so young wrote the young journalists, Hall and Tomalin was his unfashionable tendency to very right-wing and blimpish views.
Born on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1939, in Putney, this "distressingly normal" boy was christened William Robert Patrick Knox-Johnston, which almost at once became Robin Knox-Johnston. He was of mixed Ulster and English stock. Both the Knoxes and the Johnstons were Presbyterian farmers who fled the lowlands of Scotland to Ireland in the early seventeenth century. His ancestry also included at least one East India civil servant who spent many years as a prisoner in Ceylon, but lived to escape and retire as a pensioner from "John Company's" service. His mother was a descendant of a Scottish family of lawyers which had migrated to Kent and thereafter engaged in maritime activities.
When Robin was an infant, World War II was raging. Once, when his father was home on leave, their flat in New Brighton was destroyed by a buzz bomb, the family narrowly escaping disaster.  They moved then to Heswall on the Dee estuary where boats and the sea soon were to capture the lad's fancy. When he was four, he built a raft of orange crates. Next came a ten-foot canoe. At seventeen, he decided to join the Royal Navy, but failed the mathematical phase of the examinations. He then shipped out as an apprentice in the Merchant Navy, with the British Indian Steam Navigation Company as an officer cadet.
He spent three years on the cadet ship, learning seamanship, navigation, and other skills, sailing between England and the East African ports. He passed his second mate's examination in 1960, joined the Dwarka between India and the Persian Gulf ports, took his first mate's examination, and got married. The couple set up housekeeping in Bombay. The monotony of this life eventually motivated Robin and a fellow officer to build a yacht and sail her back to England. They sent for plans which appeared in a British yachting magazine, but got by mistake those of a modified Colin Archer. Since they wished to catch the monsoons of the following season, they decided to build this model instead.
The vessel, which was named Suhaili, the Arab word for the local southeast wind, was built by hand of native teak. The work went slowly, and she was not launched until September 1964, too late to keep their planned schedule. Meanwhile, Robin's marriage broke up and his wife flew home to England.
In December 1966, with the yacht about half-finished (and only half paid for), Robin and his brother, Chris, and a fellow officer, departed Cape Town on Christmas Eve. After a nonstop run of seventy-four days, they tied up at Gravesend. Suhaili, although small, proved to be a remarkably seaworthy and easy-to-handle vessel.
The vessel was berthed at the Benfleet Yacht Club, of which Robin was a member, and he reported back to work. While waiting for a ship, he began to write a book about his voyage. Meanwhile, he became interested in the current excitement over bluewater yacht racing. England was buzzing with sea fever over the upcoming Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race and Chichester's well-publicized escapades at sea. One day, his father remarked casually that Tabarly was building a trimaran, which was reputed to be faster than anything the British could come up with. The idea of a Frenchman beating a Briton on the sea appalled Robin.
Also, Robin suspected that Tabarly was going to attempt a nonstop circumnavigation, a project he had mulled over in his mind for a long time. As he said later, it was something that remained to be done, and he didn't care who achieved it as long as it was a Briton. Now the idea grew on him, until it became an ambition and eventually a crusade, as he confided to close friends and fellow yacht-club members. One of them, David Waterhouse, took him to see the now-famous designer, Colin Mudie. The imaginative and innovative Mudie had several suggestions of revolutionary concept all of which cost a lot of money. Robin and his friends began to look for sponsors (there always seem to be well-heeled English angels around who don't mind investing a few quid in a ruddy yacht race).
But Robin needed  GBP5,000, and even if he sold Suhaili, he would need  GBP2,000 more. Failing to find enough sponsors, he wrote to his company and asked for its help. He was granted an interview at the head office, but the final decision was no. He still owed  GBP2,000 on Suhaili, and also he owed the Royal Navy some reserve time. He then joined the H.M.S. Duncan in Portsmouth to discharge his obligation, and meanwhile had the good fortune to interest George Greenfield, the literary agent who had handled Sir Francis Chichester, in the book he was writing. Greenfield immediately grasped the potential, and urged Robin to go ahead with his preparations for the circumnavigation and leave the financial worries to George.
Robin went on active duty January 2, 1968, and a few weeks later, Greenfield signed a contract for a book about a nonstop circumnavigation that had not even got to the departure stage yet. This contract was followed by another for the American edition, plus numerous magazine and television commitments in the United Kingdom and the U.S. But also by this time, several of the contestants in the Golden Globe were well along with their projects, including Bill King, Moitessier, Chay Blyth, and Captain John Ridgway.
Completing his reserve training, Robin and his backers, including newly formed fan clubs, flung themselves into final preparations. Robin chose Falmouth as the starting point and finish line. Suhaili was reconditioned and fitted out. Finally, on June 14, 1968, Robin cast off amid the usual farewell publicity and official escort vessels. Then, suddenly, he was alone on the Atlantic, the months of tension, preparations, and uncertainties behind him. Ahead were more than 30,000 lonely miles. The moment of truth had come. His reaction was one of extreme let-down and depression.
It was to be a long, plodding voyage, and generally uneventful. Unlike the spectacular and glamorous starters, Galway Blazer II and the Piver trimarans, Suhaili was a lumbering tortoise in a race against fleet hares.
On June 21, Robin was off Cape Finisterre. On the twenty-eighth, he passed the Azores. On July 12, he left the Azores to port. Wallowing through the doldrums, he reached the latitude of Cape Town on August 23. He encountered a gale that knocked Suhaili flat. On September 10, he doubled the Cape. Sailing along on the northern edge of the Roaring Forties, he came up on the rocks called St. Paul and Amsterdam on October 4, after 112 days out. On the 133rd day he was approaching Cape Leeuwin. Passing close in on the Australian bight, he sighted Kooringa on October 25. A few days later, the self-steering mechanism failed. He made contact on shore near Melbourne on November 8, receiving news of home and passing on reports. 
Passing to the north of Tasmania, he came up off South Island in the middle of November and on November 20 he ran aground. Getting off, he headed eastward along the old grain and wool clipper route toward Cape Horn, crossing the International Dateline on November 25. 
On January 17, 1969, Suhaili passed Cape Horn at 1915 hours, with light westerly winds. Robin wrote in his log: "Yippee!"
He passed the Falklands on January 23, and by February 2 was out of the variables. He passed to the east of Trinidade Island after 252 days out of Falmouth. On March 6, he crossed the equator, and on April 5 spoke to the tanker Mobil Acme, reporting his position by radio to the Sunday Mirror.
From then on, it was smooth sailing, and waiting for him at home  were fame and fortune and the assurance that he would not have to worry about drudging through life in a boring career job again. The other nine entrants in the Golden Globe had failed or dropped out. All he had to do was cross that finish line. The press and television build-up had already begun, and by the time he approached England, public interest had reached fever pitch.
On April 22, after 313 days out of Falmouth, he crossed the finish line and was escorted into port to a noisy welcome at 3:25 P.M. First on board Suhaili, now rust-streaked and peeling, her bottom foul, and her sails tattered, came the customs men.
"Where from?" asked the senior port officer.
"From Falmouth," replied the now-bearded Robin Knox-Johnston with a puckishly straight face.(5)
After the excitement had settled down, and Robin learned that Donald Crowhurst was supposed to be missing at sea, he generously offered his  GBP5,000 cash prize to the Crowhurst Appeal Fund for the family of the "lost" contestant. Later, at the Golden Globe dinner aboard the Cutty Sark, when the real story of Donald Crowhurst had been revealed, Robin stuck to his original intention of donating the cash prize to the Crowhurst family.
"None of us," he said, "should judge Donald Crowhurst too harshly, and the family will need the money now...."
Still later, he announced he would stand for election to Parliament as a Conservative candidate, and immediately embarked on a publicity tour of the U.S.A. and British Isles to promote his books. From this, he drifted into more yachting activities, made several short voyages in Suhaili, and found himself pondering what to do now with his young life.
Still in his mind was the thought that had followed him all the way home on the last leg from Cape Horn, after he had listened to radio stations from the southern United States broadcasting recordings from the Apollo 8 crew as they circled the moon.

There they were, three men risking their lives to advance scientific knowledge, to expand our frontiers that have so far held us to this planet. I was doing absolutely  nothing.(6)

AUTHOR's NOTES  (Chapter Thirty)

1. A World of My Own by Robin Knox-Johnston (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1970).
2. Suhaili's vital statistics were: 32 feet 5 inches loa, 28 feet lwl,11 feet 1 inch beam, 5 feet 6 inches draft. The plain sail area was 666 square feet, Thames measurement, 14 tons; gross tonnage, 9.72, net 6.29. The keel was cast iron of 2 1/4 tons.
3. The spectacular voyages of Francis Chichester and Alee Rose, both of whom were of retirement age, had so captured the public's imagination, that it obscured Robin's greater achievement.
4. See The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst, cited elsewhere. See Bibliography.
5. Ironically, Robin almost missed crossing the finish line, which had been changed by the Sunday Times committee after he had departed. 
6. A World of My Own.

More here and here and here

Friday, April 17, 2009

Minimalist Cruising part one revisited, Roger Taylor, Mingming and a book review

Roger Taylor's book

Roger at the helm of Endeavour II

and in her rigging

Heavy going, port deck awash

Wreck of the Endeavour II

wire  and wood for Roc


Roc's cabin top, notice aft deck, no cockpit

Roc about to be launched

Roc from aloft

Roger Taylor with stores for the first Jester Challenge

Mingming's galley

Mingming 2008

Self steering setup

Whales accompany Roger and Mingming northing

all photos courtesy Roger Taylor

I've just finished Roger's book the "Voyages of a Simple Sailor" and as a reader of many, many  sailing adventure books, this is one of my all time favorites. This book spans a lifetime and the evolution of a bluewater voyager, from tall ships to a tiny 21' Corribee which is junk rigged and adapted to the kind of sailing Roger currently pursues. It's an informative journey. Roger first left his home near the Dee estuary in western England to pursue adventure at the tender age of 8 years. Though hunger brought this first escape to an early close, it wasn't log before Roger was off  to seek adventure in earnest. he travelled Europe, as many others did in those days, riding on his thumb. Eventually Roger made his way to Oz where he signed on to  the tall ship Endeavour II and found adventure aplenty, encountering an adversarial first mate, extreme weather, questionable seamanship on the part of his captain and eventually the loss of the ship, with all hands making their way to safety but not without a great deal of uncertainty and travail. He then forswore putting the responsibility for his life in other hands, but not a life at sea. Roger built a ferrocement cruising vessel appropriately named Roc, and continued his adventures. Take  look at the build, no cockpit! Roger recounts his early experience with Roc in crossing the Tasman sea.
Many years and several boats later Roger Taylor's imagination was captured by the first Jester Challenge in 2006, a 'race' for singlehanded sailors across the Atlantic inspired by and intended to restore the self sufficiency and integretity of Blondie Haslers original intention when initiating the Ostar.  He's still at it, with plans to enter the 2010 event from Plymouth, UK, to Newport RI, USA. Roger's latest boat, Mingming, a seriously modified Corribee 21 with a Junk rig, has been fitted out to enable long voyages singlehanded. In the interim he's made some voyages in Mingming to arctic waters, and  to the Azores. It is possible to investigate all of this, including videos of these voyages and photos of Roger's modifications to Mingming at his website, The Simple Sailor. I want to give both Roger's book and his website my highest recommendation. visit the website, buy the book, you won't be disappointed. anyone interested in blue water cruising in a small boat, or just dreaming about same,  it's (they are) must read!

I recently wrote Roger inquiring as to what preparations he was doing on Mingming to get her ready for the next Jester Challenge, but his focus is more on this summers cruise to Jan Mayen Island (71N 8.5W) in the Arctic, near Svalbard and then to Scoresby Sound in East Greenland, time permitting. He's been insulating the boat w/25mm. foam and has added a set of 10' Ash sweeps for propulsion.
Roger is adament about the advantages of a light displacement small boat for the kind of intimate cruising he pusues. I asked him about heaving to and he replied that while not as easily or simply done as in a long keeled boat, he has been able to achieve similiar results for  Mingming. In his own words:
Certainly traditional cutter and sloop rigged yachts will heave-to better than a light fin keeler, where there is more tendency for the bow to falloff. However it's largely a question of balance between backed jib, mainsail and tiller setting, and I'm sure a reasonable configuration can be found for most yachts. With Mingming I can't heave-to (in heavy weather) in the traditional way as I don't carry a headsail in anything over F5. However I can get her to fore-reach gently to windward with the vane set at 45 degrees to the apparent wind and the mainsail just feathering. This is possible withthe fully-battened junk sail as it doesn't flog. I've ridden out a F9 in theNorth Sea (where running would have sent me the wrong way and into gas rigs and shoal waters) this way in 2007. My most recent Youtube video is a short clip of doing the same thing 20 miles from the Azores, where I just wanted to hold position in a strong headwind until there was a wind shift. 
But there's nothing like going about in a long keeler, leaving the headsail backed, locking the tiller down and enjoying the ensuing peace!


Monday, April 13, 2009

The return of Winter: ie:Keep Turning Left( is back)

Courtesy Dylan Winter

Dylan Winter is back at it. KeepTurning Left is in play and moving. With this  lovely first shoot, I anticipate a great  season with this.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Kayak 2.1, Builder/Historians: David Zimmerly

Courtesy David Zimmerly

Courtesy David Zimmerly

Courtesy David Zimmerly

Luke Anguhadluq, Baker Lake, 1976.
Courtesy David Zimmerly

Courtesy David Zimmerly

Pete Catches, Courtesy David Zimmmerly

David Zimmerely was a working  anthropologist for over thirty years, associated in that time with various Canadian museums.  During his tenure he did some important work, surveying close to thirty kayaks and building ten and writing about them. There's a two part series on building an Aluet Badairka which appeared in The Small Boat Journal in 1983 and has wonderful drawings. There's also a piece on building an East Arctic Kayak for Sea Kayaker available on his website, and a reconstruction of another East Arctic Kayak, a 55 page manuscript, available for $10.00. He's also written two books on the history and construction of Aluet and Siberian kayaks and a book on Hooper Bay kayak.  His website, Arctic Kayaks is full of useful and interesting data, including an extensive piece on Ammaslimuit kayak (East Greenland) evolution from1889 to 1966 byRobert Gessain(1968) and I have especially found invaluable his annotated bibliography of kayaks. But there's lots more of interest for the traditional kayak enthusiast.
David has retired and is living a rich and interesting life pursuing other interests, including weaving in native north American techniques and photography, all found on another website.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lots of good stuff lately

courtesy Webb Chiles

courtesy Webb Chiles

courtesy Webb Chiles

courtesy Blogfish

courtesy DoryMan

  • Some of the blogs I watch have been active over the weekend with some interesting posts. For instance, Blogfish on Chesapeake Bay oysters, Drifting Son with a video of  the late Terrence McKenna, and my favorite, DoryMan's post on Bill Clements build of a George Holmes inspired canoe yawl design Nord Vingen. Also not to be missed is Gary Dierkings short history lesson on Polynesian adoption of the sprit rig upon European contact at OutriggerSailing Canoes. Check them all.
Oh , I almost forgot, Webb Chiles has surfaced in the Virgins, with access to media, and now he's written about his  passage from south Africa to the Virgin Islands via Antigua (my favorite Carribean Island). Don't miss this.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Outriggers and Proa, part .01: Wipke's Bigiw Bangkaa

Wipke's Bigiw




Ronelo's father and his son

over the corals

Edgar splitting bamboo for the battens

Wipke laying out the sail



the local kids having a go

all photographs courtesy Wipke Iwersen

Wipke Iwersen, artist/philosopher/inventor and driving force behind the fabulous Windvinder, sent me some photos of her Philippine double outrigger canoe. The builder is Ronelo Banggat from Tagpopongan, Philippines. Ronelo and his father build these 'composite' boats, with help from Ronelo's young sons. I say composite because the lower part of the hull is a dugout and the rest is ply. These boats were traditonaly built in the same way but with woven, tarred bamboo in place of the more recent plywood. The dugout bit and the frames are fashioned from local wood the outriggers of bamboo and the only tools used are hand tools fashioned by local blacksmiths. The three generations of the Banggat family are able to produce 4 to 5 of these boats per month, from felled tree to three coats of epoxy paint. The family has been building these boats, in the same design, for hundreds of years. They range from 17' to 22' and weigh only about 15 kilos or 33 lbs. These are workboats, used for fishing and transportation and typically paddled from one side only, without going in circles. Some fishermen have made sails from rice sacks as other cloth is unavailable on their island, except gor what Wipke used for her sail. Wipke modified her boat by adding a wingsail after the design of baidarka builder/designer/historian George Dyson, who apparently adapted this design from the batwing design of sails for turn of the century sailing canoes. Wipke fashioned her sail from split bamboo and something she calls 'plastic foil' which looks like what I call polytarp. In any event this a great looking sail and it looks like the kids are having a blast!

If you want one these boats  they go for about 66 euro. or about $90. Without sails. And that doesn't include delivery to White Plains.