Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Karsten Petersen, Danish Seaman

Karsten at the wheel of the Nordboen

Schooner Nordboen

Deck of the Nordboen

Fishing schooner Styrvolt of Vejle

Coaster Birka

heading into a huge wall of water, the Storm

Greenlandic boy ina modern umiak




Macau boat people

wreck of the Captain Leonidas, Cotopaxi Bank, Straits of  Magellan

Karsten Petersen spent 37 years at sea, serving on a variety of ships, Danish merchant ships and ships flying other flags, and in the Royal Danish Navy and has sailed older tall ships in great variety. His website is a smorgasbord, a huge feast of maritime delight. In those 37 years Karsten visited ports all over the world, as well as more remote areas. Always taking photographs, always keenly interested in the cultures he encountered. Of particular interest to me was an immense cache of photos of Junks, and the people whose lives and work is so intimately bound to these boats. And apparently this is only the tip of the iceberg, Karsten has many more photos archived in his collection. What I've represented here is a smattering, a somewhat random batch of shots that interested me. 
Karsten is adamant about his copyright. He allowed me to use this material on the understanding that it's a non-commercial use, and he's been burnt before so please, respect his rights and if you'd like to use anything, get permission! You can spend hours on this website, be forewarned. It's astounding.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Kayak 2.0 Historian/Builders: John Brand

Harvey Golden and JohnBrand on the occasion of Harvey's visit in 1998, photo Stella Brand.

John, early 80's, courtesy the Brand family.

All four Little Kayak Books, courtesy the Brand family.

John paddling what he called a semi-replica, early 1980's.  Looks a lot like an Aluet Badairka.  Courtesy the Brand family.

John's drawings of  The 1613 Kayak, southwest Greenland,  Trinity House, Hull, Humberside, England. Taken from John's chapter in Eastern Arctic Kayaks, this drawing also appeared in the first Little Kayak Book.

Current Issue of The Masik containing an interview with the Brand family.

John Brand was a pioneer in the modern approach to kayak history in which enthusiasts turn historian, survey kayaks in museum collections around the world, build replicas and learn the paddling skills and techniques associated with the artifact in question. This method is a deep practice of historic preservation, which goes beyond the original object and endeavors to preserve the idea, technology and the surrounding culture radiating beyond dusty, crumbling museum pieces.  
John came to traditional kayaks through a natural evolution. Born in Essex in 1931 into a long line of builders, John would make his life in design and architecture. His first boat was a family sized wood and canvas canoe John built from plans by Percy Blandford. He was an avid reader of canoeing magazines and it is here he first discovered the Eskimo craft. In the early sixties John read an article by John Heath which may have been a pivotal moment. He soon began correspondence with John Heath and they developed a lasting friendship. John also began correspondence with other emerging kayak experts, David Zimmerly, Eugene Arima, Wolfgang Brinck, H C Petersen and Hugh Collins, and in later years Harvey Golden. He met Charles Ranshaw who had paddled the Channel in 1947 and they  began working in museums around the UK, taking off lines of museum kayaks. His hobby had become a passion, and John realised he had enormous respect for the efficiency and seaworthiness of these craft and the Inuit culture which had produced them. John began to build kayaks as well, often inside the house and even in the living room. For two decades John amassed material from his surveys, and began in the 80's to try to assemble it into some sort of order. His organizational efforts resulted in the first of a unique series of books called the Little Kayak Book. The book was designed around the long narrow dimensions of a kayak, and is filled with John's inimitable drawings. Long out of print, the Brand family has recently been able to offer the four books in the series in a reprinted edition.
Most of my information has been condensed from a longer interview with John's survivors, wife Stella, daughter Carna and son Russell. The interview, by Tom Milani, editor of The Masik, can be found in the October 2008 issue of that online newsletter at the QajaqUSA website. It has much more information and the voices of John's family.
My association with John was brief but I have never forgotten it. I ordered a copy of the Little Kayak Book in the mid eighties and was delighted not only with the book but also with a warm, personal letter from John which accompanied the book. Regrettably, both are lost. I would like to thank Carna and Tom Milani for their help in assembling this article. And thanks to Harvey Golden for helping the Brands decide to reprint.

postscript: I've added a photo from Harvey Golden of himself and John during a visit to Essex in 1998. Between museum appoinments the two mountain biked and Harvey reports that John was an extremely hardy cyclist, often leaving him "in the dust". Wow.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jolie Brise: Adventure Available


A couple of days ago I was trying to fix a blog listing here because the RSS wasn't active. In the process I lost my entire blogroll, and while rebuilding it I came across some new sources. One I found is The Tall Ships Blog. Their latest post was of interest. The famed Jolie Brise, a pilot cutter built in Le Havre in 1913, winner of the inaugural 1925 Fastnet, many other races, and currently doing duty as a sail training vessel for the Dauntsey School Sailing Club, has a couple of berths open for this summers Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge. Two legs are open, a couple of berths from Vigo, Spain to Tenerife in the Canaries are open to anyone over the age of 16, and the leg across the Atlantic from Tenerife to Bermuda has a single berth open to a trainee aged 16 to 25. Could be the adventure of a lifetime, a formative experience, or the start of a career. Go sail some history!
 While I'm not generally a huge fan of tall ships, the pilot cutters have always spoken to me. They seem to bridge the gap between tall ships and small craft. If you feel the same way, take a look here and here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hove to off Swan Point

All photos courtesy Russ Manheimer

There are lots of nice blogs by boatowners with nice boats out there. This one caught my eye, like the glint of a precious stone.  Nothing extravagant, or even adventurous, just an elegant little workboat/yacht in Barnegat Bay, NJ. Russ Manheimer and Sjogin like to stay in the water almost year round and sail out into the bay, heave to and enjoy the day. Sjogin lives at Beaton's Boatbuilders, a third generation boatyard in Brick, New Jersey known for their Barnegat Bay A Cats.
Sjogin is a 22' Swedish Koster fishing workboat design. She was built in 1961 in southern New Jersey. Double ended, lapstrake hull, shallow keel. And a lovely little woodstove, the Navigator
Sardine. No engine, never had one, Russ uses a sweep when necessary.
An interesting connection arose between Russ and I during the course of our communication. My friend Jasper, who owns Josie (see earlier posts) had for years a cottage in Bay Head and was fortunate enough to crew on Ghost, one of the Beaton built A Cats. Turns out Russ had taken a sabbatical to help Tom Beaton and Paul Smith build Ghost, and campaigned another of these impressive boats, Waspwith Tom for five years.
I suspect you'll hear more about Sjogin and Russ, Tom and Beaton's in the future. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, enjoy Russ's weblog, Hove to off Swan's Point.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Around in a 19 footer: Aron Meder & Carina

Here's Aron captured in theTuamoutas by Liz Clark, no date.  Liz is a surfer and sailor travelling around the world in seach of the best breaks.

foto Szabo Geza (Rotorman), courtesy Aron Medon

Aron Meder, a young Hungarian, and his Swiss built 6 meter sloop Carina are sailing around the world.Mr. Creed O'Hanlon sent me this photo and I was intrigued, and followed up. Turned up an interesting website. Pretty simple and straightforward compared to some other's doing the same journey. This photo is , according to Creed, mid Atlantic, but as best I can make out, Aron is now sailing from the Maldives towards Oman. Aron has a Google Earth tracker in place. Catch up with a real adventurer. 

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Jette Bang 1914-1964

Knud Rasmussen house, Thule

Knud Rasmussen memorial stone, Thule

All photographs Jette Bang, 1936,  Courtesy Danish Arctik Instute

Jette  Bang was a Danish photographer who went out to Greeenland soon after being educated at Jonals Co. in Copenhagen. All these images were taken in 1936, in the Thule region, and believe me they are only a sampling. The archive of her work at the Danish Arctic Institute's photo arhcive  has about 12,000 images. From 1936 alone.  Jette was born in1914 and died in 1964. Her photographs are a testament to her humanity and insight. You'll find a biography of Jette and a picture of her from 1939 eating freshly killed "icebear" by clicking on the title bar or here. Liese Johnsen is a Danish eskimologist and has been instrumental in having this vast archive digitally scanned and returned to Greenland. I, for one, am deeply grateful for this work.