Saturday, May 25, 2013

Fog and Steam: Bending Kayak Ribs, Learning to paddle an Inuit Kayak

Paddling on Lake Eikeren

Warm summer rains have been mixing the frigid Norwegian waters making for some extremely interesting fog  throughout Lake Eikeren, just steps from our workshop in Vestfossen. I've been paddling these kayaks and learning to move with them as one body as I simultaneously learn what it is that makes a traditional kayak so special in design. The ribs, which hold the form throughout the kayak between keel and stringers is one of those designs that make it a lot like a living body.

Sighting for the perfect lines
The lines of a kayak are a "unbroken curve" as Anders said. Each kayak has its own curves depending on a paddler`s features and wants. Sighting each rib is an important part of the process, which I learned with Anders, steaming ribs for an 1840`s racing baidarka replica (from the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska), and a new Greenlandic Kayak.

Bending the rib
Steam from a tea kettle into a box or tube will moisten the fibers of the wood and make it pliable, which gives is the ability to bend the ribs into the perfect shape for the kayak`s body. This is done mostly by sight and experience. As I learned and broke many ribs before I had one right, it became evident how good Anders is at this process, doing it with the easy of a natural motion. The Inuit often used their teeth to bend ribs.

Placing the rib into the friend
A few quick swipes of a knife and the rib is cut to fit small groves we have put into the gunwales. Rib by rib the kayak is made into a skeleton.

Using a knife to shape the rib`s end for fitting into the kayak frame.

One day I was paddling and I saw a rainbow coming straight at me with what looked like a giant wave. As It got closer I realized it was a rainstorm coming over the hills. I was completely immersed in the rainstorm as it met the foggy water and was greeted by beautiful clouds and sun afterwards. I

The sky clearing over the front of my baidarka


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  2. Its really helpful post. And you are the experienced person about Paddle kayak.