Friday, June 8, 2012

From the Archives - The Pre-Black Pearl?

I was sorting through some old photos a few days back when I found these images. I figured they'd be the good basis for a retrospective blog entry. Very timely given the recent launch of my new boat, the Black Pearl.. 

Let the memories (or lack thereof) begin . . . 

Back in the mid 1980's, I happened upon a National Geographic article (sorry I looked but can't find the reference) that had a photo of a traditional Greenland  kayak being constructed. It was simply a picture of the frame lying on the barren rocks.  I would've been in my late teens by this time but I still had the kayak bug from several years prior. See this blog entry for a better explanation

I decided that I was going to build a "traditional" Greenland kayak based on that picture. Having no access to Internet or even books on the subject, I set out on the rather bizarre project.  Actual memories of the construct are very vague at best. It was built outside in the garden. I first drove two posts in the ground at a distance equal to the length of the keel.. Then I drove in a third in the middle slightly lower than the other two. The keel was laid across the two ends posts and then bent down and fastened to the center one to give the boat its rocker. How much, I cannot say!!

I had no plans or drawings so I cannot honestly say how I came up with the hull shape. At the time I did not realize that the ribs were steam bent, so I went with a method, that I now know, is somewhat akin to the one used in the Arctic regions - including Labrador. My ribs  were not one  full piece of wood bent and running sheer to sheer. In my case  it took three pieces of wood to make the "ribs" -  one piece that ran from sheer to chine. Then another that ran from chine to chine across the keel. And a third piece that ran from chine to sheer on the other side. Hard to explain but sorry, not one picture of this build!!  All fastening was done by wooden pegs and wood glue - not even waterproof glue, at that!!

And that is about all I can remember about framing this boat.  The boat was framed up for a while and actually languished out in the backyard for quite some time - perhaps two years??  After this lengthy hiatus I deiced to finally finish the thing - after having spent so much time on it prior!!

The original plan was to cover it in canvas but for some reason that idea was nixed (probably because the  fastening job was beginning to fail due to exposure to rain and snow) and I decided to sheath it up with Masonite - don't ask!!!  I cut the panels, tacked them to the wooden frame and using fiberglass mesh tape  (the kind used in drywall!!!) and fiberglass body filler, I sealed up the seams!! A coat of black pain and we were good to go!!

I feel almost embarrassed in describing this build but it is what it is  - and that is an attempt at building a boat purely based on a single photograph. There were no Internet forums with their almost instantaneous advice, no plethora of online images of how a traditional kayak was built or even what one looked like. I didn't check but I highly doubt the public library had any books on the subject. So that leaves you entirely up to your own "devices"

And what of the boat, itself??  Once I had it painted, my then girlfriend and now wife of 21 years, took it to the pond. That voyage proved to be both its maiden and final all in one!!  Somehow or other, a camera made it to the event and the four images below are all that were even taken of this craft. 

Having proved the craft did, indeed, float and could be paddled, we put it back on the car, drove back to the cabin and promptly deposited it behind the woodshed - where it stayed, rotting,  for a number of years until I chopped it up with a saw. 

True story!!

Young,  foolish and quite dashing, I might add!!

Well, it moves at least!!

The only profile image of this boat. Doesn't look too bad!

Cheryl never left the shore - and I don't blame her!!


  1. Awesome stuff!

    I would imagine the National geographic was:

    Thanks for sharing...kayak doesnt look bad at all!

  2. YES - that's the one. I'm pretty sure I still have it at home!!! Thanks muchly!!!

  3. N/P A great present I got every year for Christmas. Really enjoyed the mag growing up.

  4. Great entry, Sean. I guess you were destined to build kayaks from an early age...

  5. If you can believe it, when I was around 14 or so I typed (yes, I said "typed") up detailed instructions, with diagrams, on how to build a kayak. I keep looking for them at my Mom's house but I can't seem to find them. Maybe someday they'll show up.

  6. Cool! Nice blog, interesting stuff. :)