Okay, so I can’t stop myself. I’m finishing up the frame on another baidarka.
I’ve started describing these boats as the surf skis of the native peoples. The baidarka is the kayak of Alaska. The natives took them out into the often punishing Bering Sea. They’re tough, fast and capacious boats with an eccentric appearance. This is the fourth one I’ve built, which is to say that I’m still developing opinions.
The originals were designed to flex in the swells of the arctic seas. There being less need to flex in the swells of Lake Calhoun, I’ve foregone some of the traditional looseness in this iteration. I’ve added foot pegs so other people can be comfortable paddling it. I’ve also dropped the rear deck, so it’s not such a job to squeeze in. But other than those (not insignificant) things, it’s more or less the real deal.
These are fussy boats to build, what with about 40 ribs, eight stringers and a keel, all of it lashed together with wax-coated polyester line. I’m not complaining, since the hours in my workshop pass in a peaceful empty-headedness. Take my word on this: it’s a type of meditation.
Not everyone in the household buys this. My wife takes a look around my shop and thinks its a type of self-poisoning. She’s probably right. There’s mold for sure, sawdust, limestone dust from the crumbling walls, probably carbon monoxide from the furnace, water heater and dryer, and other stuff I’m trying not to think about.
But it’s peaceful. And the kayak, I’m thinking now, will be a dream.