The early arctic explorers were amazed to see the light and seaworthy boats that the Inuit and Aleut Indians paddled into the ocean. These crafts were kayaks, and are traditionally made by Arctic peoples from Greenland to Siberia. They are made of a wooden framework covered by a skin. Traditionally, the skin was animal hide, but kayaks with a frame and skin are now made with a skin of fabric, dacron, neoprene, or some other modern equivalent of hide. Modern boatbuilders still build these craft, and the wood and skin versions are reputed to perform better than wood strips kayaks, because they bend with the waves.
Kayaks were typically made in treeless areas, so the wood for these craft were scrounged from driftwood on the beach. Kayaks typically have a sturdy gunwale, which is the top edge of the craft, and no keel, unlike boats of European design. Made entirely without metal, the wooden pieces were connected to each other by wooden or bone pegs, mortise and tenon joints, and by rawhide or sinew cord.
The view at left is of the interior of a traditional kayak, showing the wooden frame and how it is interconnected. A hide covering is stretched over the frame, and the top deck has a peak to shed water. Some traditional kayaks have a floor, made by wooden slats that the paddler sits on.
Modern kayaks take the traditional kayak shape, and apply modern materials to the design, such as composite materials instead of wood structural pieces, metal for the frame, and wood with fiberglass for a skin. The photos below are of an ocean going tandem built by my good friend, Marc Dilley of Wenatchee Washington. It has a carbon fiber rudder, steerable by foot pedals, and wonderful patterns formed by different colored strips of wood.
This took Marc about a year to build, spending 5 hours a week, and has given him and his wife Margareta many hours of peaceful paddling. It was built from a design by One Ocean Kayaks, and is the Cape Ann Double model. It weighs about 70 pounds, and in addition to Marc and Margareta, will hold about 200 pounds of gear. This boat is made using the same technique as wood strip canoes, in which thin strips of wood are attached to forms on a strongback, and glued side to side. The interior forms are then removed, and the inside and outside are coated with fiberglass and resin, which add to the strength. Although built from plans, building this boat required Marc to do an incredible amount of design and fabrication of the component parts. Nice job, Marc!