Monday, December 30, 2013

Kayak: The Aleut Paddle (reference to a skinboat blog post by Wolfgang Brinck) IQYAX

None of what follows is meant to provoke an argument with anybody. 

When I learn how to do anything (I'm old and I can do many different skills)--I make every possible mistake, usually come up with new ones.
• When I was little my mother told me I used to jump up and run out of the room, and miss the hallway and run right into the wall.
• I just told a friend who backpacks that I only just found out that most of the weight is carried on the belt. I used to remove the belt. On none of the backpacks I have would the belts (re-installed) fit properly on my waist. Totally clueless about one of the basics. We both laughed (at me) for five minutes.
I wonder now if making every possible mistake actually facilitated learning all my skills (I'm currently working as a teacher, I'm still a professional photographer--specializing in photographing works of art (very technical, very low pay), I've been a carpenter, electrician, plumber, activist, consultant. I've done a lot of things. OK resume over.)

Just how did they paddle at 10 knots? I'm passed the discussion that maybe they were fast, but not that fast.... George Dyson made a strong case in 1991, so I'm proceeding on the premise that the Aleuts did indeed paddle their iqyaxs over significant distances at 10 knots. Over 2000 meters (1.25 miles 1.1 nautical miles (Nmiles) is slightly slower than Olympic speeds which I think top out at 12 knots. but these guys apparently could do this for several miles.

The Aleut Question is how did they do this? broken down into 'questions' would be How exactly did their gear work? What was their technique? and Is the extent gear (iqyaxs, paddles etc) really representative of the 10 knot gear?
Until someone paddles a baidarka 10 knots for a significant distance, and can do this repeatably, we really don't understand.

 My goal is to figure out how the Aleuts made 10 knots. I think I've got some very solid ideas. My plan is to give myself a year to build at least one baidarka (properly called Iqyax--or so I'm advocating). I've given myself a year (which in boat building is actually an infinite amount of time...)  By the end of 2014 I will have either
•Proved my ideas, developed them into something at least interesting;
• Disproved my ideas and shared what I've learned here, or
• Failing to do as much as I hope--share the whole list, my hypothesis, conjectures, designs, here on this blog.

I've been reading about Aleut paddles, and Greenland Paddles 
So my first step:
I just made an 'Aleut' paddle, 96" long, completely flat face, ridge at the opposite side. It was almost impossible to use, fluttering too much. Used backwards--no problem.
(No loss I can make these paddles in a few hours and enjoy it).
I'll round the power face edge and laminate a slight double-concave center ridge (exactly what you think this means) on the face.
A flat paddle face is a mess, but my Euro paddles are concave--which should be worse. They do have  a slight center ridge. So I'm thinking that balancing a paddle face is a subtle but not very difficult art. What I could do is use clay to make a center ridge--so I could easily move it around. I could then make an asymmetrical paddle face (to exacerbate the problems) and move the ridge around to balance it.

There are two basic issues with the topic of discussing paddles.
1. Descriptions. language is limited. I think I know what's going on, but I've been reading this stuff for years. A good diagram with terms would be helpful.Break down the problem, quantify it. (Above is an example of this exact problem. I should have a picture and drawing of my paddle.)
2. I don't think we've even begun to understand what the Aleuts achieved. Always in kayak discussions, skinboats less so than the others, there are too many 'experts', too much conventional (limited) thinking, too much noise and not enough knowledge and experience.
I think it would be safe to say (admit) that we really haven't even begun to understand what the Aleuts accomplished as long as people are making baidarkas and paddling them slower than 'plastic' boats (epoxy, like my strip-builts, or the mold made epoxy/glass 'yaks).

We can't know about the tools (paddles, iqyax, etc) until we can use them. Until yesterday I hadn't been in the ocean in 4 months-I wasn't as strong or as skillful as I am when I've been paddling regularly. I think any discovery of what the Aleuts really did will require a lot of deliberate practice (E.Anders Ericsson) and a high skill level.
Take the issue of 'which is the power face?'  It's easier to paddle with the ridged side as the paddle face. Wolfgang Brinck has clear photographic evidence that the Aleuts paddled ridge forward.
So what's easier to us the first time or 100th time we try a paddle has limited value compared to Aleuts who were doing 10 knots actually did.

I tried to help someone make a GP paddle. He'd never done any woodworking--so he was struggling.  I use a wood plane like most of us use a pencil.
The Aleuts compared to most of us (but not all perhaps) is probably just like this; probably more so.
I've got some ideas that I've given a lot of thought to, and I have some pretty good basic paddling skills; but what I've often noticed is how much of the discussions I've seen seem confused at best. Take as an example the common comment about GP paddles being better for the shoulders. Shoulders shouldn't really be an issue with a good stroke technique. (Jen Keck of Aqua Adventures taught me to practice 'Frankenstein paddling' --arms straight out--it forces you to rotate your torso. (Granted there are a lot of shoulder problems that aren't solved by stroke technique, and too when I'm in shape and paddling a lot, I use my shoulders at the end of my rotation.)
I've seen instructors, people who are actually paid salaries to teach kayaking, paddling shoulders only. What about the This is the Sea DVD's are most of the 'stars' really mostly using their shoulders? Maybe I'm just misunderstanding what I see. In This is the Sea number 5, a paddler hurt his wrist and yet was still trying to use a feathered paddle. (You could duct tape a paddle to your wrist, or put a hook on a plaster cast and still paddle--but you couldn't paddle feathered.)
This shoulder and feathered paddle stuff strikes me as a litmus test for blindly accepting conventional wisdom. (But here too, maybe I'm missing something. My friend who had trouble with the block plane, told me there are feathered Greenland paddles in the archeological collection.)

OK, I'm drifting into a rant here. I'm not too worried--as I don't think anybody is reading any of this stuff. If I pick up a few readers I'll edit more and watch what I say. (I'd rather paddle at 10 knots than argue about feathered paddles. Uh, I'd rather paddle at 4 knots than argue about anything.)
I'll try to add some photos of my 'funny' Aleut paddle before I tweak it.
I should also try to find or make a definitive drawing of paddle parts so we have a clear set of terms.
Will Nettles
always WillN2 (go)

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