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What Makes A Boat A ..........?

beekeeper

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2009
1,402
13
#1
Seems to be three classes of boats discussed/paddled/built by members on this forum. What makes a boat a canoe, a kayak, or a pirogue?
They are so related there are many overlapping features. I think it will be interesting to share our perceptions. My simple definitions and characteristics first. I may want to add or take away as we progress. " Usually" could probably be added to all these statements.

Canoe = rounded bottom and sides. Multi panels if hard chine.
Kayak = small skinny canoe capable of using a spray skirt.
Pirogue = Flat bottom hard chine with straight sides.

I know all these thoughts can be picked apart. I am not making any claims they are correct nor trying to start any arguments. Pleas add you thoughts and we will continue to muddy the water together.
 
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Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
12,902
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80
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
#3
Kayaks were developed to be a deep sea hunting boat. That's why the spray skirt, and. That's why the coaming around the perimeter of the cockpit. Traditionally, kayaks have a one-person cockpit, and canoes were an open craft. Hunting seals etc. at sea would benefit from speed, so kayaks weren't wide beamed. And, again traditionally, kayakers sat very near to the bottom of their boats.

Aleutes developed kayaks in the western end of the continent, Alaskan area. Inuits also developed the kayak 3,000 miles away in the Greenland area. Only basic difference in the two, styles of kayak are in cross-sectional configuration. Aleutes had a semi-rounded bottom, and Inuits had a hard chined bottom.

There is actually more difference between the Aleute kayaks used at sea, and Aleute kayaks used on inland rivers, than there is between the sea kayaks of Aleute vs sea kayak of Inuits. This testifies as to how the boats are fine tuned to their mission.

Similarly, canoes were designed from a one man craft, up to large war canoes. But cross-sectional hull design didn't seem to vary much, only length.
 

beekeeper

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2009
1,402
13
#4
What aspects of seal hunting requires the boat to be fast? Just curios?
Most game hunted from boats down here require stealth/slow approach.
 

Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
12,902
55
80
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
#5
Well, while I 've never hunted seals, i just guessed that they're faster than a chinquapin. After successfully getting a harpoon into a seal/walrus/big fish/etc., the boat would then probably gets towed for a Nantucket slay ride. Guys I've talked with who had hooked large fish at sea, told me they get towed for mile or three. In that situation, your boat had better be streamlined.

That's the best that I can do on short notice.
 

beekeeper

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2009
1,402
13
#6
Never thought about the being towed around aspects. That's probably another reason the spray skirt.
My guess for the narrow beam was the need to cover long distances. More efficient for straight ahead paddling, and long trips.
First canoes and first pirogues were dug outs. Probably never was a dugout kayak?
If SOF (skin on frame) was the first build method for kayaks, Where on the time line of canoe development does it fall?
I'm assuming framed with covering (birch bark and later canvas) canoes came next after dugouts.
It may be possible what materials were available to the builder determined which one was built first. Could of had SOF kayaks, birch bark canoes and dugouts at the same time.
 

Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
12,902
55
80
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
#7
It's my understanding that the avsilable materials had strong effects on construction and design. Skins were available, and both sticks and animal bones (whale, walrus, seal, bear, etc.) were available. The Inuit had hardly any wood to speak of. So their paddles are long and narrow, rather than spoon shaped. I would also imagine that there were splices of short pieces into longer pieces in both paddles and boat frames.

In the skin on stick frame, most of the strength is in the gunwhales. Those two framing members have to be stout. Ribs, not so much. I used to paddle with a guy who made his first kayayk with two, lomg 2X4s as gunnels, and willow branches as ribs.

Yes, a long aspect ratio helps for both traveling and being towed. I have to admit to never having landed a fish that could tow a boat. Except, maybe, the small tuna I caught in Mexico a few years ago. But, that boat had twin Diesels, and we were towing him. Wonderful sashimi that evening.
 

NWDad

Well-Known Member
Oct 4, 2015
51
1
#8
My Dad and I use to salmon fish in the fall on Lake Ontario in a 12 row boat. I remember being towed by 36" salmon in that rig. What a fun time. I can't imagine what it would be like in a canoe or kayak.
 

oldsparkey

Well-Known Member
Aug 25, 2003
9,797
31
74
Central , Florida
www.southernpaddler.com
#9
For whats it's worth..........
A documentary I was watching a while back about the Eskimo Kayak. It mentioned they use them primarily for the stealth factor. Getting in the kayak from the ice to the ease of paddling and stealthy speed were factors. Less disturbance in the water the better the stalk for a seal. The lower silhouette of the paddler and kayak is also helpful.

If memory serves me .....A Eskimo hunter would paddle and when getting near the seal would stop paddling and let the forward momentum take him into killing distance of the seal.
 

Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
12,902
55
80
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
#10
Thinking more about it, on something big that you harpoon, a drag line attached to a float rather than the boat might be better? Less work, and safer.

I'll bet that salmon tasted good! I dooooooo love salmon. But, think of Lewis and Clark overwintering on the Pacific coast. I understand they ate smoked salmaon all winter long. The first few days would be great. But by January, even a cheap hotdog wold be welcome!
 
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NWDad

Well-Known Member
Oct 4, 2015
51
1
#11
Thinking more about it, on something big that you harpoon, a drag line attached to a float rather than the boat might be better? Less work, and safer.

I'll bet that salmon tasted good! I dooooooo love salmon. But, think of Lewis and Clark overwintering on the Pacific coast. I understand they ate smoked salmaon all winter long. The first few days would be great. But by January, even a cheap hotdog wold be welcome!
It was some of the best salmon I have ever had. We use to take a smoker with us and smoke it right at the camp site. Man I miss those days.
 

beekeeper

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2009
1,402
13
#12
It's my understanding that the avsilable materials had strong effects on construction and design. Skins were available, and both sticks and animal bones (whale, walrus, seal, bear, etc.) were available. The Inuit had hardly any wood to speak of. So their paddles are long and narrow, rather than spoon shaped. I would also imagine that there were splices of short pieces into longer pieces in both paddles and boat frames.

In the skin on stick frame, most of the strength is in the gunwhales. Those two framing members have to be stout. Ribs, not so much. ................
Materials also effected the shapes. All three boats were originally round/soft chinned in form. Hard to make a hard chinned boat from a log or twigs. Pirogues became hard chinned with the need to use lumber for construction, and remain so today, for the most part. Canoes and kayaks built with lumber usually have multiple panels or the wood is steamed and bent allowing them to maintain their rounded shape.