Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Old kayak displays current thinking
Little in sea kayaking is new. A few years back in the Shetland Islands, chasing old kayaks, I was led to this one, almost certainly from before the Second World War. Although painted in sombre green, a suitable war-time camouflage color, the underlying paint is bright yellow. Of course that might be just undercoat...
Interesting to me were the two bulkheads, sealing off the two ends. Bulkheads in sea kayaks are often said to be a more recent idea. The front bulkhead, positioned quite close to the cockpit, would have been ideal for someone of my leg length to use as a foot-brace (there was no other foot-brace fitted). The rear bulkhead was fitted immediately at the back of the cockpit, so in a rescue situation all water could be spilled out of the upturned kayak simply by raising the bow. Each compartment was sealed by a deck hatch.
The curator didn't know much about the origin of this kayak except that it was one of a number used to train Norwegian resistance fighters in the Shetland Islands in how to travel inconspicuously around the fjords during the Second World War. These visitors were then secretly returned with kayaks to Norway. Maybe something more is known about their activities in Norway? During wartime a number of similar kayaks were built on Shetland, but this is the only one known to remain.
The kayak was also fitted ready for a mast and rudder, and all that would be necessary to sail it.
The cockpit, compared to many earlier European designs, is quite small.
A detail you can't readily see from the image is that the hull was carvel-built and then covered with canvas. The deck on the other hand was canvas over a wood frame
Can anybody tell me more?