This is my replica of the Mid-Seventeenth Century West Greenland De Rijp Kayak in the Rijper Museum in Holland –drawn by Harvey Golden, and photographed and described by Gert Nooter in Old kayaks in the Netherlands (E.J. Brill, Leiden 1971 pp. 35-39).


More accurately, this is my replica of the earlier replica built by Harvey for Dan Segal —a boat which, after hard use and re-skinning, had, I noticed, somewhat changed its shape, sliding from a 13 degree gunwale angle to one of about 8 degrees now, and from an original width of 16 ¾ inches to 16 ½ inches while losing some sheer in the process.


Dan's worn and aging beauty is the boat I in the end and almost in spite of myself decided to replicate. To my surprise, its recent organic changes came to interest me more than the clean shape on Harvey's page.  Interested me because traditional skin-on-frame kayaks do age —starting, I think, very soon after they are built. And because such change under normal use and repeated re-skinning can sometimes create a significantly different boat. —But how, I wondered, could that change best be thought of? Do boats slowly and constantly re-organize themselves under the strain of use? Do they gradually fall apart as weak parts fail? —Dan's living, slightly sagging beast, the kayak I had actually paddled, treasured, trusted and measured came to represent for me the possibility of a natural entropic devolution toward greater and greater simplicity. And that idea of self-making amazed me.  —That was the kind of boat I thought I deserved.


Dan's boat is the one on the left, above —well worn, elegant and a little rough. It’s the boats second skin, and a third is soon to follow. (See Harvey's web-site for pictures of its first.)


The original De Rijp Kayak is a long and very narrow almost totally un-adorned kayak hanging in a museum.  She is thought to have been brought to De Rijp in Holland on a whaling ship in 1675 by a man named Boon. Her shape, says Nooter, "has been reasonably well preserved".

She seems to be a seventeenth century west Greenland hunting machine. Probably made and worked in the vicinity of Nuuk.  She is built in the very oldest Greenlandic full-length-gunwale, no-bow-or-stern-extension-piece style.  She has not much sheer, good rocker, very fine ends, an extremely shallow stern and a much deeper bow. She is clean-decked. There is only one piece of hardware on her —a single movable harpoon holder mounted on the first of  four deck straps immediately forward of the cockpit. There are two straps just aft of her coaming, and a single strap about 3 feet from her bow. She has no end-knobs or rub strips. She has probably been changing for 350 years.




Both Dan's boat and mine are the same 18 feet 9 inches long, 6 ¼ inches depth-to-sheer and 7 1/8 inch depth-overall as that original kayak. But ours are only 16 ½ inches wide, slightly more slab-sided, have less sheer and a slightly flatter bottom. Mine, finished, weighs 27 pounds.












I did a head-to-head replication of Dan's replica.


It was a more difficult process for me than building to a drawing had ever been. A less straight-forward process too. And a more ambiguous one.  —A less integral one, I mean. A less structural one. Less the building of a whole and integrated boat and more the taking of a likeness. There were too many measurements of too many un-connected details,  each demanding immediate and undivided attention. The boats became less and less whole objects and more and more compendiums of separate parts. —Building became a kind of surgery. Not the immediate making which usually fills my day.



Each of us builds differently. Each of us needs to, I think. Some build for ease and efficiency, some for craft, beauty or accuracy. I build for a kind of 'thingness' —for the same wholeness, charged presence and emotional gravity that I find in a rock or a ritual. I build for a kind of deep, man-made adequacy. Samuel Beckett says that "the role of objects is to restore silence". —That is adequacy I mean and the 'making' I try to do.



I built this boat to pry another living  replica out of the first one; made it to acknowledge the entropic process all traditional work boats embody. —Point-to-point comparisons only confuse me —accuracy is necessarily temporary, and it blinds me to the impermanence of the boat I am trying to find. There were two  boats present from the very beginning of my process, three probably; three single-things slowly growing apart, though still somehow the same. I needed all three to be there —complete, and changing, yet part-less from the start.





Opaque from start to finish.




Crude from beginning to end.





















                                 From end to end.