1: an Eskimo canoe made of a frame covered with skins except for a small opening in the center and propelled by a double-bladed paddle
2: a portable boat styled like an Eskimo kayak
The definition of a kayak above is pretty typical of what you’ll find in any dictionary. The “kayak” of course has it’s basis in those traditional skin boats. However since then what we come to accept as a kayak has grown to cover a whole range of closed top boats. The picture above is of Pete Bray’s North Atlantic Cruiser. I was really bumming when I saw it. I felt like there needs to be a kayak museum somewhere and this boat needs to be there. I was told though that this was his “practice” or “test” boat. I don’t know if that’s true. Regardless it was sad to see it sitting there rotting away.
What has me thinking about kayaks and the definition of what a kayak is, is from a current post on PNET. Yeah, there is a reason I don’t look at the message boards there much anymore. Between the belittling of each other, other kayakers and the rest, it’s just not an enjoyable read much of the time. In typical Pnet style, a discussion about the “Crossing the Ditch” adventure going on now, quickly turned into a debate over what makes a kayak a “Kayak”. Implying of course that these larger ocean crossing vessels are not so much kayaks as they are recreational vehicles. (You can see above the inside of Pete Bray’s “RV”.)
Lot 41 – Crossing The Ditch
When Pete first considered his crossing, it was important to him to build a boat that was up to the incredible challenge. He wanted it to be able to carry 100 days worth of supplies, be self-righting, have a place to sleep, yet still look like a kayak. His kayak was big at around 27 feet long, but few could argue it looked pretty much like an over-sized sea kayak. (see a comparative photo here). In the end no one questioned that he made the crossing in a “Kayak”.
Rob Feloy, who designed Pete Bray’s boat, was also the man behind the “Lot 41″ used for “Crossing The Ditch”. Again, they wanted it to be self-righting with a sleeping area and of course room for supplies. Obviously their’s is a two man boat and it’s much bigger. Still, it’s a kayak if it’s anything.
Going back to look at other major crossings we can find more standard kayaks doing the job of course. Franz Romer (Portugal to Puerto Rico, 1928) & Hannes Lindermann (Atlantic Crossing, 1956) Both used modified Keppler folding kayaks. Ed Gillet made his 1987 crossing from California to Hawaii in a stock Tofino double. He used pontoons to keep the boat righted while he slept under a tarp. Yeah, he had a cockpit cover type thing, but was not too fond of it. Of course he said next time he did a major crossing he’d raise the deck. We are familiar too with Andrew McAuley’s attempt with a modified Mirage. Andrew was conscious of wanting his kayak to be as close to standard as possible. Still his boat was modified as well considering the size of the task ahead, storage, sleeping arrangements, etc.
One of the guys on Pnet (obviously Miami Dolphins fan) suggested an asterisk on Crossing the Ditch boat. Of course we should note they are only 3 days out so at least he shows confidence they will make it. I can’t imagine who wants to decide what is and what is not a kayak or be responsible for the asterisk. In racing you have stock and modified classes. Something to think about i suppose. Well, something to think about when you have nothing more pressing to think about. . . like clipping your toe nails.