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Greenland Kayaks and Kayak Building

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Instruction in Kayak Building by H.C. Petersen

Excellent guide to building a Greenlandic Kayak with text in Greenlandic/Danish/English. Available online from the Qajaq USA store (currently out of print). This book is often available from Atuagkat. Some non-Greenlanders prefer a cockpit location further aft than described by Petersen. An excellent companion to this book is Chris Cunningham's two articles on"Building a Greenland Kayak", Sea Kayaker, Winter 1992, Spring 1993. Reprints are available from Sea Kayaker Magazine.

Skinboats of Greenland by H.C. Petersen

Although the kayak building information is limited, this beautiful book contains a wealth of information on the kayak gear and fittings, including weapons and also has a section about the umiak. Useful if you wish to make your own throwing stick, tuilik and other gear. Available online from the Qajaq USA store (free shipping within the USA). Also available from Atuagkat or Nunatta Katersugaasivia Allagaateqarfialu (Greenland National Museum and Archives) at grnatmus@greennet.gl.

Kayaks of Greenland — The History and Development of the Greenlandic Hunting Kayak, 1600-2000 by Harvey Golden

Currently Out of print

(580pp); an in-depth look at the construction, design, variation, and evolution of the Greenlandic hunting kayak. The spectrum of kayak forms from Greenland is linked to pre-historic forms from the Bering Straits and is analyzed within a changing cultural and climatic context. 104 scale drawings of kayaks are presented, representing examples from the early 17th century through the end of the 20th century. Aside from the 104 scale drawings of kayaks, there are 407 figures consisting of historic images and technical illustration. 79 paddles are also presented in scale-drawing. Available online from the Qajaq USA store (free shipping within the USA). Also available from Amazon.

This compilation by Ben Fuller, is a companion to Harvey Golden's "Kayaks of Greenland" reference (above) and provides a handy cross-reference to the kayak illustrations in Harvey's work.

Building the Greenland Kayak: A Manual for Its Construction and Use by Chris Cunningham

Chris Cunningham builds upon his two popular articles in Sea Kayaker magazine in the creation of this book. Chris adds many of his own ideas for kayak construction including specialized jibs, milled ribs and a "hammock method" of covering the kayak/stretching the skin. Includes plans for a low-volume version designed for rolling; an especially stable version for children; and discussions of kayaking equipment, paddling, and rolling techniques. Details from Amazon.

Eastern Arctic Kayaks — History, Design, Technique by John D. Heath and E. Arima

With contributions by John Brand, Hugh Collings, Harvey Golden, H.C. Petersen, Johannes Rosing, and Greg Stamer. Although this is not a text on kayak building, it is rich in kayak surveys, history and information about Greenland and East Canadian Arctic kayaks. Heath and Arima provide a broad context of the history and cultural significance of these kayaks. The surveys by Heath, Harvey Golden, Hugh Collings and John Brand (excerpts from Brand's "Little Kayak Book" series), should be useful to many builders. Includes technique information by Heath, H.C. Petersen and Stamer (a chapter on "Using the Greenland Paddle"), and a trip narrative by Rosing. Available from the Qajaq USA Online Store.

Hooper Bay Kayak Construction by David W. Zimmerly

Morris documents building a Greenland-style skin-on-frame kayak using pegged deck construction. Also included is building information for a North Alaska Retrieval/Recovery kayak, Netsilingmeot kayak, baidarka, Pram Dinghy, Providence River Boat, Canadian Canoe, and a Upper Yukon style skin canoe. Details from Zimmerly's Site.

Making Skin on Frame Boats by Robert Morris

Currently Out of Print
Morris documents building a Greenland-style skin-on-frame kayak using pegged deck construction. Also included is building information for a North Alaska Retrieval/Recovery kayak, Netsilingmeot kayak, baidarka, Pram Dinghy, Providence River Boat, Canadian Canoe, and a Upper Yukon style skin canoe. Details from Amazon.

Building a Greenland Kayak by Mark Starr

Currently Out of print
Mark teaches a course on Building a Greenland Kayak at Mystic Seaport. This book documents his process and provides detailed instructions with illustrations, materials and tools lists as well as other pertinent information. Deck construction is mortise and tenon and forms are used to shape the ribs. Includes several kayak surveys. Call Mystic Seaport Bookstore for more information 800-331-2665. Details from Amazon.

The Aleutian Kayak by Wolfgang Brinck

Currently Out of print
Wolfgang describes building an Aleutian kayak using mostly natural materials, including a canvas skin. Deck construction is pegged. Included is a chapter on kayak dress with a pattern for a Greenland tuilik, with directions on how to adjust the fit. The appendices cover repairs, steamboxes and ribs and how to create mortised deck beams. Details from Amazon.


Kayak "Plans"

A Greenland kayak is not built per a set of plans but by a building method that strives to fit the kayak to your body dimensions. The information by (Greenlander) H.C. Petersen is closest to the methods used in Greenland. Many of the other sources provide alternative or "modernized" building solutions which are quite satisfactory in their own right. Unless you are a beginner, avoid making your skin-on-frame kayak too large. Even the Greenlanders have to really wriggle to get inside of them. Although the Greenlanders do not practice wet-exit techniques, you can add a great measure of safety to your kayaking by using adequate floatation and a sea-sock.

Team Qajaq USA

Qajaq USA is the American Chapter of Qaannat Kattuffiat - the Greenland Kayak Association. We have members world-wide. Qajaq USA is one of only three affiliated "Qajaq" clubs outside of Greenland. Most "Qajaq" clubs are scattered among the small villages of Greenland and are a major impetus in keeping the local kayaking traditions alive.
Meet the team »

Our Mission:

  • Qajaq USA is a nonprofit membership organization that is officially recognized by Qaannat Kattuffiat (The Greenland Kayaking Association).
  • Qajaq USA is committed to supporting Qaannat Kattuffiat and their efforts to preserve, study and promote the traditions and techniques of Greenland kayaking while seeking to further the appreciation and development of Greenland-style kayaking in the United States.