Bidarka (not a Pygmy)

Let me start by saying I still love my Pygmy kayaks–I never thought I’d need to branch out. However, when a fellow Pygmy fan called up and said that I “must” build a bidarka, and I “must” do it a the Skin Boat School in Anacortes, I was hooked after spending a day Googling all the available information on these boats.

The first thing you need to know is that these boats are fast. I know the current fad is to build Greenland kayaks, but when you take a look at the designs, you can quickly see that the waterline on a Greenland kayak is a lot shorter than its overall length, but a bidarka takes advantage of its full length, for speed. Second, unlike most other kayaks, the bidarka bow and stern have a definite cant downwards, which significantly reduces the effect of windage on these boats. Consequently, the bow flotation is less and the cockpit is placed significantly aft.

Greenland kayak, bow and stern

Baidarka Aleutian kayak, bow and stern

There is a lot of info on the web explaining the design features, especially the oddly shaped bow, so if you are mystified, Google for it and get informed. For those who already know they want one, move on to the next page and let’s start constructing one of these awesome boats.

(I have no connection to the school, but I highly recommend it. see below)


Skin Boat School

The school is in the woods, not far from Anacortes, which makes the atmosphere totally suited to building skin-on-frame boats. There are many examples of boats and frames, inside and on the property, from baidarkas and greenland kayaks up to fairly large umiaks. There’s plenty of room and tools for four students building kayaks.

The schoolhouse on the left, the Spirirline store to the right background. The entry driveway is between the buildings to the left rear of the photo, so this is not the view you see coming in.

The interior of the schoolhouse is perfect to the task. Note three students and Corey teaching (to the right in the dark) baidarka theory and Unanga/Aleut hunting techniques.