Anthony D. Becker
Associate Professor
St. Olaf College
Northfield, Minnesota 55057

Office: Holland Hall 414-C
Phone: 507-646-3974

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Baidarka and Kayak Things


"Baidarka," Russian for "little boat," was the name that early Russian explorers gave to the split-bow kayak of the Aleuts.  These pages provide general kayak and baidarka links and information about my boat including building discussion and tips.  Click here or on the boat to go to the building page.


Whose fault is it?

There is a lot of blame to go around for this project.  First and foremost, I must blame whatever grant agency awarded my grandfather an equipment grant in the 1950's.  Through this grant, he purchased a c.1955 Klepper folding kayak so that he could cross some streams as part of his field work in paleobotany.  After a few years, he passed the boat on to my family and we used it often on family vacations in the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries, Gulf of Mexico, and New Jersey's Great Bay to name a few places.  By the late 1960's I became the principal user of the boat and it lived mostly at my aunt's summer cottage in New Jersey.  The boat lasted until about 1976 when the skin on the bottom was beyond patching. So, we can also blame my grandfather (who gave us the boat), my parents (who let me use it), and my aunt (who let me keep it at her house).  Here is a photo of the boat c.1970 in New Jersey.  It was a Klepper "Classic" similar to today's "Aerius Classic II."  Next, Chris Kulczycki is somewhat to blame for his book The Kayak Shop which I purchased in 1997 while stuck at a bug-infested camp in northern Minnesota.  Kulczycki is the founder of Chesapeake Light Craft which makes some nice plywood kayak kits.  Finally, I would like to blame a friend at the college who had his kayak frame on display on campus last year and Morris's book nearby.  Just one look...

Building the double baidarka cataloged as USNM 160336 (alt.)

Go to the building page with this link.  It includes the following sections:

  • General description of the boat
  • Tools
  • Paddles
  • Plans
  • Woods used
  • Things I learned and/or might have done differently
  • Building pictures
  • Accessories

Bibliography and links

I have read and recommend the following books and articles:

Adney, Edwin Tappan and Howard I. Chapelle.  The Bark Canoes and Skin Boats of North America.  Washington, Smithsonian Institution, 1964.

A&C has great line drawings and photos of a great variety of boats from throughout the North American arctic.  An example of the line drawings is below under "The Next Boat."

Brinck, Wolfgang. The Aleutian Kayak. Ragged Mountain Press (McGraw-Hill), 1995

Brinck's book is a great resource for building techniques.  It is clear and an easy read.  It's only drawbacks are that it is hard to find (try an inter-library loan) and that its discussion of covering does not include more modern techniques.  I am particularly indebted to this book for its discussion of using willow shoots for ribs.

Morris, Robert. Building skin-on-frame boats : building on a ten-thousand year tradition [ill. Edward R. Turner]. Point Roberts, WA: Hartley & Marks, 2001.

If you can read only one book about kayak building, this should be it.  This with the Zimmerly articles below wold be enough.  Morris does present a baidarka design but it is for a fast and tippy single.  I did use Morris's method (the Brewery Creek method) for lashing ribs to chine stringers.  (See the building page for more info.)

Peterson, H. C. Store kajakbog (Skinboats of Greenland),  [tr. Katharine M. Gerould]. Roskilde: National Museum of Denmark, 1986.

This is a great resource for those interested in Greenland kayaks and umiaks (open, multi-person boats).  I'll use it more for the next boat.

Zimmerly, David W. "Building the Aleut One-hole Baidarka: Part 1," Small Boat Journal, (29):26-31 (Feb./Mar. 1983).

Zimmerly, David W. "Building the Aleut One-hole Baidarka: Part 2," Small Boat Journal, (30):78-83 (Apr./May 1983).

Zimmerly, David W. "Arctic Paddle Design," Sea Kayaker, 1(3):8-15 (Winter 1984).

I relied heavily on the discussion and illustrations in the above three articles.  The double I built is analogous to the single so well described in the first two.  Photos of the original boat's frame are wonderfully helpful.  They are all must-reads.

Zimmerly, David W. "The East Arctic Kayak," Sea Kayaker, 18(4):6-19 (October 2001).

This will give you some more building insights.

Note: The Zimmerly articles are all online at 

Useful Kayak Links:

Suppliers and Manufacturers

Twelve-ounce ballistic nylon from George Dyson
c/o Dyson, Baidarka & Co.
435 W. Holly St.
Bellingham, WA 98225
Phone (360)734-9226

Varathane Diamond Spar Urethane
by Rust-Oleum - A water-based, exterior polyurethane.

Floatation Bags:
Gaia Paddle Sports
I am using a 24" bow and a "rodeo" stern float bags.  You could use a larger stern bag, too.


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All original materials are copyright 2003-6 Anthony D. Becker, .
This page was last modified on Monday, April 02, 2007.