By Browning Hemric
Humans have been naturally drawn to the water as long as we have been on this Earth. We've thrived near water for thousands of years, and the rivers, streams, lakes and oceans we grew up near are literally in our lifeblood. It’s only natural our curiosity lead us to use water to our advantage, and sometimes even just for shear enjoyment. History has shown we are a pretty clever bunch that has created many unique and interesting vessels along the way with which we use to explore our beautiful watery worlds. Let’s take a brief look at some of the most fascinating and innovative boats homo sapiens have created along the way, shall we?
The Pesse Canoe
We have to start from the beginning to be able to tell the rest of the story. The Pesse Canoe is believed to be the world’s oldest boat from the early Mesolithic Period, around 8,000 years BC. A wooden dugout canoe that was discovered in the Netherlands in 1955, the boat was made from a pine tree that was hollowed and dug out by hand using flint and stone tools. This early vessel may seem primitive to us now, but was actually crafted to carefully support the weight of it’s crew while being lightweight enough to move through the water. A grand start to a lifelong pursuit of boat making greatness.
Humans figured out pretty quickly that anything that floats well can be tied together to create a raft. Many ancient humans used bamboo, wood logs, or reeds and tied them together with natural ropes like vines or palm fibers. Early rafts could have served as fishing platforms, transportation, and even floating villages where people lived their lives on the water. These boats were often propelled by large poles, or paddling so steering could be an issue. Some rafts later had sails added to make the voyage a little easier. These types of vessels pop up in the history lessons of many countries from Asia to Africa and South America in all kinds of clever styles using the natural resources that were abundant there. Work smarter not harder we like to say!
As time progresses, humans are becoming smarter and the design innovations start to show. We figured out that wrapping a solid frame with a waterproof skin was the way to go. Genius Watson! Coracles were boats that often used wicker baskets for the frames and the skin could have been made from either leather or cloth often coated with pitch or resin. Imagine an adult sized version of the reed basket Moses was sent off in, and you have a pretty good visual of what a Coracle was like. These boats were very popular in Wales and Scotland - hence the Welsh name - but were also used widely in India, Vietnam, Iraq and Tibet.
In North America, Native Americans created the Birchbark Canoe made from a frame of wooden ribs and covered with hand sewn patches of bark. We all know how beautiful Birch bark is, but it was also the perfect choice for this vessel as its lightweight and smooth but also waterproof and resilient. The joins were often sealed with hot pine or spruce resin. This captivating video shows what the painstaking process of making a Birchbark Canoe would have been like.
Our beloved kayak... it has come such a long way throughout the course of history! First created by the Inuit people of the Arctic, the kayak was built with a wooden frame wrapped in sealskin. The word “kayak” literally translates to “hunters boat”, and these early crafts were used for just that. The Inuit built their vessels with a small hole for the boater - not unlike kayaks we see today - and even outfitted with air filled seal bladders! When the water is that cold, you’ll do just about anything to stay afloat it seems. The kayak was designed for specific needs whether it needed to be longer or shorter for speed and balance, or wider for more storage. In the 1950’s fiberglass came around and revolutionized the kayak building industry as we know it. This was followed up with the introduction to plastics, and the first plastic kayak was created in 1984.
Though the kayak has proved itself time and time again, it can often feel bulky and is more difficult to maneuver on dry land getting to the water, than actually on the water. That’s where K-Pak steps in. If only our ancient ancestors could see how far we’ve come! A portable and lightweight vessel that is not only tough and rugged, but can be taken anywhere your little homo sapien heart desires. Unlike the boats from our history, the beauty of the K-Pak is its solid frame that folds up inside the skin. Modern kayaks as we know and use today can weigh well over 60 lbs, but the streamlined K-Pak comes in a mere 21 lbs, making this boat as versatile as it is unique.
There’s nothing better than a beautiful day spent out on the water doing whatever it is you love to do best. Whether it’s fishing, hunting, taking photographs, or just floating the day away aimlessly, we couldn’t do any of it without our trusty boats. Ancient humans blazed the trail, or waterway rather for all the incredible watercraft we have today. We’re thankful for those early inventors who had to take a few dunks to get it just right!