Since January I have been watching Steve Brown build a Tlingit ocean going dugout canoe out of a single red cedar log at Sitka National Historical Park. Steve has been working with “apprentices” Tommy Joseph, T.J. Young, Jerrod Galanin and Nick Galanin. What an amazing group of “apprentices,” each a master in his own right. I have been documenting it almost daily on Facebook and I intend to do a series of posts in this blog on building the canoe when it is finally done. But today I have more pictures than look good on Facebook posts so this is an early blog post on the canoe. Today they rolled the canoe. They had done work on the bottom, with beautiful lines, filled or patched cracks, and today was the day to roll the log over and support the canoe, right side up, on blocks.
Tommy Joseph has a rig of pulleys and chains that he used to move logs when he carves totem poles. With two bands around the log that is becoming a canoe, first they turned it on its side, then after readjusting the straps they suspended the canoe, aligned it, and started lowering on blocks. Steve used a level to make sure it was straight up and down so when they cut away the upper part of the log and started digging out the canoe would be true. Finally, with some help from Park Ranger Brinnen Carter, they had the canoe aligned just right and gently set down on its blocks.
Tomorrow they start cutting away the top and soon they will start the dugout work. Then they will steam the wood with water and hot rocks to bend it in just the right way. It has been a joy to watch.