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Boat parts illustrated
Rather than spread the names of boat parts throughout the glossary, we put them on separate pages:
Baidarka parts.

Something Missing from the Glossary?
This is a work in progress. Lots more terms will go here. If a term you want defined isn't in this glossary after January 2005, send us email: nativewater @ yahoo . com

Small Boat Glossary

This page contains a glossary of technical boaty and anthropological terms that appear elsewhere on this site. Also interspersed in the glossary are short descriptions of people who have done work to further the knowledge of small boat building lore. Making a list of important boat people is a dangerous enterprise, since someone will inevitably be left out due to my ignorance and feelings might be hurt. But I will attempt to be


Aleutian Islands - The chain of islands that stretches from the tip of the Alaska Peninsula to the east all the way to the Kamchatka peninsula to the west. The Aleutians separate the north Pacific from the Bering sea. The Aleutian Islands have been called the birthplace of the storms and have some of the consistently worst weather of any place inhabited by humans. But bad weather inspired the aboriginal inhabitants of the Aleutians to develop some of the most sophisticated kayaks in the world.

The view from Akutan looking east along the Aleutian island chain toward the Alaska Peninsula.


Baidara - The Russian term for an open dory shaped skinboat of the Aleutian region.

Baidara model from the Anchorage Museum.

Baidarka - The Russian term for a kayak of the Aleutian region.


Deadrise - The angle the bottom of the boat on either side of the keel makes with the horizontal plane. A flat bottomed boat has zero deadrise. A boat with strong deadrise is said to have a vee bottom.


Ergonometrics - The imprecise art and science of measuring things in terms of our own body parts. This works well if all of us are shaped, sized and proportioned the same. But we aren't so ergonometrics are to be taken with a grain of salt.

An example of ergonometrics. Do not try to build a boat by applying your own body as a ruler unless you know how big the person was who made the original measurement.


Gunwale - The long boards which form the top outside edges of the boat.


Knot - A unit of speed equal to 1.151 miles per hour. Conversely, one mile per hour (mph) = 0.868976 knots (kt). A knot is a speed not a distance, so if you say knots per hour, people might laugh.


LOA - Length over all. Total length of a boat as contrasted with LWL.

LWL - Length at the water line. Length of a boat at the water line. This is usually less than LOA. LWL is the length that counts for performance calculations.


Stability - The resistance of a boat to tipping. Kayaks, due to their narrow beam are intrinsically unstable especially with a kayaker in them. As Frank Goodman once pointed out at a symposium, the stable position of a kayak is upside down. However, when occupied by a seasoned paddler a kayak can be sufficiently stable. Stability of a kayak is a dynamic affair. The kayak can never solely be held responsible for its stability. The paddler must bear most of the responsibility. For one thing, the kayaker has a paddle which he/she can use to brace against, especially when moving. The paddle thereby acts as an outrigger and the effictive width of the kayak is increased substantially.

See also secondary stability.

Secondary Stability - A nebulous concept at best though nevertheless much bandied about. In common usage it seems to signify that if you are sitting upright in a kayak the stability that you feel is its primary stability. As you lean to one side, the boat tends to tip over uncontrollably unless you stop it. However, when after tipping the boat over to one side to a certain degree, it once again starts resisting further tipping, this is considered secondary stability.

A Greenland kayak with a strong vee bottom will want to tip to the right or left when you sit in it. However, when one side of the bottom or the other becomes parallel to the surface of the water, it once again feels a little more stable. Perhaps that could be considered secondary stability.

For most flat bottomed commercial kayaks, there is no secondary stablility. When they are sitting flat, they are stable. Secondary stability cannot be said to take effect until you are heeled over about 90 degrees and your body is in the water. At that point, the bouyancy of your body offers some resistance to further tipping although it won't stop it altogether.


Umiak - An open dory shaped skinboat. Open skinboats of the Aleutian region are called baidaras.


Verst - A Russian unit of distance equal to .667 or 2/3 mile. This is not something you need to know unless you read the journals of Russian explorers of Alaska and North America of the eighteenth century. Contemporary Russians, explorers and otherwise measure distance in kilometers.

All content copyright © 2004 Wolfgang Brinck. Personal non-commercial use permitted.