A Qayaq for a Museum of Stories

Museums began as collections of a particular person’s fetish. While the largest of these collections have been largely nationalized, there are still a healthy assortment of personal museums around the world, ranging from something set-up in someones back shed to rented commercial spaces.

Many of them still look much like those of the British gentry of centuries gone by. Taxidermy trophy heads and hides; ethnic curious obtained by purchase, barter or plunder; oddities reflecting one cultures imposition on another like an elephant foot umbrella stand. Some are more obtuse such as the worlds largest collection of bread tabs.

My friend James Manke developed a keen interest in traditional Greenlandic kayak rolling. His enthusiasm for the sport drove him to compete in the Greenland Traditional games where he took gold in the individual rolling competition. This led to a career in teaching kayak rolling which largely dried up during the pandemic.

With no specific business ties to hold him down he found himself relocating to the far southwest corner of Vancouver Island in a small fishing village called Ucluelet. It’s basically where al the locals live who can’t afford the tourist popular Tofino.

Where Tofino has long sandy surf beaches, Ucluelet has deadly rocky outcroppings that get hammered by the sea. This is where James took over the lease of a beloved but failed local business, the Wreckage Coffee shop. As James puts it, you can feel the heartbeat in the place, and he is quite right. James has a vision. Not for Coffee brewing again, but for a museum and hub for kayakers who find Ucluelet a better stomping ground than Tofino. James hopes that his love for traditional kayaking will spread to others and he’s going to use the stories behind the contemporary and historic examples of traditional arctic kayaks to do that.

The kayak I have contributed is just one in a string of boats of the same design that tie together and tell a little piece of my story of boat building and how I, like James, found a genuine love of arctic culture hidden in those handfuls of sticks, sinew and skin.

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