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San Juan Islands, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 500, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

18 July 2013

❖ The Nootka Sailer with Author Archie Binns ❖ 1962

Archie Binns and his Nootka Sailer, 
February 1962
Photo by Roy Scully for the Seattle Times©.

Original photo from the S. P. H. S.
"A capital ship for a sailing trip is the Nootka Sailer––a jaunty dinghy designed by Archie Binns, a Seattle writer, and Edwin Monk, Seattle Naval Architect.
      They based the design of the craft on the dugout canoes developed by the Nootka Indians. The canoe was so good that Indian tribes copied it all the way from Vancouver Island to Tillamook, OR, Binns said.
      'What we've tried to do is to give the marvelous lines the Indians developed a chance with modern materials and techniques,' Binns said.
      The sleek dinghy has a long curving prow that arches up proudly from its narrow, flat bottom, giving it somewhat the appearance of a Viking boat. It is 4-ft wide and 12.5-ft long.
      Binns built his first Nootka-type boat with the help of his son, Richard, 8. Called the Nootka Sailer, she came through the test of rigorous use with flying colors.
      'I think one of the significant things about the Nootka Sailer is that it is the first modern boat that is indigenous to the Pacific Northwest,' said Binns, who writes about Pacific Northwest history. 'The Nootkas developed the boat through trial and error, to suit the particular conditions here.'
      The Nootka Sailer was used last summer [1961] by the Henderson Camps for Children on Lopez Island. Howard S. Eddy, sailing master of the camps, wrote Binns of the dinghy:
      'She is fast, able, and seaworthy––an ideal sailing or cruising dinghy––her sea-keeping is far superior to any comparable dinghy with which I am acquainted.'
      Eddy suggested some alterations in the design which were incorporated in a second boat just completed by Binns.
      Binns gives the Nootka Indians most of the credit for the design.
      'Anthropologists say the Nootka canoe is the most perfect one of primitive design ever made,' Binns said.
      Unlike the Nootkas, Binns and Monk weren't limited to a hollowed-out tree in constructing the new boat. The frame is of laminated Alaskan yellow cedar and the planking is laminated of two thicknesses of African mahogany. The guard is of oak.
      Fiberglass in the bottom of the craft will withstand scraping on the beach. All the fastening was done with bronze, and the tiller extends through a port, so it won't jump out of its slot.
      The second boat has an 18-ft cat-rig mast of airplane spruce. Binns expertly rounded the two glued halves of the mast with a hand plane.
      Binns pointed to the rudder and centerboard, which are designed to fold up when the craft is beached. Another feature of the boat is its dryness and comfort. Binns explained how the curving prow and top of the boat throw off waves so that no water is taken aboard even in the roughest weather.
Archie Binns and his NOOTKA SAILER
February 1962 Photo by Roy Scully,
for the Seattle Times©
Original from the archives of the S. P. H. S.
       He did all of the building with hand tools except for an electric drill.
      The Nootka Sailer showed excellent buoyancy when the Binns' took their four children sailing in it.
      "It's an excellent boat for a couple of adults or an adult and a couple of children to sail in". I particularly wanted to work out a boat that would be safe with children. This is about as stable a one as you could get."
      Binns said the Nootka boat is the only primitive one that stood up to whaling. The Makahs used it for whaling at Neah Bay.
      The daring Makahs had so much confidence in the boat and in their prowess that sometimes, for sport, they would harpoon a killer whale in sort of a 'bull-fighting' contest, the writer said.
      Binns said the Indians first powered the boat with oars, but later began using sails woven of cedar board or made of thin bands of wood."
     Text by Matt Miletich for the Seattle Times, 11 February 1962

Archie Binns (b. Port Ludlow,WA 1899-d.1971)
Graduated Stanford 1921.
Published c. twenty books.
Taught creative writing at U of WA, Western Washington University and Skagit Valley College.
Retired to Sequim, WA in 1964.


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