In 2009-2010 our eldest son, Spencer West, had the privilege of working with a team of excellent wood carvers who were gathered at Duane and Betty Pasco’s to carve the Raven Canoe. This canoe was being created for a Canoe family to be paddled on the Canoe Journey to Neah Bay. The first of these canoe journeys, in recent times, was held in 1989 at an event called “The Paddle to Seattle”. Since the 1993 Paddle to Bella Bella, these canoe journeys have become annual events hosted by the different tribes along the shoreline of the Pacific Northwest. The annual canoe journeys are important cultural events for the regions indigenous populations, sometimes including paddlers from the far reaches of the Pacific Islands.
So what do these canoe journeys have to do with this faering, of Viking design? Good question. A faering is a small vessel meant to be rowed by two oarsmen with four oars (fire means “four” in Norsk, but is pronounced something like “fair”).
Well, what carver isn’t intrigued by all objects made of wood? When Duane Pasco went to Norway in the 1970’s he purchased a set of boat plans he saw in a museum gift shop. These were the building plans for a 21′ faering that had been unearthed with the Gokstad boat in 1880 and was thought to be built about 800 AD.
As the dogs dance on this crisp, sunny day, we wait for master carver Duane Pasco and his wife, artist Betty Pasco, to arrive. Duane had these Viking boat plans laying around for all these years, just waiting for the right time, the right circumstance, and the right young apprentice to come along. Once the Raven Canoe was completed in 2010, Duane and Spencer began working together to bring this faering to life.
Built with Western red cedar and oak, and finished with pine-tar, the boat feels smooth and smells good. Camas, Asha and their sister Calla, have been helping their dad all through the building process. Many times Camas has gone to Anacortes with Spencer to help in Jay Smith’s workshop. Jay and his apprentices are working hard to complete a 56′ Viking vessel replica. See more about this large boat and the process of building it in this informative utube film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nL6Uso6Hcoo
Duane arrives. The conditions are pristine. We are ready to put her onto the water.
Though this launch was called with short notice , on a Sunday after the traditional Thanksgiving holiday, which many American families spend watching sports or shopping at malls; family, friends and neighbors came out to witness and celebrate this event.
It is always a good thing to check for leaks in shallow water, right? NO LEAKS!
We have a short delay while the builders and problem-solvers ponder some issues with the oar-locks. I don’t know why, but I really like this picture. No one here is scratching their chin!
As anyone knows, some tweaks may be needed on a maiden voyage. In this case, some adjustments to the oar-locks, relocation of the drip-guards, and perhaps a little more carving on the oars will all be tinkered with before the next voyage.
Spence’s brother, Jeff, and their dad, Paul, (my wonderful husband), are on hand, while the young folk, are carefully inspecting of the craft.
The oar-guides are carved out of oak. Because the ropes have shrunk a bit, they need loosening.
Duane assembles the rudder, as Brad Simpson and Spence pull on these oars for the first time.
Spence’s wife Elizabeth, rows with Jeff, as Spence steers.
The day unfolds on the Salish Sea. Duane steers on this maiden voyage. Seattle is in the distance as we look south and east.
Here’s the view from the shoreline of the Indianola Methodist Church Camp Beach. We are right next to the Suquamish Tribe’s land, a place called “Place of the Deer”, or in Lushootseed, the language of the Suquamish People: “Doe-Kag-Wats”.
Duane reports that it “felt well-balanced on the water”.
Let me get back to the beginning of this story. Now look. Is it my imagination, or does the shape and line of this vessel look strangely similar to the Salish canoe?
The building process for the Salish canoe and this Viking faering are vastly different. Yet the outcome is quite alike.
Here are Spence’s Grandfather, Melvin Haug and his wife Kathy looking on joyously! Melvin’s parents came from a small island in Lofoten, North of the artic circle, in Norway. Melvin’s grandfather was a fisherman who was lost at sea when Melvin’s own father, Magnus Haug, was a young boy. Magnus left the island, and came to the US when he was only 16 years old. He went back to the small island some years later to claim the girl next store for his wife. These Norwegian grandparents were my “day-care” when I was young. I remember my “bestefar” in his retirement years, down in the tiny, unfinished basement in their house in Ballard, a section of Seattle filled with uprooted Scandinavians, and there he would be building models of the Norwegian boats he had grown up with.
Surely cultures blend and influence each other as they meet. It is impossible to not to. Boat-building, seafaring and fishing, connect my Norwegian ancestors with the indigenous people of Pacific Northwest. We are connected through the traditional arts and skills deveolped for survival, from thousands of years living by the sea.
As we practice ancient skills we make the knowledge new again. Each new generation of artisans of any sort, combine the old ways with the present day possibilities.
Today, a faering is spotted on Port Madison!
And “Doe-Kag-Wats” can be seen from the faering.
The sun tilts to the west, and we are grateful.
Asha contemplates the faering. Maybe he will go for the next ride.
Thank you Betty and Duane. How many artists exsist today because of the generous nature of these teachers? Too many to count, I think. Betty and Duane are ever excited about learning, exploring the boundaries of their skills, and sharing their love of this process with others. I’ve been a beneficiary. And now my son, and his family.
Finally, Elizabeth and Spencer take a turn together. When married, no boat gets built, or canoe gets carved, without the full support of an understanding partner.
Into the sunset they go under the watch of Mt. Tahoma. (Mt Rainier)
We are grateful for this day, for all the people who gathered with us, for our elders and our teachers, and for the opportunities to share what we love, to celebrate, and to grow together as a community.
Thank you for listening!