Portland museum displays collection of traditional paddling boats

PORTLAND — Missing are the walrus hide coverings and baleen lashings. But otherwise, the amazing kayaks on display in Southeast Portland are pretty much historically accurate.

The 50 boats in the Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum, handmade in the traditional style, make up the largest and most diverse collection on display in the world, according to the man who researched the world to make them.

Harvey Golden, 42, has dedicated his life to the study of small paddling boats. He has already published "Kayaks of Greenland" and is working on similar books for Alaska and Canada.

In between his bouts of research and writing, he has built 70 boats, complete with paddling accessories. Of necessity, some of the material he uses is modern, but the finished boats look and paddle similar to the originals.

Most of the boats he has copied would have been used in the Arctic, but others are from the Philippines, the upper Columbia River and lakes of eastern Canada. He built a fully rigged sailing outrigger canoe from Fiji, though he scaled it down to keep the project workable.

Golden was raised in Junction City and attended Evergreen State College. He became interested in native boat design after graduating and has kept with it ever since. An understanding wife and an investment portfolio allow him to pursue his interest full time.

"I started going to museums to see obscure boat types, then began making scale drawings," he said. "One thing led to another, and before long I had a 580-page book."

The book sells for $69 and, quite obviously, is targeted to a small number of people who share Golden's passion.

"You won't meet many people who have the depth of knowledge about circumpolar watercraft that Harvey does," said Robert Banghart, chief curator for the Alaska State Museums. "Manufacturing them from drawings sets him apart. There is no better way to understand the mechanics of a device than to manufacture it."

His boats can be seen in a showroom in a quiet Portland neighborhood, at 5340 S.E. Lincoln St. Hours are 4-7 p.m. on Wednesdays, but he makes appointments and puts out the open sign when he is inside working. For information, call 503-234-0264, or look at traditionalkayaks.com.

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