Umiaqs have been built by Arctic civilizations for over 5,000 years and the tradition lives on at The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle. We joined a homeschool group field trip to South Lake Union on a very sunny and lovely Tuesday afternoon. The kids split into two groups of about 15 each and took turns out on the water or in the workshop. They worked together as a team to paddle one of these traditional boats. An umiaq (also known as umiak, umialak, umiac, or anyak) is a type of open skin boat used by Inuit people, and originally found in all coastal areas from Siberia to Greenland. They were traditionally used to move people and their possessions to seasonal hunting grounds, and for open water hunting of whales and walruses. The boats were/are propelled by oars or paddles, and were made of lashed driftwood and stretched walrus or seal skins sewn together.
The kids practiced with paddles on the dock, secured their life vests, and settled into the umiaq for a 15ish minute circle around Lake Union. A couple of parent chaperones accompanied them, along with a rep from CWB to guide the group. Upon return, the groups swapped spots, and the kids hand-built small wooden sailboats, complete with hull, mast, sail, and decor.