MID ENGINED FISKARI
I LANSTON TYPE COMPANY I GERALD GIAMPA I
¶ BLACK SWAN was built by Mikael Holmström, Finland's last full time tall ship builder. She has yet to be launched. The vessel is my personal vessel. She is ideal for summer gunkholing in the Finnish Archipelago. She is unusual by North American standards where most motor boats would have a wheel rather than a tiller.
She is getting powed by an antique 12 hp Vire petrol engine. This engine is ideally suited for this vessel in that the shaft is low in the crankcase allowing for low centre of gravity.
¶ 'BLACK SWAN' is ideally suited for the Finnish Archipelago. These are traditional fiskari 'mid engine' (inboard) motor launches evolved from open fishing boats. A comparative equivalent would be 'Nova Scotia dories' built for very different waters. The Baltic Sea is shallow, rock infested and storms strike out of clear skies. Somewhat initially disturbing is the absence of tides. That is correct, there are no tides. Also the waters are low in saline content. Admittedly I miss Nova Scotian seafaring with their pungent salt air, their extreme tides, and well, sometimes even the peasoupfog.
I report that the smell of "salt in the air'" has been replaced by the smell of "tar in the air". At one point boat "grave tar" was Finland's most valuable export product. 'Tar' is the Finnish secret to embalming wood fibre giving longevity to their boats when building with common, well chosen, native trees. This eliminates the need, as expressed by other boat building communities, to habitually import exotic foreign timber.
This particular fiskari is constructed by one of the finest wood boat builders in Finland. Previous to my recent hands on experience, I had mistakenly considered Finnish boat building techniques to be no more than mythical exaggerations. Finnish wood boat builders have a long tradition of ship building. I have personal knowledge of their craft. These vessels are generally built without the aid of formal plans. The "knees are grown on trees". Both stem and horn timber curvature is "found" rather than drawn.
One stunning boat building lesson is to see a huge stump, planed and whittled, finally sanded and scraped to exact shape. The stump becomes of such size that it is easily managed with one hand. Originally it was star gazingly difficult to lift with two strong workers. Well, one strong worker and myself. The stump, for the most part , has become wood shavings. We could think of this method of boat building as one of, "wood subtraction".
These vessels are not built, they are sculpted and "found" out of wood. Generations of craftsman have passed down boat building traditions which are now kept alive not by fishing, but by the ferocious competitive passions to win the Turku Archipelago Sailing races.
Question: You may wonder why I am prepared to part with this particular vessel.
Answer: I am engaged in a traditional boat building course in Näsby, Houtskär in the Finnish Archipelago. I have intentions of building my own vessel.