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Over the centuries the Aleut culture discovered and institutionalized the movement of the seas and currents and tides and other patterns (seventh wave type stuff) in an incredibly complex sea where two oceans meet head on and seethe between a myriad of islands and are driven by constant gale force winds. There is a celebrated confirmed story around the turn of the century of some Aleuts being challenged by an American steamboat captain to a race from Dutch Harbor to another distant island. The steamboat shoved off while the Aleuts sat around on the dock for a couple of hours fooling around and doing their business. They then (presumably at the proper tide or current) departed in a rather casual way. Of course, to the consternation and amazement of the steamboat folk, the Aleuts arrived well in advance at the finish line, averaging over seven knots of speed for the trip! Of course this had as much to do with knowledge as the craft they used, but, the Smithsonian is still finding out new things about the kayak of those days. (For instance, a recent X-ray of a wooden kayak frame revealed a system of small ivory joints inside the wood designed to give flexibility to the craft.) So my conclusion is, whether you row or paddle, the important thing is to get out there!
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