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Salmon fishing boats of the North American Pacific Coast in the era of oar and sail
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The Pacific Salmon exhibits habits for which specific methods of capture were developed for use in clearly defined environmental settings. The isolation of many of these settings and the mechanized nature of the canning process led to heavy capitalization of the fishery, concentration of power and influence into the hands of a few industrialists, and a standardization of the modes of production. Boat-builders responded with a "stock" boat, the Columbia River Sailing Gillnetter. As this type dispersed throughout the salmon fishery, local variants emerged. Other types of boats also propelled by oar and sail both preceded its introduction and continued in use until the introduction of motors. Salmon were sought with dugouts, sampans, feluccas, small double-enders, and various flat-bottomed craft. Four distinct sailing rigs were employed. By cataloguing historical documentation of these craft and their variants, along with data taken from surviving boats and models, a taxonomy is developed for small craft identification by archaeologists working on the Pacific Coast. The information gained from studying various salmon fishing boats and their distribution reflects changing hull shape due to local sea conditions, competition amid diminishing fish stocks, and access to exotic building materials. Also examined are the way in which old traditions in boat-building survive and new ones begin in an ethnic potpourri where the ancient relationship between boat-builder and boat-user is sometimes transformed. Conclusions show that flatbottomed boats were chosen where conditions allowed and where, or when, exotic building material was not available. Round-bottomed boats were required as competition pressed fishermen into more treacherous waters. While cannery owners greatly expanded the range of some types they followed the lead of independent fishermen for innovation. Local sea conditions influenced hull shape, but boats built in emergent boatbuilding centers and exported often retained characteristics more suited for the builder's home waters than the user's, reflecting new distance between builder and fisherman. West Coast evidence relating to cultural traditions surviving transplantation is complex and often contradictory, but leads to interesting questions pertinent to more than a purely regional analysis.
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Moore, Charles David (1993). Salmon fishing boats of the North American Pacific Coast in the era of oar and sail. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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