Dark Water Deep Memories

“Crashing waves may have spurred the evolution of spines.”


Harper’s Magazine
January, 2019


He calls his arms, or more specifically his biceps, Thunder and Lightening.  Good natured bravado drawing attention to the physical demands of a deep water paddler is one point he is making.  The power of labels to color perception is another.  He is fond of Thunder and Lightening, referring to them often.  They have been good friends to the man now in his mid-sixties.

Chumash tribal elder Alan Salazar is a gifted speaker, an engaging storyteller and a member of a select group that is committed to maintaining an ancient tradition that took a brief hiatus from 1850 to 2001; pulling water across the Santa Barbara channel in the dark of night in a Redwood canoe called a tomol.  The six person crew begins its journey in Oxnard, traveling about twenty miles to Santa Cruz Island.

A well-written, heartfelt article by Eva Pagaling, Dark Water Journey, discusses last November’s celebration and spiritual quest aboard a tomol named Muptami, which means “deep memories”.

The tomol is the oldest sea-going vessel in North America.  Construction of this Chumash canoe is old-school, traditional, using specific materials.  One large plank, from a mighty Coastal Redwood tree becomes the bottom of the boat.  Smaller planks make up the sides. These planks are stitched with natural fibers from yucca, milkweed, dogbane or deer sinews.  Yop, a glue made from pine pitch and asphaltene (which bubbles up naturally as an oily tar) seals the vessel.  Sandstone and sharkskin are used to make it smooth.  Inlaid abalone mother of pearl designs are the final touch.  Besides being low riding, sea worthy and durable, the tomol is pleasing to the eye.

End of Part I

Next:  The Golden State didn’t always follow the Golden Rule!

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