Craft and Culture

The articles in this section have, for the most part, been previously published in magazines such as Canadian Geographic and Pacific Yachting. They reflect my lifelong interest in the cultures of the sea, the power of nature, and the role that storytelling has played in those interconnected contexts.

Casco: The Ship of Robert Louis Stevenson

The Lore of a Storied Craft

June 18, 2021, 7:44 p.m. • Ross Laird

They were led, one at a time, from the smoky dark of the hold and up the narrow companionway. Each man was flanked by a crew-member who spoke in clipped and rushing tones. The ship was quiet, the...

Rogue Waves

Wanderers of the Sea

June 18, 2021, 7:50 p.m. • Ross Laird

In February 1933, on its way from San Diego to Manila, the US Navy ship Ramapo was caught in the teeth of a relentless storm. The wind had slowly gathered momentum across thousands of nautical mi...

Myths of the Primordial Waters

Ancient Seafarers, Human Migration, and the Sea

June 18, 2021, 8:03 p.m. • Ross Laird

Plato wrote that the past is like the wake behind a boat; it spreads, and diminishes behind us, and merges with the surrounding sea. The past rolls under and is gone. We stand upon the foredeck ...

The World Tree

Conservation and Conflict in Burns Bog

June 18, 2021, 8:21 p.m. • Ross Laird

South of the riverbend, twenty minutes along a trail fringed with pink flowers of hardhack and gangly stalks of sweet gale, a black spruce that I call the World Tree stands against a spring sky. ...

The Resonance of Nautical Language

Curious Words Persist from a Bygone Age

June 18, 2021, 10:29 p.m. • Ross Laird

In 2003, paleoanthropologists digging on the island of Flores (about 550 km west of Bali) discovered a previously unknown and now extinct branch of the human genetic tree: Homo floresiensis , di...

On Woodworking as Meditation

The Craft that Leads Inward

June 18, 2021, 10:32 p.m. • Ross Laird

The warehouse is quiet today. An oldtimer carefully selects maple boards from a small pile at the back. Along the central aisle which stretches into shadow two of the staff move slabs of African ...

Wood Finishing for Marine Use

Steps for Longevity and Lustre

June 23, 2021, 4:46 p.m. • Ross Laird

Woodworkers and boat builders are, on the whole, a contentious bunch. They argue about all kinds of things: tools, methods, aesthetics, materials. But their favorite topic, the one to which they ...

A Guide to Ethical Wood Use

What Woodworkers Owe to the Natural World

June 23, 2021, 4:54 p.m. • Ross Laird

We tend to think of the tension between pristine nature and human ambition as a contemporary struggle, but the urge to own and exploit forests is a fundamental human impulse. At every point in hi...

Choosing Wood for Marine Applications

Navigating the Bewildering Array of Possibilities

June 23, 2021, 4:57 p.m. • Ross Laird

In an age of plastics and composites, wood has not surrendered its claim on the mariner. The color and texture of grain, the particular warmth of wood in the sun, the way a teak gunwale is shaped...