Minister gives traditional kayaks multicultural blessing before Port Townsend spin
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The Rev. Nicholas Kime of the St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Christian Church in Port Townsend, center, paddles in a recently blessed kayak with Mitch Poling, front, and Irving Mortensen, who built the craft. Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A minister dressed in athletic shoes and sunglasses along with his traditional vestments delivered a multilingual blessing of three kayaks outside the Northwest Maritime Center on Wednesday afternoon.

The Rev. Nicholas Kime of the St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Christian Church of Port Townsend led about 30 people in the blessing of the crafts, which were built at the Wooden Boat Foundation boat shop.

Kime blessed each boat with holy water and a short prayer before leading a call-and-response of “Christ is risen/Indeed he has risen” in four languages: Russian, Greek, English and Aleut.

Before the 10-minute service, Kime said: “I will conduct the blessing, and then we will take a little spin, which is something I just learned about.

“So maybe you will need to pray for me.”

Among the kayaks was a 17-foot-long craft built in a class given by instructor Mitch Poling. A 20-foot craft was constructed by his student Irving Mortensen of Diamond Point.

“I’ve never had a student go out and build a boat by themselves after a class,” Poling said.

“This was extraordinary.”

A third craft, a 15-footer built by a student, also was blessed.

The kayaks are also known as baidarkas, which is Russian for “small boat.”

Poling’s class taught how to build a baidarka, based on the traditional craft used by the Chugach people of Prince William Sound, Alaska.

The boats date back at least to the time when the Russian Orthodox Church first set up its Alaska outposts in the late 1700s.

“When the Russian Orthodox Church first came to Alaska, it established churches all over the place, and they traveled between the island in a cruder version of this boat,” Kime said.

Poling said the wood used is the same as in the traditional craft: red cedar for the bent pieces and yellow cedar for the fixed pieces.

The skin, which appears traditional, is made of ballistic nylon, the same material as in bulletproof vests. It is coated with a urethane finish, Poling said.

After the blessing, Kime sat in the middle slot of the larger kayak with Poling in the front and Mortensen in the rear.

They took two laps around the inlet between the Northwest Maritime Center and city dock.

Before the jaunt, there was a slight delay while Kime donned a life jacket underneath his traditional vestments.


Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or

Last modified: May 07. 2014 7:32PM
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