Canoe makers turned out all sizes of craft from children's practice canoes to whaling canoes more than 30 feet long and war canoes even bigger. They hollowed out red cedar logs, then steamed them by pouring in water and adding fire-heated rocks. Softened this way, the sides could be flared, yet keep the strength of the straight grain. If the flare were carved in, the sides would be cross grained and weak.
Canoe sides found at Ozette have hardwood gunwales laced on to protect the sides from the constant wear of paddling. Such strips were easy to replace. Sails have not been found in the archaeological deposits. Nobody knows how far back they date.
The Early Makah knew how to read the weather and what its specifics meant at each location. Safety at sea depended on this. They watched the color of the sky and the direction of the wind, listened to the sound of the water, and noticed how vapors were rising from the earth and laying against the hills. They knew the positions of the stars and moon according to season. Men sat on the beach in the evening and watched these signs and nobody bothered them, for lives depended on this knowledge.
Natural landmarks guided navigation on clear days - such as exactly how two islands lined up with each other or with the mainland, and the appearance or disappearance of certain peaks. If fog came in, men could steer by the set of the ocean swells and the feel of familiar tide rips. Surf breaking headlands or rocky islets sounded different than waves against the sand; the call of nesting sea birds characterized certain islands.
Today, the Makah are still skilled mariners and many make a living fishing. Canoes are still a vital part of Makah life and every year they embark on long journeys, paddling hundreds of miles in ocean going canoes to tribes along the coast of Washington and British Columbia, as well as Puget Sound Tribes. Each stop on their journey is marked with a welcoming celebration from the tribe upon whose shores they have asked to land. The paddlers are welcomed ashore with songs, dances and a dinner is held to honor the visitors. They camp on the beach, then leave early in the morning for the next destination.
End of the journey, celebrations are held in a pre- arranged location. This is where the journey will end. The celebration sometimes lasts for days. This is the place where all the participating canoes will meet and celebrate their arrival and the completion of their journey with family songs, dances and a feast.