|All images from Pyle. Click to enlarge.|
Pyle discusses the construction method at length, which I'll telescope here. The dugout base, which really forms only the boat's keel, is sharp and deep on the outside (see lines drawings below), and hollowed inside. To it are added a long, straight stem and a broad, nearly vertical transom -- wider since the introduction of outboard engines, to provide greater buoyancy aft. The lowest, or garboard, strake is first nailed to the stem, then to the top of the keel, and finally to the transom. But it's not a typical edge-to-edge or lapped joint between the plank and the keel. Rather, the outboard surface of the garboard rests horizontally atop the keel and is through-nailed to it with galvanized nails. Subsequent strakes are lapped without bevels, and fastened with clenched nails.
When Pyle observed the process in 1975, there was only one builder on Trinidad, named Taitt, and his methods (which is not to say his workmanship) were so refined that joggled half-frames were cut to patterns before being trimmed for installation. What is impressive is that no patterns or plans were used for any of the steps prior to cutting the frames, so the work that was all done by eye had admirable accuracy and consistency. The boat is finished with the installation of stringers, thwarts, wales, and a small foredeck.
To quote Pyle:
The lines of a Taitt pirogue seem to confirm its hybrid ancestry. The waterlines forward showed much greater hollow than I found in any small craft [in the Caribbean] other than the dugout gommiers and their derivatives, the yoles. Use of the shell as a keel points to a dugout origin here. The odd thing was that raising strakes should be lapped instead of fastened on edge as was done elsewhere with dugouts.One of Pyle's informants suggested that the pirogue "was of Amerindian origin, that raising strakes had been a development connected to the diminishing availability of large tree trunks for dugout canoes. He surmised that the notion of lapping had been learned from the Royal Navy, whose launches and tenders were always clinker-built."
Although Pyle took the lines himself, and they are presumably accurate, these were from an outboard-powered boat, while the strangely low and long sailplan was based on a sketch from a native informant and seems less reliable. No sailing pirogues were in existence in 1975, engines having completely taken over.