Friday, November 23, 2012

Opposite Ends of India

More photos of Indian boats from reader Paul Wilson, who kindly provided photos for earlier posts on boats in Goa, Philippine bancas, and Myanmar longtails

The first batch was taken in Varanasi (also known as Benares) in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, in 2004. Here's Paul's brief description, followed by my captions:
(Varanasi is a) sacred pilgrim city along the banks of the Ganges. On the other side of India from Kerala but very similar boats to the ones in Kerala. [We'll look at the Kerala photos in a future post; Ed.] I included these pictures to show that the construction of the boats is also edge sewn planking. I think it is interesting to see how they add the frames after the planks are sewn together. It surprises me how poorly supported the planking is in the photo. The color you see in the water is flower petals from the burials and the pilgrims religious offerings. In the pictures you can also see the high water marks when the river goes to flood.
Although these boats resemble Western craft superficially, their shell-first, smooth-skinned construction makes them quite different in fact. (Click any image to enlarge.)
There seem to be both double-ended and transom-stern boats here. No hint in the photo about how these boats are used.
The hull planking is complete. The frames have been cut but are yet to be installed, and the width of the hull is set by temporary bamboo stretchers.. Note how the frames don't quite match the curve of the hull. As the components are fastened to one another, they will both deform somewhat, but I'd bet that the hull will conform more to the shape of the frames than vice versa.
A very nice leaf-shaped hull. The frames don't extend into the bottom: they only support the planking between the turn of the bilge and the gunwales. The deck beams, however, are hefty. The framework that's being used to dry clothes might also be used to support very lightweight walls and a roof, or might serve to display goods for sale.
The fourth boat from the top is considerably longer but no wider than the others, and narrower than some of them. She looks fast and graceful.
Fascinating rig: a tall single mast carrying square mainsail and topsail, and steered with a side rudder. (Let's not speculate about cultural transmission with Medieval Europe.)
Paul took the next set of photos in 2004 in Rameswaram, a town on Pamban Island, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu at the opposite end of the Indian subcontinent and close to Sri Lanka. 
Coastal fishing scene. The boats here are deeper than the river craft shown in the Varanasi photos.
These hulls have quite a lot of rocker. Although the water is dead calm in this shot, they are probably meant to maneuver in surf. 
With full floor timbers and much more heavily framed than the Varanasi boats,  this boat could easily be mistaken for a Western design.
Profile shot of the same boat.
The lateen rig on a steeply canted mast and a stern rudder provide significant contrast to the Varanasi sailboat shown earlier.

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