Saturday, January 5, 2008

First Post on Indigenous Boast -- er, Boats

This blog is about antique watercraft outside of the Western, plank-on-frame tradition. Eventually, I hope to address dugouts, pirogues, bark canoes, reed/grass boats, skin-on-frame boats (including kayaks, coracles, curraghs, etc.), skin-without-frame boats (inflated yak skins, anyone?), dragon boats, Polynesian and Hawaiian canoes and their relatives (e.g., outrigger canoes, proas, double canoes/catamarans), and boats of various Asian styles (junks, sampans, and the like), and every other type that I can find, hopefully with the help of interested contributors.

The title, Indigenous Boats, is admittedly obscure and will no doubt prove to be inaccurate. A dragon boat built and raced in Boston, for instance, can hardly be considered indigenous to the Charles River. But dragon boats were/are indigenous to someplace (China), and no other qualifier seems right. Aboriginal Boats? Hardly. The Chinese who developed the dragon boat were long past the aboriginal stage, and the term is so closely connected to the Australian aborigines that it would cause great confusion. (By the way, what is the boatbuilding tradition of Australia prior to Western contact?) For roughly similar reasons, "primitive boats" wouldn't do it, since many of the craft I hope to discuss are pretty sophisticated in design, construction, and/or overall complexity, and "primitive" is a value-laden term that would certainly upset some readers -- no matter that a coracle, for example, is indeed a primitive contraption, and no matter how appealing and charming it may be, and regardless of the fact that coracles were used for serious (that is, not leisure) purposes as late as the early 20th century. Beyond indigenous, aboriginal, and primitive, no other candidates come to mind, so Indigenous Boats it is.

I plan to cover aspects of design and construction, history and culture, boathandling, seamanship, navigation, archaeology, and especially current uses of these craft. I'm actively seeking input -- articles, comments, book recommendations or reviews (or books for review), photos, video clips, links, comments -- if you're interested in this topic (or any aspect of it), please let me know, send me some stuff, and let's work together to make this an interesting, wide-ranging resource for a wide-ranging selection of boat types.



  1. Hi Bob,

    Here's a very interesting link about Brazilian indian canoes:

    Photos are very impressive, but if the text interests you, please let me know, it's my pleasure to help you.

    See u,



  2. Besides Indigenous Boats, you could have also considered Traditional Boats, meaning that, for example, the dragonboat originated in the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River) watershed (of China) and is considered to be a 'traditional' boat of that country / region, just as the birch bark canoe is a traditional but of eastern North America. One could almost infer pre-european contact.

    Another amazing traditional boat is the paddled boats of Thailand (Siam), especially the Royal Barges of the King of Thailand. Haven't explored your entire (fabulous) website yet, so don't know whether you have included same.