Friday, March 27, 2009

Caiçara Dugouts of Brazil

I received much great information on Brazilian dugouts from reader Silvio Antunha. I hope to cover this over several posts, but we’ll start with these great photos of the construction process.

The boat shown is a "canoinha" , or little canoe, built in the style of Caiçara, in the southernmost state on the Brazilian coast. Interestingly, the process of dugout building is known by the Portuguese term for “pulling,” – not in the sense of a Western “pulling boat,” but according to the idea that the boat is “pulled” out of the tree.

Using charcoal-impregnated string, Caiçara builders line out their canoe on the tree trunk using a pattern of 21 straight lines – amazing, since there aren’t any straight lines on the finished boat. According to Silvio, the boats are “slow, unstable and unsafe,” but also “amazingly graceful and peaceful. Dolphins loved to follow the rower, just as pets, 1,5 or 2m near the boats.”
Roughing out with an axe:
Roughing out the exterior. Note the black lines that define the hull shape:
The straight lines marked with charcoal are always present: The interior after being roughed out with an adze:
Turning the hull over, shown in steps:

Because of a flaw in the wood at the bow, the builder cut out a square opening and filled it with a sound block of wood:

The finished boat, named Silvana, is shown at the top of the post, with the builder, Sr Israel .
More to come on these beautiful boats in a future post. Many thanks to Silvio for this great input.


  1. Nice post.
    I had never seen pictures of such a canoe in the making.

  2. Thanks Miles. Hope you like the next one too. There may be as many as four posts altogether on these canoes, since Silvio provided me with lots of great input. Wish I could read the background material in the original Portuguese...

  3. Yes, double-nice.
    Keep them posts comming.
    I'd love to read that material. Do you think Silvio would mind? Or do you think I could ask Silvio to see the material? I am myself an admirer of the gracefull caiçara canoes...

  4. Peter: There is a link to the material (in Portuguese) in the latest post, but here's the URL again:

  5. Hi Great post .I have just returned from Brazil and saw these canoes/boats .I did not get a chance to go out to sea in one .I live in Toronto so us canada canoes.Do you have any photos of the Brazilian paddles used with the boat .My photos did not come out clearly.

    Best wishes

  6. There are a few brief glimpses of paddles in this video:
    Not very clear, however.
    Silvio -- are you there? Do you have any good photos of the paddles? Anyone?