Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Indigenous Sails

It is with a mixture of chagrin and enthusiasm that I call attention to Indigenous Sails, a Dutch organization working to preserve indigenous sailing craft not as museum pieces, but as economically sustainable ways of life for their owners and builders. I'll quote their letter to me:

Indigenous Sails is the first project in the world focusing exclusively on exotic sailing ships as a category in itself.

While there are in the Western world hundreds of organisations that work for the survival of Western maritime traditions, there is no such thing in the developing world.

The underlying idea is that exotic wooden sailing ships can survive, and potentially thrive, when owners/builders will continue to be able to earn a living with them, possibly in new ways.

According to the organization's website, they are working initially to preserve the use of four vessel types: the Brazilian jangada, the Vietnamese junk, the Sri Lankan oruwa, and the Indonesian pinisi. Over time, they hope to add additional types to their list. The site describes where the boats may be found, their current rarity, and opportunities for actually going for a sail aboard one.
My chagrin? Only that the organization's name is so similar to that of this blog. The sincerest form of flattery? A usurper of search engine position and potential source of reader confusion? I wish them well in their mission, but wish they'd chosen a different name.


  1. I have looked at the sails site and aside from sharing the word "indigenous" there isn't that much similarity between their site and yours. Their site is rather thin on useful information in its initial incarnation. Supposedly that will improve over time. They mention adding videos. Their focus does not seem to be would-be boat builders but rather preservation through promotion or transition from utility to sport.
    One thing that all of us that are fascinated with indigenous boats share is some sort of motivation for why we are interested in preserving that technology.
    My own interest is primarily esthetic. I love the way that traditional boats look. I also have a persistent pessimism about the continued availability of petroleum as a motive power for our own civilization. In other words, if petroleum availability shrinks to insignificant amounts, indigenous technology may again become economically significant.
    The view of indgenous sails seems to be that indigenous technology is lovely but will disappear unless we can make it self-sufficient through tourism or as a medium for competitive sports. I think that would be a good strategy assuming that everything stays the same and western tourist continue to travel to exotic places. But I doubt that that sort of future is realistic seeing as it is based on a profligate use of natural resources.
    For the time being, Bob, I find your website more useful since it provides a wealth of information to interested boat tinkerers like myself.

  2. Thank you so much for your vote of confidence Wolfgang. While I entirely agree that petro-based fun and travel will eventually have to go away, I'm not quite as pessimistic as you about the future of tourism overall, as I do anticipate that technological innovation will find clean power substitutes. (The question in my mind is whether or not there will be a broad societal collapse before that occurs, but that's getting *just a bit* off-topic.)