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.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Goan Sewn Outrigger Canoes

Reader Paul Wilson sent us nice photos of some outrigger canoes from Goa, on India's west coast. (See earlier posts for Paul's photos of Philippine bancas and Burmese longtails.) Here's his brief description:

As I am sure you know, Goa used to be a Portuguese colony. The Catholic influenced paintings on the side of the proas are beautiful. You can really see the progression from a dug-out log to higher freeboard with edge stitched planks. There seems to be a wide variety of materials used for the stitching from the traditional coconut husk to fishing line.
My own captions follow. 
Built upon a dugout base, the canoe is "extended" by sewing additional strakes to raise the freeboard. Note how the hull is straight-sided and the outrigger float is straight: as we'll see below, these features are not constants. (Click any image to enlarge.)
Stitching of the uppermost strake is obvious in this shot. The Catholic iconography is more than just a hold-over from the colonial era. More than a quarter of Goa's population is Christian. A false keel and false lower stem have been added to protect the dugout hull from damage or abrasion when beaching. 
In contrast to the top photo, the added strakes on this canoe tilt outward considerably from the dugout base. The outrigger float is also curved, not straight. I believe those are oars, not paddles, but I see no evidence of rowlocks, tholes, thimbles or other mechanism to hold the shaft against the gunwale.
The lashings of the outrigger booms have been tightened with Spanish windlasses. The short levers of the windlasses are a permanent part of the boat's rigging. If the lashings loosen, the windlass lever can be freed at one end and turned another time or two to tighten them, after which it is lashed back in place. 
Paul's wife catches a bit of shade and provides scale for the photo. These canoes are bigger than they appear in isolation.
A nice detail shot, showing the lashing over the coir bundle that serves as external caulking between the dugout base and the added strake. Also a good view of the lashings for the false stem that joins the washstrakes.
A similar shot with a bit more context. The hull rests on cross-timbers which, I think allow it to dry more readily. They look too small to be effective as rollers for moving the boat over loose sand, but they might serve effectively as skids.
You can see the hull lashings from the inside at lower right. Note how the added strakes bow sharply outward from the dugout base. There are big blocks on the inside of the gunwale that appear to be related to the use of oars, but still no sign of rowlocks, tholes, etc. At least four thwarts provide seats for at least four crew, which might be needed to row out through surf. The vertical post near the end probably serves as a fulcrum for a steering oar. On this example, the Spanish windlasses are lashed at the middle and at both ends, which would make tightening the boom-to-hull lashings a bit more work.
Permanently-installed Spanish windlasses are used on the float-to-boom connection too. Don't know if there's any reason for the humpbacked shape of the float. The blunt end is also curious, since a tapered end would be more efficient.

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