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.

Visit the Indigenous Boats Store for books on outrigger canoes, Asian boats and other watercraft outside the Western tradition.

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