MILLIONS of natives in the Far East make use of craft having only two main points of resemblance to the boats and small vessels of the West: these craft are built of wood and they float. Some, such as the Arab dhow and the Chinese junk, are seaworthy vessels. Before the steamship clipped the wings of sail, they played an important part in carrying goods across the seas east of Suez and were the main links in the chain of communication from East to West. For local trade these vessels still defy steam and the internal combustion engine. Smaller craft are used for fishing in tropical seas, and still smaller ones for river fishing. Others are floating homes and cargo carriers on rivers and canals.
THE EAST AND THE WEST provides a picturesque contrast on the River Hooghly at Calcutta. The steamer in the background and the steam launch on the left are Western products, but the river craft in the foreground is of a type that has been unchanged for centuries. One type of native passenger boat used on the Hooghly is known as a dinghy, a term applied also to small boats towed or carried by yachts.
Man power being cheaper than diesel oil and petrol in the East, paddles, sweeps and sails continue to propel craft, the design and rig of which have remained practically unaltered for centuries. Here and there an idea has been taken from the white man, but only by natives of the coast in contact with the West. The vast majority of natives build their boats and handle them just as their ancestors did. Although a European boat specially designed for local needs may be the more efficient craft, more seaworthy and capable of carrying more cargo with fewer hands, she is unable to win favour and make a place for herself. The native craft is built of local materials in a time-
Some craft, especially river boats, are extremely primitive and scarcely merit their appellation; but others are most ingenious, and require skill in management. Properly handled, such boats accomplish remarkable passages, and when the white man tries to handle them he realizes the skill of the native.
The smaller craft on the coasts vary in design according to local conditions, for not only does the native have to build his boat to suit the Waters in which she is to operate, but he has also to do his best with local material. He is often too poor to buy better material, which would have to be brought some distance. Instead of using canvas for sails, he may have to make his sails of matting, and his halyards and sheets may be of grass rope. Before the coming of the white man, with his iron nails and edge-
We are still apt to think of the Arab as a desert-
The triangular lateen sail which gave the felucca and other Mediterranean vessels a reputation for speed is said to have originated from the Arab dhow. So long and heavy is the yard that sometimes two spars are fitted to give the requisite length. When the sail is furled and the vessel is at anchor the yard, with the sail furled to it, is kept clear of the deck. The yard is hoisted, the heel is made fast to the deck by the tack-
With an exceptionally high peak, the lateen sail distinguishes the gaiassa of the River Nile, a note-
The Arab dhow is fast for its size, and has a long overhang forward and a raked stern. Dhows vary in size from between fifty and eighty-
It is extraordinary that the Indians, walled in from the rest of Asia by the mighty Himalayas, did not seek intercourse with the world by building ships; but the fact remains that the various races inhabiting the subcontinent are primarily landsmen.
The boat, however, plays an important part in the life of multitudes of people throughout India, even if they live in the shadow of the world’s greatest mountains.
The rivers, canals and lakes are crowded with primitive craft that often form floating homes for families. On some rivers, such as the Sutlej, one of the oldest forms of water transport is used -
Some of the fishing craft in India are very primitive; but men catch fish froln them, and they are thus sufficient for the purpose and justify their existence. The catamarans in use in southern India are often nothing more than a few logs lashed together by means of two cross-
The outrigger canoes and dug-
In the sheltered lagoons of the Pacific Islands the natives use large canoes with large single outriggers, and pile on to the struts a surprising amount of cargo, considering the flimsy nature of the craft.
It is said that the Polynesians who peopled the far distant islands such as Tahiti, the Marquesas and New Zealand came by way of India and the East Indies; but their great canoes were bigger craft than the outriggers. The outrigger is not suitable for rough water because of the strain on the struts from the action of the waves; but in sheltered waters it continues to survive. It draws only a few inches of water and its construction has been brought to a fine art by the skilful craftsmen of Eastern Polynesia, where each island strives to outdo its neighbour, and the outrigger races are the sporting event of the year.
These swift outrigger canoes are carefully housed in boathouses ashore or placed on a platform above the waters of the island lagoon and screened from the heat of the sun by leaves. In strong winds one or two men stand on the outrigger to balance the craft as she scuds before the wind, or with a beam wind. Speeds as high as seventeen knots are claimed by white men who have sailed in these craft, but the writer has never been able to verify them.
Outriggers are useless in a headwind, as they have no grip on the water. The native furls his sail and paddles home at the end of the course. It is interesting to race one of these craft with an orthodox centre-
Before the wind the float of the outrigger comes out of the water as the canoe rolls, and the man on the strut leans outboard to prevent the vessel from capsizing. It is hard work for a novice to steer with the paddle, as at speed it needs force to keep the paddle in the water, to say nothing of steering the canoe.
Millions of Chinese live afloat in the river, lake and canal boats, and the Chinese junk is one of the most seaworthy ocean-
The Chinese sail, stiffened with battens, is as distinctive as the lateen sail. It is hoisted on a pole-
A distinctive sail is that of the double canoes of the islanders of Mailu, off New Guinea. This sail, resembling a crab’s claw, is seen also at Port Moresby, capital of Papua, New Guinea. The first stage in building these strange craft is to get two dug-
A PRAO AT PARE PARE, Celebes, Dutch East Indies, showing how the outrigger ensures stability for these narrow boats. The outrigger is a device used by many native boat-
[From part 14, published 12 May 1936]
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