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Page history last edited by Alex Finnegan 9 years, 8 months ago

image of coracles being used for fishing (copied from wikipedia) 

I have started this introduction to boats by choosing three distinct types of boat, the Coracle, the Coble and the Skiff.


These have been chosen to represent the three ages of maritime learning and progress, with relation to boats (so far).


Firstly, the coracle, a primitive personal watercraft constructed from materials sourced locally (flexible branches and animal skin) to enable one person to navigate an area of water.





Secondly, the Coble again a working boat, this time constructed using a Scandinavian technique for overlapping wooden planks. This "Lapstrake" technique would have been "high technology" in it's day, enabling the fast production of strong seaworthy hulls from the timber available.


Lastly, is a group I have identified as being called Skiffs, this is an old maritime word for a small boat, which has recently been revived to refer to a modern sailing dinghy  with a light fast "water skimming" hull form.


The first designs we built were called a Skerrie Skiff, designed by Iain Oughtred. The Skerrie Skiff is a hybrid of a traditional lapstrake hull form, yet fabricated in a modern (glued) way. This should make the finished vessel feel traditional, yet allow students to progress quickly through the build.

 Well, that is the overview, lets get back to the history of boats.


As an island race, the people of the British Isles have utilised the surrounding seas and internal waterways as a medium for transport, trade, fishing and sport for thousands of years.


The earliest forms of vessel (from the Neolithic  period after 10,000BC) would most likely have been rafts of suitably bound buoyant materials such as wood, reeds or even inflated animal skins. Modern recreations of these types of vessels have shown that such primitive craft would indeed have been capable of crossing oceans and travelling great distances. The most notable raft recreations must be Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-tiki (balsa wood) and Ra II (bound Reeds) expeditions.


The next evolution of boat design was the dugout canoe.




Using primitive stone axes to hollow out the interior, usually after burning (which would breakdown the wood fibres), these stone age boat builders some 6000+ years BC first created the hollow hull form which we now associate with boats.


This dugout technology used large tree trunks and must have taken many people many days, even months to complete. The resulting vessels would have been quite heavy and as they sat down into the water they would have been better suited to open water than marshes or small rocky streams. In these inland areas of shallow water, individuals would require transport across water and this is where the coracle fitted the brief.


Light and portable, the coracle could be fashioned from more flexible materials, meaning a quicker build, which, one person could complete in one or two days. The resulting vessel could be slung on the back and carried over land, being used each time a river or large lake was to be crossed. Fishing was also possible from a coracle and as such in Ireland and western Scotland the build technique of woven wooden laths covered by a watertight animal skin developed into the larger Curragh.





Curragh Research


Tim Severin, writer and explorer, recreated a similar currach to which, legend says, St. Brenden sailed to America, around 512-530 AD, well before Christopher Columbus, Tim then, of course, sailed this recreation to America.


A very brief video of a Curragh in a museum






Move on to Cobles

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