The Canoe Is the People
Indigenous Navigation in the Pacific
The wind on a sail can push a canoe right over. Therefore, most European boats have a deep, heavy keel GLOSSARY keel - the structure on the bottom of a European hull that works against the force of the wind to keep the boat upright that works against the force of the wind to keep the boat upright. They also have a heavy ballast GLOSSARY ballast - heavy weight placed low in the hull of European boats to keep them upright . Both the keel and the ballast slow the boat down [See figure 1].
Pacific canoes are different. They sail by working with the natural forces of the wind and water. Because of this, they don’t need extra weight to stay upright. Instead of having a deep keel in the water, the outrigger canoe puts the balancing weight (the outrigger itself) to the side – a clever solution because it doesn’t slow the boat down [See figure 2]. The canoes don’t crash through the water because their parts are flexible GLOSSARY flexible - easy to bend and move with the waves. This means less stress on the boat and less equipment failure, which is essential for long voyages. The canoes are built with very few materials. This is important on islands with few resources.
It’s not surprising that the lightest and fastest boats in the world today are modern catamarans. Their designs are based on Pacific double-hulled canoes GLOSSARY double-hulled canoes - canoes with two hulls !
Transmitting knowledge to the kids
Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr of Te Toki Voyaging Trust
“I encourage the kids to read and write and do all those kinds of things, but I also encourage them to be very experimental in the things that they do. So when we have the canoes out, especially if it’s a good day, I’ll say to them, OK, if we’ve rigged it up for sailing, so OK, what will happen if we do this, if we make this change to the canoe? What happens to the physics of the canoe if we tilt this mast forward a little bit? Or what happens if we move you all to the front of the canoe? How is that going to affect the performance of the canoe? How are we going to try to make the canoe go faster? How are we going to make it come up into the wind a bit better? All those little things.”