Thanks a BOMB: VazahaGasy a ‘Best of Malagasy Blog’

I am gratified and honoured that this VazahaGasy blog has been voted the winner of the Society category in the Best of Malagasy Blogs awards.

Society award

I’m resisting an urge not to mention it and hide in the corner in embarrassment, because I’d like to pass on a big thanks both to those who voted and the organisers of the competition.

Projects like the BOMBS (Best of Malagasy Blogs) competition generate awareness and energy around internet usage thanks to the effort of the FOKO team behind the awards.

I’m convinced of the need for countries like Madagascar to embrace the internet and other IT options, in order to be able to develop as fast as they would like.

Clearly, the lack of funds – for individuals and organisations – plays a big part in restricting usage.

However, it’s also awareness and skills that are lacking. People here are bright and eager to learn – they just need people to point them in the right direction.

Unfortunately, at this point, many of the blogs are maintained either by the Malagasy diaspora or, like me, by a Vazaha living in Madagascar.

Let’s hope, before long – all the winners are Malagasys living in Madagascar and that these people are also using the internet for marketing, e-commerce, business-to-business processes, e-learning, transparent government and all the other things that facilitate growth and efficiency.

And please everybody send up a prayer to anyone or anything you think can help – FOR GLOBAL BROADBAND (that plea is both compassionate for the greater good of Madagascar and a selfish one to make my life easier).

So a big thanks again to all those who voted and congratulations to the other winners.

And let’s hope the BOMBS continue to raise awareness around the possibilities of blogging for Malagasys and those connected with Madagascar.


How to make a lamba

lambasFollowing on from a comment received to my previous post ‘Traditional Madagascar clothing: the lamba‘, here’s a quick guide to making your own lamba. Even a total beginner at clothes making could make this.

The lamba is made of two parts; the lamba oany, which goes round the body, and the kisaly which is draped around the shoulders or head.

Making the lamba

Lamba oany: this is a long tube of cloth sown down the drop. It’s 2metres wide around the body before it’s sown (so 1 metre wide when you step inside it). The standard drop is 1.50 metre – but this can be adjusted. It needs to be roughly armpit to ankle. Simply sow down the drop to make a tube.

Kisaly: this is a piece of material of the same cloth 2 metres by 2 metres.

Choice of material

red lambaLambas tend to be made out of 2 types of material – neither of which I have precise information on (maybe a reader can help here).

One is close to cotton and is thus not transparent.

The other is more transparent and very soft. It’s closest to a transparent sarong or scarf but has a bit of weight to it so it hangs well but is still breathable.

Wearing the lamba

To wear around the chest, step inside the tube of the lamba oany and hold it wide at the top between both hands. Then fold it around you like a towel – taking head lamba each hand under the opposite armpit. Many women just manage to tuck it in – you can also tie a knot in the ends at the middle of your chest and then cover the knot by pulling a bit of fabric over it.

To wear around the waist just wrap it round and tuck it in. Any way you manage to keep the lamba staying put is acceptable – and will be slightly different depending on the shape of your body.

The kisaly can be wrapped around the head in any way you like, or draped around the shoulders.

Living with poverty: personal stories

Each Westerner from a rich country living in a poor country like Madagascar faces the challenge of coming to terms with being rich living amongst poverty.

There are those who despise the poor people around them, those who live in permanent sadness for them, those who try to shut it out, those who are motivated to act to improve the situation and those who are resigned to the fact that life isn’t fair and there are people who have and people who haven’t.

In reality, most of us have all of these feelings at different times.

Lazarets roadI’m going to examine various aspects of poverty over the next few posts – it is a defining theme of life here, that combines with Malagasy culture to constitute the reality of life.
Below are different stories of five Malagasy women I know, showing just some examples of how life is tougher here than in developed countries.

I’ve included describing things I give to these women because deciding whether to give or not is a complex issue, one I will look into more deeply in my next post.

Why only women’s tales? Well, that’s a whole other issue but, to summarise, I believe men and women’s experience of poverty is generally quite different here and my friends are mainly women because it’s difficult for women to have real male friends here. I will try to include some male stories at a later date.

Drop in the ocean

HouseLast weekend I took a walk through some of the poorer districts of Antsiranana this Sunday. My partner was showing me where he grew up. As we walked past family after family all struggling with stories of poverty I felt a sense of hopelessness creep over me. And I know that these town dwellers, in the main, are not the really poor people of Madagascar. Corrugated iron may look like poverty to westerners, who prefer to see the houses from natural materials, but it’s a valuable building material here.

I can give little gifts to my friends which they appreciate and no doubt helps me feel better. But, all these houses, all these stories. They go on for ever. Throughout this town, throughout Madagascar and throughout the world.

Story 1: Soa – the recently widowed street stall seller

Soa sells tea, coffee and rice cakes (each for €0.04 or 2.5p) in the mornings on the main street in Diego.

I used to have breakfast there when I was staying in a nearby hotel in 2005. Soa has a soft manner, open face and kind heart. I appreciated seeing a friendly face each morning when life could be lonely.

The other day, I was taking an early morning stroll and stopped their for tea, mainly to chat and introduce my baby son.

I asked her if she had children. She has 5, the youngest being 6 years old. When I asked her, laughing, if she’d stopped now or was going to have more she smiled but said quite firmly that she wouldn’t have more.

Then she stopped smiling and said “Life is hard”.

I asked her if she had a husband at home and she told me he had died 6 months ago. “So life is more hard now than before.”, I said. She nodded solemnly.

When I’d finished my tea I handed her “A present to help out a little.” (20, 000 Ariary or €8).

She smiled at first and then tears rolled down her face. She was too upset to speak but mumbled “God bless you” as she tried to compose herself before the next customer.

I don’t know the exact reason for the tears. Maybe they were from the actual benefit the money would bring, feeling that somebody was just taking an interest or just because life is really hard.

The money I gave won’t pay for her rent or school fees for the children or any medical bills that come up. I don’t know how people find such expenses with such tiny incomes.

Her story, of trying to make ends meet on her own with five children to support, isn’t unusual in the slightest. I live surrounded by people facing similar struggles, or worse, all the time.

But, for some reason, I couldn’t get her out of my head all day and night. The next day I took her a bag full of durable food products like oil, tins of tomato paste, toothpaste, condensed milk and some biscuits as a treat for the kids.

Story 2: Nadia – the cleaning lady

Nadia is our cleaning lady and nanny for my son. She has work all year round looking after this rented property so gets extra pay from us now she is looking after our son. She works 6 days a week for 5 and a half hours.

For looking after Felix (and washing all our laundry) we pay her €35 per month for her work with us (plus ‘gifts’ of money, food, clothing etc.). A pittance in European terms but a decent salary here for the hours she works and type of work.

She is a wise and positive woman who is supporting three grown children through their studies despite being on her own after her husband died 4 years ago. Unusually for this area, she says she will never remarry – her husband was and will always be her only husband.

She goes home every evening to a house without electricity. She had always had electricity since she was a little girl but there isn’t any at the house she moved to with her husband just four months before he died.

Often she takes the bus or a taxi home (both €0.30) but sometimes saves the fare by walking the 50 minutes without shade. Her children work in the holidays to pay for their own school equipment and fees.

Despite obviously being an intelligent woman she finished school mid-teens. She wanted to start earning to get money to escape from the house she was living in where she was beaten by an aunt.

Story 3: Meva – the single Mum street stall seller with new baby

Similar to Soa’s story is Meva, who sells little fried goods locally every day. Her daily life consists of sitting under a corrugated iron shelter with the sun beating down, surrounded by boiling oil and burning charcoal with her baby crying in a cardboard box beside her.

I can’t reconcile her daily slog with the exhaustion new Western mothers complain of (including me) in our comfortable houses and with maternity leave. She is a single Mum with four children by three different fathers. Contraception is rarely used here so often each relationship brings children with it. Having many children is seen as a blessing – although I can’t believe they really always think that when another one pops out.

She has family in France so her house has had various improvements– including a concrete toilet and shower block. However, I hear that the relationship has broken down so she is getting less help.

She smiles radiantly all day and chats without ever complaining. I pass on to her things of mine or my son for her or her baby son.

Story 4: Cecilie – the single school teacher

Another friend is a single, childless school teacher in a village in the bay. She gets housing (single room from traditional materials) with her postings and a salary. However, sometimes she has to go long periods without pay if the villagers can’t pull together her salary (which is very small).

She has to be financially and psychologically independent. Not only does she have little family back in town but a single, childless woman is often be viewed with suspicion by villagers in a country where your group matters more than who you are as an individual.

I gave her some photos of her I’d printed off and a photo frame that I wasn’t using any more that had cost me €1.50. I know, because I’ve visited her house, that this will be the nicest decoration she has in her house. I also gave her a dress I bought but never wear and my French / English dictionary. As I had some spare I also gave her a packet of soup – which she had no idea what to do with but might just do as supper one day when food is scarce or if she’s ill.

Story 5: Tina – the academic high flyer

Tina is a gorgeous, bright woman in her early twenties from an educated family. She was a student of mine at the University and now teaches me Malagasy. She doesn’t count as either poor or rich by Malagasy standards. She’s been to University, she can earn money from teaching English to Malagasys and Malagasy to the English. Her parents are divorced but both professionals – her mother is a French teacher and her father a doctor living in another town. She was the highest performing student on her degree course and in Europe would be considered a high flyer.

University accommodationNevertheless, living in a poor country with poor infrastructure effects everybody. Most of the University graduates face an almost non-existent job market. Don’t patronise your taxi driver here – he might have a PhD.

Like the rest of her class, Tina can’t graduate as one of their courses wasn’t completed as the teacher didn’t turn up. “Maybe this year” is all they’ve been told. The buildings on the right are the student accommodation at the University.

She also spends considerable time looking after the house and her sister’s new baby, while her sister goes to college. Whilst her sister’s husband is away earning money in a different town she also shares a bed with her sister and her baby.

She has options for the future but nothing like the options if she was in Europe. Yet another example of someone who brings home the unjustness of people’s blanket resentment of immigrants to developed countries. Why shouldn’t somebody like this have the chance to shine in Europe and then either stay there and contribute or come back to Madagascar?

Not that she can afford the airfare of course.

Everybody has a story

So, these are just a few stories of some of my favourite Malagasy female friends – each of them showing resilience to their situation and an unwillingness to burden others with their problems.

I don’t want to over-romanticise the characters I’ve portrayed here. They are not heroines, they are normal women living lives repeated hundreds of time across the world. They all have their qualities and faults.

And, if you find yourself in poverty, you don’t have much choice – you keep getting up every day and you try to make the best of it.

I imagine I would fight as hard in the their shoes but seeing their lives up close keeps me humble.

Malagasy cuisine – a beginner’s guide

In my previous post, The Role of Food in Malagasy life, I looked at how food fits into Malagasy life. But what do people actually eat?

Rice, rice and more rice

No discussion of Malagasy cuisine could get very far without mentioning rice. Traditionally eaten three times a day and the principal crop, a Malagasy will not feel full following a meal without rice. Revolts have happened when businesses didn’t make rice available for their Malagasy staff. According to the International Year of Rice a Malagasy person eats 140 kg rice per year (that’s 0.4kg or 0.9lbs rice per day).

Preparing and serving rice

RiceCooking good rice is as important in Madagascar as making a good cup of tea in Britain or vinaigrette in France or Steak in Argentina.

However, here’s the general rules of rice cooking:

  • Sort the rice using a rice sorter to pick out husks, stones and other dirt
  • Rinse the rice to clean it and get off some of the starch
  • Immediately fill pot with water for cooking and put lid on
  • Place pot on hot fire to get water boiling
  • Sort the rice using a rice sorter to pick out husks, stones and other dirt
  • Rinse the rice to clean it and get off some of the starch
  • Immediately fill pot with water for cooking and put lid on
  • Place pot on hot fire to get water boiling
  • Let water boil vigorously for a minute
  • Turn heat down very low and let the rice steam cook itself.

Meals are normally served with all the food placed in big pots in the middle (either on a table or, traditionally, on a mat on the floor). People used to simply tuck in with spoons however people often now use plates and serve themselves rice and sauce. The rice often forms a mound (or mountain) on the plate and people often have two or three servings, if there is enough.

Where rice comes from

Many people in rural areas grow rice. It’s less common on coastal areas than it is on the plateau (see photos of rice cultivation on

Rice that has been harvested is laid out on wicker mats in the sun to dry – still in its husks. Then, once dry, the rice is pounded in a huge wooden pestle and mortar. The husks are used as chicken feed.

You can also buy your rice from the market from ladies surrounded from big rice sacks full of different varieties. Rice is measured in ‘kapoks’, which are old condensed milk cans. I have never seen a packet of rice here.

The price of rice is currently around €0.14 per kapok (350 Ariary). Most Malagasys like at least one kapok of rice per meal – I like about one third of a kapok. The price of rice is a topic of much discussion and politicians are in trouble if the price goes up too much.

Madagascar no longer grows enough rice to feed its population which is a source of much sadness. Apparently, much of the high quality Malagasy rice is exported and lower quality rice is imported, mainly from Pakistan. I’m a big fan of Malagasy red rice which has more flavour and nutrients than white rice.

The main dish

Gasy meal

The accompaniment to rice is called Kabaka or Ro (in Diego). It is often either a rich tomato sauce or the watery dish, Romazava, but can also be a mild curry (barely spicy at all). Any of these dishes can be made with any meat, fish, seafood or beans.

However they also eat drier foods such as steak, fried fish, dried fish and ‘brochettes’, which are tiny bits of beef grilled on skewers, like mini-shish kebabs – this common street snack came over from Réunion I believe.

There is often some ‘enchary’ or salad, made from either slicing or shredding salad ingredients (including often raw mango or papaya) with some liquid, chopped onions and sometimes chilli peppers.

BredeAn important vegetable product is ‘añana’ or ‘brède’ (this is a French word but French people I know hadn’t heard of it). Essentially añana is one of a few varieties of leaves; including cassava or manioc leaves, watercress and others types of leaves that I don’t recognise. Añana is most commonly served as a key component of the watery dish, Romazava – it can be simply añana boiled in water with salt or a more complex stew with meat or chicken etc. There is also the delicious dish with ground cassava leaves, coconut milk and beef.

Traditional malagasy food was not spicy but Malagasys have developed more of a taste for it – however, the main dish is rarely spicy, chilli being served in jar on the side.

Feeding the family on a tight budget

The skill to feeding your family despite very tight resources comes from making sure you have rice in and then finding anything to be the accompaniment. This can include a single tomato and onion for the whole family, a single mango or boiling scraps of gristle and fat to flavour a stew.

It has become harder and harder to afford protein products. I read in the last edition of the ‘Revue Océan Indien’ (print magazine on sale here) that the average Malagasy now eats 3.5kg meat per year compared to 19.5kg per year in 1961 (and compared to 40+kg for an American and 30kg for a French person). Beef is the most commonly bought meat as it’s the cheapest (5000 Ariary, €2 per kilo).

Malagasy breakfast

Traditionally breakfast consists of last night’s rice reheated. I also suspect there are many people who start the day without breakfast.

Drying fishMorning rice is often cooked in lots of water to make ‘Sabeda’, like watery rice pudding without any sugar. With this, people often eat dried fish (see photo)or mini-meat kebabs.

Another common morning dish is soup – in the style of chinese soup so it is watery with noodles and some bits of veg and meat floating in it.

In towns where many people eat breakfast at food stalls in the street, it is also common to eat a deep fried option, either mukary (like doughnuts), cassava root or banana. Some of the sweet options are baked such as the mukary vary (rice bun) and ‘Good-good’ a bit like bread and butter pudding. Each of these items, plus either strong coffee or weak tea, is 100 Ariary, or €0.04.

Street food breakfastBread is also very common in towns – only available in the French baguette style. You can buy a small baguette 300 Ariary (€0.12) and buy a portion of butter to be spread in it. Many people stop in corner shops to buy a piece of bread and butter, a home made yoghurt and a glass of ‘syrop’ (made up cordial).

Snacks / street food

Malagasys don’t snack much in between meals, apparently all used to waiting until the food is served. So, ‘snacks’ often replace a meal rather than supplement it

mango and chilliPeople often eat fruit that is growing on local trees as a snack. Mango season is a boost to everybody’s fruit intake – this photo shows unripe mangoes doused in chilli peppers. Delicious.

As well as the snacks that are on sale for breakfast, there are also samosas on sale in the afternoons. The mini-kebab ‘brochettes’are also a common street snack, served with some watery enchary (salad) and fried savoury bananas (delicious!).

It is also possible to buy sandwiches on the street with delicious home made fillings.


Desserts are rare although fresh bananas are often offered.

To read more about Malagasy food and find some recipes see the African Cookbook Madagascar page.

Role of food in Malagasy life

Food forms a central part of the activity, rhythm and conversation of daily life in Madagascar.

Its importance is because preparing meals is a lengthy and communal affair, food takes up the majority of income so is appreciated and food is a resource that people can share. And Malagasys like to share

Working together to produce a meal

Cooking outsideThe combination of finding fuel, ingredients and water, keeping a fire going, preparing ingredients and cooking takes considerable effort; effort which is normally shared.

Most of the cooking effort happens in the morning with enough food being left over from lunch for dinner. Fresh rice may be cooked in the evening, some of which is often left for breakfast the next morning.

In contrast to Europe, there isn’t a kitchen for a solitary cook to be tucked away in. Preparation usually goes on outside the house in full view of everyone. In areas with more rain, there is often a separate house just for cooking. Whether inside or outside, you’ll end up involved if you’re sitting around.

So food preparation is also a sociable affair. In a country where many people don’t leave their homes each day to travel far to an office (although some do), food preparation can form the backdrop to life.

Preparing foodThe fact that food preparation is lengthy and on display helps explain why most Malagasys are competent cooks, both men and women. It’s not possible to grow up without being involved in the cooking.

Malagasy cuisine is often delicious although the cooking isn’t in fact that complicated. However, it is all done with basic ingredients and equipment.

There are few labour saving devices, freezers or fridges and there’s no cook-in sauces or packet food. This means planning meals well in advance in order to leave time to find ingredients at least once a day.

On the other hand, Malagasys are used to making do with whatever ingredients they have and can rustle a meal out of a few ingredients.. They would laugh to see Europeans standing in a kitchen full of food saying ‘There’s nothing to eat’.

Chicken sellingIt also means that meat and fish arrives in its animal form rather than pre skinned, filleted and in packets. It is also often still alive (in the case of poultry and goats). So people are competent butchers and fishmongers as well as cooks.

In villages many people are eating rice they have cultivated themselves so it is still in its shucks. Thus an arduous task is to pound the rice in a huge pestle and mortar type affair where the pestle is as high as the person doing the shucking. Even if the rice is purchased ready shucked, it still needs to be sorted before cooking to clear out the chaff, stones and bad grains.

Another key aspect of Malagasy cooking is the equipment used. Most cooking is done over open wood or charcoal fires in front of the house (houses are mainly just used for sleeping). So sourcing of fuel is another necessary daily activity.

Cooking over open fires means that learning to manage your fire for the right heat (and not letting it go out) is an important skill in producing a meal.

Some people who are better off in solid (concrete) houses are increasingly running hobs off gas canisters but this is still very much an the exception.

Nothing is wasted

Pounding bredeFood is appreciated because it’s a valuable resource in a poor country.

According to the Executive Summary of the Madagascar Action Plan, food takes up 70% of family income for most Malagasys, leaving little else for other essential needs.

And food can be scarce for many families – all of my Malagasy friends have known real hunger at some point in their lives.

So, all the effort involved and the value placed on food (nothing is wasted) means that meals are generally lovingly prepared.

This contrasts with many Anglo-Saxon Westerners who treat food preparation as something to be achieved as quickly as possible to put food on the table and where it can involve going to the kitchen and reappearing 20 minutes later with a meal. I’m happy to concede that this doesn’t apply to the French, whose culture, in general, appreciates devoting time to preparing and eating food.

Karibo – the art of sharing

Sharing a mealSharing and being good hosts are important parts of Malagasy culture and you will always be offered food if you arrive at people’s houses anywhere near meal times.

If you walk past someone eating even a tiny meal (or a piece of bread), they will usually cry ‘Karibo’ (ka-ree-boo) which is an invitation to join them. A Malagasy friend of mine asked me to clarify that it is possible to pop into somebody’s house near dinner time in Europe and wait while somebody finishes their dinner without a chair and plate immediately being brought out. When I confirmed this was true, he looked confused and concerned.

Sometimes in Madagascar no explicit offer is made as it is so universally understood that the visitor is welcome to eat. And a visitor accepting food will not make a big thing of it as to do so would imply that the offer wasn’t made with a generous open heart.

And, there is always enough to go around, however many people turn up. The ability to pull of this surplus trick despite relative poverty is the tendency to cook more rice than is needed for a meal and everyone’s automatic ability to spread out the accompaniment according to the number of people.

A Malagasy expression goes, “Even the sunbird (the smallest bird) has enough food to share with 100 people.”

Traditional Madagascar clothing: the lamba

Traditional dress in Northern Madagascar involves wearing the ‘lamba’. The word lamba simply means cloth or clothing but usually refers to the two matching pieces of fabric that women wear – one around the waist or chest and one around the head or shoulders.

Traditionally the lamba would have been all that was worn. Now it is usually seen worn over Western clothing.

Lamba for men

Menagisy chief

In Diego, the lamba is rarely seen on men outside of ceremonies such as ‘joros’ (offerings) and ‘burials’ etc. although it is not so uncommon to see old men wearing it in rural areas. In rural areas on the plateau area of Madagascar, I saw more men wearing them as a matter of course. This man is a village chief from the North of Madagascar – he was wearing a lamba but tried very hard to negotiate my friend’s combat trousers off him.

Lamba for women

Unlike the men, about half of women in Diego town can be seen wearing lamba. Older

women and women from the countryside who are visiting the town almost always wear it. Muslim women of Malagasy origin also tend to wear it.

Lambas on ladiesThere are no hard and fast rules to which women wear traditional lamba and which wear Western clothing. Many women wear a lamba one day and not the next or just for part of the day. Younger more fashion conscious women may wear lambas around the house and just for special occasions but not to go into town. On the contrary, other women wear western clothing at home and put the lamba on to go into town.

I live near the main hospital in town and it seems to be common practice (though not universal) for women to wear lamba when visiting the hospital or doctor. I don’t know whether it’s something to do with showing respect either for an institution or for the ancestors at a time when they might be playing a role in life.

Nearly all women will wear a lamba if there is a death or an occasion where prayers are said to the ancestors. If you see a large group where every single woman is wearing a lamba, it almost certainly means there has been a death.

One item, many uses

The lamba serves so many purposes that it’s hard to know how we manage without them. Here I’ve analysed what expensive products we Vazahas buy instead.

Use of lamba

Western product

Shielding sun Sunglasses and hat, parasol, special sun shields in cars
Carrying child Harness / pushchair / pram
Picking up hot things Oven gloves
Blanket when want a nap Blanket
Cloth for emergency cleaning Cloth, baby wipes, tissues
Carrying bundles of things Bags
Mat to sit on Picnic blanket
Pillow Pillow
Wiping noses Hankies
Protect clothing form dirt when doing chores Apron, overall
Protecting clothing from dirt when outside ?
Wind protection ?
Dust protection ?
Covering dignity whilst bathing in streams ?

Can Vazahas wear lamba?

Vazahas can mainly only get away with wearing lambas at ceremonies otherwise you look a bit of a try-hard idiot. However, due to their usefulness, it is always good to have one in your bag And if you will be spending time amongst Malagasys it’s good to have one for bathing – a Vazaha woman, stripped off to her bikini for a wash, causes quite a stir.

Building a traditional wooden boat in Madagascar

Finished boat 2007Jean has finished building his latest boat named Miaraka (Malagasy for ‘to be together’ or ‘to go together’) . It’s a traditional wooden boat that can use sail or outboard motor (up to 40hp).  It was constructed using methods passed down from older fishermen in his district (follow links to see photos of La Dordogne, Antsiranana).

See all Traditional wooden boat building photos.

He built his first boat when he was 23 years old. He used to do it all by hand but now has many power tools that kind people (usually friends from Reunion island) have given him.

Boats can be built in one of 2 forms:

  1. a ‘V’ shape – better for use with the sail (it cuts through the water better at an angle)
  2. a ‘U’ shape – better for use with a motor (it’s more stable in the water)

Timing and logistics

Traditional wooden boat building, Diego, 2007

It takes about 3 months to build a boat. If you could guarantee having all the parts at your fingertips when you wanted them you could push it down to 2 months at a push. Jean does more than half the work himself working mainly with one assistant (Big Meo – not very big actually but it’s to differentiate him from Little Meo who also works with Jean quite often). He then calls on others from the area to help with odd tasks.

Boats are generally built during the dry windy season (June-November). This is partly because you can’t fish much during this period and also because there’s no rain so the boat stays dry whilst being built

Jean sold his previous boat in August which just gave himself enough time to build a new one before the next fishing season. As soon as the wind dropped – he was out at sea.


The 2007 boat is:

  • Length: 7.50m
  • Width: 2.25m
  • Height at front: 1.60m
  • Height at back: 1.00m

It’s form is in between the V and U shapes mentioned above.

Boat building process

Boat in water 2007
  1. Keel – needs a hard wood that doesn’t float – Jean buys this from a wood merchant in town
  2. Front vertical ‘stem’
  3. Stern – Back of boat –
  4. Four central ‘strakes’ (cross bits)
  5. Guiding rods put in place to give shape of boat
  6. Construct and fit all strakes – this is biggest part of job, takes about two thirds of overall time
  7. Outer planks put in place (imported tacamaca wood used)
  8. Cross beams and seats constructed
  9. Put cord in gaps
  10. Put tar in gaps
  11. Paint inside and out (underside of boat needs special paint to protect against sea creatures attaching themselves)
  12. Launch boat in water
  13. Install mast and sail


Jean built two boats in 2006; one for himself and one for sale. Their lenghts were 7.20m and 8.00m respectively.

Traditional wooden boat building 2006


The 2005 boat was 7.20m.

Traditional wooden boat building 2005