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.

Measurements

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

2006

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

2005

The 2005 boat was 7.20m.

Traditional wooden boat building 2005

9 Responses

  1. […] explains how people build wooden boats in Madagascar: “Jean finished building his latest boat 2 weeks ago. It’s a traditional wooden boat built […]

  2. […] Antsiranana [nanomboka tamin’ny taona 2005] dia manazava ao amin’ny blaogy Vazaha Gasy ny fomba fanamboaran’ny Malagasy lakana araky ny traikefan’i Jean, rain-janany sady mpanjono : « Jean finished building his latest boat 2 weeks ago. It’s a […]

  3. Mbôla tsara e !
    I have discovered your blog by translating a post for Global Voices Online Malagasy. I really miss Antsiranana and Ramena beach😉

  4. […] interesting post and some great pictures courtesy of the blog VazahaGasy and author Ruth Frost. The post outlines the author’s experience watching the building of a traditional Malagasy fishing boat. It is a quick read, clearly an interested, observant, non-boatbuilder’s take on the process. No […]

  5. […] interesting post and some great pictures courtesy of the blog VazahaGasy and author Ruth Frost. The post outlines the author’s experience watching the building of a traditional Malagasy fishing boat. It is a quick read, clearly an interested, observant, non-boatbuilder’s take on the process. No […]

  6. […] up my last post on her partner’s building of a traditional Malagasy fishing boat. She updated her pictures to include a few of the boat under […]

  7. Hi,

    we’re happy to announce you that a reader has submitted your blog for the Best of Malagasy Blogs contest.
    You can rach your personal page where your readers can support your nomination here :http://www.bestofmalagasyblogs.com/?p=134

    The contest will end on December 31 st so we have more time left to launch the BOMBS!

    Bye, joan

    ____

    Manaona ô,

    Nisy mpamaky nampiditra an’ny bloginao ho Blaogy Malagasy Tsara Indrindra tao amin’ny http://www.bestofmalagasyblogs.com ou BOMBS.
    Ito no takelakao : http://www.bestofmalagasyblogs.com/?p=134

    Ary manasa anareo rehetra hanome zay blaogy hitanareo fa tsara indrindra . Io BOMBS io moa dia atao hampahafantarana ny Blaogy Malagasy efa maro be ary mifarana amin’ny 31 desambra 2007.

    Aza adino ary mametraka BOMBA B!

    Bizzzzz

    __________

    Bonjour,

    Votre blog a été nominé pour être selectionné parmi les Meilleurs Blogs Malgache pour les BOMBS. http://www.bestofmalagasyblogs.com

    Vous trouverez des informations concernant les règles et les différentes catégories de blog sur notre site web. Et vous pouvez aussi profiter pour soumettre vos blogs préférés !

    Le but de ce concours est de mettre en valeur la qualité et la diversité de la Blogosphère Malgache. Alors n’oubliez pas de venir lâcher vos BOMBS jusqu’au 31 Décembre 2007 !!

    Bizzzz, Joan

  8. Nice blog😀

  9. Nice and usefull post, thanks, this is one for my bookmarks!

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