Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bamboo Boats

This image is the Yangzee River, China.

The next three, I do not have a source for. Most of these are raft like or very primative, not as seductive as the surfboard forms.

From TUBS marine in the Philippines. Appropriately named.

This a model of a Polynesian Proa. Could be all bamboo.

This next idea is from Alabama.

Ideas for a Bamboo Boat

I received a call today that started me thinking. A man was looking for large Moso bamboo poles, 18 feet long. He asked about the possibility of splitting them into strips and planing these down into rectangular, flat strips. These were to be used to create a strip built sea kayak.With strip building a form is covered with long strips of wood veneer strips. When the hull is covered, it is sanded smooth and a layer of fiberglass cloth is applied saturated with epoxy. This is done inside and out creating a super strong shell. In most cases western red cedar is used. The bamboo strips would have much more strength than the cedar but would be heavier. Still, I think it's a great idea and I asked to be put on his mailing list to see some pictures when he finishes the boat.
I've built a couple of boats over the years and still have the desire to build a few more. The first was a "skin on frame" kayak. This was a framework of wood covered with canvas and
waterproofed. It had a big cockpit and was very wide to make it more stable for the kids. The next was built with very thin plywood. This method forced the plywood into compound curves making a smooth, very streamlined, sea kayak. It was covered inside and out with epoxy.
The next boat I build will use bamboo in some form. I've started another baidarka (sea kayak) that will use cedar for the longitudinals and split bamboo for ribs. This will be covered with a strong dacron cloth that is waterproofed after stretching it tight over the frame. The cloth and specialized coatings available today make this type hull extremely tough and resistant to punctures and abrasion.
I would really like to built entirely from bamboo. I've experimented in using bamboo canes about 1 inch in diameter as 15 foot long "chines". Most all the bamboo I can find with that diameter tapers a good deal in 15 feet. I took two eight foot pieces of bamboo and cut the base of each so that I had about 6 inches of internode. I used a wooden dowel that fit snugly in the end of the cane. I cut it 12 inches long, coated wih epoxy and slid both canes over the dowel so that they met, base to base. When the epoxy set I had a 16 foot long cane that tapered from the middle toward each end. I made two of these. They are still hanging in the rafters of my shop. Finding the perfect canes was a problem. They had to be very close to the same size in diameter at the base and taper equally. I wanted nodes that were not very prominent, and no bends or curves in the bamboo pole. I sorted through dozens of canes to find a few that were right. These are hanging up under the eaves. The baidarka will have split bamboo ribs and be lashed together. Lashed joints allow the boat flexibility as it was designed for ocean use.

Tray Boat
(from G.R.G. Worcester, Junks and Sampans of the Yangtze)

  • The hull has rocker, which makes for a faster and more maneuverable vessel.
  • Length up to 40 feet, simply depending on how long the culms are.
  • The transverse curved section at the bow helps lift it over waves.
  • Steering is by two or more daggerboards (colored grey in the diagram).
    The main board is right aft the mast. The others are inserted as deeply as
    needed at the stern.

    A contemporary river raft of Indonesia represents the ancestral type of these boats.
    See a two-page spread in National Geographic, May 1997, pp. 104-105.


    The 12-foot Bolger "Peero", miniature Sailing Canoe, under sail at St Michaels with my prototype Batwing Gunter rig. I can't remember who's at the helm. (I think this is my friend Phil.)
    Boom and yard are bamboo.
    Boat by John Harris. I did the rig. Bolger asks $25 for the plans. From a post by Jim Michalak, Illinois.

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