The Indian Ocean


THE Indian Ocean, that sea of bright colouring, the home of the wide-sweeping monsoons, brings us to many old craft, relics of the early days of man's seafaring.

Mostly fair-wind sailers, there are few vessels in this portion of the East of a sea-going character, as we understand the term, capable of keeping the sea or working off a lee-shore. Trained to the long use of favourable monsoon winds which are experienced in certain directions for considerable periods of the year, which come and blow and go again with unfailing regularity, the Eastern sailor with characteristic philosophy has as a rule resigned himself to the inevitable, unwilling to attempt to do otherwise than bow to the evident decrees of Fate, and take a fair wind when it is provided for him by a kindly Nature.

His ship is thus, as a rule, high-sterned to prevent pooping; she is fitted with sails of light calico material, and by way of rigging a quantity of ungainly cordage in various stages of decay.

Careful corking and water-tight decks are alike generally unknown. Labour-saving appliances such as windlasses and blocks are rarely employed and imperfectly understood. In short, for the most part, the boat of the Indian Ocean is content with a fabric that will float on water and protect him from the sun, and carry his whole family with him on nearly all occasions.

Of the warm rain or breaking seas he does not much reck; they refresh his body, wash out his clothes, cool his vessel, and he has no great quarrel with them hence they generally find access to all parts of ship when in strenuous mood; but, as usual, there are exceptions.


The Gaiassa of Egypt

Of Arab build and rig, and therefore really of Asiatic origin, the Nile gaiassa is now a fairly historic craft. Not only has it given birth to its glorified and fashionable offspring the dahabia, the luxurious home of the pleasure-seeking American or Briton, but it has proved its utility as an engine of the British Empire. It has taken a brave and arduous part in three campaigns, and shares with the mule, the elephant, and the camel, the distinction of having ministered to the wants of the British soldier on the march.

Yet the gaiassa is in reality only a wall-sided canal barge in build, with a lofty and pretentious-looking stem, *1* and a disproportionately vast rudder. Her sole claim to our admiration lies in her splendid lateen sails. These wings still bear the Arab name 'Kala trinkeit.' *2*

The mizen is probably a comparatively late addition to the rig used in the larger boats as in the seagoing coasters of the Red Sea, for sailing on a wind or for setting goose-winged going free. This mizen has of late years very much increased in area, especially since the development in size of the boats themselves, until now a large proportion of the Nile craft leaving Cairo with a fresh wind will be seen to carry what amount to main and foresails.


No one who has seen the gaiassa under way can fail to be impressed by the length and power of its great lateen sails, and no picture of Egypt is perfect without that tall pyramid-point of white canvas gliding along the sky-line.

As is so often the case among a boating population, the fishermen and the gaiassa crews are a people apart.

*1* This peculiar bow may be derived from a high stem which was in vogue in certain Egyptian boats which had a similarly exaggerated rise, as shown in certain old models in the Gizeh Museum.

*2* Kala = sail ; trinkeit = trinchetto: the foresail of the old Mediterranean lateen-rigged craft, which, as already indicated, came from the Arabs originally. The French arbre de trinquet.

They have their own thoughts, their own ways, their own life, unaffected to a large extent by the life over the banks above them. To a European seaman's eyes their ways are peculiar and perverse; nothing can be more astounding than to carry your main-yard over your masthead, and even when close-hauled to carry your sail set well to windward of the weather rigging.


Yet the gaiassa captain does this and much more, and he arrives just the same at his destination.

One had been led to suppose that the gaiassa skipper never attempted to beat to windward, that he and his ship were only good for fair winds, and that when in any difficulty he could only appeal to Allah, and tear his beard.

Yet my friend Hassan Mahomet in an eighty-foot gaiassa rather enjoyed a head-wind provided it was at high-water season and he could get the wind 'true' over the banks, and he was well laden. For he said it tested his rigging and showed that his gaiassa was better than any of the white-painted dahabias which can only row against wind, and for which he expressed the greatest contempt. And he was accustomed to warp out of the locks at the Barrage against a strong current, without so much as a curse or a prayer, by the hands of himself and his two sons, and the help of God. He knew how the upper air was blowing, and by bracing in his tack- rope he had a fair wind in the upper thirty feet 0' sail although all was calm below that level.


His main-yard was 84 feet long, *1* and his mizen 50 feet. One was at first inclined to shudder at the length of spar, but one soon found that with the very short foot to the sail and the angle which the whole can be given by slacking up the tack-rope, there is even on a wind very little leverage likely to cause a capsize. Moreover, owing to the give in the long-yard, the upper portion of the sail does not hold the wind when closehauled, and on this point of sailing is generally flapping for a long distance down the leach.

*1* The writer has measured a main-yard on a dahabia 134 feet long, and another 114 feet.

If small craft are capsized more frequently it is because there is much less play aloft. Their yard is stiffer, and the tack tackle is often tauter in and irretrievably belayed. If under such circumstances the sheet is also belayed out of reach, a capsize is a manoeuvre of no real difficulty in a fresh breeze coming tricky off the land.

The sail is generally set on the starboard side of the mast, although the yard can be shifted over the rope padding on the masthead if necessary. In going to windward even on the starboard tack, the heel of the yard goes far out to windward and ahead, and the sheet is hauled down taut. The tack tackle is slacked up and then adjusted to give the required tautness to the leach and foot, and thus ensuring a true lead for the sheet of the sail.


There is a vang about a third of the distance in from the peak of the yard, and strong tack tackle goes from the heel to the high stem. There is a brail-rope from the sheet earing to the masthead, and when taking in sail this is hauled up and the wind spilled; the sail can then be furled by one or more men going on the yard as may be required by the size of sail and strength of wind. A long line is generally used for tyer, with a number of running hitches, which with a series of pulls from the deck can be shaken free one after the other when setting sail.

The mizen is generally a beautifully cut and shaped sail, and stands far better than the mainsail on a wind.


The Arab sets it at all manner of queer angles when off the wind, and its lateen shape lends itself to being handled in a variety of ways.

The boats are quite flat-bottomed, and about five or six beams to length. The high bows which are so peculiar are decked at a steep angle right up to the stem-head. The bottom is protected by a certain amount of keel-piece forward as well as aft, but this gradually runs into the hull amidships. The reason of this keel appears to be as much for protection in grounding, which is necessarily of frequent occurrence among the ever-shifting channels, as for the purpose of giving grip in the water.

The high bow and mean stern are a peculiarity of many Levantine small boats, but are nowhere more accentuated than in the gaiassa. The top-strake is very often built up with planks set in dried mud, and partakes more of the coffer-dam than of naval architecture.


It is generally inside the gunwale, thus leaving a track outside for the men when quanting. Owing to this coffer-dam construction being used also to end off the clumsy transom-stern, the rudder of a fully laden gaiassa often appears to be detached from the stern, and by some strange device to be towing at some distance behind the boat. But with her strange combination of clumsiness, of serviceableness, and of beauty, the gaiassa is undoubtedly not the least remarkable of the wonders of Egypt.

The other Nile boat known well to British and Egyptian soldiers is the less picturesque but not less useful naggar, which has its home upon the waters from the third cataract southward.

The naggar is not an aristocrat, and has no notions about personal appearance. One who knows her well declares she never paints. However that may be, she is of the roughest in material and appearance. She is constructed of stout baulks of saut, or heavy acacia pilotica, pinned together by long iron nails clinched on the outsides.


The rig is a single balance-lug with a boom along the foot, which is so set as to top the leach of the sail up in the air like that of some of the Pacific Islands canoes. The lateen is rarely used as yet, although coming into favour. Imported spars are much in vogue, but in default the masts, yards, and booms are generally of Kakamut wood from the upper Nile. These boats are all sizes - from thirty feet upwards - and have the heavy gaiassa form of rudder. In coming northward down river, and against the prevailing wind, they are fitted with outriggers and long sweeps, and rowed double-banked. As in many parts of the Far East, the men stand to their work facing forward, and take two or three steps at each stroke.

In descending a cataract or rapid the Nile boatman profits by the up-stream wind to head his ship upriver, and sets sufficient sail to keep way against the current. Thus while the vessel keeps steerage-way and is well under command, he steers her slowly stern first down the rapid. If the wind lightens, or the stream gets stronger or more rocky, he makes sail; and when the boat reaches slacker water, sail has to be proportionately reduced. The enormous rudder of both gaiassa and naggar is thus explained, it being used with great effect, as in other fresh-water craft which navigate in strong currents, to swing the boat athwart the current, or swing her head up to it when rocks are threatening. The Thames bargeman knows something of the same art in going through bridges on a strong tide; but the latter is admittedly tame in comparison with taking a Nile rapid stern first.

The ancient Egyptians were adepts at Nile drifting, and Herodotus gives an account of what is, I think, the earliest form of drogue which is known, made of wooden frame and matting, by which the boats' heads were kept down-stream and travelling with the current, while a stone sinker was used towing deep at the after-end to keep the course straight.

The lower waters of the delta of the Nile and the Suez Canal and its salt-water lakes make a large navigable district for shallow big-sailed boats, mostly of the gaiassa style. The lofty and very narrow form of sail shows that they are accustomed to inland waters, in striking contrast to the lateen of the Western Mediterranean, or even of the sea-going dhow of the East.


Great as is the interest of the upper Nile, this land of the lower delta is even more full of picturesque and peaceful Eastern life. It is the home of a simple and hospitable folk, who live by and upon the wind swept waters of Lake Manzala and the big winding waterways leading to such places as Damietta, Ismailia, Alexandria, and Port Said, where much boating activity of interest prevails. The pelican and the king-fisher and countless duck add interest to every day's sail; and although the villages are more squalid generally than those of Upper Egypt, they are not lacking in beauty and quaintness and in the charm which the wide horizon of a fen-like country always has to offer.

At Suez a seaworthy type of lateen boat is used much more of the strictly Arab build. There is a long, sharp-pointed, overhanging bow with sharp sections, great beam amidships where the mast is stepped, and a raking transom-stern.


They have the horizontal painted lines and the white bottom so frequently seen in Arab sea-going vessels. The sail is of the Arab cut, with several feet of luff below the heel of the yard. It is invariably set on the starboard side, and the tack, as in the Adriatic lugsail, is carried well off towards the gunwale in order to keep the sail off the mast and prevent a back-sail when on the starboard tack, and especially when close-hauled. In fact, in these boats it is brought right to the gunwale on the starboard bow. The yard is generally kept standing, and the sail hauled out along it by an outhaul when set, as in many small Mediterranean lateens, and in the Cambodian lugsail boats of the Great Lake. When furled it is bunched in at the mast, but the fore triangle of course remains. It does not, however, hold much wind. A small fore staysail is used in the larger boats, and is a great assistance both to speed and staying power.


These boats in a strong wind are very well handled by their swarthy crews notwithstanding the long white robes, which, when wet and wind-blown, form no small handicap to agility.


The Dhow

No craft has played a greater part in the world's history than the dhow. The lateen yard is as much the emblem of the Faith as is the crescent. Wherever the great Mohammedan creed has been preached wherever the sword of the Faithful has carved its gory path, there the lateen-sail has heeled to the wind and the long grab-bow has cut its way. Thus the lateen is the rig to this day of all the Mohammedan, and not a few Christian, sea-coast people from Malabar to Gibraltar.

The true baggara, bagala, *1* or Arab dhow, *2* the probable parent of all the lateen-rigged offspring, is now mostly to be met with in the Red Sea and eastward to the Persian Gulf, Karachi, Bombay, along the Malabar coast, and down the coast of Africa as far as Zanzibar, making its voyages with the fair wind of the favourable monsoon, and quite capable of holding its own in the hard weather often to be met with in the Indian Ocean.

*1* = 'mule,' and therefore a cargo-carrier.

*2* A small gaiassa is known in the Red Sea as sambuk.


Next to the Chinese the Arabs have been the most skilful and daring seamen of the ancient East, and in the dhow they have devised a fast, able, sea-going type of ship, not a whit less remarkable than the junk.

Notwithstanding local differences of detail, these vessels vary very little as a class. They are generally grab-built, having a long overhang forward. There is great beam and rise of floor, and a very raking transom-stern. The shell planking secured to the wooden frames is generally worked in two thicknesses, with a layer of composite between, thus making the craft very dry and giving great durability.


In fact, many of the dhows still to be met with are much older than their owners, and have been sailed by three generations of skipper -- grandfather, father, and son. There is generally a high poop and fo'c'stle deck, the rest of the vessel being practically open. Dunnage or cargo-battens are nailed to the inside of the frames to keep cargo off the bottom, and rough planks laid loose over cross-beams provide a fore-and-aft gangway.

The pattamar used for the Bombay coasting trade has generally regular bulkheads dividing the poop and fo'c'stle from the hold.

The rig consists generally of main and mizen lateens. The mainmast is a big spar stepped amidships, with a great rake forward, to enable it to carry the great weight of the long lateen yard in the right place. This yard is generally about the over-all length of the boat, and in the larger baggara it often consists of three or even more pieces spliced together.


It is hoisted by a stout halyard, often in two parts, passing from the fore side through a sheave at the masthead, with an enormous three-sheave wooden block stropped to the end. The purchase leads to a four-sheave block placed just in front of the poop. *1* There is very little rigging, usually a forestay and a couple of runners on each side. The sails are seldom reefed, but two or three sails of different sizes are carried, to be bent according to the weather.

*1* This appears to have been the usual lead for the main halyard in the ancient Egyptian ships used in the Red Sea in the Punt Expedition about 1600 B.C. (v. Holmes's Ancient and Modern Ships, and Torr's Ancient Ships). It is similar to that of the Nordland jaegt of Norway (v. chap. iii).

The mizen-mast is a much smaller spar, stepped well inboard a few feet from the fore end of the poop, with a smaller rake, however, than the foremast. This sail is seldom set when off the wind, but is used in beating to windward a point of sailing in which, like most Eastern sailors to whom time is no object, the Arabs but seldom indulge. None but a fool, or the impatient Western, will beat against a head-wind if there is an anchorage within reach.


In changing tacks the Arab puts his helm hard up, and wears round, letting the sail fly out forward, and the yard come round over the masthead; the sheet is then caught and hauled aft on the new tack, for which, of course, the ship must be luffed to the wind in order to spill the sail in the absence of any proper tackle on the sheet. In the Mediterranean the lateen is allowed to stand against the mast; but, though the heel of the yard may stand some way out to windward, a certain portion of the sail is liable to be aback against the mast and form a back sail.

The Arab sailor has his own ideas of painting his ship -- a light-coloured bottom, black topsides with two white lines, the lower one of considerable breadth, are the rule. The poop is generally considerably ornamented, its windows or ports, of which there are often a number, being picked out much in the style of the old wooden sailing-ship of a century ago.

There is, it must be confessed, a good deal of that happy-go-lucky, loose-rope-end style about the seamanship of the modern Arab sailor, which for some reason or other seems well-nigh inseparable from the East. The old-time sea-song has not gone out of fashion in the dhow any more than in the junk, and there is the same inability to keep quiet and execute orders in an emergency.

Getting up sail is a very lengthy, not to say noisy, operation. The yard and sail are very heavy, and take the whole force of the seventeen men or so who form the crew to hoist. When all is ready an old man begins a chant in a high-pitched falsetto shriek; the hands yell 'Ho !' and pull more or less together. They then keep time by calling out the name of Mahomet, or some sheikh or place, the name being always started by one man and taken up by the rest as loud as lungs permit, very much after the style of the old sea chantie of the square-rigged ship. It makes, however, little difference to the Arab what is called out, so long as plenty of noise is made.

It takes half an hour to get up sail in ordinary weather, and more if there is any wind, while shortening sail is an equally lengthy process, and in squally weather becomes really dangerous, as no attempt is usually made to begin operations until the force of the wind is becoming heavy.

The sail is often furled on the yard standing, one man going aloft and starting at the outer end, and in light winds he goes on furling and tying up the bunt steadily all the way down until the whole sail is furled. The usual occupations of a crew include laying up rope from small pieces of rough bass, of which an unlimited supply is generally carried.


They also occasionally wash their solitary garment, made of blue or white cotton after the fashion of a nightgown, this being preceded as a rule by a careful examination of all the folds for lice, with which too often the older craft are infested.

The crews are very easily alarmed, and lose their heads in an emergency in a manner which would do credit to a Russian battleship. They mistake lighthouses for ships, and tide-ripples for sandbanks, and every discovery of the sort is followed by a wild scene of excitement and confusion, accompanied by screaming and shouting from every man on board.

Three kinds of dhow *1* used to be generally recognised on the African coast: the bugala or bagala, the genuine dhow (which is the most numerous), the bateele, or batelo, and the badane of Persia and Arabia. The matapa, a light open boat, which was used a great deal in the slave-trade on the rivers and estuaries, is the only type of boat which is not of dhow origin. It has a square sail, and is really of the more primitive canoe type. They yet have a deepish forefoot, and set the tack of their peculiar looking sails very far forward in a manner which bespeaks Arab influence. This type of boat one has seen in a heavy onshore sea off Ras Imran, making wonderful weather of it to windward. They appear now to be used chiefly for fishing purposes by the Somalis, but are not often met with.

The Gehazi which is the local name of the Arab dhow south as far as Zanzibar and Dar-es-Salaam, is of the same build practically as the Red Sea sambuk. Some of these boats are of first-class size, and are in fact true baggara, with high poops, mizenmast, and all complete. Others omit these two features, but retain the others generally characteristic of the smaller Arabic seafaring vessel known as batelo.

Much interest inevitably attaches to these vessels, for they are the same to-day as they were in the early part of the last century, when the British Navy carried on against them upon the coasts of Africa, and especially upon the east coast, what was practically a long-continued, difficult, and dangerous war. Before the construction of the Suez Canal, communication with the whole of this coast was slow and uncertain, and the British public never fully realised the arduous character of this service, or the remarkable success achieved by the patience and perseverance of the officers and men of the Royal Navy in the face of the greatest difficulties and dangers.

*1* The usual dimensions of the larger baggara are: Length, 8.5 feet; beam, feet; depth, 12 feet; tonnage, 200. The pattamar varies from 60 to 200 tons; the dimensions for the larger: Length, 76 feet; beam, 22 feet; depth, 12 feet. The batelo is only about 30 tons: length, 51 feet; beam, 10 feet; depth, 4.5 feet; and the Red Sea sambuk is generally from 18 to 20 tons only.


A few records of the service remain which will repay study, if only to show what could be done navigating open boats by men who knew true discipline and had no souls for notoriety. But more than this: it is to these old gehazis and their forerunners that we owe the only civilisation which has ever reached and touched the life of the East African native. The old builders of the Great Zimbabwe, Semitic or otherwise, came by sea. They disappeared, and practically left nothing of influence behind them.

The Arab came in later times, and if he brought a curse to many in the slave-trade, he yet converted a third of Africa to the faith of Islam, and he introduced hundreds of thousands of negroes to some form of Eastern civilisation which they would never have known and still less risen to but for him. The Zanzibar of today is no African kraal; it is an Asiatic town set in Africa.


A considerable dhow trade still takes place with the favourable monsoons between Zanzibar, the emporium of East Africa, and Muscat and other ports of Arabia; but even in the north-east season one may meet a baggara heading northward within three hundred miles of Cape Guardafui.

A smaller class of Zanzibar vessel is the mashuwa, or open fishing-boat worked by the Arab of the neighbourhood. They are generally dilapidated little crafts with the usual long bow and transom-stern, and are painted once in a lifetime with the usual black and white. The black turns gradually greyer, and the bolts rustier, and the water leaks in more freely, until the little vessel is almost falling to pieces, ere her owner thinks of giving her another coat of paint.


They all follow the same weird method of changing tack already referred to, by wearing round and allowing the sail to fly out round the yard. As the vessel comes round to the wind, the sheet, which is spliced into the clew of the sail to prevent its getting adrift as it whips to and fro, is hauled in by the crew. Nothing more cumbrous can be imagined, but the long grab bow spins round in a less turning circle than would be taken by longer-keeled craft, and the stern has an appearance of flying round, and once the wind takes the other quarter she is in the wind's eye again in no time.


The Bombay boats carry this turning power to a fine art, and there is a story of an old English sailor who, when he put the helm up, got so giddy at the speed with which his strange prize flew round that he forgot to check the helm, and the boat went on turning circles, to the wonder of the onlookers, until at last he got over his surprise and steadied her on her proper course.

As regards speed, there is no doubt that the Arab build is unsurpassed in a fresh wind. If the Arab seamen of to-day could or would set their sails as the Italian lateeners do, they would have not only one of the fastest but also one of the most weatherly of seagoing vessels. Occasionally one has seen a piece of sailing from one of these vessels which was of the highest order. I especially remember one carrying on and beating off the lee-shore off Ras Alagah in a strong onshore wind, which gave one an idea of what the dhow can do in capable hands such as she must have had on board on that occasion.


But as a rule the sail, being made for fair winds, is of too light material to stand on a wind, notwithstanding the peculiar make of the sail, which, besides being heavily roped all round, has a rope border sewn into each cloth which runs from the head-rope to the foot. This is one of the causes of the very hollow foot in all the Arab sails, but at least there is no large belly in a sail thus made. On the other hand, the sail does not present a smooth surface to the wind, there being ridge after ridge of tautened rope running at right angles to the direction of the wind off the sail, and this is especially bad after rain. It tends seriously to prevent the sail being a good one to windward.



The pattamar, the favourite type of trading dhow on the Bombay and Malabar coasts, has much in common with the Red Sea baggara. These boats may be seen reclining at all angles on the sands at low water along these shores, moored with vast bass warps, their long yards on deck, and their remarkable snub-nose bowsprits sticking into the air.


They carry a small jib forward, and the mizen is more often bent than with their Red Sea sisters. They are often of better construction, and, as already remarked, have distinct end compartments. Their ability to stand rough weather is undoubted. Baggalo is the name often used for these boats on the Indian coast.

At Karachi modifications of the dhow type are to be seen; the triangular lateen sail and the sharp stern are used, and some very light, elegant, fine-weather craft are turned out.

The Bombay fishing-boat, being a half-sister of the pattamar and daughter of the dhow, needs mention, as a very successful example of Mohammedan influence in things nautical. The newcomer off that beautiful harbour is astonished at the speed and weatherliness these boats display, even in the heavy onshore sea which comes with the monsoon.


They have the very sharp bow with hollow lines familiar in the dhow; the stern, which is greatly raked, is not nearly so striking to the eye, but is full and round. The keel is often arched, which gives a most peculiar appearance to the boat when out of water. The sharp, deep forefoot takes the place of the modern dagger or fin keel, now so common in our small-raters in home waters, and adds enormously to the weatherly and turning powers of the boat. The whole sail is placed very far forward over this portion of the boat as in the dhow, the centre of effort and centre of lateral resistance being thus given almost the same relative positions as the designer of a Clyde or Solent rater would choose. Yet to look at the Bombay boat or at the dhow for the first time, one would think that they must infringe every principle known to Western boatbuilders. In reality they arrive at an identical result, albeit by a method most peculiarly their own. The lateen reaches as far south as Ceylon, where it is seen in combination with staysails and fore-and-aft mizens, not infrequently with the outrigger, which is such a striking feature of the Cinghalee boat-building.

17 FT. BY 2 FT. 6 IN.
(Upper Strake pegged on; gaily painted to attract market-women.)

The outrigger appears to be scarcely a true Asiatic method of construction, and has probably come up to Ceylon and Zanzibar from the south and east. It is the first effort of the savage to afford stability to his dugout.

The dug-out form of construction is the simplest and most effective for navigation in protected waters, and in capable hands. In well-timbered countries, such as Burma and Siam, long craft of 100 feet by 8 or 10 beam are often made in this manner, and are heightened when necessary by the addition of top strakes at the side. But the fault of the dug-out is always lack of beam, and therefore of stability.

The poor fisherman with his humbler boat, who needs to carry fish, or nets, or rice, soon feels the want of stability of his boat.

On the Me Kawng, the great river of Indo-China, the Lao boatmen tie bundles of bamboo along the gunwales of their dug-outs, many of them going 60 feet in length, by this means not only giving such stability to their boats as to render a capsize even in the most violent rapids well nigh impossible, but also rendering them unsinkable by reason of the air compartments provided by nature in the bamboo.

          ON THE HUGLI

This form of outrigger, or side air-chamber, would probably prove very efficacious at sea, but it has the disadvantage of greatly retarding speed.

The sea-going canoe-man has therefore more generally adopted the better known form of outrigger fixed parallel to the keel of the boat at a distance of two or three beams, by two or more transverse pieces, as in the Gharawa of Zanzibar. These outriggers in no way retard speed, but, floating lightly on the surface, give great stability, and enable the smallest dug-out to carry a press of sail which renders them very speedy off the wind.

It is in the big rice-carrying boats of the rivers and canals of India that we find ourselves in the old world of boat construction which has long disappeared from more Western lands.


The pulwar and malar panshi are both typical types of the old-fashioned boat architecture of Hindo-Stan, the rig that of the simple squaresail, the hull either a long dug-out in general form reminiscent of the main outline of not a few ancient Egyptian boats, or built on a dug-out frame after the manner of many Indo-Chinese river boats. In every case there is the high steering platform, and either the primitive form of fixed steering-oar turning upon its axis, and fixed to the hull, which is seen alike in the Lao river boats in Siam at the present day, and in the Egyptian vessel of the eighteenth dynasty, or the peculiar Indian balance rudder in which a considerable portion of the area of the rudder is placed forward of its turning axis, which is essentially a development of the former by a mere increase in the size of the blade.

• • •

The dinghy of Calcutta is a striking old-world form, admirable in construction and design. Although not a true sailing-boat, it carries sometimes a low spritsail to assist its rowers in the strong tide of the Hugli. Its form is strangely like that of an ancient Egyptian boat in the Gizeh Museum from the tomb of Mahiti, Prince of Siyut.


The Maldives

Of true sea sailing-boats the Indian Ocean has but few with any great peculiarity of mast and sail. The Maldive Islanders, formerly contented with the mere outrigged dug-out, have in the last half-century developed some quite good boats of their own.

• • •

With high stem and stern and peculiar short-yarded lugsail, the open boats remind one not a little of the Sondmoersk yawl of Norway, but with the true Oriental love of a high scat for the steersman, the <-> of Herodotus and Euripides, they have improved on the more Northern model to the extent of a flat platform aft upon which the helmsman is accommodated. The hull is of a particularly wholesome and able type for an Oriental model, with clean lines and easy run.

• • •

The larger class of boat is decked in with somewhat elaborate and comfortably arranged deck-houses, and carries a small topsail in fine weather. The powerful grip of the forefoot, the only resemblance to the dhow-build which they present, enables the centre of effort of the sail area to be placed far forward. These boats have power and speed, and are a fine class of sea-boat.

The most remarkable vessel, however, is the larger Maldive trader, running to a hundred tons or more in size. She is fully decked, with considerable deckhouses and big overhanging forecastle, very like that of Columbus's ship the Santa Maria and other vessels of the fifteenth century. *1*


The rig, moreover, is the three-mast arrangement which was general in Europe about that time. A tall mainmast carries a big main squaresail set high up with topsail and occasional small topgallant sail. The mizen carries a fore-and-aft gaffsail, taking the place of the lateen mizen in the fifteenth-century ship.

*1* It is noticeable that in the main outline of hull, in the general disposing of the three masts, and in the simple squaresails, the caravel of this period had altered but little in general plan, although largely improved in detail of construction from the ships of Pliny's time, and even the single sail appears to have been known as early as 50 AD. See Torr's Ancient Ships, Holmes's Ancient and Modern Ships, etc. etc.

Forward is a raking foremast carrying a square foresail well out over the bows, in the same way as the ancients set their <->. One may meet these vessels occasionally as far north as the Hugli, and with fair monsoon they are rapid passage-makers, but beating to windward is not their forte.



Although only a fair-wind sailor, one of the most remarkable craft to be met with is the Burma riceboat, one of the biggest and smartest forms of river boat in the world, and very far ahead of the rough Bengal rice-carriers in every particular.


Owing to the prevalence of the southerly sea breeze which blows upstream for many months after the end of the cool season, these boats are rigged only for running up against the stream. When going against the wind they punt or pull along with the current, and never beat to windward. The squaresail, or square-headed lug, is the only sail practically known in Burma. And in these boats the mast is a triangle formed of two spars meeting at the apex in a manner already familiar to us in ancient Egyptian drawings of the third and fourth dynasties, *1* and still also used in the Red River of Indo-China. The yard is a standing spar supported by a network of halyards. The sail and its topsails are brailed up to the mast, and when set are hauled out along the yard from the deck. A crowd of these craft running before the fresh south wind up the broad Irrawadi form a fine sight in their way.

*1* Vide Holmes's Ancient and Modern Ships, etc.


The most beautiful work in these boats is about the stern and the steersman's seat, upon which the Burman loves to bestow his most elaborate and careful woodcarving. Here the classical scholar may recognise his old friend the ancient <-> sitting in state raised aloft beneath his <->; and he may study almost the identical method in which Greek heroes and Roman merchantmen used to sling their oar-blade rudders on the quarter, following the Egyptian example, which takes one back to the very earliest days of man's boat-building. *1*

Some up-river forms of boats among the Burmans and Talaings are very pretty and elegant. The fiddlehead, clipper or schooner bow shape *2* is a great favourite, although, owing to the shallowness and rounded-up form of the ends of these canoe-built craft, the lower edge of the stern is frequently carried right out of water.


Taking all in all, the Burmans, and other boating races on the Indian Ocean, are neither so competent or so courageous in handling boats, nor so skilful in designing them, as are the races immediately to the west and to the eastwards; and in a limited experience of river boating with Burmese, the writer was more often in actual peril from want of watermanship, in strong currents or rough water, than ever was the case during several years' journeyings among Chinese and Burmese often under most unfavourable conditions.


*1* The modern method of slinging the rudder upon the stern-post by pintle and gudgeon only dates in Europe from the beginning of the four fourteenth century, the ancient <-> or quarter steering-oars having been retained in all Western ships until then. This innovation was a most important advance in shipbuilding, making possible for the first timer a large Increase in tonnage. The Chinese adopted the stern-post as the place for the rudder probably at a much earlier date, but they have always placed it in a rudder-trunk, somewhat similar to the centre-board case, through which the deep rudder could be hoisted up by means of winches when entering shallow water.

*2* The first record we have, so far as I am aware, of this beautiful form of bow, is in the representation of a merchant-ship on the painted vase found at Vulci, in Etruria, now in the British Museum, of about 500 BC., which a hull as beautiful in shape as it is seaworthy in design. - Vide Ancient Ships.


An extremely pretty type of small sailing-craft is that used in the Mergui Archipelago. It has often the distinctive form of bow and stern of the Burmese and Talaing boat people, but the general appearance and the rig are very Malay in character. A good many of the larger boats are built up, upon the lower dugout bottom-piece, in wide strakes, and have pretty clipper stems and overhanging counters, and in the last decade were extensively used in the pearl fishery which flourished among the islands after the discovery of the Pawe Bank early in the nineties.


They form a very lively and characteristic feature of the beautiful little port of Mergui. At low water they may be seen lying in all positions upon the mud, or sailing with the seabreeze up the customary tracks in the mud-banks' terra firma. At high water they come running in under mainsail, or may be seen beating out with gunwales awash, throwing the water halfway up the foresail. The larger ones have a comfortable little house or shelter aft, just before where the steersman sits. The rest is decked, but as is usual with warm water sailers, is not water-tight.

A smaller form is little more than a long dug-out canoe, looking like a snake upon the water, and is used by the fishermen of the islands. They carry the same peculiar square-headed lugsails, with the foremast right in the bows; and dodging about upon their fishing-grounds in a lop of a sea, half a hundred of these boats form a really beautiful picture, and a remarkable example of what small craft well handled can do.


In case of bad weather all of these boats are of course obliged to cut and run for the lee side of the nearest island. They have too little body to claw off a lee shore in any weather; but with centre or lee-boards fitted to them, a little more ballast, and higher sides, they might give a very good account of themselves, the hull being without dead wood of any kind, and formed with long clean curves. The writer's experience of them, though limited to a short cruise of five days' duration, was not dull, the squally time about the beginning of the rains not being ideal cruising weather.


The crew were Burmans, not accustomed, as it turned out, to the boat, and ignorant of the fact that the lower strakes had all been opened out by the hot weather.


In one of the terrific blows heralding the break of the monsoon, we drove up the Tenasserim estuary in a sinking condition, with the mainsail jammed at the masthead, and the water pouring in solid, underneath the deck. We could only run; any attempt to bring her to would have capsized her at once, and handed us over to the crocodiles waiting along the mud-banks.

The mainmast was tough, and the available knives blunted by six weeks' jungle-marching. It was a question of moments, until the mainsail obligingly split up and blew away to leeward, thus enabling us to get in what remained. The Burman sarang declared between his tears that an angel had gone up the mast to clear the sail -- an explanation which my Siamese and I were disposed readily to accept.


After getting the water under, we sailed her through the squalls of that windy night with more circumspection and tenderness than I think I have ever felt called upon to display upon any similar enterprise.

But with a well-caulked boat and ordinary weather, sailing among the forest-covered islands of this beautiful archipelago and exploring its wide jungle-lined estuaries with the cheery-natured Burmese for your companions, is a perfect form of seafaring which can be strongly recommended to any traveler of grit.

There is plenty of big-game shooting inland towards the main range, and the flora and fauna present a most interesting combination of the peculiarities of India and Malaya.



The Karrens of the hill are cheery and enthusiastic sportsmen, and if the sport often involves hardship and privation as well as danger, it is none the worse for that, and is never lacking in variety and incident.





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