Friday, November 25, 2011

Why are there round basket boats in Vietnam?

Our family is a big fan of “The Amazing Race”.  One of the stranger challenges the contestants had to do was paddle round bamboo boats.  The contestants kept going around in circles rather than forward to their destination.  It was hilarious.

The basket boats are prized for their maneuverability, are nearly unsinkable, easy to construct, light weight and can carry quite a load.   They are made by splitting high-quality bamboo into thin strips and drying them in the sun. The strips are then bent and knitted into a round shape. Finally the boat is coated with many layers of resin to waterproof it.

Apparently most families that own a fishing boat also own one or two of these round boats because they are useful in shallow water. They are used to bring the catch ashore especially when the fishing boat can’t come near the shore during low tide. Since the round boats aren’t fast they are only practical for short distances.

The round boats are hard to row and maneuver. You need special skills otherwise it just goes round and round.  A single paddler leans over the side and does a pulling stroke toward himself.   Two paddlers need to be coordinated and paddle in unison on opposite sides of the boat.

There are similar boats in Britain called coracles as we just saw in a more recent episode of Amazing Race.

1 comment:

  1. I have seen these vessels paddled quite quickly by a single person...it looks like they push a long oar through a loop of rope and then move the oar from side to side.

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