A Piragua of the Guarani Indians

It is undoubtedly the simplest and most widespread boat in the warm woodlands. It was also that of Europe in the glacial era, since the work of dismantling the foundations of the old louvers made it possible to unexpectedly uncover the oldest European craft, a canoe dating back 10,000 years, when the shores of The seine were game birds and hunting area of ​​the woolly mammoths who came to quench their thirst. The word "Pirogue" is not widely used (The English say "Dugout", the Germans Piroge, the Latin Trinchera ...). The word French comes from "Piragua", a word Guarani meaning literally "water that goes on the water", the term date of the discovery of Christopher Columbus since it was found in all the Caribbean Indians. Boat-queen since an indefinite time in the great forests and the great rivers that are there, like the Amazon and its tributaries, but also the Zaire, the Zambezi, and many others around the equator, the Pirogue Embodies simplicity itself. Monoxyl craft (one piece), it is born from a hollow tree trunk; All the species do not lend themselves to it, far from it:

It was necessary at the same time a light, solid and non-porous boix, because the techniques of waterproofing of the hull did not exist, From "burning" to wood fire, or coating based on vegetable wax or sap. The canoe seen above is in Balsa, coated with sap heated by wood fire, which gives it its dark color. In Zaire one continues to dig trunks of mahogany, the Framiré, and especially the Iroko, whose lifetime (which was that of the canoe) when dried was 10 years. In North America, the canoes were built of red cedar, an immense and resistant tree. These great canoes were painted in bright colors. The shapes varied considerably according to the region, but in general, canoes made of tropical wood had limited sizes and a tapered shape, dictated by the empiricism of speed. The African canoes then drifted to a soft assembled type of wood consisting of three main parts: a flat bottom, two siding plates, and two sleepers. It is this type that is currently manufactured, especially throughout West Africa .


Pirogue prehistorique

Two primitive European dugouts of the Neolithic

The oldest Pirogues were likely to resemble this one. It is indeed a boat in the most direct sense, because there is apparently no concern for hydrodynamics. Empiricism, however, begins to shape the front and back shapes, rather than keeping them cut clean, which undoubtedly resulted in a high resistance to water. The European Pirogues discovered and those which made the objects of archaeological reconstructions inform us about their technique of construction: A typical mesolithic canoe measured 6-8 meters by 50 centimeters, its weight could go from 250 to 750 kgs. And its section conformed perfectly to the shape of the trunk. The choice of a straight trunk was therefore important, especially as the knots were as many potential waterways. Softwoods were preferred because of a more impermeable wood and a lightness, as well as the ease of working it, without counting the straightness of the trunks, without knots over most of the barrel.

Probably a stone anchor (found with remains of canoes), and walked with the gaffe and the paddle. For their construction, cut flint adzes, corners, masses and wooden sticks were used, as were the bone and deer scissors, the wire to be drawn and a flint lighter with tinder for the method of Digging by burning. First, the top slice was marked on the sides (pre-cut with the chisel and measured with the wire), then the wooden sections of this slice were cut in V on the adze and then removed, Using wooden corners typed to the ground, or with a corner of deer wood. The trunk began to be hollowed out. The thickness was measured with an arc-shaped instrument, followed by burning finishes: the latter eliminated the splinters and treated the wood naturally against the pests. Finally, the waterproofing was done by a mixture of beeswax of vegetable fibers in hot on the cracks. The lower part was generally thicker, as was the central part of the stern and bow, to prevent the wood from splitting on drying.

A Polynesian outrigger canoe.

In the Pacific islands, the canoe has very specific characteristics: It is fine and flexible, made of the nature of the trees used, and generally higher than wide. It requires a balance to ensure its stability, the "float" being connected to the whole by light, solid and flexible woods (like bamboos). The solution of the catamaran (a Polynesian word) came from this concept, marrying the advantages of the raft and the finesse of canoe hulls. It has definitely established itself in the pacfic and is today the happiness of the racing sailors. There were three types of pirogues in Polynesia: the one for fishing, with a single or double pendulum, was distinguished between the small Va'a (the most widely used word for "Pirogue"), for fishing in lagoons, A Motu for inshore fishing, and the Va'a Tira for deep-sea fishing.

These were of catamaran type, and differentiated between Tipaerua, ranging from 13 to 25 meters, and sometimes double-sail, for passenger transport and inter-island commercial transport, and the Pahi, which was wider and longer , And made advantageous for expeditions, was often provided with 2 sails and maneuvered by 6 to 8 men. Finally the Pahi Tama'i were war catamarans, a little finer, without sails, and decorated in an aggressive and flamboyant way. They had in common a large central paddle, at the back of the raft formed on the two hulls, the "hoe", a scoop, and an anchor in stone. Both the Tipaerua and the Pahi were considered by the Polynesians as their "fenua", their territory, and bore the name of their lineage. When she landed on a virgin island, the latter took the name of the boat. We shall return to these latter vessels, which were not monoxylated and consequently move away from the subject.

A simple light Polynesian fisherman outigger canoe.