Sailing Quffa

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Roberto Lobo, Aug 24, 2018.

  1. Roberto Lobo
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    Roberto Lobo Junior Member

    I am studying the possibility of the creation 7500 years ago of a basket-boat (later in Iraq and that area called "quffa") with a simple square-rigged sail, improvised leeboards, and a rudder, and I am building a 1/8 scale model of the vessel as I conceive it. I am interested in learning from anyone who is somewhat knowledgeable about unorthodox sailboat designs whether they think the sailing quffa I have conceived could work. Because of the period I hypothesize, the technology is limited to raw wood, stone tools for working it, basketry, weaving cloth, and cord-rope making. My conjecture is that an observant person could start with a simple large round basket that has been waterproofed, and create a controllable wind-powered boat. I have photos of my developing model, which is ready for waterproofing and attaching leeboards (mast and sail, and rudder, installed and operable).

    As a long-time sailor of open day-sailers (about 65 years since I began learning on a Hampton) I understand the dynamics, but the round basket-hull is the wild card in the deck.

    Any reactions or ideas are welcome. I don't know how to share images on here (I just joined) so I will need help with that aspect of it/
     
  2. JamesG123
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    JamesG123 Senior Member

    Interesting project. I don't know if you have access to youtube.com videos but there are quite a few on historical and modern applications. There is speculation that "Noah's Ark" (or what ever the origin of that story is) was/would have been a round boat. Round boats are still used on rivers in some parts of the world. They are highly efficient of construction materials if you aren't worried too much about performance. Most of course are simple paddle or small outboard powered.

    I can't think of anyone who has tried to sail one. Since you can't rely on hull shape to proved directional stability and center of pressure stability, everything will come down to both control surfaces that jut out of the symmetrical hull and center of gravity in all axises, not just vertical.
     
  3. Roberto Lobo
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    Roberto Lobo Junior Member

    The existence of the quffa in antiquity was what set me on that path, and the recent discovery of the cuneiform tablet describing the round "ark" confirmed my guess. But I am convinced that a fleet of small vessels would have been a much more likely choice than one enormous one -- a fleet would be easier to build and less susceptible to total loss in the event of a sinking. I postulate a Neolithic engineer-type who came up with the idea for a sail-powered one. I have configured it with two affixed leeboards and a rudder suspended behind the hull on a "wishbone" structure, with the mast stepped near the front edge of the hull. I just would like opinions as to whether that configuration could be controlled adequately. I had originally thought of strictly before-the-wind use but realized that the square sail could lend itself to configuring it as a lug rig which could sail at least 180 degrees, 90 on either side of the wind, and possibly higher.
     
  4. JamesG123
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    JamesG123 Senior Member

    By the time the technology of the sail was developed so to was the streamlined hull. I'm not sure there would have been anyone who would have preservered with the round hull for sail power.

    In a sailing quffa the hull becomes simply a source of buoyancy (and drag), it is decoupled from any stability and control. Not optimum of if you are seeking performance. But if you stick enough things into the water, it will probably behave somewhat sailboat-like. It will never be able to compete with a boat with 10K years of streamlining behind it. But, if your objective isn't performance, like... you want a boat that also makes a good grain/fodder bin, or maybe an artsy houseboat, round could be just the thing.
     
  5. Roberto Lobo
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    Roberto Lobo Junior Member

    I had read that the first "record" (probably a wall painting or carving) of a square sail rig was dated around 7500 years ago (learned that after I had decided on the rig!). The vessel features in the story I am printing, of the escape from the "Great Flood" of the Black Sea basin, and the people had only recently developed the round basket boat technology and needed an escape means. The technology is flexible and adaptable, using very simple materials and ideas. The idea is a vessel that *could* serve, not that is optimal, to transport a group (small village) of people and their small flocks of animals across an expanse of water as directed by their deity, to a new land safe from the flood. I began by assuming they would go when the wind was right for down-wind sailing and wait otherwise. But then I realized the adaptability of the square rig to a lug configuration and they could take advantage of greater variability of wind direction.

    It is all speculation -- there are of course no records from an era 3000 years before the invention of writing. But fun to think about seriously -- could it work? I am asking for other opinions about the workability -- no need for "pre-historical" accuracy.
     
  6. JamesG123
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    JamesG123 Senior Member

    You don't really need a sail if you are "god powered". ;)

    There was a video, I think it was even National Geographic sponsored where a team of researchers built a large round quffa using traditional methods, with (I think Indian) craftsmen and then floated it. They spent quite a lot of time on the details of the engineering of it. It was a couple of years ago and a cursory youtube search did not turn it up (but it did turn up a lot of dingbattery). It would be worth finding for you I would think.
     
  7. Roberto Lobo
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    Roberto Lobo Junior Member

    I have seen the video and have stills from it. That is the guy who read the cuneiform tablet. But cuneiform was invented a couple of thousand years after the event and the story grew orally and became a legend long before it could even be written in cuneiform. He tried to have it built to the dimensions described but boat building technology was not up to it -- the one they built was the largest possible and it is about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the described dimensions. But I think the legend described "a round boat" and someone imagined it had to be enormous to hold all the animals and stuff. However, a much more practical approach would be a fleet of small round boats (quffas) like the ones I postulated -- if the big one sinks all is lost (and it would have without a massive pump to bail continuously) whereas if one or two of the fleet are lost the people in them can be saved by the others and continue on.

    My quest is to learn whether the sail tech is feasible -- the quffa certainly was, but the deity "told" them to travel a very long distance "toward the sunset" to a new land, and paddling would have been much harder than sailing if sailing was possible, which I think it was. But the "devil" is in the details. As I said, I am not after "optimal" but "possible" in desperation to escape a life-threatening flood and journey to a new home. Whatever works, however poorly but better than the former tech, will be a benefit.
     
  8. JamesG123
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    JamesG123 Senior Member

    At the risk of sparking a religious debate.... The parable lesson contained in the "Noah's Ark" legend is having faith in God even in the face of criticism and scorn of other people. Its derived from a much older , common to many cultures "flood myth", but its not really a historical account. That is the problem with using a Bible story, or any of the other "flood myth" stories, their real purpose was to tell a moral or philosophical point, not provide precise technical accuracy.

    If we do accept the basis of Noah though, he only had one boat, for only his family and animals (but probably not 2 of each, lol). Not really a need for an entire flotilla. Unless the notional Noah is actually a reference to an entire tribal group... But that is a topic for a different forum.

    A sailing round boat is a worthy experiment in its own right regardless of any historical context IMO.
     
  9. Roberto Lobo
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    Roberto Lobo Junior Member

    Yes, my query here is about the practicality of the idea of a crude primitive sailing quffa, not about the Noah or any other Flood Myth. I like the idea of a story that depicts a practical thing, whether it ever actually existed or not, but my research tells me that all the components (quffa, cloth, trees, animal skins for waterproofing, wind, rope, etc.) existed 7500 years ago and just needed an observant thinking person to combine them. I created that person and the result. But I would really like to know how the crude, primitive vessel might be expected to perform -- not for racing or recreation, but as a fleet of them to move a village 3000 miles West.
     
  10. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Round boats woven in basket form have been around for a long time. The biblical Moses from the book of Exodus was probably delivered in a little round basket boat....if one is to believe the story.

    Little round boats, in English languages, are called coracles or a similar sounding word. They can be found mostly in Wales where people use them for sport fishing in small streams and ponds. Their "boats" are small. light. and easy to transport on ones back. There is even an organization called; The Coracle Society of Great Britain.

    It would be possible to build such a boat that could sail. Considerable modification from the original would be necessary. Some sort of centerboard, lee board, or other such appendage would be essential if the boat is to sail in any direction other than dead downwind. As a novelty, such a boat might be worth considering. If any thought of practicality is in place, then a more conventional boat shape would be a far better choice.

    As for novelty, I have seen more than one "sailboat" whose principal goal was that it was to cost as little as possible. The hull is made from a large truck tube. Like the ones that go inside tires. It has some straps or cheap rope that holds up a mast made from a broomstick of closet rod. The sail is made from plastic garbage bags and boom and yard are made of measuring sticks that one can often get for free. Coincidentally such sticks are called yard sticks here in the US. Did the boats sail? Well yes after a fashion. They were made as a comical contrivance that went over well after one has had a sufficient number of beers.
     
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  11. sharpii2
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    sharpii2 Senior Member

    A bowl-shaped boat was built by an amateur sometime in the 1980's. It did sail, including upwind. I doubt that any craft built during the historic time you're referring could do so. If it had a sail at all, it was probably a square one, and it was probably put near the side of the basket, to facilitate sailing downwind only. I have thought of making a margarine tub into a toy sailboat, without cutting it down any. The idea was to see if it could sail upwind.

    I thought of giving it a long, shallow keel, to give it directional stability and a forward bias.
     
  12. JamesG123
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    JamesG123 Senior Member

    It would absolutely need it because the hull shape would be providing no help at all.
     
  13. Roberto Lobo
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    Roberto Lobo Junior Member

    I don't think an unmodified quffa could be sailed without a lot of problems. But the technology needed is limited and possible at the time -- paddles/oars for propulsion, and observation skills. The wind blows and pushes things -- maybe a basket-boat on the water? The square sail is suspended from a cross-pole/yardarm, with two sheets at the corners -- if one got away from the sailor in a gust and got tangled around the mast or in that vicinity, suddenly it is a lug rig capable of sailing at least 90 degrees either side of the following wind, beam reach to beam reach, with some sideways resistance. We discover the oar in the water opposite the sail gives directional control and mount it there. Playing around with another oar over the side we discover that in certain positions it helps facilitate steering. Voila -- leeboards, and suddenly you have a crude sailboat capable of being controlled through about 180 degrees of the compass.

    Is my logic OK? This is how I arrived at the design shown on my picture. The model does not yet have the leeboards mounted, but with them I believe it could be a passable form of emergency transportation -- not really a "pleasure craft", though pleasant enough to operate, but a means to escape a life-threatening flood and travel as directed by the Deity to a new place to live. Sure there are problems of design, but if it works it will serve, even in not optimal.

    That's my position, and I welcome discussion of the theory, not so much whether it would be great, but could it work essentially as projected?
     

  14. JamesG123
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    JamesG123 Senior Member

    Its plausible, but there is not historical evidence to back it up. As we understand it boats developed from dug-outs and flat rafts. Weaving, especially of the scale required for a boat requires considerable time, skill, and culture that didn't come about until much later, by which time the boat was... boat shaped. The quffa probably come out of basketry as an expedient. But that doesn't mean the random, divinely inspired eccentric never tried their hand at it.
     
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