Traditional boat definition

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by Guillermo, Jun 17, 2007.

  1. Guillermo
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    On July 5th to 8th there will be a Traditional Boats Gathering in the port of Ferrol, a north Galician city (
    At the same time there will take place a technical conference on this type of boats (days 5 and 6 of July) and I'm invited as a lecturer there.

    I'm writing a lecture on the "technical caracterization of traditional boats" and, to my surprise, I have not been able to find, nor in my books, nor in internet, a definition of what a "Traditional Boat" is. It's interesting: It seems everybody has clear in his/her mind what a traditional boat is, but...what's the precise definition? I've been thinking about it and I've come to the conclusion it's not so easy to give a clear and concise answer.

    So I request help from these forum's kind members to help me to find out what a definition should be. Any ideas?

    Thanks in advance to all contributors.


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  2. waikikin
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    waikikin Senior Member


    Guillermo, maybe to start a tradition some one has to do something the same or similar more than once or in series or have even generational repitition of similar construction hence not retricted to wood/steel/composite specifically anymore as all now have tradition of excellence in generational construction mediums of vessels- very interesting philisophic line of thread & I award points for posing it in a new tradition of lovely reward. Regards from Jeff:)
  3. MikeJohns
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    MikeJohns Senior Member

    Ahh Guillermo avoid lectures :)

    Can we really help or will we just confuse the issue? Here's a shot.

    Perhaps; it is the style, function, construction techniques and adopted solutions that have persevered over time as workable sensible solutions. Often shaped by local culture, and the constraints of the areas of operation and above all the task for which they were built. Characterisations such as Comfort, volume, seaworthiness, draft, shelter, displacement.

    Can you have a traditional boat in modern materials? Certainly it could fit the bill for everything bar the hull material.

    Last edited: Jun 18, 2007
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    RANCHI OTTO Naval Architect

    This is only my personal point of view....traditional boat is:

    - wood
    - submerged propeller(s)
    - speed less than 30 knots:confused:
  5. waikikin
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    waikikin Senior Member


    Mike/ Guillermo, lecture$ are fine $o long a$ the effort i$ appre$$iated. Lechering for love is a different matter. Regards from jeff:) PS: I'm younger than history of most contruction mediums & have in whats left of it grey hair although I can't really picture a bunch of woodboatbuffs appreiciating a lecture on the beauty & aroma of the slush or the upstanding Aussie alu Quinnie tinnie traditions!
  6. Bergalia
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    Bergalia Senior Member

    I would think, Guillermo that 'traditional', as my colleagues have suggested, is defined in the distinctive style - the 'indigenous; style developed by a 'people' over many generations. A style most suited to their uses and prevailing conditions. For example - the Faroese, The dhow, the 'junk', gondola, Norse longboat, etc. Styles which are 'instantly' recognisable and attributable to a specific country.
    And good luck with the lecture.:)
  7. M&M Ovenden
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    M&M Ovenden Senior Member

    Wouldn't a traditional boat simply be a boat we can instinctively associate to a historic cultural group.
    Hence certain fishing culture, racing culture, exploration culture....
    If there is a story to be said about the a group of PEOPLE associated to the boat you most likely have a traditional boat.
    Thats for my try,

  8. Guillermo
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    Just a quick post at lunch time, to say thanks to all of you. Tonight at home I'll post some of my thoughts on the matter. In the mean time, I'll welcome more contributions.
    Cheers :)
  9. safewalrus
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    safewalrus Ancient Marriner

    Guillermo your question appears to have been answered above! My lowly view?

    Traditional - something that has withstood the tests of time, weather and bad fortune and still come up on top! It is a system that works - for that location! (maybe not others that have different requirements), is simple to operate and hopefully fix, if it goes wrong, but won't go very wrong very often! and also most importantly "it feels right" to them that use it! There may be little quirks that the stranger does not know, but generally to the user, as I said 'it feels right'.

    Well thats my view, please use any or all of it if it helps in any way and good luck with the lecture!

    Mike the Walrus
  10. yipster
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    yipster designer

    a boat must have been one of the first tools intelectual mankind invented, i think :confused:
  11. Guillermo
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    Guillermo Ingeniero Naval

    Here some of my present thoughts:

    First on some ethnographic related matters:
    - Able to efficiently perform a professional task on the water in a simple and forgiving way.
    - Developed and perfectioned over centuries by craftsmen/users.
    - Building knowledge transmitted orally and by practice.
    - Linked to an historical or ethnic group.
    - Defined style depending on group and task.

    I'm leaving apart pure recreational boats, as they evolved mostly from working boats, many times with the applying of more scientific knowledge. But I do not want to close doors: We can leave this for a second thought.

    Now on some technical considerations:
    - Displacement forms, not planning.
    - Seaworthy within the scope of the pretended use.
    - Providing a comfortable 'stability of platform' (gentle motions).
    - Rugged and strong construction, using as few elements as possible.
    - Wood as main construction material (used for centuries. Animal skins or bones can also be considered, but are marginal)
    - Mechanical unions in structure.
    - Simple and effective rigs and maneouvres.
    - Synthetic materials for rigs excluded.

    Those are some of my thoughts at this time, but they are here to be debated, not pretending to be an statement, of course.

    And now some questions about some further technical aspects:

    On structure:
    - Any limit on size? (are we talking boats, or also ships and vessels?)
    - Should we include steel? (I'd say aluminium, GRP, and composites should be excluded)
    - If steel is included, riveted or also welded?

    On propulsion:
    - Propulsion only by oars and or sails, not engines?
    - If engines, where the historic limit?
    - What the type of engine? steam? internal combustion?
    - Type of fuel?
    - What the power/kg limit or any other aspect of engines?

    There are surely more doubts. More will pop-up for sure.

    More tomorrow. Now it's late. Your thoughts, please.
    See you tomorrow. Good night (morning, evening, whatever)
  12. Bergalia
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    Bergalia Senior Member

    That'll have 'em rocking in the aisles Guillermo. One small criticism though - couldn't help noticing you've neglected to mention goats.....:D

    But as we 'Aussies' say - "Go for it...":)
  13. Raggi_Thor
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    Raggi_Thor Nav.arch/Designer/Builder

    I was in the middle of a lengthy answer when my pc crashed.
    So here is the short version :)

    It's an interesting topic and I think the definition is always changing.

    Traditional Norwegian small fishing boats like the different kinds of faerings are not forgiving, and not as seaworthy as larger decked boats. They where cheap and fast to build, easy to row and handle and quite fast to sail.

    In the 1850s more than 700 men drowned each year. This number was reduced to 300 in 1875 and later to 200, in a period where the population and fisheries grew. The answer is nontraditional boats :) The ballasted decked boat, later with outside ballast as we know it by Colin Archer in the 1890s was a huge step forward. Colin Archer and his competitors introduced everything we can call modern or nontraditional; drawings, calculations, tables, outside ballast, theory (even if the wave form theory was "wrong" it worked for Archer). Pure traditionalists in Norway seem to think that the art of boatbuilding reached a top in 1890 (with the faerings, built by eye and a few marks on a stick for strategic dimensions), since then all kinds of modernity has reduced the art to engineering, and saved a lot of lives. Others would now, hundred years later, say that a Colin Archer rescue boat or pilot boat is "traditional". I like them, in their way, but not because they are traditional, but on the contrary, because they where revolutionary, and still I think we can and should do better today.
  14. charmc
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    charmc Senior Member

    You've had some excellent contributions already, Guillermo, and your own thoughts have started you on the road to a structure for your talk. I can add but a few thoughts:

    Webster and the Oxford both include the element of handed down knowledge by word of mouth and example, without written instructions, as being crucial to tradition.

    Mike Johns describes, rightly, the roles of culture and geography in shaping traditional boat design and construction for a given task. This is certainly true: traditional fishing boats, for example, vary in appearance from region to region.

    Raggi's point is well taken: while traditional boats represent effective solutions to a given "problem" (The problem may be how to build a boat big and seaworthy enough to go offshore and carry back several tons of fish, but small enough to be built by 10 men from the village with hand tools only, using the timber found within a week's walk from the village.), they may or may not represent the best solution. They will be limited by constraints of geography and culture ,,, and by the fact that human nature tends to enshrine tradition with a respect sometimes based more on its age than on its capability. So traditional boat building will reflect a resistance to change, even in the face of superior alternatives, which is why some traditional workboats become tour or recreational boats, having been supplanted in their original roles by more effective competitors.

    I would agree that traditional boats will be oar or sail powered. (Although some traditional boats have been modified by adding engines.) I believe that purpose built powerboats are not traditional. They are the product of written engineering and design standards, and the technology is evolving at a relatively rapid pace from steam engines to turbines to gasoline and diesel engines to gas turbines and much more, in a century and a half. Similarly, traditional construction is wood. Iron and steel hull construction techniques are a product of written standards also, and have evolved at a relatively rapid pace.

    OK, time to go to bed. Good luck, Guillermo; don't forget to include some of our boat jokes to warm up your audience! :)

  15. safewalrus
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    safewalrus Ancient Marriner

    MMMmmmm! Charlie would you say the 'Cutty Sark' is/was a traditional clipper? if so remember she's composite built (iron frames, wood skin) or the eskimo kiyak - which is also composite (bone frames, walrus skin [ help]) Same system different style? It's a bit like a bit of string isn't it? Trust Guillermo to chuck this one at us!
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