We don't build new
boats from scratch any more,” says 68-year-old Govindan Ashari, a boat
builder for almost half a century, whose boat yard is perched along the
palm-studded western shore of Kerala's Lake Vembanad, across from
Coconut Lagoon. "But when we did, we'd first scrape a rough outline on
the ground for the prospective owner, then prepare a more refined
'blueprint' on a plank of wood. The formula is always calculated in the
same way, starting with the desired width: the length is roughly six
times that, the depth about one-half the width."
Seasoned, naturally curved logs of anjili (the jackfruit artocarpus
hirsutus) are used for replacing worn planks. As a concession to modern
times, bolts are now used to secure the ribs, but the rest is still
stitched in the traditional manner, the coir rope threaded through the
base of a large 'needle' carved from a palm frond. Other primitive tools
are still in use in the trade after all these centuries, including the
notched branch of a tree uses as a vise for aligning planks.