Tubuai Canoe -- A sailing canoe rebuilt from photos and testimonies
Collecting the memory of sailing canoes
Having left to live on his sailboat in Polynesia , Thomas ends up settling for some time in Tubuai, the southernmost island of the territory, very far from Tahiti. To his great astonishment, he found no trace of a single sailing canoe on the water. "I realized that everything was done by motorboat. There was no sailing except for a few passing boats and a friend who had imported a Hobie cat. It didn't seem logical to me and I wondered. got it into my head to make a canoe again."
Adapt materials and know-how
Working on the project full time for 2.5 months, Thomas builds the main hull or Va'a. For reasons of simplicity, he chose to build it in plywood , combined with epoxy resin and fiberglass. He justifies: "The hollowed wood would have taken too long, even if my plywood was of poor quality. If I had to do it again, I would have made boards with local pine. I did some interesting tests with fiber coconut instead of glass." In the absence of a trunk or a branch of pulao of good size, the trees no longer reaching the right size, the float or ama is also made of plywood .
For the rest, he uses local wood, each of which has characteristics adapted to the different rooms. The aito or ironwood constitutes the beams connecting the Va'a to the Ama. This very solid essence, which cracks before breaking, makes it possible to anticipate any damage. The mast is made of bamboo, left to soak for a few days in seawater to make it rot-proof. Instead of coconut fibers, textile rope is used for the guying and the link between beams and floats.
The canoe, 4.60 meters long for 55 cm in width of the Va'a and 3 meters in total, is taking shape.
Adaptations for sensations and safety
To complete the armament, Thomas does with the means at hand. He salvaged an old children's trampoline to make it easier to move between the float and the main hull.
Watertight boxes were added to the hull following a capsize that left the canoe and crew unable to right themselves and return.
For sailing, windsurfing equipment is chosen, in the absence of a more suitable fabric. The cotton sails are long gone and a cyclone in 2010 did a lot of damage. Thomas affords himself the luxury of a headsail and a small bowsprit for a spinnaker, although Tubuai's canoes usually made do with a mainsail .
Rediscovery of sailing
Once in the water, Thomas embarks young locals, with some success. He also discovers with pleasure the subtleties and performance of the boat: "Some young people, intrigued at the start, got on board and enjoyed it. Friends have taken over the canoe and are continuing the project, I hope. The boat is amazing. I have never well upwind. There is no need for a daggerboard. The bows of the hull and the Ama are sufficient to prevent the canoe from drifting and we save draft, to pass over the coral heads without fear. The rudder is almost only used to fine-tune the maneuvers while being able to control oneself by moving on the boat. That way, you can fish and have fun."