Local Boats in the 18th Century as Described by William Dampier
Iím currently reading ďAt Sea With PiratesĒ, by William Dampier, an English privateer, pirate, naturalist, sometime naval officer and all round adventurer, who lived in the second half of the 18th century. This account is of the time he spent between 1679 and 1691, in the Caribbean, the west coast of south, central and north America and in the East Indies. He has a lot of interesting observations on the people, the land, the bays and harbours and the wildlife, all from the perspective of being one of the first Europeans to record these things.
Of interest to this group, perhaps, are his comments on the local boats he encountered. Here is his account of how the group of privateers/pirates (it's not clear that all of them had commissions from their sovereigns) he was with made dugout canoes, after the local fashion. In this case they were on the west coast of central America. The seemed to use the canoes not only as tenders to their ships but also as coastal scouting vessels.
"Canoes how made.
The manner of making a canoe is, after cutting down a large long tree, and squaring the uppermost side, and then turning it upon the flat side, to shape the opposite side for the bottom. Then again they turn her, and dig the inside; boring also three holes in the bottom, one before, one in the middle, and one abaft, thereby to gauge the thickness of the bottom; for otherwise we might cut the bottom thinner than is convenient. We left the bottoms commonly about three inches thick, and the sides two inches thick below and one and a half at the top. One or both of the ends we sharpen to a point.
Captain Davis made two very large canoes; one was 36 foot long and five or six feet wide; the other 32 foot long and near as wide as the other. In a month's time we finished our business and were ready to sail. Here Captain Harris went to lay his ship aground to clean her, but she being old and rotten fell in pieces: and therefore he and all his men went aboard of Captain Davis and Captain Swan. While we lay here we struck turtle every day, for they were now very plentiful: but from August to March here are not many. The 18th day of July John Rose, a Frenchman, and 14 men more belonging to Captain Gronet, having made a new canoe, came in her to Captain Davis, and desired to serve under him; and Captain Davis accepted of them because they had a canoe of their own."
"A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't. We do be afraid of the sea, and we only be drowned now and again" Aran Islands Fisherman