The Coracle, an Ancient Little Boat

The Coracle, an Ancient Little Boat

Coracles are a type of ancient boats that was primarily used for fishing and for traveling on water. These boats are lightweight and small as a result they can be carried on one person’s back, like a bag or a rucksack. The theory on how to make coracles were handed down from generation to generation by the word of mouth among coracle builders. There are a lot of skilled coracle builders that you can find in Wales of UK.

The Coracle, an Ancient Little Boat

How are Coracles Built?

In order for one to make a coracle he or she should have access to the raw materials for the frame as well as for the covering. The main raw material that is used to make the coracle is willow wood but in some countries like India Bamboo wood is also used, as it’s also flexible like willow wood.

First a template for the coracle is made by four wooden planks and the shape of the coracle is plotted on it. Next holes are placed at equal distances and willow rods are sharpened and inserted vertically to them. After that another set of willow rods are taken and fixed horizontally in a zigzag pattern between the vertical rods.

The Coracle, an Ancient Little Boat

Next the pointing out willow rods are woven to form a cage like structure carefully. Finally the animal hide or the piece of cloth is fixed firmly to the frame under a higher tension and it’s stitched to increase stability. Sometimes the cloth or the hide used will be applied with a layer of tar to increase the waterproof ability. Also the coracle type made depended on following factors.

Factors That Influenced the Coracle Type

  • The waters in which the coracle is to be used: – Flat bottom coracles were used to sail on shallow waters while the curved bottom ones were used to sail on deep waters.
  • Availability of raw materials:-In certain places where willow wood was hard to find, different type of coracles were built by locals using bamboo trees.
  • Personal preferences: – Some of the coracles used for war was bigger and stronger while the fishing folk used small and fragile ones.

Historical Background on the Coracle

Man has used coracles starting from pre historical times. This must be because this boat is very easy to make without using any sophisticated tools. Archeology depicts that there are a lot of cave paintings showing how fishing folk sailed on their home waters to find food for their tribes. An ancient stone tablet that is at least about 3900+ years old dating back to the ancient Mesopotamian time, has been found to give details on how to make a coracle, so it’s clear that coracles were famous during the days of old.  

The Coracle, an Ancient Little Boat

Ancient Celtic Britons used coracles to fish and feed their tribes even before the roman invasion of Britain. However the usage of coracle does not restrict to Britain. Similar boats were also used by the American Indians, and also the fisher folk living near the Kaveri river of India.

There are archeological evidences showing the usage of coracles as naval boats during the ancient wars between the Britons and the Romans. As coracles were light weight and immensely stable, it proved a great asset that could be used against the enemies.