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Constructing a workingThuyền thúng Coracle out of paper




After meditating on a project like this for years I am now  confident I can construct a serviceable craft I can paddle around in -- out of paper.


The main  resources I'm relying on are these:
I've also been greatly assisted by the people from the Vietnam Wooden Boat Foundation -- Ken Preston and Eric Wickberg-- who have generously  shared their knowledge and first hand experience of Vietnamese basket boats.

My project aim is to build a Thuyền thúng (round basket boat)-- which is usually made from bamboo -- out of paper. I'm not talking about a model boats but one you can sit in and paddle.

Before I address detailed aspects, I thought I'd explore the materials I intendeds to use, so I quickly built a process model -- 30 cm wide -- of the boat using the techniques I was hoping to deploy.[See above image. Click on image to enlarge view.].


In temperament and habit I'm a sculptor -- not a carpenter, boat builder, or any sort of a skilled handyman. The DIY of working with paper --paper-mache in fact -- is straightforward and I'm experienced with working with paper, and paper mixed with clay. But when designing and building something that has to float, hold together by relying on its own internal structure and remain waterproof, there are a few challenges that need to be planned for and not left to chance.


However, what currently concerns me is size. While size is not necessarily limited by material, I wanted  to build a  Thuyền thúng  that was:
  • designed for single person operation
  • deep enough to  keep out and ride with small waves or choppy seas but not so deep as it became unmanageable.
  •  narrow enough so that I could put it on the roof of a car or even in the boot. The complication is that that would require a  Thuyền thúng  no more  1.3 metres in diameter when the average size is 1.5 to 2.0 metres.

    But according to Dr. BUI Thi Mai  and Michel GIRARD ,  2 metre  Thuyền thúng  has a maximum weight capacity of 1500 kg, and can carry a up to 5 people. These figures a way above my  performance requirements - SEE: Thuyen Thung, braided bamboo baskets-boats  Of Central Vietnam   “The manufacture of the Thuyen Thung boats of Da Nang (Viêt nam)”  2nd   Congress of the Asia Network/2nd Congress of Réseau Asia-Asia Network  Sept. 28-29-30, 2005, Paris, France 
While the coracle of the British Isles is overwhelmingly engineered as a boat to be portaged on the owner's back -- like a turtle's shell (see image left) the Vietnamese version is, I'm told, often rolled to the shoreline or as photographs indicate, can be carried there on a  wheeled device..I guess they may be too light and bowl shaped to be walked on one's back as the scoop would be  an excuse for air lift. although I've seen images of one being carried by resting it on the owner's h shoulder

But it seems to me that while the British and Irish coracles often are oval in shape, seagoing  Thuyền thúng need to be round as I suspect that's a engineering feature that enables the craft to roll over the waves.
The other aspect of shape --and I used to paddle surf skis  though chop and surf --  is that the round shape probably 'gives' in the same way that a spinning top does when it hits a wall.The rotation is also a form of motion as though there's a suggestion that any spin rolls the craft up the obstruction -- such as a wave. I'm not suggesting that the thing is a whirly gig just that the shape allows the craft to merge with the rise in water and give itself up to surface rise rather than try to stand solid , as a hulled boat may do, against it, trying to split the surface.
But I won't know these things until I'm paddling -- and drowning.

Hypothetically, a   Thuyền thúng Coracle made out of paper could be built in a weekend --depending on drying times.-- for less than $AUD50.

So let's see...




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