Boatbuilder Douglas Brooks, who you should know all about if you follow this blog, has been teaching Japanese boatbuilding techniques in his classes at Middlebury College in Vermont.
This article appeared recently in Mainichi Shimbun, one of Japan’s three largest newspapers. I can’t easily read much Japanese, but this article mentions the pool launching of the Hozugawa Ayubune that the class built.
This is the same type of boat I recently modeled, based on information I got from Mr. Brooks. The boat shown here that his students built was a 6.5 meter boat, or a little over 21 shaku. My model, in comparison, is about 4.5 meters, or 15 shaku.
The class at Middlebury College actually built two boats during the semester. In addition to the Ayubune, they built a rice field boat, or tabune, from Niigata prefecture. You can read more about the student built boats on Douglas Brooks’s blog here: http://blog.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/2018/02/launching.html
If you haven’t been following his blog, now is a good time to check in on blog.doublasbrooks.com to get an update on his efforts to study the construction of an Ukaibune, or Cormorant fishing boat.
The ukaibune with the last of the hull planks going on. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.
But for the moment, at least as far as his blog updates are concerned, Mr. Brooks is taking a break from work and visiting Okinawa to see the sabani races.
Sabani are semi-dugout boats with thick cedar hull planking. While traditional Japanese boats have been disappearing, the sabani made a resurgence due to the interest of wooden boat sailing enthusiasts.
Okinawan sabani. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.
Mr. Brooks studied the construction of this traditional Okinawan boat through an apprenticeship back in 2009/2010. You can read about the boat and the apprenticeship in detail in his book on Japanese Wooden Boatbuilding. There is also a nice write up on the sabani on his website.
Sabani racing in the beautiful waters of Okinawa. Photo courtesy of Douglas Brooks.
Mr. Brooks is only taking a 1-week break, so I imagine we’ll see an update on his blog soon about the ukaibune project. I don’t imagine it will be long before we see the completed boat engaged in cormorant fishing on the Nagara-gawa.
I got an email from Douglas Brooks while on his flight to Japan last week to build an Ukaibune, a boat used by cormorant fishermen in Gifu prefecture. I also saw that he recently posted his first blog entries from Japan, as he begins work on the new project.
Douglas Brooks’s recently completed Ayubune
I saw from Internet posts elsewhere that he is going to be working with someone from Tri-Coastal Marine to take measurements for CAD work. I don’t know any details beyond that, though I’ve been trying to look into this further as the company is local to the San Francisco Bay Area.
The cormorant fishing boats are big, and they are someone complex in shape and structure compared to other Japanese river boats. But the would certainly be interesting models.
An Ukaibune, a boat used in Gifu prefecture for cormorant fishing.
Here’s a link to Douglas Brooks’s first post from Japan this trip: http://blog.douglasbrooksboatbuilding.com/2017/05/now-in-gifu-japan.html
Check out the great photos of the 15-shaku (15 foot) Hozu river Ayubune that he built for a client just before he left for Japan. This particular boat has some extra “bling” in the form of small copper plates that were never used on the real riverboats.