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Monday, March 8, 2021

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Posted to Maritime Musings (by on July 29, 2014

The outrigger canoe is a fast yet stable open water vessel

An outrigger is a rigid part of a vessel’s rigging that extends outboard of the gunwale.  While the term may be applied to a frame that holds a rowlock away from the gunwale in order to optimize the rower’s leverage or a frame that allows boats to troll multiple fishing poles without tangling lines, it is most commonly associated with canoes and other small craft.  On an outrigger canoe or sailboat, the outrigger is a thin solid hull, almost as long as the main hull, permanently positioned parallel to the main hull.  It renders the vessel less likely to capsize.  Its mass reduces the tendency of the vessel to capsize in one direction and its buoyancy reduces the tendency of the vessel to capsize in the other direction.  Outriggers are sometimes used on both sides of a vessel.  Because of the increased stability of these vessels, the main hull can be made more streamlined that a regular mono-hull vessel, increasing its potential speed and reducing the amount of energy exerted to propel it if paddles are used.  Outrigger canoes served as an important element in the heritage of Austro-Pacific societies, such as the Polynesians and Micronesians.  The Micronesians, in particular, were renowned for their ability to cross wide stretches of open ocean in their outrigger canoes using stick-charts and acute observational skills.  Outrigger canoes are generally propelled by between one and six paddlers and/or a traditionally rigged triangular sail.  On outrigger canoes with four or more paddlers, the paddler nearest the stern serves as the steerer, using a larger paddle that the others and a different paddling method to determine the direction of the vessel.  The lead paddler sets the pace for the others, but the strongest paddlers are generally placed in the middle.  Outrigger canoe racing is a popular sport throughout the Pacific Basin and is the state sport of Hawaii.  Traditional outrigger canoes were carved from tree trunks (koa trees were favored), but most modern outrigger canoes consist of molded fiberglass.  

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