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Boat Building in Goa

Boat Building in Goa, India

Dave Heffler

Six years ago my wife, Theresa, and I spent February in Goa, India. Goa is a small province on the Arabian Sea which serves as a Caribbean style resort for much of Europe. Until about 50 years ago, Goa was a Portuguese colony. There are old buildings, most 400 year old Catholic churches. And beautiful beaches that go as far as the eye can see. Good swimming and beach shacks for food. Every morning, the local fishermen haul out their big open boats with quarter mile long nets plied high on top. The net boats are like big dorys, maybe 30’ long. They are built like a dugout with wide planks “stitched” above and liberally sealed with black pitch.

We decided to spend a day walking to the south end of our beach, about 16 km. We assumed we could find a small village and rent a motor rickshaw to get back. We set out before sunrise to try to beat the heat of the midday sun.

Long Beach

By late morning, we are at the end where a little river flowed in. On the spit of sand at the river mouth we found a fisherman throwing his “cast net” to haul in a few tiny fish for each cast.

Cast net

The we came upon some people loading sand into a small freighter. The men dug the sand but carring sand in baskets and old dishpans on the head was clearly women’s work. The entire country side was sand so I don’t know where they were taking this load.

Sand pan

And here is a traditional outrigger dugout juxtaposed to a modern industrial size barge.

Old and New

I know, I know, I promised you pictures about boat building but I couldn’t resist a little local colour as well. A short walk up the river bank, we came upon a small boat yard. Some old boats being scrapped or for sale and a few new ones. A thirty footer was being built, apparently without the aid of electricity. Here is the proud owner and the master builder. I forget which was which.

Owner and Builder

I was amazed how much they used an ordinary chisel. This fellow seems undaunted by the size of his slab.


They were planking and using a hand auger for the fastenings.


It was getting hot. We did not beat the midday sun. We carried on looking for that rickshaw but first we found another, much bigger boat yard. They were building six 50’ trawlers, ranging from “just laying the keel” to “almost ready to launch”. Again, the hammer and chisel appear to be the main tools. Here is a fellow fairing a newly build dory.

Fairing with a chisel

There was good collection of wide boards but I didn’t recognize any of the timber.

Wide Timber

These guys are assembling a stern post with, you guessed it, hammer and chisel.

Stern Post

This guy is doing a rudder post and if you look carefully on the keel, you will see.... more chisels.

Rudder Post

We eventually found a small village, no rickshaws but a little eatery where we asked for some cold beers. We were informed it was election day and they could not serve alcohol. We had to settle for watermelon juice. We found a bus back to our village. We came back the next day to take more pictures in the boat yard.

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