Proa Sailing in Sri Lanka (1)

How promised a short report (in my well known rugged english) about my experiences during my holidays in November 2000. Independent from sailing Sri Lanka is a wonderful country which gives a very comfort view into exotic botany and wild life.

From the capital Colombo we first went to south to Hikkaduwa. We saw a lot of outriggers (here named URUA) on the beaches, but all without sails. Some talks with the inhabitants give, that in this regions all fisherman are rowing or motoring. Even 12 m long boats are used for fishing - with oars. In this case a team needs 7 men, a skipper 4 rowers and 2 for the net.

I talked in Hikkaduwa with a boat builder, who worked an a 12 m outrigger behind his cottage. His boat was always reduced to a oneway-proa with a cutted bow for the 25 HP outboarder. Very interest to me was his estimation of weight: Around 3 tons! I believe him, because I tried to lift the 8m long ama of massive teak ... and I think it weighed about 4-500 kg.

Where are now my theoretic intentions of a light proa, which is dancing over the waves? More about later.
In a corner of the boat builders garden I found the rests of old proas, which planks are connected with copper nails. In time half of the outriggers in Sri Lanka are even made of wood with stitched hulls, but the polyester constructions are coming.

After a week in the south of the island, we made the usual 5 days round trip to the ancient cities of the kings. We had by recommendation of friends a very secure and friendly driver with a air conditioned van for our own disposal (on request I can give his address).
At the end of our holidays we go to Negombo in the north of Colombo to stay the last days near the airport. Here I finally found the sailing proas (I should have read the report of Hans-Dieter Bader in the MULTIHULLS mag before).

But all the boats had their rigs down, so at least I could inspect it from near. The first I saw was, that they are non symmetric. This shows also the not in the middle fixed daggerboard and the position of the amas and masts. The rudders are simple planks with a hole on top for fixing them on the hull ends. The flexible sprit has a famous bearing carved out of one peace of hard wood.

Sprit and mast are made of 8-9 m long bamboo pipes. The giant bamboo in Sri Lanka grows until 30 m (eg. you can see in the Botanical Garden in Kandy). With this fantastically material before your eyes you forget the ridiculous alloy or carbon pieces at home.

On the other end of the beach I saw finally a brown sail at the horizon and after a 30 minutes walk we reached a ready to sail URUA.

Sri Lanka Sailing Part 2