Fishing Lore of Tobi. Peter W. Black 1968, 2017

Canoe Building
Patricio Mohorihotimoh

May 1

In olden times—before the time of Patricio’s grandfatherthere was no metal on this Island and the adze’s blades were made from the shell of the giant clam. The shell was cut into piecessome with straight and some with curved cutting edges. The straight ones were called Riepeh and the curved Woor. Woor were of two types: Those that would swivel and those that would not.  All these tools were taken away by a German named Kuskus on a German field trip.

The same wood has always been used for canoesdriftwood, bread fruit and apple or Fariyap.  Breadfruit is the lightest and easiest to work with but apple lasts the longest. After the log was brought to the Senap or master canoe builder, it was wrapped in palm leaves and set afire.  After the outside was charred it could be worked.  This was repeated until the canoe was completely dug out. Then rocks were used to scrape and rub it smooth.  Using this method It took four to six months to build a Haramah and about two years for a Waribir. The Senap was assisted by a number one and a number two helper and a crew of about 20.  When a man wanted a canoe he would first give the Senap six mature coconutsif he had no coconuts he would give mats, fishing line or hooks. Then the owner would cut down the tree and the Senap and his crew would carry it to the Senap's house. When the Senap started on the top the man would bring him six old and six young coconuts plus two each for every member of the crew and his wife would bring five bowls of taro. The Senap would keep one bowl and divide the other four among his crew. The Senap would then pray and everybody would start to eat. This feast was repeated every time the canoe was turned over to be worked on the other side. For a Haramah this was three times, for a Uatur and Waruhuh four times and for a Waribir six times.

Only the Senap and his number one assistant could work on the middle of the canoe.  Only the number one and two helpers would eventually become Senap.  A man would give the Senap line, hooks and mats to become an assistant so he could learn the trade.  Anyone, from any clan could become a Senap either by this method or by learning from his father if he is a Senap.   Patricio was Number Two man for Hobowu or Sam as he was called by an English Captain.  When he was a boy there were 10 Senap; now he is the only one.   Marino, the husband of Margarita, will be the new Senap if he comes back to the island.

In the time of the eighth chief the Senap started using iron adzes and were able to adapt the building methods now in use.  It is no longer necessary to burn the log. The first step now is to find the Ruuh. You do this by dividing the usable length of the canoe in half. Then you draw the top of the canoe. One-half of the Ruuh is Hau.  One-half of the distance from Ruuh to Hau is Fanunuh and one half Hau to end is Hom.
Finding the Ruuh

If the canoe is 24 inches wide at Ruuh, it should be 23" at Fanunuh, 22 inches at Hau, and 21 inches at Hom.  After drawing the top you should measure the height of the side; one half of this is the Ruuh. On the Hetam or outrigger side draw a line one inch below the Ruuh. On the other side make the line in the due center or Ruuh. This line is the bottom of the Metesie and is called Tahuhfa. Start to cut out the top then turn over the log. Find the Ruuh and Hau of the bottom. Draw a line like this:

Canoe:  Ruuh
The Senap will make the Hih and Metesie by eye but the bulge of the Metesie should be one-half inch wider than the top. Cut the bottom until it is about half finished then work on the top again.

To build the outrigger first find the Ruuh of your wood then Fanunuh, Hau, and Hom. If the outrigger is to be 12" wide at the Ruuh, it should be 11" at Fanunuh, 10" at Hau, 9" at Hom and then to a point. The sides are rounded like this:

Cross section end view—
Canoe: end view
The bottom curves up from Hau.

The outrigger should be the same length as from Fanunuh to Hau on the canoe. The Hiyo or main supports of the outrigger should be the length of Ruuh to half-way between Hau and Hom on the canoe.

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Updated: January 19, 2017