Ship Construction in Kerala


Ship Construction in Kerala

Making both ships and boats this craft tradition is an ancient one as it was the base of maritime trade given the long coastline of Kerala. The deep-bellied, strong ribbed ships built are spacious, fast and economical for carrying cargo as well as sufficiently durable to withstand the rough seas.

Created in various shapes, styles and techniques to cater to a variety of needs the timber used for planks  is from the branches of the modakku tree, which is known for its exceptional strength. The construction process begins with the joining of the stem posts to the front and rear of the keel; eight pairs of the ribs are laid out at different intervals on the keels and joined by planks at different heights to create the basic form of the hull. The additional ribs and planks, made of karimarathu and pilavu wood, are connected by thick planks using dovetail joints; these support the structure and the deck platform and also serve as a bracing.

The wooden logs to be sawn into planks for ship building purposes are brought to the work site and placed on a platform made by wooden logs. For operating the saw, one craftsman climbs up on the platform while the other operates it from below. This is a highly skilled job, as the craftsmen have to maintain a regular thickness while cutting the planks. In order to form the ribs, the planks are first made flat on two surfaces by sawing; the curve is marked by chalk and the rib is cut according to the curve.

After the ship is complete and the shed is dismantled, the entire inner side of the ship is washed and the dust and wooden particles are removed. The outside body of the ship is then washed with soap and water and special attention is given to the removal of fungal deposits that may have accumulated during the long course of the construction. The ship is allowed to dry and varnish is applied on the inside and the outside. The surface which will be submerged is coated with a paste of ghee, clarified butter, lime and oil, this mixture is reapplied after four years and later at intervals of six months.

Ships and boats are produced in Beypore In Kozhikode district:

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