Jun 14

Building our own ‘iakos (spars) for the outrigger canoes

Someone once showed me a bumper-sticker that read, “A boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money.”

Work on the outrigger canoes never stops around here. There is always another bubble in the gel-coat protecting the gunwales, another scratch in the gel-coat protecting the hull, etc. The Texas sun plays Hell with all exposed surfaces but, probably, takes its heaviest toll on the ‘iakos.

We always hope that the most critical work can, at least, wait until the months with more amenable weather arrive. [Austin, TX is sometimes referred to as the Land of Eternal Air-Conditioning. In truth, it is not too hyperbolic to reveal that many of us run the air-conditioning system for 9-10 months of the year.]

Traditionally, Hawaiian boatmakers used one of the woody members (Hibiscus tiliaceus) of the cotton family (Malvaceae) for the ‘iakos. Hau, as it is called, is not available in Texas.

In the past, we have used relatively-inexpensive pine plywood to build-up ‘iakos, a technique demonstrated for us by Carleton Kruse of Texas OCC. Those ‘iakos functioned well for a couple of years before decay and delamination set in.

I began exploring alternative construction materials / techniques and came across a reference to the materials and construction of the ‘iakos for the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Hōkūleʻa. I like what I see about the ‘iakos built by The John Williams Boat Co. (JWC), Mt. Desert Island, Maine.

I will report back about our progress and our satisfaction with the results of this journey.

All the best ….

Mike