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The Maori Canoe

Sails and Sailing

Sails and Sailing

The Maori used sails of the triangular form that is, or was, so widely employed in the Pacific. This form of sail has been carried far over the oceanic area, and is by no means confined to Polynesia. Minor differences occurred in its shape, but its general form and manner of use was much the same in many groups. A specimen of the triangular form used in New Zealand is preserved in the British Museum. (See fig. 133, at p. 264.)

The Maori terms a sail ra, komaru, rnamaru, whakawhiti, and whara, or ra whara of which the first is the most generally used. Curiously enough, the first three names are also applied to the sun. Ra whara seems to mean "mat sail," whara, wharariki, and tuwhara all being applied to mats. Evidently this name originated in the name of the Pandanus (whara, fala, fara, ara, hara, and hala, in various dialects of Polynesia), from the leaves of which mats and mat sails were made. Mr. H. B. Sterndale has told us of the uses to which the leaves of the Pandanus (whara) are put by the natives of Polynesia, as sails for canoes, mats, roofing-material, &c. Of a preparation of the fruit of this useful tree he remarks. "All the navigating savages of the North Pacific victual their canoes with it when they go to sea."

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This usual form of Maori sail was not of the style seen in the Mediterranean and adjacent seas, with a yard slung across the mast and supporting the sail. The ordinary form of Maori sail is correctly Fig. 127 Four Bailers of Inferior Form, in Auckland Museum. W. R. Reynolds, photo Fig. 128 Canoes at Turanga-nui (Gisborne) in 1836. From Polack's Travels and Adventures in New Zealand. illustrated in the Voyage of the Astrolabe, the only work that gives us accurate representations of the waka rnaori, or native canoe. In these views we see that the mast is upright, and that the sprit employed to extend the sail is shown at various angles according to the width of the sail. (See figs. 128, 130, 132, 133, at pp. 252, 257, 261, 264.)

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The material usually employed by the Maori in making sails was the leaf of raupo, of which Colenso says, "Their canoe-sails were curiously constructed of bulrush-leaves laid flat edge to edge, and laced across with flax."

Tuta Nihoniho informs us that amongst the Ngati-Porou Tribe canoe-sails were made of harakeke, kiekie, and raupo—that is, of leaves of Phormium, of Freycinetia Banksii (a climbing-plant), and of bulrush. The Phormium leaves were woven or plaited as a floor-mat is made, but were split before being so used. The leaves of raupo (Typha angustifolia) were used whole, and, not possessing any fibres, were not split or plaited, but laced together (he mea nati) by ties at intervals, two strings being used for this purpose, and each leaf having the two passed round it separately in order to secure it—a process not unlike that by means of which the harapaki decorative designs are formed. The raupo sails possessed the advantage of being much lighter than others. Tuta remarked that he had seen these sails in his youth. Portions of the edges were sometimes ornamented with feathers.

Wakefield wrote as follows: "The former native sail for a canoe was made of a fine grass, woven into very pretty patterns, with a graceful openwork in various parts." It is doubtful if any fine grass was utilized in their manufacture.

In the tradition of the coming of "Takitumu" from eastern Polynesia to New Zealand it is stated that the sail was made of autei.e., of the coarse paper-like fabric made from the bark of Broussonetia papyrifera. This sail was named "Pari-nui-te-ra."

The Rev. Mr. Wade, a traveller in New Zealand in the "thirties" of last century, wrote as follows: "The ordinary canoe-sails in use among the natives have a very mean appearance; but sometimes they will take the pains to prepare strong and handsome sails, made of the dried split leaf of the flax-plant, and decorated with tufts of downy feathers. With boat-sails the natives are rather too venturesome, as they will make the sheets fast in order to take their ease."

Mr. Barstow says of these sails: "These were made of the long leaves of the raupo, kept in their places by an interlacing of flax-twine; the butt or wide part of the leaf was uppermost toward the boom, the small ends of the leaves converging to a point at the tack, making thus a triangular sail. Two or three masts were used, according to the canoe's length." The leaves of which the sail was composed were parallel with the sprit or boom; the above remark reads as though the boom (sprit) was across the top of the sail. It is very doubtful if three masts were ever used in a local Maori canoe, though two, and page 254occasionally three, were certainly used in deep-ocean voyages in former times, and occasionally two were used on local vessels.

Polack, another early sojourner in New Zealand, writes: "The sails are the most clumsy and heavy articles that could have been invented. In shape they are triangular, formed of bulrushes dried in the sun and tacked together, the upper edge being cut into Vandykes. It is fastened to two poles which serve for mast, yard, &c. The sheets are formed from plaited flax fastened to the head of each pole."

In Becket's account of Cook's first voyage we were told that he left Tolaga Bay on Sunday, 29th October, 1769, and sailed northward. On the 31st several canoes were seen, one of them containing sixty natives. On Wednesday morning forty or fifty canoes were seen along shore. The double canoe seen near Whale Island is referred to as follows: "In the evening a double canoe, built after the model of those at Otahitee, but carved and decorated according to their own peculiar manner, followed us a long time, the Indians appearing in good humour, and frequently dancing and singing…. The next morning the same canoe pursued and overtook us about nine o'clock; she carried a sail of an old construction, which was made from a kind of matting, and of a triangular figure, the hypothenuse, or broadest part, being placed at the top of the mast, and ending in a point at the bottom. One of its angles was marled to the mast, and another to a spar with which they altered its position according to the direction of the wind, by changing it from side to side."

Wakefield remarks that sails were sometimes woven in patterns, with a graceful openwork in various parts. A zigzag design may be seen running the full length of the British Museum specimen. This specimen is made of fine strips of either Phormium or Freycinetia, both of which are much more durable than Typha, though not so light. Leaves of the Typha contain no fibre, and when thoroughly dry are brash; when put away they soon decay. The above sail has loops or cringles along its sides for the purpose of attaching it to the mast and sprit. Towards the upper end of the sail is a matairangi, or pennant. Both this and the upper edge of the sail are adorned with feathers. This is probably the only Maori sail that has been preserved.

In his account of Cook's second voyage, Forster writes as follows of a canoe seen at Queen Charlotte Sound: "June 1, 1773. Several canoes full of natives came on board. .. Their canoes were of different sizes, and three of them had sails, which are but seldom seen among them. The sail consisted of a large triangular mat, and was fixed to a mast, and a boom joining below in an acute angle, which could both be struck with the greatest facility. The upper page 255edge, or broadest part of the sail, had five tufts of brown feathers on its extremity."

Sir Joseph Banks has left us the following: "In sailing they are not so expert; we very seldom saw them make use of sails—and, indeed, never, unless they were to go right before the wind. They were made of a mat, and instead of a mast were hoisted upon two sticks, which were fastened one to each side, so that they required two ropes, which answered the purpose of sheets, and were fastened to the tops of these sticks. In this clumsy manner they sailed with a good deal of swiftness, and were steered by two men who sat in the stern, each with a paddle in his hand."

In Tasman's journal is a remark to the effect that two of the canoes seen by him at Massacre Bay hoisted "a sort of tingang sails," of which a footnote remarks, "Small boom-sails or yard-sails, as carried by tingangs (small Indian vessels)." (See McNab's Historical Records of New Zealand, vol. 2, p. 23.)

In writing to the coming of the Maori to New Zealand Mr. J. A. Wilson speaks as follows of the Maori canoe: "Speaking generally, they were rather crank in build and disproportionately long for sea-going purposes; but they could accommodate many rowers [read 'paddlers'], and in smooth water were able to make good progress for a few miles by pulling [paddling]. Their draught was too light for sailing close to the wind. They required to be about seven points off the wind to move through the water properly, which, with heave of the sea, and drift when the sea was rough, would make a true course, say, of eight points, the course they would have to make in crossing the south-east trades. Their lines were so fine that, with a fair wind, they sailed very quickly. One fault they all had, and that was leaking through the caulking of the topsides. This was due to the nature of the construction of the vessel, and was unavoidable in the absence of ironwork attachments. The whole force of propulsion by sailing or pulling [read 'paddling'] came upon the lashings that secured the topsides to the body of the canoe. This caused the seam to work a little, and bailing was necessary from time to time when the canoe was deeply laden. If the lashings were sound the fault was one of inconvenience, not of danger."

The remark of Mr. Wilson to the effect that the "whole force of propulsion" came upon the lashings of the top-strake does not seem to be quite correct.

The remarks of Sir J. Banks seem to imply that no mast was used by the Maori. But one of the poles was certainly used as a mast, fixed in an upright position and braced with stays, as is seen page 256in one of D'Urville's plates. The second pole may be termed a sprit (tatakoto, titoko, takokoto, kotokoto). To its upper part were fastened the sheets (waha, kotokoto). The mast was called a tira, tokotu, tiratu, and rewa; the stays and braces were termed purengi, puwhenua, and waewae. The sprit kept the sail extended, and, being unconfined save at its base, it was controlled by means of the sheet. The narrow lower end of the sail was called the taketake, and the upper end the tahatu. Williams gives taura whakaara as the name of the forestay of a sail, and tukuroa as the backstay.

We have no data to show the actual form of sail employed by the Maori in his voyages from eastern Polynesia to New Zealand. Cook Fig. 129 The "Crab-claw" or "Half-moon" Sail of Pacific Isles. Canoe of Santa Cruz, showing outrigger and balance-platform. found the Society-Islanders using the "arrow-head" or "half-moon" sail, and the Hawaiians using a somewhat similar form, while the Maori of New Zealand was then using only the triangular, straight-edged form. The Tahitians may have adopted the "half-moon" sails, which extends westward into Melanesia, since the Maori broke away from those parts, or the Maori may have adopted the straight-sided page 257triangular form since he settled here. A triangular sail is said to have been employed by the New-Caledonians.

In one of D'Urville's plates it will be noticed that when not in use the sail of a Maori canoe was stowed by placing it, still attached to mast and sprit, on the thwarts of the canoe, leaving room for paddlers on either side. (See fig. 75, p. 160.) When setting the sail, or in taking it down, the mast, sprit, and attached sail had to be lifted bodily into position. A raupo (Typha) sail could only be rolled or folded in one way, with folds parallel with the mast; to attempt to fold it the other way would cause the dry, brash leaves to break. Evidently the Maori had not advanced far in the matter of sailing-gear, nor did he use the huge sails employed by the Tongans, borrowed by them from Fiji.

The sails depicted in D'Urville's plates seem to be secured to the mast and sprit by means of a running cord, and one sail seems to have something in the form of a bolt-rope on one side. (See fig. 130.)

In Watkin's painting of the departure of the six canoes of the historical fleet from Polynesia for New Zealand the vessels are depicted as double canoes with the curious crescent-shaped sails Fig. 130 Maori Canoe Depicted in D'Urville's Voyages. Shows the ra kautu form of sail. Copied by Miss E. Richardson used by the Tahitians at the time when Europeans first visited them, and figured in Ellis's Polynesian Researches. This may be correct, but we have no exact information as to the form of the sail used by the Maori at the time that he came to these shores. If he ever used the Tahitian form seen by Cook, then he must have discarded it later for the straight-edged triangular form shown in our illustrations. The same picture shows either a wooden ladder or shrouds with ratlines for the purpose of ascending the mast. This was not a page 258Maori usage, and, so far as we are aware, was confined to the large canoes of the Paumotu Group.

The sail of the canoe in Goldie's "Coming of the Maori" painting is triangular in form, but wider at the top, in proportion to its height, than the Maori sail in the British Museum. It also has three intermediate poles between the mast and sprit; but this latter peculiarity is quite unknown to us as a Maori form, and elderly natives discredit it.

Sails are said to have occasionally been made from stems of the kuwawa (syn. kuta and kutakuta), Eleocharis sphacelata. Though not possessing any strong fibre, this material would probably be more serviceable than Typha, as it does not become so brash when dry.

The mainsail of a large two-masted canoe was called the ra turuturu matua, and the after one ra tauaki, among the east coast tribes.

The following particulars concerning canoe-sails and the manipulation thereof were furnished by Tuta Nihoniho, of the East Cape district, a most enthusiastic contributor of information pertaining to Maori technology, &c.: Sails were fixed in two different ways, vertical and slanting, but both were of the same triangular form, and hoisted with the small end downwards. A single sail seems to have been usually used, but large canoes might have two, and it is said by Tuta that in olden times a very big vessel might even have three sails: this would be in deep-sea voyaging. The "Arawa" is said to have had two sails. We speak of one or more "sails," not "masts," because the masts were not permanent erections: the sails were attached to the masts and the two raised together. Double sails—rather, two single sails on two different masts—were alluded to as parerua. If but one sail were used, it was just forward of the middle of the canoe.

The upright form of sail is known as a ra kautu, and the one fixed in a slanting position was a ra kaupaparu.

The upright sail had its upright mast stepped in a takaore, or small ring of rope, a grummet made of a single piece of rope seized with a small cord. This was attached to the side of a thwart by lashing, and when raising the mast with its attached sail the base of the mast was inserted in the ring and thrust downward through it until a shoulder on the mast rested on the ring. When the mast was up the four stays were made fast: two of them were fastened to the thwart against which the mast stood, one on either side, so as to act as shrouds and prevent the mast sagging sideways; two other ropes led fore and aft of the craft, and were made fast to thwarts; thus the mast was braced four ways.

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When raised, the sail is furled against the mast, to which it and its sprit are tied. When the mast is secured, then the tie is taken off and the sail opened out, its sheet being passed round a thwart and held in the hand; occasionally, when considered safe, it was tied to the thwart, but only in the case of a light and steady wind. Should a squall of wind strike the craft—and adepts could always tell when one was approaching by the appearance of the ocean (ka kitea ki te hinatore o te moana)—then the sheet-tender slacks off so as to let the sail veer round, in order that the full force of the wind may not catch it broadside on, which same spells danger. When the squall passes, the tender pulls the sheet in to restore the sail to its former position.

The sprit of the sail was secured at its lower extremity to the bottom part of the mast, just above the thwart, by means of a rope ring or cringle fixed as a step, but loose, so as to allow the sprit to move. A bolt-rope ran along the top of the sail, between the heads of the mast and sprit. Feather ornaments were secured along the top of the sail and down the outer edge thereof—i.e., the side at which the sail was secured to the sprit. At the upper corner of the same side a long streamer was attached. The sail was fastened permanently to the mast and sprit, and the whole had to be raised and taken down together. To take the apparatus down, the sail was furled, it and its sprit lashed to the mast; then the braces were released, the mast unstepped and taken down, and the whole stowed away on the middle of the thwarts, as shown in D'Urville's illustration.

It is said that tanekaha (Phyllocladus trichomanoides) was the best timber for canoe-masts. The sprit had not much strain upon it, and was a much smaller pole than the mast.

The sail was made with a stout cord or bolt-rope running along all three of its edges, and it was this cord that was secured to the mast and sprit. To so secure it a strong cord or small rope was wound spirally round the pole and made fast, but at each turn this rope was inserted within the rope bordering the sail, between the rows of lacing by means of which the material of the sail was held together, or through attached cringles.

Tuta states that in former times sails were so fixed in some cases that they could be partially furled—a matter that needs corroboration. His explanation is as follows: The sprit was rolled back on the sail until the latter was reduced to the desired size, when it was secured by reef-points (? on the bolt-rope). Thus the reduced sail did not now extend down to the canoe, but only the upper portion was still spread. We await corroboration of this manoeuvre before accepting it.

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The other form of canoe-sail was a peculiar one, and we are not aware that it was an introduced form, but it may have been so. The ra kaupaparu was a true lateen sail with two booms, or whatever the correct term may be, and supported by a short mast. The sail was of the usual triangular form, but was fixed at a very low angle to the canoe. The mast was stepped in a hole made in a projecting piece in the hull of the canoe, left when it was being hewn out. (Mr. Barstow states that steps for the masts were formed in the interior of the hull when it was hewed out.) The upper sprit or yard was secured to the upright mast, and the lower one or boom left free. Thus this form of sail was quite distinct from the mast, and not attached to it as the other one, the ra kautu, was. It was certainly the lateen sail as seen in the Pacific.

Fig. 131 Model of a Pacific Double Canoe in Dominion Museum, Showing Lateen Sail. H. Hamilton, photo

The sails made of raupo (Typha angustifolia) leaves were two-ply,—that is, a double layer of such bulrush-leaves was employed, inasmuch as that leaf is of a somewhat fragile nature. The long lines or series of leaves were laid parallel to the sprit side of the page 261sail, where the weaving commenced. The process, however, can scarcely be described as weaving, but is the one termed nati by the Maori—a method of lacing, as thatch is laced on to battens in a native hut. Two leaves were laid in position, one on the other, and at certain intervals small cords or twine passed round them to contain them; then two more leaves were added, and so on. Other leaves were added at the ends in an overlapping manner, to continue each line to the desired length, as in tying raupo on to a house-wall. These lines of lacings crossed the sail and were from 2 in. to 4 in. apart. The closer together they were the more durable was the sail, for the less liable was it to be broken by winds. In some cases the sail was reinforced by means of placing cords across it and securing them to the aforesaid lacings. When not in use the sails were taken from the canoe and stored in a hut, otherwise they would soon perish by exposure to the elements. Raupo soon becomes very dry and brash when exposed to sun and wind. At the head of the sail raupo leaves projected above the rope that connected the heads of mast and sprit, and this projecting part was cut into vandyke or rounded forms.

The sails made of kiekie (Freycinetia Banksii) and of strips of Phormium leaf, says our informant, were not laced together as were raupo sails, but plaited (raranga = to plait) as a floor-mat is plaited. The whole sail was not made in one piece, but in several widths, called papa, which were afterwards joined together, just as seen in larger native-made floor-mats.

Fig. 132 Canoe off Cape Egmont, showing Sail apparently but half-raised. From The New Zealanders Illustrated, by G. F. Angas.

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The capsizing of a canoe with no sail up was termed a tahuri kokau, and in such a case the crew would often succeed in righting her, bailing her out, and again taking their places in her. They would tilt the canoe from one side to the other rapidly and thereby get rid of much of the water. Then one would get in and start bailing, then another, and so on as she lightened. The first thing done at such times was to collect the floating items, such as paddles, bailers, &c. But when a canoe with hoisted sail capsized the doom of her crew was usually sealed, unless as sometimes occurred, we are told the crew managed to unship and free the mast.

When considered necessary, as in windy weather, some stone ballast might be placed in a canoe.

The remarks of Tuta Nihoniho concerning the ra kaupaparu, or true lateen sail, as an old Maori form, are of much interest, for it is essentially a western Pacific form, whereas the sail first described, the ra kautu, as depicted in D'Urville's plates, is an eastern Pacific type, though also used elsewhere. It is singular that both forms should be used in New Zealand. The sail depicted by Angas is not the true lateen, but a half-hoisted kautu form, apparently. The lateen sail was extended by a yard that was suspended from the mast, as seen in the sea-going canoes of Fiji and Tonga, while the lower side was furnished with a boom, the two meeting at the tack of the sail.

In his work on The Sailing-ship and its Story E. K. Chatterton remarks that the lateen sail was probably adapted from an Egyptian form a few centuries before the Christian era. He also shows that the nugger sail still in use on the Nile is a transition form between the square sail and lateen. If the lateen sail originated in Egypt about that time it must shortly afterwards have been carried eastward, and thence into the Pacific. A representation of an Egyptian boat of the Fifth Dynasty shows a long sail, with a yard, that looks not unlike the triangular sail of the Pacific. Two men are using long paddles as steer-oars, and paddlers face the bow of the vessel. Some representations of larger vessels show five men steering in the same manner, while another, of the Twelfth Dynasty, shows oars in use, the paddle having disappeared.

To tack ship, or go about, is described by the term waihape; hence to beat against the wind is waihapehape, following a common law of reduplication in the Maori tongue. To sail directly before the wind is aronui or whakaheke, with the sail squared to the wind, unless the wind be considered too strong for that mode, in which case the sail is turned so as to present a smaller surface to such wind, otherwise the craft would drive through the waves instead of mounting them. page 263To sail before the wind but a little off it is described by the expression rere paepae. The expression matangirua is applied to sailing and paddling a canoe at one and the same time.

There were two sail-tenders—one to manipulate the sheet, and one stationed at the mast to assist in turning the sail when necessary. The mast was not ascended, hence there were no ratlined shrouds such as were used in some of the canoes of the Paumotu Group.

In Bulletin No. 2 of this series is an illustration of a Maori canoesail in the British Museum, where it has lain for many years. It is probably the only one in existence, and must have been obtained by one of the early voyagers in these seas. It is woven of fine strips of either Phormium or Cordyline leaves. On both sides there appears to be some form of selvedge or strengthening of the material, though no bolt-rope is discernible, and to these margins are attached a number of loops whereby it was connected with mast and sprit. No intermediate poles were used, as appear in Goldie's picture. The ridge down the middle of the sail has been caused by folding during many years. A certain amount of ornamentation appears in the zigzag pattern worked in the fabric, in the streamer or pennant, and in the feather borders. The horizontal bands seen are probably joinings of the various pieces of mat-like fabric of which the sail is composed. This is a very excellent illustration, for in it we observe a true old-time Maori sail, which is more satisfactory than any information obtainable from the present-day Maori.

This sail is depicted in Edge-Partington's Album (3rd series, No. 162), where its dimensions are given as—length, 14 ft.; width at top, 6 ft. 4 in.; width at bottom, 1 ft.; length of streamer, 3 ft. 6 in., width of same, 8 in.

Mr. W. H. Skinner, who examined the sail in 1908, has obliged us with the following extract from his diary:—

"British Museum, May 12, 1908.—As requested by Mr. Hamilton, I made inquiries re the canoe-sail. After a lot of hunting round it was found. The sail, contrary to expectations, was not of raupo, but of undressed flax (Phormium) or ti (Cordyline) leaves, in very narrow strips, not too closely woven, but sufficiently open—or, rather, close —to catch the air and yet not too close to make a heavy thing for mast of canoe and canoe itself to carry. They had succeeded in making a very strong and yet very light triangular sail admirably adapted for its purpose. The plaiting had an ornamental pattern, or, rather, scroll, running over it—nothing elaborate but sufficient to relieve the monotony of the fair expanse of plat; and one part of it was heavily fringed with feathers of the wood-pigeon, and also, I think, of the hawk. Along the side were inserted strong loops, finely page 264worked, of the usual dressed flax, muka, for tying to the boom or light attached spar, for purpose of spreading and keeping the sail in position. It is, as far as I know, an unique specimen of the old native sail, and agrees in shape, &c, with the specimen shown in Angas's well-known plate of the large canoe sailing along off Cape Egmont."

Fig. 133 Old Maori Canoe-sail in British Museum.

Fig. 133 Old Maori Canoe-sail in British Museum.

As to the streamer, or pennant, attached to the old sail in the British Museum, this was an old Maori usage, and such an appendage seems to have been known as a matairangi. In Marsden's account of his first visit to New Zealand he speaks of seeing ten canoes advancing in a regular line with colours flying. Presumably these colours were such appendages as are seen on the old sail.

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Curiously enough, the Maori form of sail does not seem to have been in use at the Society Group in Cook's time, where the arrowhead shape obtained; but it was seen at the Marquesas, as shown in one of the plates to Cook's Voyages. The Tahitian sail seems to have been an intrusive form. We note this arrow-head sail in an illustration of canoes of Kenepunu, New Guinea.

An illustration of a raft of the Gambier Isles in Beechey's work shows it carrying a lateen sail. This group is one of the eastern outposts of Polynesia, and probably shows the eastern limit of this form of sail. It extends thence westward to the Mediterranean. If an old usage in eastern Polynesia, then the Maoris may have brought both forms with him when he came from that region.

Mr. Hornell has noted the triangular form of sail as being employed at the island of Bali, in Indonesia, being set with apex downward, as in Polynesia and New Zealand. He also notes their use at Madura and East Java.

Dr. Malinowski describes, in his Argonauts of the Western Pacific, how the natives of New Guinea rigged the triangular sail as a lateen sail. Polack states that the Maori canoe could not beat against the wind, but could only proceed before the wind. This is scarcely correct, though the shallowness of the craft and lack of a deep keel Fig. 134 Canoe of Bali Island, Indonesia, showing the Upright Triangular Sail of Polynesia and New Zealand. From Hornell's Outrigger Canoes of Indonesia: by permission of the author. Sketch by Miss E. Richardson page 266 or lee-board certainly caused them to make considerable leeway. Seafaring men tell us that a vessel rigged with fore-and-aft sails can sail nearer the wind than one carrying square sails. Would not the lateen sail of Polynesia possess that advantage? Polack reckoned that a canoe, presumably one of the larger ones, could be paddled at a rate of seven miles an hour. Mr. Percy Smith mentions ten miles an hour. Tupaea, the Tahitian, told Cook that their big canoes (pahi) sail much faster than his ship. "All this" says Cook, "I believe to be true, and therefore they may with ease sail forty leagues a day or more."

Captain Woodes Rogers, a Pacific voyager, was at the Ladrones in the year 1710. He was of the opinion that the proe (proa, or prau) of that group would sail at the rate of about twenty miles per hour. Anson puts it at nearly twenty.

An experiment was made at Portsmouth, subsequent to Commodore Anson's voyage, with a proa built there in imitation of the Ladrone proa, and her swiftness is said to have been wonderful, but the rate of her sailing is not specified.

In spite of some contradictory statements, it appears that the Maori canoe could sail fairly close to the wind, but made great leeway, owing to lack of a deep keel or lee-board, and that they were not well adapted for running directly before the wind in a seaway.

The use of several steering-oars probably had the effect of preventing the making of leeway to some extent. These long-bladed oars would act as lee-boards. In writing of Tahitian canoes Ellis remarks: "In long voyages they have two or three steering-paddles, including a very large one, which they employ in stormy weather, to prevent the vessel drifting to leeward."

In his paper on Polynesian settlements in Melanesia Mr. C. M. Woodford, C.M.G., describes how canoes of the North Pacific beat up against the wind: "When I visited the Gilbert Group in a sailingship from Fiji we had to go from the island of Kuria to Apamama, a distance of only about fifteen miles to windward, and against a strong current running to the westward. We had to go from Kuria, which lies in about 30' N. lat., into about 4° north in order to get to windward of Apamama, an operation which occupied us nine days. The morning we arrived at Apamama nine large canoes, one of them over seventy feet long, arrived from Kuria, having beaten up during the night, against the wind and current… I should, however, explain that the Gilbert Island canoes appeared to me to be much more weatherly than the canoes of central Polynesia, and to make scarcely any leeway when sailing by the wind. In the Samoan and Tongan canoe the bottom was round without keel. The Gilbert page 267Island canoes, on the other hand, had a sharp keel, and a better grip of the water."

A model of a canoe of the Gilbert Isles in the Dominion Museum shows an extremely sharp keel, differing widely from our Maori canoes.

Writing of the proa of the Ladrones, Anson remarked: "By the flatness of their lee side and their small breadth they are capable of lying much nearer the wind than any other vessel hitherto known, and thereby have an advantage which no vessels that go large can ever pretend to. The advantage I mean is that of running with a velocity nearly as great, and perhaps sometimes greater, than that with which the wind blows."

In Croze's Voyage the rate of sailing of the canoes of Guam is given as three leagues an hour with a fresh wind, and five leagues with a strong wind: hence, the writer remarks, they are the best sailers amongst the small sea-going craft known.

Captain Berry has stated, in his Reminiscences, that the Fijian canoes could sail at the rate of fifteen miles an hour, and lie within three points of the wind.

In his work on the natives of northern Borneo Mr. Ling Roth tells us that the Dyaks paddle their canoes, in smooth water, about six miles an hour, "but when exerting themselves fully can double that rate of speed." He also remarks that the Kayans use a long boat cut out of the trunk of one of the large forest-trees, sometimes measuring 38 yards in length, and 7 ft. in beam. "A boat of this description will accommodate a hundred men, who sit two abreast, plying their paddles on either side of the boat simultaneously; and thus propelled it attains a rate of speed enabling it to travel, at a rough calculation, between fifty and sixty miles a day."

In an account of the voyage of the "Dolphin" (under Commodore Byron) round the world in 1764–65 occurs the following description of the swift, canoe-like prau of Indonesia: "These vessels move with such amazing swiftness that it is generally allowed by all who observed them with attention that with a brisk trade-wind they will run at least twenty miles an hour… These vessels, with either end foremost, can, with amazing swiftness, run from one of these islands to another, and back again, without ever putting about."

In The Travels of Peter Mundy, published by the Hakluyt Society, appears an illustration of double outrigger canoes as seen on the coast of Sumatra in 1637. The following remarks are made concerning them:—

"Prowes of greatt Swifftnesse: Here are some prowes of such exceeding swifftnesse in a gale of wind thatt it [is] allmost incredible, page 268a man standing to windward to Keepe her upprightt, that the Crossebarres come nott much into the water. For the outer barres of all are to keepe her from oversetting, which shee would otherwise bee subject unto, beeing soe long and narrow to beare such a saile, which is allsoe the Cause of her swifft motion. I say her greatt length and soe little breadth with a saile soe unproportionably wide."

In his account of the Tongan Group Cook writes: "I have mentioned that Fiji lies three days sail from Tonga-tapu, because these people have no other method of measuring the distance from island to island but by expressing the time required to make the voyage in one of their canoes. In order to ascertain this with some precision, or at least to form some judgement, how far these canoes can sail in a moderate gale in any given time, I went on board of one of them when under sail, and, by several trials, with the log, found that she went seven knots or miles in an hour, close-hauled in a gentle gale. From this I judge that they will sail, on a medium, with such breezes as generally blow in their sea, about seven or eight miles in an hour. But the length of each day is not to be reckoned at twenty-four hours. For when they spoke of one day's sail, they mean no more than from the morning to the evening of the same day, that is ten or twelve hours at most. And two days' sail with them signifies from the morning of the first day to the evening of the second, and so for any other number of days." Elsewhere, in describing his movements within the Tongan Group, he remarks: "Amongst these canoes there were some double ones, with a large sail, that carried between forty and fifty men each. These sailed round us apparently with the same ease as if we had been at anchor."

Cook also shows that the Tongans were in the habit of voyaging to Hamoa (as they styled Samoa), which they told him was two days' sail distant.

Shortland, in his Traditions and Superstitions of the NewZealanders, speaks of a sixty-mile coastal trip by a canoe during a gale in the Bay of Plenty in 1844: "About nightfall, when the gale was at its height, I was startled by hearing the shouts and exclamations of many voices uniting with the roaring of the wind. What was my surprise to learn that a canoe had just arrived from Opotiki, a place distant about sixty miles to the eastward… The event appeared to me so marvellous that I went early the next morning to see the canoe and its crew, to be better assured of the fact. The canoe I found hauled up on the beach as far as high-water mark, with the cargo, consisting of baskets of kumara and potatoes, still on board. It measured about forty feet in length, with an extreme width and depth of about five feet. The hull or lower part was formed from the trunks page 269of two trees dovetailed together after the peculiar method of the country… Above this was fastened a topside or gunwale [top-strake] of the usual width of about ten or twelve inches. There was no pro-tection against the break of the sea except that offered by a sort of deck constructed of raupo or flax, by which the bow was covered in a temporary manner for a few feet, a safeguard generally adopted when making coastal voyages of any length. The crew, nine fine able-bodied fellows, were seated on the ground, with a numerous crowd round them listening to their account of the near escapes they had had on their voyage."

In 1865 the pro-Government natives of the Ngati-Porou Tribe captured five canoes from rebel natives at Uawa and sailed them up the coast. The masts were set up in a vertical position, and the sprit obliquely in the old way, though the sails employed were rectangular floor-mats with a sheet attached to the loose lower outside corner.