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A. Caravel

Background Information:

The most popular ship used for exploration during the 15th and early 16th centuries was the caravel. This ship had a shallow draft that made it ideal for exploring shallow coastal waters. Its stern rudder was controlled below deck with a tiller. Originally, the caravel's sails were triangular in shape, called lateen-rigged. Columbus re-rigged his caravels with square sails, making them better suited for his downwind journey across the Atlantic. This square-rigged version, called the caravel redonda, could easily be handled by a crew of 25, even in rough weather.


As an arts and craft project, build a caravel using material picked up while beach combing. The caravel shown in Figure 14 was fashioned out of a coconut husk, driftwood and string. The sail was cut from a plastic bag. The distinctive cross of Santiago that characterized the main sails of the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria was colored in with red crayon.

models of a caravel and an outrigger
Figure 14. Models of a caravel and an outrigger constructed
from common material found while beachcombing.
(photo by Mark Hamasaki)

Further Reading:

The Explorers, Time-Life Books, 1979, pp. 44-51 and 70-71.

B. Outrigger

Background Information:

Polynesians sailed double-hulled vessels that made them highly stable on the open seas. The twin hulls were joined with a deck called pola and rigged with triangular sails (la or pe'a) that were lashed with their apex at the bottom of the mast. The top edge of the sail usually curved inward giving the sail the appearance of a crab-claw. This type of sail was well suited for sailing into the wind, a technique often used when sailing between distant island chains in the Pacific.

The term canoe came from a type of Caribbean Indian log dugout known as the canaoa, which the Spanish called the canoa. The outrigger found in Hawaii has a pair of beams that extends off the left side of the canoe. Attached to these beams (called 'iako) is a heavy log (ama) that prevents the canoe from capsizing.


A Polynesian outrigger canoe can be constructed from an African tulip seed pod. Driftwood or chopsticks can be attached with string to form the 'iako and ama. See Figure 15.

model of an outrigger canoe
Figure 15. Constructing an outrigger canoe


Further Reading:

Herb Kane, Voyagers, 1991; Will Kyselka, An Ocean in Mind, p. 74, 1987; Video: Children of the Long Canoes, 1991.