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by Bob Kerstetter
How do you make a round boat without a keel go straight? While we rode in one, we still have no surety of this, but we have a somewhat believable guess. Vietnamese fishers employ wood coracles—the word originates from wickerwork watercraft built by the Welsh—to move between fishing vessels and from ship to shore. They use one oar attached to a lock to propel and guide. Power emerges by stroking the paddle down to one side then to the other, while direction comes by favoring one side over the other—the same principle as a canoe.
Our vessel was slightly more than a meter in diameter, made from a modern polymer and offering the luxury of a glass bottom. It seats two to five people. We glided over clear shallows off the beach of a island near Nha Trang. Our captain showed us coral in green, blue, white and pink, plus some colors no one has named. While we would really like to share some images from below the surface, minutes before the jaunt our watertight camera leaked, emitting a small but fatal popping sound. So all we have are a photo of authentic coracles being towed by a fishing boat, plus a modern-materials one used for pleasure.
Vietnamese Fishing Boat Towing Two Coracles
Fiberglass Coracle Paired with a Pleasure Boat in Vietnam
I sure feel like I’m learning a lot about Vietnamese culture. Thanks for the education. The coracles sound great. Your very own glass-bottomed boat. Wouldn’t you know the camera would fizzle at such an innoportune time. Thanks for sharing all this with us!