Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sabini of Okinawa

Some of you may know about Douglas Brooks, boat builder and traditional boat building historian. I've kept a link here on Doryman for Douglas ever since I first saw his incredible work. He has spent much of his adult life learning the wood boat building methods of Japan, by becoming an apprentice to masters of this vanishing trade. Currently he is in Lejima, Okinawa, Japan, apprenticing with Shimojo san and his son building an eight meter sabani - a local, traditional wooden fishing boat.
Douglas tells us that "In Japan the apprentice system is well within the collective cultural memory. And a deshi (apprentice) lives and works under very strict cultural norms."
Douglas Brooks is a master boat builder himself and talks about taking on the humble role of apprentice and the value of his research as learned by simple toil.
As might be expected, the boats are exquisite, the detailing superb. There are no metal fasteners in a sabini. They are fastened with an elaborate, if tedious, system of dovetail keys called a huundu, with alternate bamboo nails.


I've added a live feed to the left side bar for those who would like to follow the story of building the sabini. There is much more there than just the story of build a wood boat. Look for "The Sabini Project, Douglas Brooks in Japan."

Douglas asked me a few months ago to post about some of his other work. You will find an excellent example of his own work with the Rushton Cat Boat


Unknown said...

Thank you for posting this. Being an US Airforce brat, I lived on the island of Okinawa for 2 years, (1979 - 1981). I remember those long skinny wooden fishing boats. I also remember being amazed at how seaworthy they were. Most were powered by small gasoline motors and could handle heavy seas. I remember watching one from the shore on Ie Shima, (one of the Ryukyu Islands, as is Okinawa, and their nearest neighbor), and thinking, "there's no way I'd get out there on one of those". It put me in the mind of a motorized canoe!

doryman said...

I love these boats. True works of art.