Building the boat

We wanted to reproduce a small boat that was suitable for rivers and inland waterways and period appropriate for the mid 15th century on the Marches of Wales. It had to be portable (a medieval trailer/sailor) and built from locally sourced materials. 

It also had to be able to carry at least 2 adults and also have the option of a mast for sailing.

We had studied the Irish tradition of Currach building......we had produced wattle for buildings , the frame of a medieval hand cart and also basket ware...... but never a boat !

The boat is built 'out of the ground' as a Coracle or Currach. The shape is laid out with a centre line in rope, pegged to the ground.

Bundles of Willow stakes and withies cut the same day and hence still 'green' so that they will bend and curve to the required shapes. Others where soaked in a river for 3 days to soften them up as they had been coppiced earlier in the year.

Longer stakes are placed in pairs at opposite sides at 6 inch gaps along the edge of the rope, pushed into holes in the ground about 6" deep.

36 stakes later and the gunwale is started to be wattled with smaller withies, the weave is 'pairing' where the 2 rods are plyed over each other left over right to form a stronger weave.

the rods are then bent over to form the ribs, the thin tapering ends of the willow being forced into the newly wattled gunwale, the longer spars are bent to shape the boats profile and all are lashed together with tarred string.


the frame of the boat is then dug out of the ground or 'birthed'

the boat springs into a new shaped once released from the ground, with the stern and bow raising up to curve the gunwale . The stakes are trimmed down to the top of the wattle except for the centre 3 which are left to provide rollicks for oars


the foot of the mast is secured into a tapering hole cut into a mast board, made from a 1 " thick oak plank that is lashed to the frame of the boat.

mast in place, supported by a similar hole in the central seat 

also note the wattled willow panel also in place as a 'deck' for standing on when getting in or out of the boat and the 3 spars at the stern for the steersman to sit - 

frame sat on the canvas skin prior to stitching it on with string

partway through the stitching process, the excess canvas is trimmed front and back and pleats added to keep the skin tight across the frame

the skin is completely stitched onto the frame, note the 3 spars in the back of the frame for a seat from which to steer and the rope and pole handle added to the front for carrying the boat

then the canvas skin was then painted with 2 coats of Bitumen to make it waterproof , after it dried an additional layer of canvas was painted onto the bottom of the boat frame to protect the waterproof layer from being punctured by stones etc when being taken in and out of the water and 2 more layers of paint applied to stiffen and thicken up the skin.