Appendix F
Paddles and Bailer
Buck, Peter (Te Rangi Hiroa). 1950. Material culture of Kapingamarangi. Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 200. Honolulu: Bernice Bishop Museum Press.( p.207-209)

Paddles, which bear the general Polynesian name of hoe, are neatly made of woroworo wood, but a few that are very light have been made of drift timber. The shafts (kau) are comparatively short. They have no knob at the upper end, but a slight flange (kenu) is made on each side of the shaft about 10 inches from the junction with the blade. The flange provides a grip for the right hand, and it is considered wrong to hold above or below it. The blade (raurau) is fairly narrow, the widest part being on the upper half. The junction with the shaft forms lateral obtuse angles or shoulders from which the side edges slope evenly downward and outward. The tip end expands slightly on either side and is thickened anteriorly and posteriorly to form a distinct knob which is likened to the human nipple (matariri u) by being termed matariri hoe (paddle nipple). As the blade surfaces are evenly flat, it does not matter which surface is turned to the back in paddling.


Figure 127 - a, b, paddles; c, bailer.

In making a paddle, the finger span of a full stretch between thumb and middle finger, termed anga, is used. The handle measurement is given as five anga, and the kenu flange is one anga from the blade junction. The blade length is given as two anga and a short anga. The short anga is the distance from the tip of the thumb to the bent first joint of the forefinger, both widely stretched. The short anga is expressed by the term ti anga te maro, in which te is the negative, hence the meaning is "the anga which is not fully stretched." A Typical paddle, in Bishop Museum (C.10133), has the following measurements: total length, 66 inches; handle length, 40 inches; blade length, 26 inches; flange from junction, 8 inches; and greatest blade width 5.2 inches. (See figure 127, a.)

According to the informants, the paddle nipple, which I thought was meant to strengthen the point for pushing off against the coral bottom in shallow water, has a totally different function. When the paddle is used vigorously with a deep stroke, it makes a marked gurgling sound which is said to attract fish and is termed tongoro. In ordinary paddling, however, the tongoro sound is made to change the monotony of paddling and also to convey the impression that extra effort is being applied to increase speed.

In using the paddle, the right hand grasps the shaft flange (kenu) in the ordinary grip, but the left hand is turned back to grasp the upper end of the shaft. This grip is held to be more effective and less fatiguing than the ordinary grip with the left hand. In making a stroke, the left hand pushes the upper end of the shaft forward with the right hand acting as the fulcrum of a lever, and the backward pull of the right hand with the forward push of the left hand assist each other. It is a somewhat awkward grip at first, but its advantage is obvious when one becomes used to it. In dipping the paddle into the water, the shaft is held vertical to make strong deep strokes, but a paddler may slant his paddle to rest after a vigorous bout with deep strokes. Women who take part in paddling to and from the outer islands, use the slanting dip with the lower hand resting on the thigh. Paddlers change sides frequently , not only to help in keeping a straight course, but for the relief of changing hands.

The four ways of paddling, each with a name, follow:

Hakamau: ordinary paddling with a slow easy stroke.
Tahi: a long, vigorous stroke in which the body leans well forward to enable the paddler to strength forward for a longer stroke. The body and head come up to an erect position at the end of the stroke. The body, head, and paddle movements blend into an automatic rhythm in which all share to promote more rapid progress.
Hakamihi: short, quick strokes with the blades not dipping so deeply.
Hangai: a double quick time in spurting. The paddlers do not dip so deeply and they purposely send up spray at the end of the strokes. In a canoe race, the yell of hangai by the bow paddler results in the whole crew keeping perfect time to the fast stroke and sending up a flurry of spray along the whole length of the canoe on both sides.

Steering paddles are termed hoe uru, hoe urungi, from urungi, to steer. They have longer and wider blades, but the handles are usually shorter in proportion and have a knob at the upper end. In some, the lower part of the shaft is thicker than the upper part and sometimes there is a distinct shoulder at the meeting of the two. In one paddle examined, the lower part was 6 inches in circumference and the upper part, 4 inches. The tip end of the blade does not have the nipple point. Steering paddles are highly valued because the width takes extra wood and suitable wood is getting scarce. In fact, we had trouble in getting the specimen (C.10130) shown in figure 127, b. It has the following dimensions: total length, 50.25 inches; handle length, 8.5 inches; blade length, 41.75 inches; and blade width, 5.5 inches.

Some lighter paddles without the nipple point were seen insure, but they proved to be the usual paddles, having been reshaped after the knobbed points were broken off against coral.

Nukuoro paddles are similar in general shape, but with thicker shafts. The blades join the shaft at a continuous slant without shoulders, and there is no tip enlargement of the blade.

Poles (toko), part of the usual equipment of a canoe, rest on the forked false boom and the main booms. The best wood is woroworo, but other woods of convenient size, about 10 or more feet long and an inch or more thick, are used. It is easier and quicker to pole than to paddle. In traveling to the other islands, poling is used along the shallow parts inshore.

Bailers (ta) of native manufacture are carried in every canoe. Fortunately, the degenerate stage of using empty cans or half coconut shells had not been reached when we were there. The bailers are somewhat narrow, to suit the narrow bilge of the canoe hulls, but follow the general Polynesian pattern of a wooden scoop with a handle (kau ta) projecting forward from the back end. The back is obtusely V-shaped, and the handle differs from the usual Polynesian technique in that the forward end is bent down at an obtuse angle to join with the bottom. The reason given for the downward junction to the bottom was that the breadfruit wood of which they are made is somewhat brittle and that children might tread on the handle when the bailer rests in the bottom of the canoe.

The dimensions of the typical bailer (C.10002) shown in figure 127, c are as follows: length, 13.75 inches; width, 5.5 inches; depth outside, 3.5 inches; depth inside, 2.9 inches; and handle diameter, 1 inch.


Within the canoe sheds, the canoes are raised off the ground, and wooden supports termed ranga are placed beneath the hull. They are usually formed of a portion of trunk with three or four branches cut level to form legs. The upper end is slightly hollowed to support the keep, and two supports are sufficient. The phrase used is tokoria i ti kerekere (propped up clear of the ground). The outrigger float is supported by a rope passed around it and some part of the house framework.

On landing at one of the islands, a canoe pole (toko) is usually laid transversely near the water's edge, and the bow of the canoe drawn up over it.