Assembly of the Canoe

The finish carving of the canoe was done. I returned from Kapingamarangi to see the momo being lashed to the waka. By the middle of my second day back the momo was completely attached. (An excellent description of the general Kapingamarangi canoe can be found in Buck's "Material Culture of Kapingamarangi", 1950. Excerpts of this report are included in Appendix E.) Given the thoroughness of Buck's report, I'll discuss differences and additional information I encountered not included in the Bishop Museum document. The use of coconut husk as a method of sealing the joint between dugout and the washstrake is an example of something I was unable to find documented.

The coconut husks that Kosen had requested were prepared and sandwiched between the two timbers, the momo and the waka. This was of particular interest as none of my research revealed any mention of this caulking process. "Bulu" was the name of this material. First the husk was removed from the nut. The inner husk was of a soft sponge like quality and the outer surface was hard and shell like. The outer shell was cut off using a machete and then the inner husk was cut into 3/8" cross-sections. These sections were then pounded out to a thickness of about one half their original dimension. In this process some of the spongy quality was replaced with a higher density. These pieces were then placed between the waka, the main hull, and the momo, the washstrake, as a gasket between the two members. As the lashings were done to tie the momo to the waka, the excess bulu was cut off.

During the lashing process, the momo was held tight to the waka by means of a strong webbing tightened through the use of wooden wedges. The webbing was tied about the assembly and then the wedges were driven home for additional tension. With the two components held tightly together the lashing was done through holes which had been drilled in the two pieces opposite one another. The lashing knots were strong and created a fair amount of tension.


Lashings through holes in two pieces of timber are used in attaching the washstrake to the underbody or hull of canoes. As a similar technique is used throughout Polynesia, and as both the pump drill and chisels are used on the atoll, it appears certain that this form of lashing is old for Kapingamarangi. Individual lashings through paired holes are termed mataha. The commencement end of the cord is fixed by the overlaid turns which pass vertically between the two holes. In some lashings, these vertical turns are considered sufficient, whereas in others, the vertical turns are seized (riri) with simple continuous rounds, sometimes on one side only and sometimes on both sides (fig.86, a).

A variation is used in the lashing of the washstrake to the hull, in which there is one hole below the midpoint between two holes in the washstrake. All the lashing turns pass through the hull hole and alternately between the two holes in the washstrake. This results in a V-shaped pattern which is termed mataha mangarua (mangarua, two branches). Usually, each limb of the V-lashing is seized with simple continuous rounds (fig.86, b). (Material Culture of Kapingamarangi, Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter H. Buck) 1950 page # 140-141)

With the momo attached, the holes were then bored to place the kioto matua (booms). The booms were fitted to these holes cut to length and lashed into place. The manu (thwarts) were fitted and attached just aft of the booms in a similar manner. Once these steps were completed the kaukau (gunwale rails) were attached, again using a series of lashings that often shared lashing holes with other parts. The bow end of the kaukau terminated under and just beyond the forward most manu. It was tapered and fitted so as to lie next to the hull, or waka.

The stern end of the kaukau intersected a bent piece of wood, mantangara i ti ngutu, that rested on top of the stem. The mantangara i ti ngutu, measuring about 1" in diameter, was bent by heat. It was wrapped in banana leaves and placed on a fire. The moist leaves protected the wood from the flames while allowing the heat to penetrate the material, allowing the bend. A line was placed to hold the shape while the mantangara i ti ngutu cooled.

The assembly of the float stanchions is documented in Appendix E. One difference between the standard Kapingamarangi canoes and the waka siu is in the placement of the koromanga, a crate device fashioned to hold coconuts. Usually this is placed on the front of the hata (platform). On the waka siu it resides on the stern end of the hata. (See Appendices H and J)

Another variation the waka siu had from the other Kapingamarangi canoes was the addition of ti rongorongo, a leg brace toward the stern of the canoe. Its purpose was to stabilize the person fishing. With both the koromanga and the ti rongorongo the only information regarding these was found through past reports. No one in the village or on Kapingamarangi could remember these parts of the canoe. The carvers used the researched information I provided to outfit the canoe with these parts.