So what does it take to build a boat? I did not purport to know. And, even if I did know, I should take the time to learn more. The boat-builders call it, “the urge”.
Each plank of wood is cut, bent and held together with the hull-frame, with nails specially made to hold the hull together. The old man then takes strands of hessian and inserts them in the grooves between the planks.
He then beats at the polished and mirror-like head of the chisel. It has grown shiny with use and now mirrors the face of its owner. With each strike, the hessian strings are forced in between the grooves. It builds a solid yet flexible structure.
I sat there watching, transfixed at how the strings seemed to disappear into the cracks between the planks. It was a good long 40-minutes since I had arrived and sat down to watch this process.
He laid down his hammer and chisel, and sat down for lunch with the rest of his mates who were simultaneously at work on a larger vessel just nearby.
So what does it take to build a boat? I did not purport to know. And, even if I did know, I should take the time to learn more. The boat-builders call it, "the urge".
The boat-builders told me that once the planks are in place, they tuck in hessian rope and later nylon, prior to the process of tarring and treating with fire. This process ensures that the boat is made water-tight. They advised that a boat should undergo "re-tarring" every five months or so.
As they sat upon their haunches to eat their meals, they asked me if I wanted to examine the vessels closely. I was already up on my feet then and laying my palms upon the planks and counting the frames, taking in the distances and dispositions relative to each other.
The larger more complete vessel sat on a lattice frame and was skirted on all sides by a plank gangway, which to my untrained and inexperienced eye looked like it would not be able to take my weight. I was thus hesitant to climb on up.
After five seconds of indecision, I finally mustered up the courage to climb onto the rickety looking gangway with the help of a step-ladder. The planks were pliable under my weight but did not snap, and this gave me confidence to continue moving around the boat.
I clambered onto the unfinished deck and walked from stem to stern, as the boat-builders looked on and laughed amongst themselves at my cat-like curiosity with their handiwork.
I bade farewell to them and offered to take a picture of them with their projects. They happily stayed where they were and smiled at the camera.
After shaking their hands, I turned back with renewed interest in building my own boat someday. There was still so much left to learn though, and what a voyage it would be!
The writer is a teacher working at South Breeze School in Dhaka who enjoys travelling.