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Tree Trunk Canoe

Early boats of Antigua were hollowed out tree trunks and may have been given extra freeboard by adding planks on either side. Arawakan speaking Amerindians that appeared from South America made these boats. Firstly, a large tree was chosen and fire was set around the base to kill it. Then it was left standing for a year or so to season.

Amerindians Building A favourite boat-building village was probably on the hill east of Monk's Hill where the cell phone antenna is today. We know this because many conch-shell hand adzes, flint tools and pottery have been found at that spot. According to the missionaries, these adzes were used in conjunction with fire to hollow out the tree trunks. The trees were chosen from the interior of Antigua behind the hill, cut down and hollowed on the spot Then a team of men dragged the bare hull to the village for finishing.

It would have been an easy matter to take the Canoes to Falmouth Harbour, as the canoes were literally slipped down the side of the steep hill to the water for launching. Canoes were the automobiles of the early people. They were used for communications around the coasts, fishing and even inter-island trade, proof of which has been determined archaeologically.

The Origin Of Sail

It is thought sail was not used until after 1605. In this year, three Spanish Galleys were wrecked on Guadeloupeand the Caribs murdered all the crews. One friar, a certain Father Blasius from the Low Countries was spared as he had shown the Indians how to make sails out of the linen cloth that had been a part of the ships' cargo.

He showed them how to make a fore and aft spritsail (common in the Low Countries, the innovation pleased the Caribs as the sails had saved them much labour. Incidentally, Father Blasius made his escape by using one of his sails one night when he saw a British merchantman the "Henry Challons" approaching the lee of Guadeloupe. From that time on, sail was reported in the Caribbean in historical records, and until recently, the Carib Canoes of the Eastern Caribbean used the same sprit rig, utilising flour sacks sewed together as sail cloth.

Face from a Carib/French Dictionary published in 1660 by Father Breton. During canoe building, if a woman had touched the boat with but the end of her finger, the Caribs believed the canoe would split and be leaky.