Coracles are a classic example of a need being met by a universal solution. Dating back to the bronze age and still in use today, the flat bottomed, frail looking ‘boats’ are found in most parts of the world. They have different names, shapes and sizes, but in essence they are a simple round or oval woven frame covered by waterproof material and propelled by a single paddle.
Intended for use on shallow inland waters, they range from tiny craft suitable for one person to larger stronger examples which, given right circumstances are capable of crossing short stretches of open sea.
These are truly organic and natural items, grown out of the landscape and easily transported both as a completed coracle, which was traditionally carried on the back, and in kit form as a bundle of laths bound with a cord and rolled in waterproof cover.
Where coracles are still in use today, it is clear that the regional adaptations of the basic design styles have evolved to suit the local waters. The craft is growing in popularity as a sustainable fun thing to do with a practical use for fishing, transportation and personal recreation.
Coracles are deceptively simple once you know how to build them. Firstly a ring is made and the interwoven rods or laths of green wood are secured to the rim. A single cross bench is secured to the rim, and often supported on the bottom of the frame, which is then covered by a waterproof material.
In North America the “Bull Boats” were coracles covered in a bull hide. Usually it was fabric, waterproofed with natural bitumen or oil.
Coracles are powered by a single short-handed paddle, using a figure eight sculling motion to pull it through the water. The paddler faces the direction of movement. As they are intended for use in shallow water the inevitable spills of mastering a coracle are all part of the fun.
So – master of your own craft and with knowledge and skill – what is the next adventure? Perhaps a group of friends setting up coracle races, a fishing competition, a float down a river, duck hunting, discovery of an alpine lake. A coracle allows a skilled ‘paddler’ to quietly skim down a shallow stream to ‘spot’ the natural life going on around. It’s a ‘natural’ way to take some startling photos of fish and birds, not to forget small animals such as beavers and foxes. Use your imagination and you will soon feel the connection with history, with nature and with your unknown self.
Interested in learning more? We invite you to check out our DIY Coracle Boat- Building Workshops where you can build a coracle and learn to maneuver your boat under the supervision and guidance of our Boat Building Instructor.