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Peopling the Pacific
Motivations
Navigators
Using the night sky
Other navigational signs
Making landfall
Voyaging canoes
Voyaging Sources



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Voyaging canoes

Polynesian voyaging canoes were large, double-hulled vessels designed to sail long distances. They were typically planked vessels, as opposed to being hewn from a single log, and held together with stitching or lashing which allowed them to be extremely flexible. The narrow V-shaped hulls allowed them to sail downwind well. Designed with permanent bows and sterns, they come about to the wind by tacking. The double hull provided greater stability and cargo capacity. A typical vessel for long distance voyaging weighed five tons, drew 18 inches of water, and included five miles of braided sennit lashing. Two relatively small triangular sails of plaited pandanus (hala) leaves were lashed to two spars, the mast and boom. The sails' crab claw shape allowed the use of lighter weight spars and masting.

Efficient in design, a double-hulled voyaging canoe can travel at three to 10 knots and cover 100 to 150 miles per day when following a straight course that doesn't involve tacking. Such a vessel can carry anywhere from 30 to 100 men and their supplies and is capable of a 3,000 to 6,000 mile voyage. Such a trip is comparable to sailing from Tahiti as far as Hawai`i and back - far enough to explore half the Pacific and return home safely if no land was found.



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