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No 3. (Summer 1953)
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He Waka Harakeke
(A TOY CANOE)

In the old world of the Maori, the young boys, in their seasonal games, always played with toy flax canoes. They took great pains in the construction of them, keeping in mind two main essentials—balance and speed.

After selecting an area of calm water in a lagoon, mud pool or river, the boys would line their toy craft at a pre-arranged starting point, and at a given signal the canoes were released. The breeze would catch the sails. Tiny ripples would appear behind the flax craft. Away they would go, sailing as gracefully as a China Clipper, or precariously wending their courses to the winning line. How anxious and excited the boys would be, we can all well imagine!

And how would you boys of Te Ao Hou manage to build one! You can manage very easily, and I am sure you can display the same keenness and skill that your fathers, grand-fathers and great grand-fathers displayed in their days. You can be equally proud of your achievements. There is a joy for all human beings who build or create something, and, more so, when the creation works!

Let us then begin.

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FIG.1

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FIG.2

METHOD OF CONSTRUCTION

1

Get two complete blades of flax, one a young shoot called a RITO, and the other a more mature blade. Cut the rito to the shape shown in Figure 1, using the butt end for the back or stern of the canoe. The whole piece when cut should be about 10 inches long. The front end, or bow, should be rounded, as illustrated. You now have a piece with the stern closed and the bow opened.

2

As illustrated in Figure 2, press the two sides of the bow end together, and then cut grooves at regular intervals of ¼in. The cut should be no more than ¼in. deep. The last cut should be at the bottom, where the midrib naturally joins the two sides together.

3

Strip off a very thin strip (⅛in.) from another blade, and with this sew the bow ends together with a running stitch as shown in Figure 2. The loose ends can be folded around the next stitch and then cut off.

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FIG. 3

4

make three pairs of catches (Figure 3) by lifting the top layer of the flax with the end of a pocket knife. Be sure not to pierce the flax right through, as this will make the canoe leak. Each catch can be from ½in. to ¾in. long.

5

Now get the older blade of flax, and cut out the seats (Figure 3). Length depends on width of canoe, but a good width for the seat is ½in. Fix the seats in as shown in the diagram.

6

Using the old blade again, fold this over and cut out the sail to the shape shown in Figure 4.

7

Cut out a spar the same shape as a seat, and fix this into the sail in the same manner as for the seats (Figure 5). This bar is to hold the sail open.

8

Fix sail into position as shown in Figure 6.

9

To keep the sail in an upright position get a very thin strip of flax, tie one end around the spar of the sail, and secure the other end to the middle seat or to the back one.

10

The toy canoe is now completed, but in order to balance the canoe properly, i.e., to make the stern slightly heavier than the bow, place a lump of mud at the stern end. Your canoe is ready to be launched.

(A picture of the completed canoe, with instructions for sailing, are given on the next page.)

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FIG. 4

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FIG. 5

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FIG. 6

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HINTS FOR THE SAILOR

1

Do not leave the canoe in the sun—it will buckle and crack.

2

The sail should be about midway between the bow and centre seat. In Figure 3 the front seat is actually too close to the bow end.

3

If balanced correctly, the bow of the canoe will not touch the water.

4

Use the rito for the body of the canoe, as it is more flexible, and not likely to crack when handled.

5

If you study the diagrams you will find that the centre seat should be slightly longer than the other two.

6

You may streamline the cuts and shape of your canoe as much as possible, as this all assists with its speed.

S. M. Mead

NB. FOR BETTER LEVERAGE FIBRE FOR KEEPING SAIL UPRIGHT SHOULD BE TIED TO SEAT NEAREST STERN. SEATS WILL BE BETTER OF WOOD.

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THE FINISHED FLAX CANOE