I’ve never been cool. My natural tendencies, interests, even hair, just wouldn’t allow for it. I’ve never been into fast cars or fast boats. For a couple years, I even drove a bright blue-green Ford Aspire — and I still found a girlfriend (now my wife)! So, if you see me walking to the river with a coracle on my back, there’s no need to say it; I know. I’m not cool — but I’ll be smiling.
That’s because coracles are such fun — to build and to use. I built a couple nearly ten years ago, one for me, and one for my kids to have some fun with. After many duct tape repairs, it was finally time to “re-skin” it. This time, rather than tar coated canvas, I used pvc coated polyester fabric. It’s obviously not a natural fabric, but I gave in this time. It is incredibly strong and should hold up very well against sharp rocks.
The sequence above shows the two coracles when I first made them, then the larger one right before I decided to re-skin it. The third photo shows the sawn hickory laths re-exposed (hickory was probably overkill), and finally the new skin.
I am 185 pounds, and my coracle is plenty stable at 5 feet long and 4 feet wide. I forget where I saw the general plan years ago, but here is a site with plans for the same style plus some great information in general about coracles.
There are many styles. In this video clip from the BBC Edwardian Farm series, you can watch Sean Hellman build one with willow wands. As you’ll see, they also try it out, but don’t let that deter you. By the way, the entire BBC Farm Series shows are wonderful. Most episodes are on YouTube in their entirety. A quick search on You Tube will get you started. Robin Wood is turning bowls in one of the Medieval episodes.
And this short video from 1934 should give you an idea of how stable they really can be:
A coracle is a little sluggish on open water, but a joy on a river. It goes with the flow and spins around on command (or on a whim, sometimes) for a change of view. And you don’t have to chance looking cool.
Dave… you may well be the coolest guy I know!
Cool would be a dugout canoe!
William Budd, Glenoma, WA
Indeed. And some of the coolest ever were made in your neck of the woods.
Hi Dave, Ive been admiring your work for a few months now and Ive just stumbled across this great post. I’m originally from West Wales and my brother in law makes traditional coracles. Its a fantastic and highly skilled trade which has taken a few knocks over the years so I’m glad to see the skill being transferred over to your side of the pond. I was bought up watching the old boys whipping themselves gracefully around the ‘Afon Teifi’ so I can assure you, it is possible to look cool in a coracle. Although I’ve had no such luck.
I agree with Scott, you may well be the coolest dude around.
All the best.
Thanks for sharing your experience in Wales. What a sight it must have been. It is good to hear that your brother in law is carrying on the tradition there.
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