Opelu Canoe – Model and Design

I’ve been studying the canoe designs in “The Hawaiian Canoe” by Tommy Holmes, as well as the Ulua by Gary Dierking, and the Waka Ama by Selway-Fisher. I’ve come to the conclusion that the Waka Ama is not really a “Hawaiian” design in that the bow and stern are symmetrical: meaning that the canoe can be propelled either way – just depending on which direction you set up the seats. This is a common design in parts of the Pacific – but not in Hawaii. The Ulua is primarily a sailing canoe; in his book “Building Outrigger Sailing Canoes” Gary Dierking even comments “I’m a sailor and I’ll only paddle if I must.” From what I’ve learned/read most Hawaiian style, single hull, outrigger canoes are primarily paddling canoes – that may also be sailed.

OpeluWith that in mind I’ve done my best to build a 1/4 scale model of the Opelu canoe from “The Hawaiian Canoe” page 69. Using some scrap redwood I created this modelIMG_20130708_193122.

This is 46 inches long X 4.75 inches wide so the finished canoe should be about 15 feet 4 inches long and 19 inches wide. Planning to make this as a ‘stitch and glue’ canoe I then cut plywood planks also at 1/4 scale.

IMG_20130709_161139After stitching together with wire the model looks like this:




With no bulkheads or seats to maintain the shape I inserted temporary cross pieces to hold the proper width. Now I just have to scale this up to Full Size!