Coracle is a small and roundish shaped lightweight boat of sort. As a matter of fact, it is used in Wales traditionally but you can see this being used in other parts of South and Western England, Ireland as well as Scotland. In Vietnam, Iraq, Tibet and India, they also use the word coracle in similar boats. Originally, coracle comes from Welsh cwrwgl, cognate with Scottish and Irish Gaelic currach and is recorded in English as early as 16th century. Other popular English spelling of such are coricle, curricle, coracle and corougle.
As what said earlier, coracles are oval in shape and have a strong resemblance to half of a walnut shell while the structure is made of a framework of interwoven and split willow rods, tied with willow bark. As for the outer layer, it was originally an animal skin like bullock hide or horse along with thin layer of tar in an effort to make it waterproof. But today, coracles are made from materials like tarred calico or canvas or known simply as fiberglass.
For the Asian version of coracle most specially the one that’s from Vietnam, you will notice that it is a bit different because it uses interwoven bamboo and coconut oil to give it a waterproof feature. The design is keel less and also, flat bottom in order to spread the boat’s weight evenly and at the same time, its load across the whole structure. Apart from that, this is intentionally done to be able to reduce the depth required of water. But in most instances, it’s just a few inches, making it ideal for rivers.
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Every design of coracle is one of a kind due to the reason that it is built in line with the conditions of the river where it’s built and meant to be used. As a matter of fact, there is one design per river however, this is not always the case. The Teifi coracle for example is flat bottomed because it is designed in a way to get through shallow rapids, which is common in rivers during summer months while Carmarthen coracle is deeper and rounder as it is intended used is for tidal waters.
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As for the Teifi coracles, these are made from local harvested wood willow for the laths or the body of boat, hazel for weave while Tywi coracles are constructed using sawn ash. Fiberglass on the other hand is often used to build working boats.
When a skilled person used coracles, it can become an extremely effective fishing vessel as they hardly cause disturbance on the fish in the water, maneuver the boat even with one arm while the other arm tends to net.