A Brief History of the Outrigger Canoe


The people who explored and settled on the islands of the Pacific Ocean did not have a written language but rather memorized their history and cultural information. This fact makes it difficult to trace the early development of the sailing canoes that explored one-third of the earth’s surface, beginning as early as 6000 years ago. Most of the valuable information available was collected by early western explorers in the form of notes and drawings (oh, if they’d only had cameras).

At the time of the first contact with western explorers, both double-hulled catamarans and single outrigger canoes were in use. catamarans were favored for hauling heavy freight or a lot of people. single outrigger canoe was faster and better adapted for chasing schools of fish or for courier use. In some cases, the same hull could be used with a partner as a catamaran or equipped with a single out-rigger, depending on its intended use. double trigger canoe (trimaran) is not generally seen in Polynesia or Micronesia, but rather in Indonesia and the Philippine Islands.

Both catamarans and single outriggers were seen with shunting and tacking rigs, although the hunting rig was spreading and increasing its influence at the time of western contact.