Category Archives: Rowing,paddling and sculling

The boats of Sri Lanka with Stephanie Boucher and Alex Bienfiat

My friends Stephanie Boucher and her husband Alex Bienfait recently took a sabbatical of a few months in Sri Lanka. I gather the trip was both stunning and an education.

Anyway, they and came back with these photos, for which many thanks!

Stephanie works with websites for a living, and so naturally kept an excellent weblog of the trip. I should also explain that Alex is a Church of England parish priest, and I think took many if not all of the shots.

I’ve paraphrased some of Stephanie’s notes:

The cross on the fishing boat is interesting. It seems that when Christian missionaries came to Sri Lanka with the colonial powers one group that was particularly receptive was the fishing communities. This was particularly the case on the West coast of Sri Lanka: ideally Buddhists do not kill any living creature, but in this otherwise largely Buddhist culture fish is extremely popular, nevertheless. Fishermen often felt they were outcasts from the general community, and found a new sense of identity and self worth as Christians.

The fishing boats at Trincomalee were mostly of these boats were of fibreglass construction, much like those they to others photographed in the west and south of the island. But at Trincomalee they also saw a number of log canoes hewn from of a single tree. Stephanie, who has attempted to carve wooden spoons and other tools, greatly appreciated the skills required to get the thickness and shape correct for these boats. Some had subsequently been patched with a fibre glass lining, and also on the outside in various ways.

The final shots of outrigger canoes are from the former Dutch colonial capital of Galle. The stall with fish for sale, shows the is also picture with fish for sale, showing the boats are still very much in use.


Brest Maritime Festival – fancy being part of the English Village?


The William Fife-designed 1903 sailing yacht Moonbeam pictured during the Brest Maritime Festival a few years ago (Source: Wikimedia Commons, photograph by Ludovic Péron)

Historian, serial exhibition presenter and activist Kipperman Mike Smylie tells me he and Classic Sailor editor Dan Houston are organising an ‘English Village’ for the Brest Maritime Festival, which this year is being held from the 13th to the 19th June.

They’re looking for folks with something maritime to offer to take part – I’d guess boatbuilding skills, sailmaking and ropework, publishing and perhaps many more things I haven’t thought of could all be appropriate. It’s just possible I might make the trips and sing sea songs (like this)…

If you’d like to go and think you fit the bill, email me at, and I’ll put you in touch.