from notes archived at Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai'i
Tafaka (from Salvaka)
The Rotumans build two sorts of large outrigger canoes, the tafaka oro and the tafaka fonfonu. The first is a three piece canoe with a deep hull, the second a five piece canoe with a shallow keel piece and built up sides, two planks to a side. When the whole body of the canoe is considered these canoes are actually five and seven piece canoes, but the last two pieces are deck pieces and not in the walls of the canoes... The difference in structure is determined by the material the carpenters have to work with. If a tree selected is not thick enough to give the proper depth to the hull, a five piece canoe is built.
The majau, or head carpenter, selects the tree from which the proposed canoe is to be built. Then a koua or feast is held, called faiagfua, at which is announced the intention of building a canoe, and whether it will be fuaora or not, that is "the way of constructing a tafakora."
When the work is started the majau may make the stern first or hollow out the entire log. When the tree is hollowed out to form the fua or bottom piece of the hull, a second koua is held, called sarag fua. The fua is then finished off and the beveled edge is made for joining the piece to be laid on top. In the five piece canoe the keel is the vak fonfonu, and the beveled edge is made to join the fonu. In this case, the fua or keel piece is made much broader and shallower. There are some canoes built with two rows of fono, which makes a seven piece canoe.
It has been stated that three piece canoes are in reality of five pieces. It can be seen here where the extra pieces come in. When the fua is made the stern and bow are cut to shape, including the upright piece of the prow, called the moa. Often this is impossible due to the size of the tree. Then deck pieces of purou are made to fit on top of the stern and bow of the level fua. These are necessary to carry out the height of the canoe established by building on the fono or wall pieces. In the standard three piece canoe, these should join at each end with the high bow and stern of the fua. The fono, probably originally one strip, is now made of three to each side. The center fono which is laid on the completed fua first, is called the raurara. When these two center pieces are laid a koua is held which is known as the fu'akiag fono. Then the end fono, two to each side which connect the raurara with the stern and bow, are laid on. These are the fon jijaki. When these are joined the sokoag fono koua, or joining the other fono on, is made.
Next come the roa, if the canoe is to be a five piece one. These are the top planks or strips that are set over the fono to complete the walls. Then the bow and stern pieces are put on (these are called porou in one place and puka in another, puka being name given by Ismeli as well.) The canoe is now fitted together and all the flanges are sewn down. The majau inspects all edges to see if there is a perfect fit.
To insure that all the planks fit smoothly, the sides that are laid against each other are smeared with paint made of 'ura or pandanus mixed with lime. The pandanus root is first pressed with water. This paint is smeared on the edge of the fua and then the fono is laid on. Any unevenness will show up by its lacking marking with paint.
Then the entire canoe is unleashed and the pieces taken off. Each piece is trimmed and smoothed to make it thinner and lighter. The inside portion is cut out more carefully. All holes for lashing are inspected, but they must not be touched again after corrections are made from the preliminary lashing of the canoe.
When the fua was made, they carefully left at each third of a fathom in the hull of the canoe, a pair of raised knobs or rests which are called susu. They are not in the exact center of the bottom of the canoe but about six inches apart. These form the rests for the rib supports or tokai of the canoe. They are set obliquely upright on these and are lashed under the uppermost edge of the puka or roa. The seats, manu, are set above a pair of tokai. There should be three seats to each fathom of the canoe. The seats are cross boards lashed over the gunwale or roa. Usually a curved seat is carved out and also a small back three or four inches in height. The back of the seat is called the kiat rot. The stern piece of puka has the seat of the helmsman, the seat &emdash; marae or maraeheta. This puka is the last piece that is set in the hull of the canoe when she is put together. It has two arms or forks, as has the bow piece, which come out and join the end of the roa. These are known as the 'u rua ne puka, the hands of the puka. The bow and the stern piece are variously fashioned after the ideas of the majau, but in general the first piece usually has the butt of a bowsprit or upright piece foremost. This is called the moa. Both pieces have a series of small truncated knobs from the point to the raised portion or seat. These are the moa ne puakta, and correspond to the decoration on Samoan bonito canoes and paopao. Very rarely I have seen cowrie shell attached to them.
A wooden bailer, tatahet, is made for each canoe, in the shape of a grocer's sugar scoop, with the handle inverted or within the bowl.
The outrigger, sama, is attached with booms, as in the tavane, and when all is finished the final koua, a'vahiag taf'aga is given for the occasion.
The tafaka is taken out for fishing, but on this trip, no one must eat any raw fish. The catch is brought together, cooked and eaten in one place. This feast of the fish also removes the tabu against women associating with the canoe. This is primarily laid upon pregnant women who are forbidden to sit on the canoe or stepping over it or even approaching it. Other women are less seriously regarded.
If in the process of making the canoe a worker is cut and blood flows, a koua is held, hapagsu. So also if a part is broken or cut so thin that the axe comes through, a koua is held to stop the bad luck.
The place where the canoe is built is tabu during the first trip out. No one is allowed to play there, and it would bring the worst sort of bad luck, armou, if blood were shed on it. Armou is "bad luck, no fish, shedding of blood, or some bad happening.
The canoe inspected while this account was given, was 33 feet long, 1 1/2 feet at the widest tart, and 20 inches deep.
taf'aga fonfono = canoe with built up sides
faiag fua = felling of a tree for the keelpiece
sarag fua = completing the keelpiece
vak fonfono = canoe with built up sides
fon jij'aki = sideboards slipped into place
Isimeli was another Rotuman MacGregor consulted
'ura = Indian mulberry
Tafaka (from Salvaka)
Names of parts.
tarei is the cord which holds the outrigger spring down to the outrigger.
Puka. This is the part that runs from the end of the roa on oneside around the stern or bow to the the end of the roa on theother side. It should be of one piece. (This note infers that it is not necessarily the whole stern piece).
Pulu. Pulu means gum. The first gum used for caulking was the sap of the breadfruit, but later someone discovered the seed of the pipi fruit was far more suitable. This is seed is pressed in the hand with a rock, into a red watery fluid. It is worked into the seams where it becomes very hard and holds fast. The seed is used just before the fruit ripens.
'Ahai or Samtutuki
The samtutuki (which Vakatua gives as its real Rotuman name) was about ten fathoms long. The pontoon or vaka was up to a man's shoulder, but Sunpoti says that it was about 8 feet high. The vaka was completely covered over to keep out the water of waves breaking over it. The covering had a trap door by which they could get inside the vaka. Here they kept the provisions while traveling. Sanpati says that only the bow and stern were covered over as in the vak popou. The vaka was built of five pieces, the keelpiece, the side planks and the narrower top planks. Sanpati (who must be in his eighties) said that there were four planks to a side and that the side reached eight feet in height.
The planks had flanges and were sewn together by holes in these. A gum of the breadfruit tree (pure sap) caulked the seams. The stiches or loops that tied together the planks were held fast by driving small wooden wedges under the knots. The vaka were longer than one plank length and the ends were sewn together too. The ends were not cut square but diagonally.
The vaka were lashed together by poles running across one to the other. Vakatua says that this was not the deck but that poles were set up in the vaka and the deck was held up on these about a fathom above the top plank of the canoe side. On this deck was built a house, merely a ri hapa without walls, the ends of the roof resting on the deck. The purpose of the high deck was to keep it above the waves, which could wash over the vaka. Both men said these samtutuki carried around a hundred men. The mast was set forward of the house, sometimes it could be shifted and sometimes it was built in permanently. The sail was of mats, about twenty odinary floor mats would complete a sail. The sail had the two wings or points that the Fijian canoes have. This was given indirectly and more by the interpreter who has been a long time in Fiji.
Geo. Barker, Fiji Museum
The lower and upper curve of the boom was braced on its windwardside by extra pieces. The boom as pictured was one piece reaching from lashing at foot of mast along border of sail to peak. There was no other support but folded mat between peak and top of mast.
At this time the Rotumans had such rigging on canoes in the harbor, and these were much larger canoes, the peaked mat sail with "U" shape and hung at a high angle similar to Tongan sails. The natives said this was a sail of the Tongan type and adopted from them. The Fijian sail of ths same cut is hung at a lesser angle between boom and horizontal plane of canoe.