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Zen and the Art of Boat Building


The craft of boat building from wood to my mind is an art form.

The traditional Mallorcan fishing boat is called a Llaüt or Llagut (you can also find the Llaüt boat in Menorca but with a slightly different shape). These boats were traditionally built from wood. According to Joan Cifre Bover, a builder of wooden Llaüts from Portocolom and mestre d’aixa, there are only four or five talleres left on the whole island that still take care of repairing or restoring Llaüts built from wood, or building them new from scratch.

Llaüts were originally fitted with sails but now, more and more of them are motorized. A wooden Llaüt of perhaps 5.80 metres overall length could be commissioned from Joan for something like 30,000 €; one would have to wait four or five months for its completion. Extras or fittings such as the paint work, an engine, a sail or a cabin would be added on top. In this day and age, of course, not many people aspire to such a traditional specimen any longer. Many Llaüts now are built from fibre glass instead of wood.

I am not into boats myself, and I do not possess a Llaüt, but I do admire the concept of quality and the Zen-like concentration and dedication that go into the process of designing and building one of these little Maritime marvels. Zen and the Art of Llaüt Maintenance could easily be a title for an – as yet unwritten – book on Llaüts that I would happily read.

The Llaüt market is in a general decline, though, and some experts are concerned that in ten or twenty years time there may not be any Llaüt makers left in Mallorca. Some people even predict that the Mallorcan or the Menorcan Llaüt may soon be imported from China.

What a shame that would be, though, because extinct is forever. Perhaps I should save up for one of Joan’s delightful masterpieces just to be able to look at the Llaüt in wonderment and admiration.

The photo was taken in Portocolom, Mallorca, Baleares, Spain. The date: May 6th, 2009. The time was 18:30:26.

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