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There’s no point in sailing a boat out in the sea if the boat then sinks. To make sure this does not happen, one has to give special attention to sealing the cracks between the planks. This ancient art of caulking is called calafatear in Spanish or calafatament in Catalan. The technique is still being taught here in Mallorca, albeit on a dwindling scale.

The age-old craft of building boats with traditional materials such as wood is not so much en vogue any longer. Yes, there are some wharfs where one can order a traditional Llaut constructed with a wooden hull and covered with wooden boards. Calafat fibres from plant material are then wedged into the joints between the planks. Practical experience is needed to master this technique. But the number of traditional boat builders is down from about 40 in all of Mallorca to five or six. Maybe we are the last generation to be able to witness this tradition. Our children may well be left bewildered and ignorant when we will tell them about the art of calafatament in times to come. Oh, well.

In Japan, the government nurtures old master craftsmen and their artful trade to ensure that such traditions do not die out and, instead, are passed on to the younger generation. Not here so, in Mallorca, not in Spain, and hardly anywhere in Europe. It would not be too late to do something about it now, but, I doubt that anyone cares, up there in the ranks of policy making.

The photo was taken in Alcudia, Mallorca, Spain. The date: September 26th, 2009. The time then was 12:30:51.

1 reply »

  1. Freshly milled wide plank flooring is often distressed to give a similar appearance..Traditional wide plank flooring is laid with gaps between the floorboards to allow for expansion and contraction of the planks as the temperature and humidity in the room change. Traditionally the gaps were filled with rope dyed to match the color of the wood.

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October 2011


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