Local names for this type of small watercraft are Bangka, Paraw, Baroto, Sakayan, Bigiw, Vinta, etc. These are dugout canoe with bamboo outriggers that are paddled or driven by sails and motor. The aesthetic design varies with island location and cultural influences, but the bottom hull is basically composed of a carved out log. The hull sides can be stitched plank, weaved bamboo, or plywood (20th century). The seams are sealed with tree resin, tar, and lately… epoxy.


It has no fixed rudder but rather steered by a paddle. With the introduction of small motors in the late 1940’s, tiny steel rudders were fitted and controlled by long tiller extension made of bamboo.


The midsection of the main hull bottom are shaped to round, “U”, “V”, or plain flat. Some are straight keeled for good tracking and some are rockered for manoeuvrability. The last decade have seen stepped flat hull with extended propeller shaft. Obviously influenced by western design, though generally kept the remaining features to be authentic Filipino. They look unassumingly meek, but they sprint like dolphin at more than 20 knots with a “rooster tail”.

The crossbeams are fire-heated bamboo to conform to a desired shape, either in arch or “water spider legs” (elongated letter “M”). The flexibility can be tuned by adding a second beam on top with varied length depending on sea condition and boat loading. This feature can be seen more on sailing outriggers like the Vinta. These working sailboats put a lot of stress to crossbeams and is common to have three beams in such a small boat. On the other hand, the paddled and motorized outriggers have the simplest beam shape.


The bamboo amas are four inches diameter poles. The front end are capped with a wooden plug in a form of a wedge or cone. The lenth of amas are cut at no more than the boat’s length, but no shorter than three quarters of boat length. The exact location of the amas are also tuned. They are lashed a bit more forward for sailboats to avoid digging-in the bow during a run while a bit more aft for motorized bangka to compensate for the weight of motor.


No two outrigger boats are alike, since these are handmade and generally custom-made to an individual using it. The variety of wood and bamboo contributes to the uniqueness of each boat. A newly built outrigger will have its own “soul”. On the first launch, it will reveal how “he”(Pacific outriggers are traditionally named after a male gender) likes to be sailed and tuned.