In ancient Egypt, Africa and Asia, wherever reed is plentiful in rivers and lakes, the people would use them to make vessels. Reed or Bulrush boat building is one of the oldest maritime technologies in the world, even providing ocean going craft as proved by T. Heyerdahl who sailed from Peru across the Pacific to the Polynesian Islands in the BALSA raft Kon-Tiki in 1947 and crossed the Atlantic in Ra 2, a traditionally constructed reed boat built by Bolivians, in 1970.


Maximo Catari and his son Erik, a student of industrial engineering, are Aymara Indians from a remote village on the Bolivian shore of Lake Titikaka. They have undertaken extensive research into their heritage for this project and are building all of the boats.

The totora (reed) around Lake Titikaka is gathered while still fresh and formed into bundles tied with rope made from ichu (prairie grass), which are dried out for several weeks. The bundles are then bound into long tapering cigar-shaped cylinders to form the spine of the boat and pounded into a crescent shape. More bundles are added longitudinally to give the boat body and transversely to trap air and increase buoyancy. A light folding mast carries the square sail and a long oar steers the craft. The prow is traditionally topped with an animal's head fashioned from reeds.

This is the classic reed-boat of South America

Huanchaco Reed-Boat from Chile

The local name for this boat is a Caballito and it is ridden like a horse with legs hanging into the water. They are built by the fishermen themselves, are ridden out through the surf for fishing and have a short life of only a year or so.

For further information contact The Maritime Museum Of The International Sailing Craft Association -