Monday, 7 April 2008
The llaut (ya’oot) is the traditional hull shape of the western Med. Although there are many variations in the design, broadly speaking a llaut is a beamy, double-ended boat with a plumb stem and stern.
Originally lateen rigged fishing craft, llauts nowadays have inboard diesels mounted in what would have been the fish hold. A short mast and long yard supported by a crutch at the stern are merely a decorative acknowledgment of the boats’ past.
Most also carry oars although the hull shape is unsuited to easy rowing. A friend of mine, that once owned one, rather unsympathetically claimed that the boats were also hopeless under sail and power. However, the boats have a huge amount of built-in buoyancy, their beam makes them extremely stable and their shallow draft makes them ideal for beaching if some sort of winch or block and tackle is available to pull them up the shore, for the older wooden hulls, as well as the more modern GRP versions, are heavy.
Modern sailing llauts are rather more svelte and some have reversed raked transoms. I’ve never had the pleasure of sailing one of these craft but apparently they go well, the lateen rig is simple yet powerful with good windward qualities and the underwater profile, with two long, shallow bilge keels or runners and a large skeg, is sufficient to keep them on course.
Unlike Tarragona the north of Catalonia hasn’t shed its mantle of maritime heritage and quantities of llauts huddle in ports or bask, above the high water mark, on beaches. On the Costa Brava the llaut is still very much the fashionable day boat for pottering from cove to bay and, although some owners try to improve performance under power by adding an unsightly skirt of sorts at the stern to give a straighter, flatter run aft, there is nothing that smacks of the Mediterranean quite as much as seeing one of these little boats, through a clutch of wind tortured stone pines, as you weave down a path to a secluded cove.