Legend Boats Blog

Boating & Fishing around the world - Vietnam



We’ve been writing a lot about different boating related topics in and around Canada – and we will still write more about it. But why not go on a little excursion?
We will look at different fishing skills, boating stlyes and equipment being used in all kinds of countries around our planet . Every few weeks we pick one country and give you some interesting information and fun facts about its fishing and boating culture.


Starting our series with this artcile, we will look at Vietnam. With a coastline of 3.444 km (compared to Canada with 202.080km) (, and the Mekong Delta with its 1000s of kilometers, it was the 6th largest seafood exporteur in the world in 2010 with Pangasius, Squid, Octopus and Shrimp making up the majority of the exports (

Fishing is a mayor role in the countries export quote, it also makes up a big amount of the Vietnamese culture. Fresh and dried fish and fish sauce (known as nuoc mam) are major ingredients of the Vietnamese diet, and fishing is an important occupation. Shrimp, lobster, and more than 50 commercial species of fish are found in Vietnamese waters. Ha Long Bay, the major fishing area of the north, is particularly rich in shrimp and crayfish and fish also abound in Vietnam's rivers and canals.
Traveling around Vietnam, visitors realize mainly 3 different types of boats. The Round Boats (also called Basket Boats), the Modern Fishing Vessels and the Mekong River Boats.


Round Boats

Especially the traditional round boats (called Thung Chai) catch the visitors eye, as they look mainly like a large swimming basket.The primary advantages of the basket boat turn out to be its cheapness (compared to tropical hardwood, bamboo basketry is very inexpensive) and its resistance to the various hazards of the coast. The tough bamboo is oddly unappealing to the tropical marine boring creatures that can devour hardwood boats in short order. Perhaps more importantly for a boat operating in shallow water or through surf, the basketry is very flexible. A blow that would start the planks and break the ribs of a wooden boat and cause rapid sinking will just briefly dent the basket. It may dislodge a bit of the tar or varnish and cause a little leakage, but the boat will survive intact, pass through the surf, squat down on the sand and, once unloaded, be hustled up above reach of the waves, where a dab of tar or tree resin will heal the leakage for very little effort.
Building these Thung Chais usually takes about 1-2 weeks. The bamboo frame needs to be woven as tight as possible to build the bottom of the basked. Afterwards it will be slathered in water buffalo dung. Yes, you read that right: the boat is covered in poop. Once that has dried, there are two more layers of waterproofing chemicals that hold in the manure and keep the bamboo dry.
While a well-made basket boat can last up to a decade, the shape of the Basket Boat has to be re-tarred every 6 months. A proper sea fishing basket boat weighs about 100kg and can carry a 500m folded up net in its bottom.


Motor Fishing Vessels

The second notciable type of boat in Vietnam are the colourful modern motor fishing vessels. They became the most commonly used fishing boat in the beginning of the 1960s as a result of the availablity of japanese build powerful diesel enginges. In fact, the engine factories often provided the boat plans to go with their engines. These purpose-built engine-powered boats made good use of the available power, letting the fishermen carry ice to keep their catch, to spend scheduled times at sea and to carry heavy loads of fish ashore at a good speed. Given the cheap diesel and the advantages of on-board power (electric lights, hydraulic power, powered bilge pumps) these modern motor fishing vessels, in all sorts of sizes, became very popular all up and down the coast.
They are easy to spot, with their bold upright bows flaring from a sharp cutwater at the waterline to high rounded sides at the sheer line, fine high bulwarks protecting the working deck, sweeping in a graceful curve to their wide transom sterns. They all have their pilot house (and engine room cover) well aft and wide open work decks forward. They are built like Western boats, with a heavy timber keel and a full set of ribs assembled into a complete skeleton and then planked to fit.


Mekong River Boats

So much for the coast then, but there’s a lot more to Vietnam boats than just the coast. The Mekong River runs through it all, from somewhere high in the Himalayas, down through China and along Thailand and Laos (where it often is the border) and finally through Cambodia all the way from North to South and thus into the vast Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Supposedly the river has only seven mouths discharging from the Delta, but it must have a hundred main channels coursing through the flat countryside, and all of them swarm with boats. There are thousands of graceful wooden cargo boats hauling all manner of produce and rice. There are water–borne busses plying to and from the cities and villages. And in every town of any size there are large fleets of water taxis, powered and rowing boats, not to mention fleets of ferries, tugs and barges, dredges and pile drivers and even floating stores.





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