Thursday, January 24, 2008

The lady herself

It's a feat of the master carver, Khun Prapan Suja in Thailand, that he managed to combine a demur expression, appropriate to a boddhisattva (often translated as a goddess) and a more open expression of a lady bringing compassion to the world - she is the figurehead of a boat after all. In my humble opinion, he combined these two contrasting expressions well. She is not coy, nor wanton. Please judge for yourself - and don't hesitate to comment.

she holds asprig of willow in her right hand and vase of "holy" water in her left hand.

Kuan Yin's dragon - painted

In many depictions of the boddhisattva Kuan Yin she is shown riding a dragon. What more appropriate creature for a ship or a boat than a fierce dragon protecting her ( and I trust the vessel) as she moves through the water).

In keeping with the traditions of both maritime figureheads and figures in Chinese temples, I decided to have this figurehead and the dragon painted in bright colours typical of Chinese dieties.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Kuan Yin's dragon

Unfortunately Kuan Yin cannot be fitted in the usual place for a ship's figurehead - under the bowsprit - because there are anchors on either side that would soon damage her. I had thought of positioning her in front of the pulpit - on the bow of the boat, but the minor accident in November convinced me she would be too vulnerable there. So on the boat, she will stand part way up the mast. This will add some windage and also raise the centre of gravity of the boat very slightly. All being well, the staysail (the inner headsail) will not touch the figurehead.

Here's a closeup of the dragon's head (before the teak was painted) on which Kuan Yin stands. The workmanship is intricate and excellent.

I have yet to figure out exactly how the figurehead will be attached the mast. I was planning to have a bracket made here in Thailand of marine bronze, but have now decided that it's probably better to wait until the figurehead is on the boat and arrange the work in situ.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Receiving the Kuan Yin figurehead

What an exciting long weekend this has been! I finally made it up to Chiang Mai from Bangkok (by overnight train, one of my favourite ways to travel) and on Saturday morning was taken out by my friend and guide khun Chew Chit to the carver outside the city to get my first look at his carving of Kuan Yin as a figurehead for my boat.

What a wonderful job khun Prapan Suja has done - he understood completely my instructions that, as a figurehead for a boat, the gaze of the Chinese boddhisattva must be up and open to the world, while still respectful to her, of course.

The next stage was to paint the figurehead - as the teak would fade into grey in a matter of weeks in the sunshine (even of Canada). I'd already decided she should be bright and bold, as all figures in Chinese temples are painted.

So on Monday, it was back to khun Suja's workshop and behold! the finished figure.