Breaming a sampan

Wed, 08/23/2023 - 23:42

For the story behind this photo, see:

Gwulo Photo ID: ET002

Date picture taken


A couple of other points. 

The sampan being breamed has a very interesting pair of upward gunwale extensions on each bow, with some sort of device for handling a net or lines outboard of the starboard gunwale extension. Indeed the whole  of the gunwale fittings have been extended upwards by one and a half strakes (look at how comparatively thin the gunwales are where we see them at the top). This argues a use for fishing outside wholly sheltered waters. The raised gunwales to cope better with a seaway and gear handling. The bow extensions so that when the bow dipped to a sea, with someone forward handling the fishing gear, the amount of water that came aboard was limited.

The general 'jizz' of the boats fits a relatively early date - I mean probably '50s or earlier, because there appear to be no materials in sight from a more industrialized HK. The sampan awnings look like repurposed sail canvas (no PVC sheeting), the awning hoops are split bamboo, the rudder assemblage has no obvious steel reinforcement, there's no outboard in sight and no provision for using one on the transom.

I'd add, by the by, and extending an aside in my last, that the breaming process was more about killing the sea life that had got lodgement (worms, weed, etc.) than cleaning, which would have been by scraper. That's why dry grass was used (you can see the fuel pile to the left of the breamer), because it burns quickly and hot. It kills stuff rather than burns it off and because it burns hot and quick, is much less likely to scorch the planking, leave alone set a vessel's timbers alight. 

The process would probably have been a rough scrape to get rid of any heavy growth, then breaming to kill stuff, then a further scrape to get rid of the dead detritus, and then coating the bottom.

The photo is ambiguous between the sampan's bottom being coated with a chunam slip (a mix of tung or other oil and burned lime (usually burned shells) that went on white) and a cheap, copper based antifouling paint, a light greeny colour. The earlier the photo, the more likely it was the former than the latter, though I have found an advert for antifouling preparations (of sometimes dubious use) on sale in HK as early as the 1860s. The Tamar was given a coat of one of the better ones, Peacock & Buchan's Antifouling Composition, in Hope Dock in Aberdeen in March 1868.

The photo could have been taken anywhere. The beach appears to be a mix of stone, shell, mud and sand.