Boats used in RegattaThursday, September 9, 2010, 19:53
by Joseph Serracino courtesy of Kunsill Malti għall-iSport
The word dghajsa is the generic name for any small boat. This has been in use for hundreds of years and Vassalli lists the dghajsa in his Lexicon of 1796. The word dghajsa was attributed to various types of boats having similar characteristics. There was the dghajsa tas-saborra or the ballast boat, the dghajsa tal-latini or Gozo boat, the dghajsa tal-pass or tax-xoghol referring to the passenger boat, and the dghajsa tat-taghbija or cargo boat. During the British period the word dghajsa was associated with the boat used by passengers in the Grand Harbour.
All specification regulating the building of a racing dghajsa tal-Midalji utilizing four oars are intended to produce a fast, light boat ensuring the safety of the two rowers standing and facing the bows and the two others sitting facing the stern. Some of the old barklori left are still manning their oars out of sheer nostalgia of the good, old days when the dghajsa was prominent in every part of the Grand Harbour.
The fregatina was not included with the first racing boats which took part in the 1822 September Regatta. It probably did not reach its present stage of evolution before the beginning of the twentieth century. It is known that the fregatina replaced the ferilla in races held in 1935.
The fregatina powered by engine requires slight modification mid-ship and at the stern deadwood. Many fregatini are equipped with an inboard engine which rests on strong longitudinal timbers fitted on the floor frames or majjieri. The stern deadwood which houses the propeller shaft us slightly stronger than the one found on other fregatini. The fitting of engines on fregatini became popular after World War II when the boat was utilised for coastal fishing by amateur fishermen.
The fregatina canella was larger and intended for the recreation of a whole family. It carried a wide beam and flat frames to offer extra stability in the sheltered waters of the local harbour or bays. Such fregatini were popular especially during certain festivities held in the Grand Harbour. By 1900 the boat developed rapidly and retained its characteristics up to the present times. It is interesting to note that the boat now is given the term frejgatina and is known with such a name everywhere in Malta.
The frejgatina is an open boat, carvel-built. Having a transom and was formerly rowed with two oars and was equipped also with a mast rigged with a sprit sail. The modern frejgatini are powered with inboard motors generally and hardly ever carry sail; oars are retained in case of an emergency.
The modern frejgatina is normally 11 to 13 feet long and it is or was used for fishing, the family one was somewhat bigger and was employed for the recreation of the family. The frejgatina tal-kraten was equipped with bows of a kajjik and the stern of a frejgatina and there was also the sailing and the racing ones. The Blue Grotto frejgatina developed at Wied iz-Zurrieq and was specifically employed for the transport of tourists.
Unfortunately there are hardly any wooden fregatini built nowadays and the last few traditional boat builders are at a great disadvantage when compare with those using fibreglass, the technology of the fregatina construction might survive through the September Regatta Committees who order the odd racing fregatina from time to time. Another traditional Maltese boat is facing extinction although at the present there remain a good number well maintained buy their enthusiastic owners.
Together with the dghajsa and the ferilla, the kajjikk has been included in the September Regatta since 1822. The first racing caiques were working watercrafts known as tal-Kopp, but subsequently two caiques were specially prepared for the race; one was manned by four and the other by two rowers. The less corpulent oarsmen were normally selected to row on the fancy kajjikk. Old people round the harbour area still recall the days when these caiques were painted in one shade of a bright green, yellow. Light blue, red or occasionally black. Later caiques were painted in a combination of colours as can be seen at present.
The two oared kajjikk is 4.114m in length, and 1.422m at the beam with a depth of 53.34cm. The ash frames were fashioned with a width of 22.23mm oh the flat part and 19.05mm at the futtocks but with a space between two frames oh 19.05cm. The oars for the racing caiques are 3.7m long; nowadays they are no longer made of beech but from lighter douglas firtimber.