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Kaleboat

 
An ancient fishing method peculiar to the Võrtsjärv area involves using the kaleboat (kale - a large-meshed trawl net).

Originally, the kalenet was a 3,6 m long bag net with a wide mouth (1,2 x 3,6m) and without a cod-end. Its mesh size was 4-5cm. Stones weighing about 8kg were attached to the bottom corners of the bag net. The bag net was trawled by drifting downwind with
a boat equipped with a small square-shaped sail. The net was being towed by using two cables, one was attached to the stern, the other to the bow.

As a rule, two fishers were working there. Both of them were holding
a thin sensory line that was attached to the net and signalled that fishes were caught in the net. The bag net was then quickly hauled, emptied of fish and lowered back into the water.

The boat would drift leeward until it came near the shore. At this point, the bag net was hauled aboard, and the fishers rowed back upwind (often as far as 6-8 km) and began trawling again.

Kalefishing in its primitive form was a physically demanding work. To improve the methods, the fishing equipment was modified thoroughly in the 1930s. A 3-4m long cod-end and two 4-5m long wings of netting were added to the net - the bag net became a kalenet.

Kaletrawling became an increasingly lucrative and attractive fishing method on Lake Võrtsjärv. It was mostly used for catching big fish as bream, pike, pike perch, big perch etc. By the 1960s there were dozens of kaleboats working on Lake Võrtsjärv, which not only provided the locals with food, but also influenced the local activities as a whole.

The sails were often made from colourful materials and looked very beautiful in the evening sun. The sailboats acquired other uses besides their practical purpose of fishing. Sailing with kaleboats became a popular pastime among locals as well as visitors. The tradition of kaleboat races and regattas on Lake Võrtsjärv was started, and sailing trips were organised for lake enthusiasts and tourists. The kaleboats eventually became a sight of a kind on Lake Võrtsjärv, and a part of coastal folk culture.

With the importing of elvers in 1970s the traditional fishing methods changed. As Võrtsjärv became an eel-rich lake, kaletrawling was replaced with mostly stationary traps. Boats made of wood, plastic and metal, and fitted with (most often) tractor engines were used instead of kaleboats.
The one-time attractive method of fishing with kaleboats and rowboats is nowadays replaced with noisy and not so environment-friendly motor boats of various designs.

Paula, a kaleboat built in 2005 according to the instructions of one of the last living boat craftsmen Väino Leiaru, is unique among its kind and offers sailing trips on Lake Võrtsjärv for ancient vessel and fishing enthusiasts.

Paula is a 12,6 m long single-mast (height 15 m) kaleboat that has two triangular sails - a large mainsail and a small jib sail ahead of the mast. It has a shallow draught and a swing keel that reaches only 120 cm below the surface and its retractable for landing or in case of low water-level. It`s gaff rig enables it to sail at a 45 degree angle in relation to the wind direction.

Kaleboat photoalbum