•   VINOD. V
      Vice President
      Joint Secretary

    All Kerala Houseboats Owners Association

The Houseboats of Kerala are converted Kettuvalloms. (In the Malayalam language "kettu" means tying and "vallam" means country boat - the two together make the local name "kettuvallam". Each houseboat is constructed using the ancient principles and techniques of boat building by the local carpenters using Anjali wood. Coir ropes are used for tying the wooden boards together.) In the past Kettuvaloms were the major method of cargo transportation in the backwaters of Kerala, especially rice from the highly fertile paddy fields to the major port of Alappuzha.

The Kettuvalloms were also used for general transport purposes, primarily in the Travancore and Kochi regions of Kerala. They were punted across the backwaters to the sea where the goods were offloaded. A trip from the Kuttanad to Cochin port was about three days of travel. A traditional boat might carry as much as 30 tons of goods which is the equivalent of three modern lorries. With the backwater area of Kerala so waterlogged, other forms of transport were both inefficient and difficult

How Kerala Houseboats are Built

A Kerala houseboat is on an average 70 feet long boats with 15 feet width in the central section. They are made from wooden planks that are stitched together by coconut ropes. Interestingly, nails are not used at all in the construction of the kettuvaloms. Most of the houseboats are made from a wood known by the name of Anjili. Palm leaves tied over bamboo poles form the roof of these houseboats. Cashew Nut oil is used as a varnish to ensure a protection for the houseboats.

The hull is a series of wooden planks, long cut and carved, tied together using coir with coconut fibers stuffed in between. The hull which is made of hundreds of fine but heavy-duty planks of jack-wood is held together absolutely by coir knots (not a single nail is used). This framework is then coated with a caustic black resin extracted from boiled cashew kernels. And it lasts for generations. The kettuvallam is motorised and is steered in deep waters by means of oars. Long bamboo poles or 'punts' are used to propel in shallow areas. Bamboo beams sprouting off on the sides are used as foot holds for the same. Bamboo is used for the framework of the roof and splits of bamboo are used for weaving mat for roofing.