Barking the Nets
Tanning, or barking, as it was said in
Scotland and East-Anglia, has been performed regularly by fishermen
in the days when nets, twine and sails were made only from
The process resulted in a good
preservative against rot
and mildew. Used were, initially crushed bark, and later then
catechu, a vegetable tanning extract imported from india, both
boiled in a cauldron for some hours and then the nets were soaked
with the solution.
On sail bark gave a greyish-brown, and
catechu a reddish brown colour, typical to the fishermen's sails.
There was an article on the matter,
published in Classic Boat magazine No. 107 (February 1997) and
another special essay will be published in one of the forthcoming
issues of Maritime Life and Traditions as well.
Following my research on this topic,
there are more than hundred recipes and oral testimony of fishermen
from nearly all European coastlines as well a number of historic
photos in my hands.
Hermann Ostermann. 16 September 2005