or Doni is a multi-purpose sail boat with a motor or lateen sails that
is used in the Maldives. It is handcrafted and its use within the
multi-island nation has been very important. A dhoni resembles a dhow,
a traditional Arab sailing vessel.
The traditional dhoni is one of the oldest known sea vessels in the
Maldives. Many of these traditional sailing vessels were, of
necessity, built using coconut palm timber. The sailing dhoni was used
in earlier days by Maldivian fishermen. During the industrial
revolution many fisherman changed to a mechanized dhoni.
The Kannada and Konkani word for a small boat is Doni perhaps in
keeping with the tradelinks between Arabs and the konkani people in
Goa and other port cities in India's konkan and west coast.
The islands of the Maldives have an extensive fleet of fishing boats,
built domestically, each of which can carry about eight to twelve
persons. Nearly all of these are variants of the dhoni.
In 1995 there were 1,674 registered fishing vessels in the Maldives.
Of these, 1,407 were motorised pole and line craft (masdhoni) for tuna
fishing in coastal waters, 5 were sailing masdhoni, 48 were mechanised
vadhudhoni, 209 were sailing vadhudhoni and 5 were row boats used for
trolling in reef waters.
Based on a US$3.2 million loan from the International Development
Association(IDA), most of the boats were mechanized in the course of
the 1980s. Although the addition of motors increased fuel costs, it
resulted in doubling the fishing catch between 1982 and 1985.
Moreover, the 1992 catch of 82,000 tons set a record; for example, in
1987 the catch was 56,900 tons.
It is a plank-built craft traditionally built with coconut wood,
although imported wood from Southeast Asia is increasingly used.
Originally sailing craft, nowadays these boats are usually fitted with
motors. The main site for building dhonis is presently in Alifushi Raa
Atoll. This boat building is a traditional craft in the Maldives, and
young apprentices are trained by skilled craftsmen. Boats crafted from
timber take 60 days to complete.
Dhonis used to be built withouth plans. The master carpenter took
measurements and gave instructions to the carpenters. Contemporary
dhonis are often built using fibreglass. Dhonis fitted with diesel
engines are extensively used on resort islands for scuba diving
purposes, their low freeboard being ideal for this activity.