Imagem card


Is a contraption made of the wood salvaged from shipwrecks.


Article available in: PT-BR

Last update: 17/09/2013

By: Maria do Carmo Gomes de Andrade - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

It can be said that a ‘jangada’ is a contraption made of the wood salvaged from shipwrecks; a construction in the form of a wooden grid to travel over water; a traditional fishing vessel from North and Northeast Brazil, generally made of five sturdy planks connected solidly to one another and with a mast.

It was in India where the Portuguese saw a small vessel called a ‘janga’. There were three or four planks tied together with vegetable fibres or secured with wood in a grid shape.

The Portuguese wrote jangá as well as changgh and xanga. Jangada (chabgadam) is an enlargement, i.e. a big ‘janga’, with five or six planks.

In the early 1500s, when the Portuguese arrived in Brazil, they saw that the piperi or the igapeba used by the indigenous people were equal to the jangada they saw in India, so they started to call the ‘piperi’ ‘jangada’, which was the name already known by them and recorded in books of the time.

The ‘piperis’ of indigenous Brazilians were made of five or six rounded planks and secured tightly by vines. The oar was known as ‘jacumã’.

As time passed, various types of ‘jangadas’ appeared to meet different needs, for example ‘jangadas’ with sails, which had better navigational abilities and could reach more productive fishing grounds.

The most popular types in Northeast Brazil, which is the traditional region for ‘jangada’ use, are bote, piquête and jangada grande (big jangada). The largest of them has seven planks and, in exceptional cases, there are some with ten. The most common have six, though the historic model had four planks.

Several types of wood are used in the construction of ‘jangadas’, among which must be mentioned are pau-de-jangada or mulungu, tiliácea, apeíba, tibourbou and others. The ‘jangada’ should be built on the water so that the planks don’t come apart when immersed. Nails are not permitted to be used, as they can rust and ruin the wood and cause accidents.

The crew of small ‘jangadas’ is made up of a master and assistant. On the larger ones, the crew can number up to four men: the master, who commands the vessel; the bowman, who maintains the rope of the ‘jangada’ and trims the sail when going from land to the high sea; the ‘bico-de-proa’ (beak-of-the-prow), who trims the sail when the ‘jangada’ comes from the sea to land; and the ‘contra-bico’ (counter-beak) (‘rebique’ in Ceará), who is the fisherman who stays at the extreme rear of the ‘jangada’ during fishing trips.

To divide the catch, the crew has the custom of marking the fish. The fish without marks (whole) are the master’s, those with a points of the tail cut are the bowman’s, those whose tails have been completely cut off are of the ‘bico-de-proa’, and the fish with their heads scratched are for the ‘contra-bico’.

The expression ‘botar pra maré’ means go, travel, go fishing and ‘dar de vela’, means return.

The ‘jangada’, despite being considered one of the oldest forms of sailing vessels, still exists today in the same form and retains the same characteristics of the primitive ‘jangada’.

Recife, 26 April 2004.
(Updated on 9 September 2009.)
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2011.

sources consulted

CASCUDO, Luís da Câmara. Dicionário do folclore brasileiro. Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Nacional do Livro, 1954.

______. Jangada: uma pesquisa etnográfica. 2.ed. Rio de Janeiro: Ed. Letras e Artes, 1964.

GRANDE Enciclopédia Larousse Cultural.[São Paulo]: Nova Cultural, 1998

how to quote this text

Source: ANDRADE, Maria do Carmo. Jangada. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at:  <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.