That's right, these boats are stitched. This detail shows some rusty nails and plastic string, but traditionally they're entirely done up with coir, coconut fiber, which expands to fill the gaps in the wood but doesn't let water through.
I saw a lot of these stitched hulls in Kerala, when we spent a week in Aleppy, the 'backwater' town full of canals and waterways. It's wonderful to see everyone going about in boats. Boats with this construction are used for everything from minimal one-person vessels to cargo barges.
I was even told that the massive houseboats are made this way. While I'm not sure the hulls are still stitched, there is certainly a lot of handiwork in the beautiful boats.
At the third annual Dhow Festival in Doha last weekend, I got a chance to see the work in action. Two men were stitching a boat on the beach, with another man giving explanations and answering questions.
The men pass the rope through drilled holes, and it secures a bundle of coir fibers and a layer of rope on the inside. They use spikes, chisels and wooden dowels to tighten the stitches, levering the tools against each other.
I didn't manage to fully grasp the process or retain the Malayalam words for this art, but it was a treat to see the work in progress, after admiring not only the boats in Kerala but also the ones owned by the Qatar Museum Authority.