What mainly interests me about these boats is their design and construction. Sabani represent an evolution from original dugout canoes to a composite method in which large timbers are fastened together, then carved, then planks added to the structure. This process is not unique to Okinawa; it happened in exactly the same way in the Chesapeake Bay region of the United States, among other places. As the large trees required for dugouts disappeared, boat builders had to adapt and develop more material-efficient means of construction.
Perhaps the greatest fascination for me as a boat builder is the fact that sabani builders make these exquisite boats using no nails whatsoever. Instead they use hardwood butterfly keys called locally huundu (note to readers: ANYONE with a theory on the etymology of this word please write me!).
I have seen boats built in Japan using these fastenings in just three other places - where they are called by different names - but I have never had the chance to learn how to do it until now.