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Basic Information

The Tomol was a type of plank canoe constructed by the Chumash Indians of the Santa Barbara Channel islands of California. The makers of the tomol, cut pieces of driftwood into planks and then boiled the planks in clay pits to make them pliable. They were then sewn together with twine and sealed with tar and pine pitch. The resulting boat was about 25 feet long and could carry 8 to 12 people.

The tomol was faster than other types of canoe, could carry more cargo and was more stable at sea. The Chumash used it to trade up and down the Pacific coast.

The Chumash may have gotten the idea for the tomol from Polynesian explorers who used similar plank canoes and who colonized Hawaii around 700 AD and may have gone as far as California.


Game and Story Use

  • In a technologically primitive campaign, the tomol can be used to travel from one place to another
  • The PCs are castaways and need to build a craft to take them off their island. The tomol is an interesting, and more seaworthy alternative to the traditional raft.
  • An intact tomol discovered by a group of archaeologists might make an unusual MacGuffin
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