Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wooden Boats Of The 60s

I have special interest in all kinds of boats. I find the wooden boats of the 50s and 60s very fascinating both in terms of their designs and usage.It has become a routine to check if there are such "ancient" boats being moored at the various wharves and jetties. At the Tua Pek Kong Wharf in Sibu, the only such boat making a twice weekly call is Sin Kin Do. This boat plys between Sibu and Matu Daro, carrying mostly agricultural products and seafood such as fish , prawn and jelly fish from the coastal towns to Sibu while on the return trip it usually carries food and building materials. During a recent trip to Sarikei and Tanjung Manis, I discovered several of these wooden boats which are being used as workboat for the stevedoring companies. The above picture shows a workboat moored alongside a small vessel carrying sawn timber in Tanjung Manis. All the following pictures were taken at the wharf in Sarikei.

These two brightly painted boats, the Sin Hua Soon No. 2 (above) and Sin Hai Soon (below) were built more than 50 years ago. They were originally intended to serve as general cargo boats, but with the accessibility by roads to most of the towns and rural settlements in the last 15-20 years, the important roles of river transport traditionally played by these boats were gradually replaced by lorries and trailers.

Fortunately the anchorage at Tanjung Manis is still able to provide opportunities for some of these boats to serve as workboats where stevedores can eat, rest or stay overnight until loading of logs and other processed timber products to the big vessels is completed.

The boat is almost entirely built of wood. The thick hull is always made from the water and insect resistance belian timber which is also called the Borneo Ironwood.Very often the bow, stern and the sides are reinforced by steel plates.Some of the larger workboats are double decker. The upper deck is for the skipper and his crew while the entire lower deck is kind of store room cum dormitory which can accomodate up to 30 stevedores. Stevedores usually work in shifts until loading or discharging is totally completed.

The pictures below allow you to have a glimpse of the interior of the workboat.

The wheelhouse. Notice the big wooden steering wheel. Most modern steering wheels are much smaller and made of steel or brass. The wooden box at right doubles as a chair and bed for the skipper.

The front portion of the lower deck where supplies and equipment are kept.

This is the middle portion which is the dormitory.

The engine room

The kitchen with fresh water tank at the stern is separated from the bathroom and toilet.


sarawakiana said...

Wow this is a rare find!!

The last time I rode on such a boat or motor launch was in 1984 to Sg. Maaw.

The photos must be kept well for future generations!


suituapui said...

In 1969, the SHS Form 5 students went in one to Bawang Assan, Tanjung Mani, Jerijeh lighthouse...led by Brother James. We spent days and nights on board the boat - eating, sleeping, playing. Very nice experience.

nelson said...

i like boats too, i admire sibu ppl for being so good in shipbuildings. with the shipbuilding facility readied in tanjung manis in years to come, i hope that they will be able to build big container ships like hyundai and mitsubishi.

Philip said...

sarawakiana:I think I have never rode on this kind of boat before. I do have a good collection of photographs of the various kinds of boats plying on the Rajang.

stp:Do you keep any photos of the 1969 adventure? Hope you can write a story about the trip.It would be nice for you to make a return trip to those coastal villages.

nelson:I agree with you Sibu ship builders are good,adventurous and willing to take risks.Most of them started off from zero and some have became internationally well known today.

-eiling- said...

wow these boats should be made into museum pieces for tourists to visit. It would be an attraction!

abana said...

Philip ,we can get a ride in this boat someday.Good interior shooting by you.

Daniel Yiek said...

Nice pics. I used this type of boats from Sarikei to Tanjung Manis/Belawai in the 1970s. About 5-6 hrs vs 1+ hr now by express.

sarawakiana said...

We should do a pictorial book on river transport of the Mighty Rejang.

Timely. There will be lots of stories.....

Philip said...

eiling:More than 10 years ago they had been talking about a marintime museum to be built in Sibu.What a shame, now it still has not been materialized.

abana: It would be nice exploring the Rajang and its tributaries on one of these boats. The interior shots are using natural available light.

Daniel:Thanks for dropping by.Yes, it now only takes about an hour to reach Tg, Manis from Sarikei. I am sure in the 60s and 70s there were many of these boats operating out of Sarikei, especially to the coastal areas.

sarawakiana:Can you find a sponsor/publisher? We can team up on this book project!