Thursday, July 29, 2010

Traditional Boat Building of Terengganu: World's Unique Craftsmanship

Terengganu, being a maritime state is blessed with so many companies and individuals that involve in boat building. What I am going to tell you is about the traditional boat building in Pulau Duyong, Kuala Terengganu. Pulau Duyong is located right in the middle of Terengganu River estuary. Being a traditional village, this island is famous for its boat building activity.

Early stage of boat making.


The fisherman's boat nearing completion.

The boat viewed from the front.

I found there are at least three individuals who crafted traditional boats for their clients. There is a community here  that produce boats without any formal plan. It has been the practice for generations  meaning it has been passed on from generation to generation. The trio are Pok Awi, Pok Hassan and Pok Loh. Pok Loh is specialising in making yachts. Pok Loh whose real name is Abdullah Muda owns a company by the name of Custom Made Wooden Yachts.

The sign board.

The boats that they made are without the use of metal nails. They use wood nail and stainless steel bolt and nuts. They do not have any formal training in naval architecture or other carpentry works. They belong to a few family members and they recruit the new ones, trained them on the job.

They make boats and yachts for fisherman and enthusiasts. They also get the order from many boat enthusiasts from all over the world such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia, etc. Some of their clients did bring the plans or picture to show their intention. 

The workshop area.


The boats ready to use.

The boats in the water. The far end yachts is worth millions.

The new generation of traditional boat builders. They are very committed to see this craftsmanship sustainable.

The traditional boats are made of  hard timber (chengal wood). The timber is specially ordered to make boats of high quality. When you say you want them to make 80 feet long, they knew already what is its width and height and how many tons of tin ore  is needed to make the boat steady and stable in water.

The interior finishes normally done by another firm. It means once the boat is ready, they will be sent to other firm to make the finishes like bedding, kitchen, toilet, dining etc. I was told the boats are big and normally the cost is around RM2 million. The time taken is 18-24 months depending on size and finishes.

During my visit, I was lucky, I was briefed by Mr. Saiful on every process of boat making at the workshop. The more I listened, the more I learnt. I feel this traditional boat making needs real attention from the authority because of its heritage. You can not rely on memory alone. You need to document all the traditional boat making processes. They need a better space to operate with facilities. I believe it is a Malaysian Heritage that  need to be preserved and promoted.

In order to make this tradition and craftsmanship survive and sustain itself, I feel there is a need to establish a traditional boat builders school here. It should rope in all experienced boat builders as paid trainers before the experience dies with them.

If you are interested to see this traditional boat building, go to Pulau Duyong either by boat or bridge. Look for the boat making area. Ask around. Custom Made Wooden Yachts can be contacted at this number 609-6314743. Happy travelling.

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