Sunday, February 10, 2008

Speed Boat Stories of Sibu

There used to be lots of small speedboats in Sibu,owned by families who lived along the river banks of the Rejang. These little boats were called "a kok kian", or clog like boat, because they looked like little wooden clogs floating in the river.

In engineering terms,a speedboat is a small motorboat designed to move quickly, used in races, for pulling water skiers, as patrol boats, and as fast-moving armed attack vessels by the military. Even inflatable boats with a motor attached which may be serving as a high speed patrol boat or as a plodding pedestrian dinghy providing transport to and from a mooring buoy are motorboats.

Furthermore, there are three popular variations of powerplants: inboard, inboard/outboard, and outboard. If the engine is installed within the boat, it's called a powerplant; if it's a removable module attached to the boat, it's commonly known as an outboard motor.

Sibu shops which sold outboard engines were Ling Hup Choon, Chu Yew General Traders, PanSar (much later), Lee Goh Bin and Heng Ang. The engines would be displayed on racks right in front of the shop. The brands were be Evinrude,and Johnson. Later Yamaha came into the scene. Looking at those engines and actually watching them in action when I rode in the longboats, I learned about horsepower and the power of engines. So it was actually very handson if adults bothered to teach us. I actually enjoyed travelling by river throughout my childhood and young adulthood. The river was such an important part of my life.

When my father started to court my mother in 1948, he had the pleasure of owning a small speedboat and he was "allowed" to visit my mother, after the match maker had been successful in arranging the marriage, a few times before they married in the same year. So each time he came to visit, my grandmother was given ample warning because the speedboat could be seen quite far away with bare eyes. Immediately a chicken would be prepared and slaughtered for a good meal. Father was known to be rather nervous whenever he ate with my mother's family. A historical and memorable moment was when he dropped the entire hardboiled egg from his chopsticks and it went bump bump bump from the table to the floor! To his horror, every one not only learned about it but remembered it for the rest of their lives.

Most business men would own lovely speed boats and they would proudly show off their possessions at the wharf in Sibu. They would come dressed in signature attire - their best white shirt and white trousers. Most of them were timber merchants.

Many people would remember that some speedboats were called to save the lives of many riverine villagers in the 1950's and 1960's. There was a story of how a man brought his hemorrhaging wife from a sawmill and very quickly a generous manager immediately helped him by sending them to the original Lau King Howe Hospital,intelligently built by the river side, which had a jetty for river boats. The woman's life was saved and the baby was born healthily. Perhaps many people were saved by speedboats. But equally, many lives were lost because the patients could not reach the hospital in time.

During regattas the speedboats never failed to attract the largest crowd. And the cheering public would always applaud their splendid display.

And in Sibu many people would not forget that one of the Lau families had a son nicknamed, Ah Bot Kian. As a student, he was cute,humble,cheerful,polite, helpful,sincere,sympathetic and quick to help others - like a speedboat. Those who knew him then had a great time with him. Perhaps today, as an entrepreneur, he might still be helpful, quick in the mind, and very fast across the abacus.

Life can be fleeting, like a speed boat.

2 memories:

AlisonBuda said...


Have you ever heard of the song:

Have you ever been to Borneo,
where the mighty river flow
up the Rejang you can go
riding in an outboard

Heigh Ho, away we go
riding in an outboard

sarawakiana said...

Oh ho ho......that waa one of the songs we used to sing in Primary School. And when Aunty Gladys used to host the Children's corner, and another programmer did the Radio lessons, we used to sing along.

You have a wonderful memory too!! Sometimes I wish I am in Kuching to have nice chats with you....


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