Standing on the jetty, gazing down admiringly at the new boat (cruising speed 23kn, according to Capt. Mike Tan, with a safe maximum speed of 27kn, clean and spacious and with the latest Lowrance fish-finder and GPS perched at the wheel, and powerful brand new Yamaha four-stroke twin outboard motors with 150 hp growling at the stern), I experienced a sudden flashback to the last time I stepped onto a local Malaysian fishing boat.
We had hired one of the boats moored at Tanjong Leman jetty to cruise around the islands off the East Coast– Sibu, Bukit Tinggi– you get the picture.
As we chugged out into open water with the boat starting to vibrate dangerously all around us, I couldn't help wishing there were more sea-worthy vessels for tourists such as myself to charter for the day.
The only boats available for charter at Tanjong Leman jetty all seem to have chunks of hull broken off in places, creaking wooden benches, peeling paint, and upper decks strewn with faded and cracking plastic chairs, and rails consisting of a single splintered piece of wood nailed in place with a couple of rusty nails, and swaying ominously with each dip of the waves. And if you think the upper deck sounds precarious, try clambering down a vertical ladder to the lower deck where you will be practically asphyxiated with diesel fumes, and where you will feel more than a little uncomfortable making yourself at home in what is obviously the captain's bedroom (if the word “captain" isn't too grand to describe the surly youths who usually own and live aboard these contraptions).
I seem to recall a basket of shoes hanging from a nail, a flimsy rattan blind furled up and ready to be lowered for a little privacy at night, a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste reposing in an empty tube of potato chips (Pringles sour cream, I believe) and a mattress rolled up in a corner.
It is therefore with a feeling of relief that I survey the new boat that Bluesails Sportfishing acquired in June 2015, in partnership with a local captain: huge blocks of clean bright blue seats just waiting for me to stretch out on, a wide spacious stern that Capt. Mike assures me rides the waves smoothly even at top speed, a practical layout requiring zero gymnastic ability (like the pole vaulting skills usually required to clear obstacles ranging from plastic chairs and styrofoam boxes, to anchors, old tyres and mouldering ropes found littering the decks of most local boats), LED lights to use in darker weather conditions, non-slip surfaces, and plenty of safety rails and handles to grab onto if you find your newly acquired sea-legs suddenly giving way.
All that's missing now is a few massive throw pillows covered in gorgeous striped Sunbrella fabric that the decorator in me longs to strew about the seats…and maybe fairy lights strung from the ceiling to create just the right ambience for sundowners on deck after a long day of fishing?
But the pillows and fairy lights can wait.
For now, I am just happy I won’t have to cast out from someone's bedroom into what, I’m only assuming, is their bathroom.