No romantic frolicking but an economic activity borne out of necessity.
In the days before the deep-water wharves were constructed along the shores of Butterworth, wooden boats – called tongkang – would line up alongside cargo ships of all sizes in the waters of Penang Harbour. Using shipboard cranes, goods of all kinds were transferred from the tongkangs onto the ship, and vice-versa.
There were many ships at anchor, each with its attendant tongkang flotilla. And the cross-harbour ferries usually had to do some deft zig-zagging amidst them to ensure crossing in one piece (and still floating). Some fascinating memories to share.
For better or for worse, the advent of containerization has practically sunk this mode of cargo transport for ports around the world.