Tugging At The Hard Strings

Once Upon A Time in Penang before the construction of deep-water wharves in Butterworth , the harbor waters were teeming with tugboats, each with one or two or even three “tongkangs” in tow.

These formed a vital sector of the marine transportation industry and was an iconic feature of life in Pulau Pinang in those days.

A crossing of the channel onboard a ferry would see me peering out of the windows, to watch intently how the poor little tugs labored in a gentle rock-and-roll fashion against wind and water, with black smoke spewing from their funnels as they hauled the bigger unpowered vessels.

These days, such a scene is quite rare; and when I come across one, it never fails to tug at my heartstrings.

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