Hainan Boatbuilder Construction Process

Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

A project of the Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media at Sunway University, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

Boatyard, CRCDM, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

This research-creation project was undertaken to digitally capture, archive and preserve the livelihood of the Hainan Boatbuilder of Pangkor Island, Perak, Malaysia. It has four parts.

Keel Setting, CRCDM, 2019-06-05, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

The workers begin the process by setting the bow stem and keel for a new boat.

Framing, CRCDM, 2019-06-05, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

“We start by building the main bones for the boat (frames). Three sections are the most important, the boat’s head (bow), bone (keel) and tail (stern), these three main components.”

Mr Goh in doscussion, CRCDM, 2019-04-19, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

Master builder Mr. Goh discusses next steps.

Rib Template, CRCDM, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

Templates are used to trace out the boat framing pieces.

Templates, CRCDM, 2019-06-05, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

Templates hanging ready to use for each boat design.

Planks that have been shaped from the templates., CRCDM, 2014-06-13, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)
Frames Ready, CRCDM, 2019-06-05, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

Frame components bolted together - ready for planking.

Rib framing, CRDM, 2019-06-05, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)
Hull Framing, CRCDM, 2019-06-05, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

The boat's structure takes shape.

Simple handtools, CRCDM, 2019-06-05, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

“Shaving, sawing and shaping all the large wood frames for the boat that you see here. It is all done by me and the boss.”

Bending Planks, CRCDM, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

Here the workers heat the planking boards with a blow torch, gently bending each one to shape, fitting perfectly onto the boat hull.

Nailing Planks, CRCDM, 2014-07-03, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

Heavy galvanized metal spikes are hammered into pre-drilled holes to secure each plank.

Counter sinking, CRCDM, 2014-03-17, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

Each spike is carefully countersunk by hand.

Chinking the planks, CRCDM, 2019-04-19, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

After the planks are nailed into the frame, the gaps between them are sealed using cording.

Workshop from the sea, CRDCM, 2019-06-05, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

The traditional craft of building a large wooden fishing boat comprises both intangible and tangible forms of heritage that could disappear due to contemporary issues.

Uncle Goh, CRCDM, 2014-03-18, From the collection of: Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM)

This exhibition and the research-creation project that contributed to it is dedicated to Mr. Goh and his team of craftsmen on Pangkor Island, Malaysia.

Credits: Story

Five capture trips were completed to document the whole building process of the fishing boat, over the span of one and a half years. A total of two hours of interviews were completed with the master boatbuilder Mr. Goh Boon Kong. Two senior craftsmen were interviewed in a total of one hour each. A set of openended questions were given to the translator who spoke at length with the interviewees.

Audiovisual data was captured extensively to document the stage-by-stage workflow including the wood delivery to the workshop, the prayer rituals held and the final boat launching process. This was done using a Full HD and a 4K mirrorless camera, a GoPro Hero action camera and an aerial drone. A 360-degree camera was also used to capture the environment and the workshop, to provide a virtual audience experience.

The data was further used to produce a twenty-four minute video documentary that unfolds the personal story of this unique boatbuilder of Pangkor Island. It premiered at the Canada- China International Film Festival, Montreal Canada, September 2016.

This project was produced by the the team at the Centre for Research-Creation in Digital Media (CRCDM) in the School of Arts in Sunway University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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