A few days ago, something quite cool and unique arrived in the port of Penang. We got notified by Georgetown Events which, with a quick message on Facebook, invited people to go and have a look to the Jewel of Muscat, a wooden boat which, having started sailing in Oman, arrived in Penang on its way to Singapore. It is quite amazing to see a wooden boat, and a small one, capable of such an undertaking: sailing the Arabain Sea and the Bay of Bengal from Oman, Middle east, to Singapore, South East Asia, in under 4 months.
There were quite a lot of people queuing up to see this strange little boat: we waited under a scorching afternoon sun for a few minutes, before being let into the pier. Walking down a few meters, here we are in front of this little floating marvel which, in grand style, has sailed two oceans, and two of the biggest, and probably scariest ones. At least, according to my vision from the Indian coasts, the Ocean there is quite strong and looks menacing, with those high waves.
A crew of 16 people, belonging to 6 nationalities, has overtaken an epic journey, rolling and shaking among the waves. From Oman to Malaysia, hell yeah, it’s a long way. At first you wouldn’t think such a small boat could shelter so many people, but a quick chat with a very nice Sri Lanka crew man confirms that yes, they have 16 bunks there. When we asked them why they did it, his answer was plain and simple, accompanied by an infectious smile: they want to prove that it is still possible to sail with a wooden boat. Damn the metal, the plastic and the aluminum, if they made it with wood back in the day and they discovered the world, why shouldn’t they do it? And so, they did it, with a little financial help from the Sultan of Oman, who is going to gift this boat to Singapore and its new maritime museum.
The great thing about this boat is the style: I thought I was wrong or something was too similar, but hey, isn’t that stitched up wood exactly the same as those boats we just recently saw on the coasts of Kerala, in India? Yes it is. A bouncy, mean stripe of stitching along the wood. That is keralan style, and the Sri Lanka man rapidly confirms my hypotesis. “Yes, a few guys from Kerala have been invited to Oman to build the boat their way, the best way around when dealing with wood, boats and waters”. I am amazed how life is a concatenation of events which always end up showing me I am starting to have been in a lot of places, and I make sense of things myself. Pretty cool.
It’s almost time to go, when I am asked about my nationality, proudly saying that my English accent is not Italian. Yay. When I say Italian, the Sri Lanka man smiles and introduces me to an Italian member of the crew. I thought he was from New Zealand, for some strange reason, when I first saw him standing on the deck and talking to people. His name is Alessandro and is an archeologist. I didn’t exactly get the way he ended up on the Jewel of Muscat because we just have a few minutes to talk together, since one of the security guards asks us to go back, because one of the jetty’s foundation poles has supposedly started shaking. So off we go, wondering how many Italians are into adventure as much as I am. If that guy was on that boat, maybe at times I am wrong. I think it’d be cool if we’d all knew each other, and make something good out of some pretty cool alliance. This said, the idea of getting on a boat and do something like this, sadly or not, is starting to buzz at the back of my mind…. go slow, monkey.