Thursday, May 03, 2007

A Sight to Behold

Someone pointed out to me that we mariners are indeed a lucky lot that we are able and get to see enchanting sights, vistas and panoramas even the most frequent air travellers will never get to see in their lifetimes. I didnt quite catch his drift until he explained that some scenes can only be viewed at sea level where only mariners are privileged to enjoy.

As a first year cadet on board a ship at sea, I remember clearly the first time we sailed into busy New York harbour in mid winter en route to the port of Newark, New Jersey. Passing Staten Island and the Statue of Liberty ( of "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"), the sight of all those tall and majestic skyscrapers in Manhattan against a backdrop of clear icy blue sky, is something I will never forget, ever.

On my maiden voyage to Hong Kong, for instance, first impressions on making port at dusk with ships anchored and moored to buoys in the harbour; brightly lit men-o-war dressed to the nines; ferries, junks and bum boats bobbing in ships' wakes and planes landing and taking off from the old Kai Tak Airport are still firmly etched in my mind after all these years.

For me especially, and I am sure for many Malaysian seamen, Muka Head on the northwestern cape of Penang Island bring special memories. The sight of the old lighthouse flashing in the distance against the dull glow of sunrise is pure magic. It never failed to bring a tear in my eye, the same way I suppose that the white cliffs of Dover will produce a lump in the throat of many an English Jack Tar, especially after many months at sea. Or on entering Tokyo Bay, the view of snow capped Mount Fuji gleaming in the distance even to the most travelled Japanese seaman.

Indeed, Muka Head for many of us simply means 'home'- the promise of nasi kandar breakfasts, a visit to the barber for a much needed hair cut, and phone calls to loved ones from the Mariners' Club in Light Street ...

Oh ! dream of joy ! is this indeed
The light-house top I see ?
Is this the hill ? is this the kirk ?
Is this mine own countree ?
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Home is the sailor, home from the sea:
Her far-borne canvas furled
The ship pours shining on the quay
the plunder of the world.
- A.E. Housman


  1. Yes, Cap'n... Most landlubbers wouldn't know the feeling - that feeling of coming home. It never changes, no matter how often you go away, and never gets jaded... Same with me whenever I don my work-vest to get on the "sea truck" for home - or seeing the sometimes smoggy skies of PD - from the comfort of my window seat of the Boeing about to make that final approach... It's the GREATEST feeling in the world, bar none...

  2. Hi Mat,

    Nice of you to drop by. Looks like there wont be any more Tuesday lunch sessions in Section 14.

    Take care.

  3. My friend Raj (Capt T. Rajkumar) wrote from Chennai:

    Dear Yusof

    Absolutely agree. Not a day passes without me staring at the sea as I drive to office about 5 kn stretch off Beach Road - even Catamarans or Ships on the horizon seem to fascinate me still-

    As we grow in years, we realise that seeing all these '"sights was a privilege" - a sunrise, sunset.... Landfall after a long sea passage- inland sea passages - and even a squall brewing or any of natures beautiful scenes.

    I still recollect an electrical storm off South African coast in 1973/74 ---never thought it can happen like that, with shards of lightening like electric charges -
    Mother Nature - bless her.


    ps Unable to get on blog comments -as it seems to not connect.

  4. Mr Incognito;

    I'm no rocker but thank you, and so do yours.

  5. Ahhhh, how I wish digital was invented way back when I was sea. So I could post all those great scenes of those times.

  6. Captain, I wish I will have a chance to sail at least once in my life.
    Just standing on a ship at dock (in Port Klang) in the evening stirs my soul, I can just imagine what you have seen out there in the world.
    A French Captain once told me that the most beautiful Christmas service he ever attended was on board his ship at midnight out in the open seas. The service was held on deck under a blanket of stars. It was an indescribable feeling.

  7. Captain, thank you for visiting me... and consoling me...

    Yeah...the seeing is one BIG realisation in our heart...betapa kerdilnya kita berbanding dgn ciptaan Ilahi ini...perasaan takjub dan terharu yg berbaur...

  8. Dearest Captain Ancient Mariner Sir,

    I love this post. Can we have more of these kind? It's definitely a pleasant journey to relive your experience Captain


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