Madras. Masulah boat
Photographer: Nicholas and Company
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a masula boat at Madras (Chennai), Tamil Nadu, taken by Nicholas & Company during the 1880s, from an album of 62 views of India and Ceylon. The masula is a famous Madras surf boat, a light, open vessel designed and modified to work well through sea and surf conditions off a particular beach. It is flat-bottomed, high-sided, built in pliable sections of mango wood sewn together with coconut fibre, and paddled or rowed by a crew of eight to twelve using a steering oar. Madras was a major Indian port but did not have a natural harbour, and until the late 19th century when an iron pier and breakwaters were constructed, passengers and cargo were transferred between ships anchored half a mile out to sea and the beach through continuous swell using masula boats. This view shows the boat beached at the water's edge, with the crew at their seats holding the characteristic spear-like paddles. The passengers sat on a bench under an awning in the stern. The boat has the legend 'Port Boat' painted on the side of the hull.