284 x 218 mm. View of a massulah boat beached beside the harbour at Madras (i.e. Tamil Nadu), with the crew seated in position with their oars. The boat flies the blue ensign and has the words 'Port Boat' painted on its side. Until harbour improvements mitigated somewhat the inconvenience of landing at Madras's open roadstead, these boats were the principle vehicle for negotiating the ferocious surf and depositing travellers on the beach. The type of boat and method of conveyance had changed little since William Hickey's first arrival in Madras in 1769: 'The boats are formed of broad planks, literally sewed together with the twisted fibres of a bark from the coconut tree, the bottom flat, the sides straight up to a certain height, and then inclining towards the upper edge; both ends are alike except that at the stern there is a small platform upon which the person that steers stands... They are about sixteen feet long, seven wide, and five deep, quite open, with a single board across for a seat at regular distances; are rowed by eight or ten, two sitting upon each bench, the passengers on the one nearest the stern... Notwithstanding the dubash and the rowers assured us the surf was very moderate that morning, I thought it the most terrific thing I had ever beheld...' (source unknown).
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