A passenger has to wait at a landing place, or locally known as the pengkalan to board any perahu tambang (Mohd Yusoff, 2013). The perahu tambang operate between these pengkalan along the Sarawak river banks. The method of crossing the river has changed very little, with the more apparent improvement is the use of engines replacing manual plying (Manan, 2014). Initially the perahu tambang would cross the 400-meter-wide river within almost 10 minutes to get from one end to another (Rahman, 2015). The principle of the manoeuvring is based on the tidal current. The pak tambang would stand at the bow facing forward and manoeuvre it with oars which are fixed to two pieces of timber in the gunnel (Mohd Yusoff, 2013). They would get help from the current whereby they will very quickly get into the stream, and where they are forced to move against the current, they will hug the shore for as long as possible (Zainal Abidin & Mohd Salleh, 2002). Due to this they would not move the perahu tambang at right angles as they need to get the bow to be about 30 degrees to it instead. The perahu tambang therefore would be moving sideways rather than forwards. Similarly, the same technique is used during the rising tide but the other way around.
A. Boat movement during falling tide
B. Boat movement during rising tide
The traditional technique of maneuvering the perahu tambang as observed in 1950s (Zainal Abidin & Mohd Salleh, 2002)
Modern day perahu tambang after the 1970s are equipped with outboard engines that would take them around 2 to 3 minutes to reach the other bank, which is significantly shorter as compared to the traditional method (Rahman, 2015). They still rely on the tidal current but with the help of the engines, they can cross the river in a straight line. The traditional technique is still used but only to get to the stream of the current then the engine will then do the rest, significantly reducing the efforts as opposed to the traditional method.