Jarkarta: "The Cruise"


West Java 

May 13, 2005

"Ahoy, there!"

North of Kuta ("Old Batavia" as the Dutch called it), my guidebooks recommended Sunda Kelapa, the old port where dozens of large, wooden, colorful, tall-masted/motorized schooners are moored.

One guidebook calls the schooners Buginese ships. Another calls them "magnificent Macassar pinisi." These ships, 36 meters long, sail the coastal waters of Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Sulawesi. They carry lumber and cement and a few passengers.

As I wandered down the wharf alongside the pinisi, I was greeted by "an old salt" who offered me a short "cruise" in his motorized row boat.

I climbed over the embankment and down a ladder to the choppy inlet.

We motored along the canal (that is, when the motor didn't conk out), and tacked our way through the green, blue and white hulks. Some men were loading and unloading cargo, carrying long, narrow boards on their shoulders. Other sailors were on scaffolds or slings scraping and painting the ancient hulls.

Talk about contrasts. In the distance were the dramatic glass and steel icons of the modern capital city. Just in front of my nose are the still-functioning sailing relics of centuries past. When did they put motors on boats, anyway?

Anyone up for an adventure?

Care to join me on a cozy five day cruise to Sumatra or Borneo?

And if the engines seize, we can help hoist the sails!



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