Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Wooden Cargo Ships of Sunda Kelapa (Jakarta, Indonesia)

Had some time to kill this morning in Jakarta so I went to the 600-year-old port of Sunda Kelapa where a fleet of working wooden cargo ships were being loaded with fertilizer. The freight is loaded onto the ships old style; the workers carry 50 kilo bags on their backs and walk on board across thick wooden planks. The freight is motored from Jakarta to Borneo over a period of four days. Most of these decrepit wooden ships are underpowered sometimes with --- I was told --- 200 horsepower motors!

The hulls are entirely made of wood. You can see the rust stains from the bolts used to hold the hulk together:

This one was in really bad shape. I think it may be out of commission and just used as some one's home:

A few of the ships carry small sails as supplemental power:

You can see the workers loading 50 kg bags of fertilizer into the cargo hold in the center. They don't use a crane --- just walk across on those planks at right carrying bags one by one:

You can see the caulk used to seal the wooden hull in the unpainted ship at right:

These guys paddled me around so I could get a close look at the ships. You can't see it in this picture, but the water is full of thousands of floating plastic bags and assorted trash:

This guy is sitting on one of the massive wooden logs that're swung down to keep the ship on course. The sterns are so wide that I assume the rudder alone is not large enough to keep it straight in heavy seas. In that case, they drop this tree-sized piece of wood down the side into the water and lash it in place:

Wooden boats constantly take water so they have these bilge pumps going just to keep them afloat:

This was written on the sea wall separating the port from the slums on the other side:

You can see the Jakarta slums in the background here. When the taxi dropped me off, I got lost for about 40 minutes back there trying to find the ships. You ever strolled through a bona fide slum? Smells like fresh human poop, dirty dishwater and rotten fish:

This doesn't look very seaworthy! The sidestays for the mast are held down with lanyards. I saw lots of unseaworthy-looking rigs today:

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RE: The slums. They smell like the public restrooms in Ocean City on a hot busy summer day when the cleaning person went on strike. Ok, not that horrible, but close. There's also a big stench of fishy nastiness and the ground is like one continuous filthy puddle.

Walking through the slum is a buzz of human activity. The alleyways are really tight so you're constantly bumping into people along the way or things are hitting your head. There are TONS of kids running around and I found the people to be really friendly. Everyone says "Hello Mister!" and sometimes the kids called me "Mister Roma" which I later found out was because of my beard: "Roma" is another word for gypsy and they thought I looked like one! Most Indonesian men only wear mustaches, not beards.

The bridge of the ship I toured was interesting. It was REALLY basic: not electronics at all. Just a small wooden wheel, a throttle, and an empty box where they set a compass. The guy on that canoe told me they remove the compass when they're in port so it won't get stolen. The only other things on the bridge were a bungie-corded full-sized fridge and a big old 70s television!
One more thing:

The first time I visited New York City was in 1993. I remember thinking it looked filthy but it really hit home when I used a Q-tip in my ears back home and saw blackness on the end of the once-white ends. That's the same thing that happened today after walking around Jakarta for a few hours.

Do you think NYC causes black Q-tips these days? I hope not.
Heh Lonnie -

It's Patrick from Rochester, commenter at Screw Loose Change.

Just wondering what you think of today's post, and the question that I asked.

Fucking awesome that you're in Jakarta!

Beautiful pictures. Jakarta doesn't look like much fun from your previous post, but those boats are pretty interesting.
Awesome, Damon. Great pics. I was looking to kill ten minutes online, came by, and had at least 11 minutes of fun. Your life is more interesting than mine.
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