December 30th 1983

posted in: The way back | 0

Showing the line of Makassar schooners at the dock

We were both a little disturbed during the night when Harry decided, for reasons known only to himself, to come into the wheelhouse + sleep next to us.  Or, to be more precise, next to Val.  No attempt at intimacy, as the police reports say, was made, but it didn’t make us very comfortable.  So it was with a good deal of relief when, on finally being introduced to the captain, he opened up one of only 2 private cabins on the boat (his own, I believe) + told us to put our bags in there, + then seemed to indicate that it would be for our use, certainly while we were still in port (he sleeps ashore), but also, we think, for the journey as well.  This was too good to be true, providing security – the cabin has a sturdy lock – as well as privacy.  Harry was still too inclined just to walk in when he felt like it – I suppose he feels, with a degree of justification, some proprietorial rights over us – but at least we now have more control over the situation.

We were, as usual, strongly exhorted to take a mandi in the morning – the Bugis seamen are a remarkably clean bunch, + seem to think it absolutely vital to bathe thoroughly a bare minimum of twice a day.  They certainly never fail to remind us it’s mandi time, + presumably think that we’re a filthy bunch, who would otherwise shirk our task.  Anyway, while I was closeted in the tiny room busily soaking myself, I seemed to feel we were moving, so I hurriedly completed my ablutions + dashed up to the top to make sure.  And yes, we were definitely moving, pulling out from the enormous line of schooners all moored at an angle to the dock, about 100 in all.  We didn’t go very far tho’, just back into the tiny channel behind them all, which led out to sea.  The channel was amazingly narrow, being in places no more than a boat’s width from the far bank to the sterns of the moored schooners, + that only provided they were staying at the right angle.  We were tied up at one of the slightly wider points, meaning that now we could only go ashore by sampan.

Much of the rest of the morning was spent, for me, writing out letters applying for permission to travel on the Jiwa Sabar III.  This was at Harry’s insistence, + under his instruction, but with each attempt he was dissatisfied for some reason.  By the 3rd or 4th time I was becoming fed up with the whole business, but finally we came up with a specimen that satisfied him. + the Captain.  Harry, Val + I paddled over to shore to present it to the harbour master.  Harry was considerably more worried about the whole business than we were, which just goes to show that even a relatively worldly Indonesian like him is affected by the national fear of authority.  I don’t think they’ll become a totally civilised country until they kick that one.

Actually tho’, this particular brush with authority was fairly painless.  We sat in a couple of offices, smiled + were pleasant + polite to all + sundry (+ generally speaking, they were pleasant + polite back.  In one office we were given iced water, + a wrapped in banana-leaf stick of boiled rice.  Eventually, we reached the harbour-master.  He read our letter, asked a couple of brief questions, + then simply said OK.  What had all the fuss been about, I wondered.  And was this it?  No stamps, no forms.  That was all being taken care of, said Harry, as we returned to the sampan, him now being cock-a-hoop.  One of the people we’d met was n ow taking our letter to immigration for them to stamp.  This made me feel considerably less confident, but at least someone else was dealing with it.

Back on board, I had a couple of game of chess against one of the crew, whom we’ve christened Little Big Man, since he’s about five foot nothing, but has the most amazing physique, almost like a body-builder.  I felt I didn’t play too badly, but still got beat twice.

During the afternoon, we went shopping, to stock up on goodies for the trip, + bought bread, marge, cheese, fruit, biscuits, sweets.  Plus a big cup with lid, cheap but useful, a Rod Stewart to give Harry as a present, +, because I was able to get it dirt cheap, a pocket magnetic chess set.  I tried this latter out on my return, against LBM, but it made no difference, he beat me again. Twice.

In the evening, after Val had gone to bed, I sat on the rear deck + relaxed with my book, a couple of biscuits, + a cup of water.  All very pleasant, until I was disturbed by an enormous cockroach.  I swatted at him with my book, + dispatched him to another world, but in the process also sent our new cup spinning over the side.  I thought that would be its early demise, but peering over, I saw that it had come to rest balanced on a side rudder tied to the side.  It was a simple matter to pop down the ladder + reach thro’ a porthole to retrieve it.

It would definitely appear that we are established as a part of the ship’s company, that we are getting a ride to Pontianak on the island of Borneo, and that we don’t have to pay for it, board included. All far more than we could have hoped; we were still pinching ourselves.

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