January 1st 1984

posted in: The way back | 0

When we woke this morning + looked out the window, the first thing we say (or rather I saw, since she sleeps on the floor, to keep her away from prying eyes) was that we were moving.  Slowly, almost painfully, but definitely forward progress.  As I said, the channel is incredibly narrow, so that, altho’ the engine is running to lend a bit of momentum, but basically progress is made by handing the boat along the line of stationary boats.  And of course, boats being boats, + not being susceptible to exact steering like a car, especially when it has as much weight as we have, every so often we would rub too close, or something would get jammed, + it would be sheer manpower that would push us apart.  I even lent a hand once or twice myself, when I was sure I wasn’t hindering rather than aiding progress.  Even working our way past one other boat would have been a tricky manoeuvre, + we had to repeat that 30 or 40 times.  Eventually tho’ we reached the end of the line, + could swing round in the relative space + freedom of the main harbour.  For a moment the harbour gates were there in front of us, + beyond them the open sea, but no, we weren’t actually going anywhere just yet, just moving to a new berth from which we could leave at any time, with our bow tied to the breakwater, and anchored at the stern.  So presumably, when the time comes to depart, we will just release our bow-line, pull back on our anchor, swing round, + go.

I must say I have huge confidence in these guys abilities – they certainly have amazing agility, of the kind one reads about in Hornblower.  To climb the mast, they just grab 2 of the stays + walk up.  And this morning, when we needed to get a line over to the next ship, 2 of the younger crew leapt into the sampan, Just a dugout canoe, + incredibly unstable to my mind, + paddled furiously over to it.  There was nobody aboard there to help them tho’, so one of the guys reached way up to grab a rope, + then swung himself up on that, at the last moment stretching his foot down + taking the ship’s line from the other guy with it.  And all this when it had just begun to pour with rain.

Once we were securely moored, + had been assured that we weren’t going anywhere for a little while yet, Val + I took a sampan (apparently a generic word for any small boat here) over to shore, + went off on another shopping expedition.  With the delay in leaving, we’d already made some dent in our supplies, so thought we might as well take the opportunity to stretch our legs + replenish them.  We caught the bus all the way to the Sarinah Dept Store – with the flat  rate on the buses, one may as well go a long distance as a short.  It was all a bit of a waste of time tho’ – this being Sunday, everything was shut.  We were finally able to find a Chinese store which was open, + able to supply our most basic wants, bread + cheese.  But that was all, so a brief pause for a bottle of coke, then back on the bus.

Val got in a bit of a sulk when she couldn’t make the conductor understand that we wanted to get off early – she’d wanted to try the market again – but fortunately she got over that quite quickly.  Tom the cabin-boy (that at least is what we call the lad who occupied the position of general dogsbody aboard) paddled out to pick us up in the ship’s sampan.  This was the same dugout canoe that I mentioned earlier – I’m not sure I wouldn’t have preferred paying Rp100 for one of the commercial sampans.  Still, we made it back OK, + only just in time too, since the rain began soon after.

One of the weirder experiences, sitting in the wheelhouse listening to Jon + Vangelis’s “Friends of Mr Cairo” while the rain simply lashed the waters of the harbour.  Later, when something more boppy was played, I allowed myself to be prevailed upon to dance, much to everybody’s delight.  Quite a few of us were bopping in the wheelhouse – Tom in particular showed himself to be a wonderfully lively little mover.  This lot certainly know how to enjoy themselves.

I finally managed to beat Little Big Man at chess, + then drew the return game.  Very satisfying.

One of the aspects of our time here that I am most ashamed of now is the way that we casually gave out nicknames to the various members of the crew, mostly because we could not be bothered to learn their real names. So apologies now for the many times that we did this. Otherwise, we seem to be pretty fully integrated into the crew now; not that we are required to do anything. And we do like the crew a lot… even if they do tend to beat me at chess on a regular basis.

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