Story by Emmjay
The fact that Indonesia has a multitude – literally thousands – of inhabited islands in the archipelago is often lost on we of the big island. And I’m betting that by extension we fail to recognise Indonesia as the great seafaring nation that she is. Our media seem to suggest that our maritime neighbour is characterised by unsavory people smugglers trafficking death and misery in rotten leaky sinkers.
The truth is that brave Indonesian (often Sulawesi) sailors have been plying a vigorous trade amongst islands in their archipelago and throughout south east Asia since well before the Indian hindus, then their Moghul conquerors, followed by the Portuguese, British and Dutch muscled in.
And like the fleets of the ancient Mediterranean, the Indonesian ships were – and still are – crafted from the iron wood trees of rapidly disappearing forests. Indonesian flagged ships come in all shapes and sizes, but the fleet of island trading wooden ships and boats these days come in two main forms. One is a variation on the Chinese Junk – efficient, spacious and with a low draft (but you’d be struggling to suggest the cargo versions have beautiful lines) and the other – in this story – is about a stalwart of their island trade – the Pinisiq.
Perhaps you might like to have a birds-eye view of one of Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison’s soon-to-be purchases.
This one carries mainly bagged cement and is loaded by 8 sinewy crewmen who weigh only a few kilos more than the bags of cement they stack in the hold.
I asked our host how much one of these boats might cost Tony and Scott (Ship Chandlers to the Asylum-seeker Classes)- and the answer was “About 5 billion rupiah (about A$500,000). The boat is totally hand-made and plying its trade through the archipelago feeds up to nine families of hard working sailors.
Considering this boat is a lot bigger than the fishing boats that come to Christmas Island – carrying scores of people for days on end, imagine carrying five or ten times the number of people. Enough water ? No scope for cooked food. Sea sickness and one toilet perched off the portside stern – a sea-going version of the long drop. All on a boat less than half this size.