Dewa Ruci, sailing through winds of change
Dewa Ruci, sailing through winds of change
Entering 58 years of service, the Dewa Ruci (a sail training vessel named after the mythological Indonesian god of truth and courage) was recently on an East Asia and Southeast Asia voyage. The trip was part of the Dewa Ruci’s routine mission to provide firsthand experience for Indonesian Navy cadets as well as a campaign ground for them to promote multicultural Indonesia, as goodwill ambassadors for international relations. The Jakarta Post’s Imanuddin Razak took the opportunity to join the ship for a short journey, to see what sea travel is all about and catch a glimpse of real sailors’ lives. Can you imagine sailing aboard a 58-year-old medium-sized sailing vessel and seeing sailors overcoming the rough and frequently dangerous waters? Why has a Class A tall ship been rigorously maintained by the Indonesian Navy as a sail training vessel, when modern sea transportation has been made much easier with computerized navigation systems? Both questions perhaps represent the general public’s concern and response to the continuing service of the German-made barquentine that began its journey immediately after it was built in 1953. So confident is the Indonesian Navy of the performance of this ship that it will soon take part in a 10-month global journey, again on a cultural and goodwill ambassadorship mission, which includes a stopover in the United States in conjunction with the July 4 commemorations of US independence. However, they have many reasons to be confident. “The Dewa Ruci may be old, but it does not mean that she is not seaworthy. The key here is good maintenance,” says 39-year-old Dewa Ruci commander Lt. Col. Haris Bima Bayuseto. “This vessel undergoes regular checks on its return from overseas travel. And immediately upon the arrival of the ship in Surabaya after this journey, the Dewa Ruci will be thoroughly refurbished and its engine will undergo a massive overhaul to prepare it for the long trip next year,” mechanic chief Sgt. Heru Suhendro said. The Indonesian Navy’s — at least the ship’s crews’ — love for the Dewa Ruci cannot be separated from its continuing service as a sail training vessel for naval cadets since the first batch came aboard in 1954. This tall ship — one of the last three of its kind still in service — has been “very helpful” in promoting Indonesia’s cultural richness, with its cadets and crew members continually traveling across the globe to take part in various maritime and cultural events as goodwill ambassadors for Indonesia. Being one of the few countries that still operates such vessels, besides Chile, India, Japan, Malaysia and Oman, Indonesia is perhaps the most active country in promoting its culture through the routine overseas journeys of the Dewa Ruci. Still, there is nothing eternal in this world, including the Dewa Ruci. While many in the Indonesian Navy, particularly those involved in the day-to-day management and maintenance of the ship, still believe in its seaworthiness, the Dewa Ruci may soon see its service reduced to local journeys within Indonesian waters only. The construction of a replacement ship, also a sail training vessel, which will be bigger than the Dewa Ruci, is expected to be completed in 2014. However, those involved in the training of cadets and the ship’s management are confident in the continued use of the Dewa Ruci as a training vessel, even though the planned new vessel will have more sophisticated technology. “Cadets must continuously be taught basic navigation skills, because in a worst case scenario, for example if a ship’s computer system breaks down, the cadets and ship’s crew can use very basic navigational skills, for example using a sextant to determine their position on the ocean, and guide the ship toward its destination or home,” said Col. Iswan Sutiswan, the director of education at the Indonesian Naval Academy. Lt. Col. Haris concurred. “We need to maintain skills in basic sea navigation and sea journey technology, such as the sextant, manual sea routing and operational procedures for the ship’s masts and sails, because you never know whether a computerized system is completely safe from crashing or hacking. “Furthermore, as long as our country relies on foreign military equipment, there is no guarantee we will be free from a military embargo as has happened in the past. What happens if we rely completely on imported modern technology if there is another embargo?” Haris said. Apart from the equipment reliability issue, a complete departure from basic navigation and sea journey management system to a completely modern and computerized system would also see cadets’ morale decline, reducing their endurance and stamina in dealing with hardships, he said. Previous experiences saw cadets test their mental and physical strength when the ship was hit by a typhoon for two-and-a-half days in waters off Hong Kong on its way from Manila, the Philippines, to Guangzhou, China. Then during the Asia and Southeast Asia trip that just concluded, the Dewa Ruci was stuck for four days in a cyclone in waters off Vietnam on its way from Guangzhou to Bangkok, Thailand. “As human beings, we’re accustomed to living on land. “So, naturally, nearly all of us were vomitting and feeling very queasy when the ship was hit by the typhoon and the cyclone,” said cadet Habibi Ahmad. “Initially, we were worried when we vomited, thinking we were the only ones who felt ill. But we later were relieved to find other members of the ship’s crew were also suffering from seasickness,” fellow cadet Pandu Indrawanto added. A complete shift to a modern vessel would also mean a reduction, if not a vacuum, of the simple but effective promotion of Indonesian culture and traditions worldwide. “Being a sail training vessel with classical features of rows of high masts and multiple sails is the selling point of the Dewa Ruci. This has also made it easy for the Dewa Ruci to travel anywhere around the world. It wouldn’t be the same if, for example, the Dewa Ruci was a warship, because warships can only make very limited official visits and travel overseas on special occasions for joint military exercises,” said Capt. Dafris Jambek, the ship’s intelligence officer. It is very common for the Dewa Ruci to attract attention from local populations wherever it docks. A stop in Port Bitung in North Sulawesi, for example, received wide coverage in the local media and drew local visitors to various events organized by its crew and cadets. The timing of the visit to Bitung also coincided with the birthday of Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi. Similarly, in Manila, Guangzhou, Bangkok and Batam, the Riau Islands, locals and tourists flocked to see cultural events put on by the crew of the Dewa Ruci, including performances of Indonesian songs and dances, as well as a drum band display and march through the cities’ centers. “The response from the local people at the ports we visited was so enthusiastic that we often judged the success of each mission by how many people were crying when we left each port,” Sec. Corp. Sarno said. Long and good memories have escorted the journeys of the Dewa Ruci since its maiden voyage in 1953. In several years from now we may no longer see the Dewa Ruci around, since it may only serve short local journeys, if it is not taken out of service completely due to safety concerns, or if it is replaced. However, the spirit and historic service of the Dewa Ruci are eternal and occupy a proud position in Indonesian naval history. Data on Dewa Ruci Type: Barquentine LOA: 58.30 m Propulsion: 1 diesel engine, 986 Hp Width: 9.50 m Draft: 4.50 m Maximum speed (engine): 10.5 knots Maximum speed (sail): 9 knots Gross tonnage: 874 tons Total sails: 16 Wide scale sail: 1,091 m2 Selected historic journeys made by Dewa Ruci • July – October 1953: Germany – Indonesia • May – July 1957: Surabaya – Denpasar – Christmas Island (Australia) – Sabang – Tanjung Uban – Singapore – Jakarta – Surabaya • May – July 1958: Surabaya – Port Kelang (Malaysia) – Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) – Bangkok (Thailand) – Saigon (Vietnam) – Manila (the Philippines) – Surabaya • May – July 1959: Surabaya – Jakarta – Tanjung Uban – Phnom Penh (Cambodia) – Hainan (China) – Hanoi (Vietnam) – Surabaya • May – August 1961: Surabaya – Australia: Fremantle – Adelaide – Melbourne – Jervis Bay – Sydney – Brisbane – Cairns – Port Moresby (PNG) – Darwin (Australia) – Surabaya • March – November 1964: Surabaya – Jakarta – Sabang – Colombo (Sri Lanka) – Djibouti – Port Said (Egypt) – Split (Yugoslavia) – Casablanca (Morocco) – USA: St. George – New York – New Jersey – Annapolis – Norfolk – Rodman – Acapulco (Mexico) – USA: San Diego – Hawaii – Midway – Jayapura – Jakarta – Surabaya • April – June 1981: Surabaya – Balikpapan – Manila – Yokosuka (Japan) – Manila – Balikpapan – Surabaya • July – August 1985: Surabaya – Jakarta – Tanjung Uban – Tanjung Pinang – Bandar Sri Begawan (Brunei Darussalam) – Bitung – Surabaya • April – October 1986: Surabaya – Bitung – USA: Guam – Kwajalein – Pearl Harbor – San Diego – Acapulco – San Diego – Acapulco – Panama – Baltimore- New York – Panama – Acapulco – San Diego – Vancouver (Canada) – Seattle – San Fransisco – Pearl Harbor – Kwajelein – Guam – Bitung – Surabaya • December 1986 – February 1987: Surabaya – Jakarta – Dili – Port Moresby – Bitung (North Sulawesi) – Ambon – Kendari – Surabaya • April – June 1994: Surabaya – Ujung Pandang – Bitung – Kao Hsiung (Taiwan) – Saigon – Bangkok – Surabaya • April – June 1996: Surabaya – Bitung – Manila – Pusan (South Korea) – Guangzhou (China) – Jakarta – Surabaya • March – October 2003: Surabaya – Jakarta – Sabang – Cochin (India) – Salalah(Oman) – Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) – Port Said – Tunis – Cadis (Spain) – Le Havre – Rouen (France) – Delfzijl – Rotterdam (the Netherlands) – Malaga (Spain) – Napoli (Italy) – Alexandria (Egypt) – Aden (Yemen) – Karachi (Pakistan) – Colombo – Belawan – Jakarta – Surabaya • March – July 2004: Surabaya – Jakarta – Singapore – Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) – Hong Kong – Shanghai (China) – Incheon – Pusan (South Korea) – Vladivostok (Russia) – Tokyo – Naha (Japan) – Manila – Bitung – Palu – Makassar – Surabaya • April – December 2005: Surabaya – Jakarta – Belawan – Cochin – Salalah – Jeddah – Alexandria – Tripoli (Libya) – Algeria – La Coruna (Spain) – Portsmouth (UK) – Cherbourg (France) – Newcastle (UK) – Fredrikstad (Norway) – Bremerhaven (Germany) – Amsterdam – Vlissingen (the Netherlands) – Brest (France) – Lisbon (Portugal) – Casablanca – Cagliari (Italy) – Port Said – Jeddah – Aden – Mumbai (India) – Colombo – Belawan – Surabaya • March – November 2010: Surabaya – Jakarta – Sabang – Cochin – Salalah – Jeddah – Port Said – Volos (Greece) – Varna (Bulgaria) – Istanbul (Turkey) – Lavrion (Greece) – Tunis – Algiers – Malaga – Le Havre – Antwerp (Belgium) – Aalborg – Frederikshavn (Denmark) – Gothenburg (Sweden) – Arendal – Kristiansand (Norway) – Hartlepool (UK) – Brest – Amsterdam – Bremerhaven – Cherbourg – Cagliari – Alexandria – Limasos (Cyprus) – Jeddah – Mumbai – Colombo – Belawan – Jakarta – Surabaya • July – August 2011: Surabaya – Bitung – Manila – Guangzhou – Bangkok – Batam – Surabaya Taken from The Jakarta Post
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