Wooden Boats

Remarkable facts about sailing in Indonesia

Most wooden boats in Indonesia these days are manufactured on the beaches of Kalimantan or Sulawesi, using extremely little electrical utensils. In Surabaya, the famous industrial powerhouse on the eastern tip of Java, a reputed school tries quite successfully to introduce electric tools alongside principles of traditional boat building. So in the workshop of the Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember, East Java's principal technological institute, located in the naval dockyard of Surabaya's main harbour, you'll hear electrical induced whirling next to ancient copping sounds of more traditional tools.

Without wanting to build bigger of faster vessels - 'bigger' doesn't automatically equal 'better' while 'faster' always means 'more expensive' - there is room for modern concepts or ideas that will vastly improve the lifespan of a traditionally built vessel. Galvanizing nails before using them, is just a small example of such techniques, which are easy to implement while having huge consequences! Most of the people working on these traditional boats come from Sulawesi. Not surprisingly, as this island has one of the biggest populations of Buginese, the famous seafarers. For ages, people from this ethnic stock, were involved in sea journeys and boat building throughout the Indonesian archipelago. Thus Indonesia is probably one of the few countries in the world where traditional shipping operates next to the most sophisticated one.

One only needs to walk around in some of the older ports like Sunda Kelapa in north Jakarta to observe how new mixes with old, how splendid tradition blend in with modernity.