Antonius Bataona on his "perahu"

Antonius Bataona

22 May 2014. Beat Presser reporting:

We’re to be at the Sinar Harapan at 9am sharp on Wednesday, said Captain Yukri, as he glanced up from the chessboard and beamed at me: he had just checkmated me. Yukri is the youngest captain I’ve met so far. Only 28 years old and already for four years captain of the Sinar Harapan, built in 1980 in Tanaberu, on which he regularly carries merchandise from Flores to Sulawesi on behalf of an owner in Makassar. The ship’s hold is empty today, we’re going to head north without any goods on board. Due to strong currents and unpredictable winds, however, our departure is put off to late afternoon.

A good opportunity to stroll down the pier, where I meet Captain Nidun, with whom I sailed a year and a half ago from Bonerate to Larantuka. It’s a merry reunion, which we celebrate with a bottle of Guinness. I show him the photos I took of him and his crew on his pinisi: he’s thrilled and wants to look at the pictures again and again on the iPad and is sad that we’re not sailing to Makassar with him, having made arrangements with Yukri instead.

But Yukri isn’t bound for Makassar after all. Hardly has he raised anchor – shortly before dawn – and set the sails when he apprises us we’re not heading to Makassar, but to Tarasu. Tarasu? We consult the detailed map. Tarasu, aka “Seven-Seven”, 140 km away from our original destination. Doesn’t matter, I tell him. The port lies inland, which means we’ll have to sail upriver. That’s bound to make for some beautiful and unusual pictures! Shortly before Tarasu, however, we run aground.…