Only in Indonesia

In what world would I hand a bunch of unemployed young guys hanging around a derelict boat two and a half million dollars (about $250 usd and several month’s income for these guys) with the complete confidence that the next day they would show up with fuel? Answer; in Indonesia. In what world would twenty bucks and a fish turn a hostile situation into a new friendship, again in Indonesia?

As I learned last year it is actually not legal for me to buy fuel here, nor is there a handy fuel dock, so to get it you send the local boys to fill multitudes of jerry cans and pack it to the boat, often in outrigger canoes. So when I found the local boys I eagerly handed them over a tidy sum with no reservations that they would not show up with the fuel the next morning. I had ordered 400liters, but when morning came they only had 100 liters, another 100 showed upthen a third which is all they said they could get, but another bunch showed up.

As this is illegal I winced when a policeman showed up. Turns out he could not get his patrol boat started and asked me to take a look at the 200hp modern outboards.I laughed as I have no idea what makes such a beast tick but agreed to crawl over several boats to check it out. Reverting back to basics, I had gas, air and it turned over so must be lack of spark, not that I had a clue what made the electronic fuel injection work. This was so much fun that the boys asked me to check out one of the engines on the ferry boat. I crawled into the greasy engine room and gandered at the dirty Volvo engine, I was more in my element. A quick investigation showed the starter needed work, again no luck making it run but the boys were very pleased I tried.

All the fuel I needed on board and the equatorial hot sun blazing I hit the pilot house bunk for a nap. I was awoken by the boys and discovered a racy Safeboat, built near Seattle, and used by law enforcement everywhere tied to my transom. Anothe rpoliceman and a group where unloading more jerry cans, the cop and fetched me another 100 liters!

Last year the boys would siphon the fuel, jug by jug, often getting a mouthful so I had a pump sent from the states. Now the transfer is a snap. We transferred fuel from twenty jerry cans easily and without spilling or tasting a drop.

Fuel loaded,cash distributed and a whole bunch of new friends later I remembered how a simple thing like fueling can turn into a major social event in Indonesia. By now the group had grown to about fifteen people all hanging around and chatting, laughing, lots of laughing. This was fun.

There was another Indo encounter that could only happen in this world. On the way to Tarakan we dropped anchor off a small island just before sunset. The current picked up to a strong rush against the anchor chain. There were several fishermen in the area in those cool, long pointed bow, boats. We noticed a 100meter fishnet coming at us broadside. None of the fishermen seemed to own it,one pointed to it and left. The net hit Furthur dead center and wrapped around the boat in the current. I waited for its owner for a while but with darkness falling and the added pressure to the anchor I decided it had to go. I could have simply cut it in two but I know how precious the nets are to the fishermen so we carefully pulled in one side and walked the monophiliment line around the bow and sent it loose. We did find one small fish in the net and kept it.

After dark and several hours later the fisherman showed up, he had retrieved the net from a coral reef and it looked sad. He seemed to think that I had cut it from the anchor that secured it. With no common language but lots of signing and pointing I told him how we found the net. I had one of the girls fetch the fish and the little Indo cash we had, about twenty US dollars. I gave him the fish but he did not seem to be happy, I knew the net damage was not good for him. I gave him the cash, he lit up and smiled and gave me back the fish. We exchanged handshakes and smiles and each other’s word for friend. I was glad this ended well for him and for us.

And so life goes in Indonesia, one of the most populated, poorest, Muslim and yet multi-cultural countries on earth is home to the most fun loving, open, honest and genuinely good people you will ever find.