We left the Lombok anchorage in the dead of night – to sail to Bali we had to take advantage of the strong north west going current that flowed up through the Lombok Strait that was timed by the passage of the moon. Calculations showed us that it would flow in the right direction only in the early morning. This was a double advantage as we could also use the southerly winds that only blow at night and in the early morning. By 5 a.m. we had a favourable, brisk twenty knots from the south and we were flying across the strait.
As dawn slowly put out golden tentacles of light towards the western sky a dramatic spectacle opened up. Hundreds of gaily painted small sailing boats – looking like gaudy spiders – were fanning out in all directions from the Bali shore. Mount Agung, the mountain of God, reared up behind this panorama, providing the perfect backdrop.
These little outrigger and lateen rigged boats were unique to the shores of Bali and Lombok and are obviously still in wide use today and are called jukung. They are the Balinese answer to the “Hobie” but are not just used for leisure.
The Balinese use the night wind to take them far offshore to the fishing grounds and then return as the wind slowly reverses to an onshore sea breeze. The fisherman / sailor who steers the jukung out to sea and back doesn’t waste time and usually tows a trolling line and lure in both directions, the speed of the boat normally giving a fair chance of catching a passing mackerel or tuna.
Drakkar bali © velvetocean Fotolia.com
These little fishing boats have no need for an outboard, although larger craft built with the same basic design do carry engines elsewhere in Indonesia. They can only carry one or two people at the most and with a maximum length of about five meters can easily be dragged up on any of Bali’s volcanic, black sand beaches.
The Balinese do everything in life according to age old ritual and the way they build and use their jukung is no different. The wood that is favoured is the belalu or camplung tree and it can only be cut down on a special date that fits in with religious ritual according to the Balinese calendar. Another special date is reserved for the commencement of boat construction. The size of the boat that is built depends on the dimensions of the owner, so shorter men build smaller boats, although the actual work is often a communal effort.
The two outriggers or floats are attached in a way that symbolises the degree of symmetry which the boat builders feel is suitable, while the launching of the finished and painted boat is accompanied by offerings of flowers, fruit and rice to appease the gods. The bow is decorated with a fierce looking image of the mythical gajah minah or elephant fish, whose bulging eyes ensures good navigation in the dark and safe passage through rough seas.
These days, some Balinese fishermen are succumbing to the pressures and lure of the tourist rupiah and converting their boats into day pleasure boats for tourists off the beach and even building a glass bottom into some to help their customers view Bali’s offshore coral reefs.
As we closed the North Eastern shores of Bali’s vivid green and fertile land, we passed dozens of boats as they weaved expertly in and out around our trajectory. With one hand on the tiller and another holding a line, they grinned and waved – no doubt we both eyed each other up with curiosity and respect
January 3, 2012 | Alison Williams
The world’s largest and most successful solar powered motor vessel has powered in to dock in Singapore recently its round the world voyage strangely receiving almost as quiet a reception by the world’s press as the noise from its electric engine.
The 31 metre long MS Türanor is certainly a strange sight, looking more like a gigantic glistening spider from outer space or a UFO than a conventional motor vessel – but conventional it certainly is not.
Built in Germany and launched in 2010, the boat is entirely powered by the sun via its over five hundred square metres of photovoltaic cells – solar panels to the non technically minded. The project was designed to use technology that was already readily available and to demonstrate the feasibility of a solar powered marine transportation system in these days of fossil fuel induced global warming and the steady and seemingly inexorable decline in the environmental health of the world’s oceans.
The boat is a catamaran that is designed to slip through the water with minimum effort and is part of the Planet Solar project that is the brainchild of Swiss former ambulance driver and solar inventor Raphaël Domjan and built by a yacht club in Kiel, Germany at a cost of around 15 million euros. It is owned and operated by a joint Swiss and French company.
Türanor Planet Solar © Dr. Karl-Heinz Hochhaus
The boat’s rather weird shape is due to the fact that it needs as much horizontal space as possible dedicated to exposing its hundreds of solar panels. The boat actually has two huge side flaps or wings that have additional panels that can be slid out of the way when the sea is particularly rough. The total maximum power capability of the panels is around 120 kilowatts, which are captured in the day time only by a massive lithium ion battery system which can power the 20 kilowatt electric engine day and night.
The voyage so far has taken the Türanor and its six permanent crew three quarters of the way around the world taking them across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific Ocean to Australia then up through Indonesia to Singapore. The last leg of the trip will see them motor across the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and up into the Mediterranean.
Because of the need for good levels of sunlight the Türanor’s navigators are in constant touch with weather forecasters in France who advise of the best routing taking into account areas of clear skies and maximum solar energy.
The boat is capable of a cruising speed of around 7 to 8 knots – the speed of an oil tanker and can motor for three days and nights at that speed in the absence of any solar recharging or for much longer at slower speeds.
As part of PlanetSolar’s stated desire to spread the message of alternative technology and pollution free marine transportation the Türanor has docked in many ports along its route. At each place the boat has captured the attention of the local inhabitants and has been used for educational and promotional trips in the vicinity for which it is able to carry up to 40 additional passengers for a short time.
The name of the solar powered craft is taken from a term used in Tolkien’s epic “Lord of the Rings” meaning “Power of the Sun”. To sum up the peculiar needs of this possible transport option of the future, the Türanor was christened at its launching by a young girl who, when smashing the traditional bottle of champagne against its hull, commented that she hoped that it would always have enough water under its keel and sunshine on its deck!
October 1, 2011 | Alison Williams
Watching the glorious tall ships, replicas of those used in earlier centuries, sailing out of Plymouth harbour for show and not for trade is a timely reminder of the world’s seafaring past. However, there are still some far flung destinations that do have a use for sails to sustain their daily needs.
Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the far South Pacific is one nation where sail is used for both transport, trade and fishing. Large outrigger canoes can be seen daily sailing along the reefs surrounding the islands of the remote Louisiade Archipelago in eastern PNG. They are out on fishing expeditions both for subsistence and trade. Their lateen sails are not dacron or laminate but are cut and made to size from blue PVC, often used as sun protectors in outdoor markets in England. Some of the even simpler sails are made by sewing together 20 kg rice or flour bags. They look somewhat unusual but stand out, strikingly, against the horizon and the deep blue sea. The lucky observer may even see the odd boat powered by sails made of leaves– the sails skillfully woven from the naturally growing pandanus tree. They do their job and assist in the procuring of fish for the family and for trade as well as allowing an escape from the village for a day to experience the challenges of the sea.
This very same area was the hub of the Kula Ring trading system outlined by the renowned anthropologist Stanislaw Malinowski, where money was not used for trade but the exchange of shells made into armbands and other items that are of little use value but were used to make and keep friendships amongst people from distant islands. This still takes place today but is far more limited. Where there are neither banks nor ATMs on an island, then cashless trade is still common place both through sail alone or wind assisted motoring, depending on the availability of money for fuel.
Old Ship at Night © Eric Gevaert - Fotolia.com
If you are an adventurous sailor sailing to the remoteness of eastern PNG then taking fish hooks and line, books and pens is far better, if you want fresh fruits and vegetables, than a wallet full of dollar notes.
Moving further west into the Indonesian archipelago, a traditional sail on the horizon is still a common sight. Off the northern coasts of Lombok and Bali hundreds of carefully painted, colourful 8 metre outrigger sailing boats, looking like gigantic spiders, depart in the early hours of the morning from the coast, under the shadow of the great volcano Gunung Agung (“the mountain of God”) and sail seawards trolling their fishing lines in the hope of a catch. They sail up to twenty miles off shore and, when the winds shift onshore to a sea breeze, they are off back home.
There is no need of an outboard, as they use the solar energy that creates the winds to fulfill their needs.
Still in Indonesia, in Southern Sulawesi, traditional boat building can be seen where wooden sailing ships are built the same way that they have been for centuries. These boats are called pinisi schooners and a few can be seen under full sail throughout Indonesia, although increasingly sails have been replaced or supplemented by low revving diesel engines. They are made by the Bugis boat builders on the beaches of Southern Sulawesi in the Bulukumba area. Boats are built to meet the needs of the massive amounts of trading that takes place between the islands throughout the year. In the construction process the keel is built first which is followed by a keel laying ceremony. They are constructed completely of wood which used to be sourced from the southern Sulawesi forests but resources are so depleted that they now come from the depleting forests of Kalimantan. It can take almost a full year to construct one of these boats, which are up to 30 metres in length and 8 metres in width. The end product today does not only supply ships for trading but also the tourist industry and the private owner as well.
July 18, 2011 | Alison Williams