Dewa Ruci: Great Ship, Great Voyage, Great Nation

There are lot of memories that will sail with all ships as they left Bermuda. But, among them all, KRI Dewa Ruci will live in the special place in the heart of Bermudian people.
Headline news of Royal Gazzette (Bermuda, 4 July 1964)

KRI (Kapal Perang Republik Indonesia-Indonesia Naval Vessel) Dewa Ruci
(Source: Sail Amsterdam 2010 website)

Who doesn’t familiar with sailing ship? I mean a real sailing ship, not a sailing boat. Maybe our memories will return to the middle ages and before, where there were vast explorations and journeys across oceans by this sailing ship. Later, ages were changed, technology grew fast, and so was the ship. The sailing ships which propelled by the wind, were replaced by a steam power, then diesel engine and the latest, atomic power. So
the presence of sailing ships in this modern age is rare. And if it exists it will be unique and classic. In this article, I want to tell a story about a sailing ship whose voyage bring Indonesian identity and introduce it to the world. A ship that, once again, proved that Indonesians are descendants of great sailors and also showed that Indonesia is a great nation.

Dewa Ruci: The First Voyage to Conquer the Seven Seas

When “A True Story: Dewa Ruci, The First Voyage to Conquer the Seven Seas” book, first appeared at one popular TV show, I felt I should buy this book. The momentum of the book’s publishing was also right. Because months before, the ship had performed spectacular achievement in various Europe sailing events in 2010, including Sail Amsterdam 2010. That made euphoria on Dewa Ruci’s voyage has not been vanished. The book, written by Cornelis Kowaas, promote itself that it can awaken maritime soul among Indonesian youth generation, should be read by adventure lovers and travellers and as an important model for Indonesian naval cadet who should follow the dedication, pariotism and heroism of KRI Dewa Ruci’s crew on their first voyage around the world.

Dewa Ruci: Pelayaran Pertama Menaklukkan Tujuh Samudra, by Cornelis Kowaas
I bought this book on 1 March 2011, but finished it several weeks ago. Actually the book is some kind of voyage report written by Cornelis Kowaas for Indonesian people after Dewa Ruci’s first sail around the world. This book first published in 1965 as “Dewa Rutji: Sang Saka Melanglang Jagad” (Sang Saka is a name for Indo
nesia Flag) and became a best seller until 1967. This book was also once became a compulsory reading material for whole Indonesian people by the instruction of President Soekarno.

President Soekarno’s foreword on “Dewa Rutji: Sang Saka Melanglang Jagad”
(Source: Dewa Ruci: Pelayaran Pertama Menaklukkan Tujuh Samudra by Cornelis Kowaas)
President Soekarno on his foreword said that Indonesians should read this book so that we would become more confident in our strength. His word was not a poppycock. After I finished reading this book, I understand that.
Sang Saka Jaya Operation
The book is telling a story about one of Dewa Ruci’s special mission. The mission was called “Operasi Sang Saka Jaya”. The mission itself was initiated by President Soekarno to introduce the existence of Republic of Indonesia, a new independent country.
The plot that Mr. Kowaas wrote was made me feel involved in the voyage itself. This story is no less impressive as Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days or Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece. I can simply felt the crew’s struggle to overcome incoming storms, to introduce Indonesia’s culture and their yearning to the homeland.
Many lessons could be taken by following the story of Dewa Ruci’s first voyage around the world. First, the way the crew passed any obstacles in the sea.
Margaret Mitchell work: Gone With the Wind or Indonesian idiom: Badai pasti berlalu (storm must be gone), were really proven. Many storms hit Dewa Ruci, but the crew always able to overcome it. Storms in Sokotra Sea, Red Sea, Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean, were clearly described by Kowaas as vicious storms. And Dewa Ruci itself could barely handled it. With high spirit, discipline and dream to fulfill the mission, one by one those storm were passed by Dewa Ruci. And every storm passed away, the crew’s skill were upgraded. They were like being forged by the sea. Other obstacles were the lack of freshwater and entertainment. Kowaas told that the crew should save the utilisation of freshwater in the ship. For activities outside cooking, the use of freshwater were limited. To fulfill the need of bathing and washing sometimes Dewa Ruci’s crew rely on the rain. So, it was common, if there were black clouds on the sea, unhesitatedly, Dewa Ruci would sail beneath it to receive the blessing from God: freshwater rain! To avoid depression, Dewa Ruci’s crew creatively made their own entertainment. From just singing and playing accordion and guitar under the starry sky until eating contest and playing drama “Bhuto-Hanoman”, where, at the end, Bhuto was being bullied together!
The point I like from this lesson is a way that Kowaas and other crew use to face those problems. With the crew from various ethnic group in Indonesia, they struggle to accomplish that mission, to show the glory of a country lies between two continents and two oceans, the emerald of equator: Indonesia!
Come on Dewa Ruci! Move on! Never surrender!
Indonesia Civilization
“In the few times we met and the little times we spent together, I learned more about friendship and understanding than I have from any other experiences during my life. You showed me that warm friendship can form quickly and they leave memories that never die…I will always cherish them as reminders of all that you gave me: an understanding of the Indonesian people, their country, their customs, and most of all, their unreserved friendship…May God Bless You.”
That was a letter from a family living in Queens, Long Island, New York, for the author, Cornelis Kowaas. There were lot of comments that express admiration to KRI Dewa Ruci and its crew from people whose city being transited by the ship. It was touching when I knew that most of people in the world (especially in the developed country that transited by Dewa Ruci) didn’t know about Indonesia. They just knew about Bali, colony of Netherland and doubtful about “the voyage of little-colored man from Asia” itself. It was different when Dewa Ruci transited in developing countries, like Sri Lanka, Egypt, Yugoslavia and Morocco. These countries gave good welcoming from the beginning, knowing Indonesia was a leading country that oppose neo-colonialism and imperialism in Asia-Africa countries.
However, at the end, every country admired on Indonesian manners, customs, culinary and civilization, represented by Dewa Ruci’s crew.
This is the second lesson I learned from Dewa Ruci’s voyage: our national identity is our proudness. The Indonesian hospitality is not a fake. It is a kind of tradition that was inherited from generation to generation. And that tradition is admirable universally, proven by Dewa Ruci’s voyage. Here are more testimonials for KRI Dewa Ruci and it’s crew on 1964’s voyage:
“You saved my country. Indonesia very good I say, alhamdulillah, very good”
Egyptian harbor scout, when he mentioned about Garuda Contingent involved in Egypt-Israel clash.
“Aaaa, Indonesia! Dobro, dobro”
Yugoslavian folk who admired on Indonesian struggle for independence, which using pointed bamboo against modern armament. He became more admired knowing the simplicity, hospitality and tenderly of Indonesian people.
“Where do you come from?”
“Heavens. They walk like gods!”
– an American woman opinion when she saw Dewa Ruci’s crew parade in Broadway, New York
“What I expected before boarding in this ship was to see or meet with people from the East that are still primitive in their way of life, bare-chested, and wearing a loincloth. But what I see here is you all, a nation that was even more civilized than ours”
– a grandmother from New York who didn’t even know that Bali is a part of Indonesia
“Though your hull may be down on the horizon and your sail are but specks in the distance, your host ship will long remember the visit of Dewa Ruci. Our prayers for a safe and pleasant voyage go with you. Selamat Jalan.”
– a telegram sent from USS Maury, a host ship when KRI Dewa Ruci anchoring in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii.

Great Nation

Generally, I can conclude a main lesson from the story of the first voyage around the wold conducted by KRI Dewa Ruci and its crew: Never ever surrender! and There is nothing impossible!
Soekarno has a big dream to prove that Indonesia is a great nation. Imagine, 20 years after the independence, Indonesian Navy became a respected naval force in the region. In addition, he and KRI Dewa Ruci’s crew successfully conducted “Operasi Sang Saka Jaya” which introduced the Republic of Indonesia (RoI) to the world. L.N. Palar, the ambassador of RoI for United Nation also admitted that, “the visit of KRI Dewa Ruci to New York in 1964 had matched diplomacy efforts we did during the last 10 years .” So the success of Operasi Sang Saka Jaya proved that, there is nothing impossible if we have a big dream and stick to it!
KRI Dewa Ruci itself showed a spirit of “Never ever surrender” in conquering the vicious and unknown seas. They just imagined their anchestor had sailed up to Madagascar with traditional ship and old navigation knowledge, so, why they couldn’t achieve more with better ship and better navigation skill?

Indonesia Flag: Sang Saka Merah Putih, after sailing around the world
(Source: Dewa Ruci: Pelayaran Pertama Menaklukkan Tujuh Samudra, by Cornelis Kowaas)

Inspiring Achievement
Actually, I write this article due to my admiration of KRI Dewa Ruci’s performance in the last Sail Amsterdam event in 2010. I saw they hoisted an extremely big Red-White flag of Indonesia (Sang Saka Merah Putih) among those international participants. I just inspired from their spirit, and someday I want to hoist that flag too. I want to conduct another “Operasi Sang Saka Jaya” in my own way (should be in academic field), to introduce this country, to prove, once again that Indonesia is a great nation.

KRI Dewa Ruci on Sail Amsterdam 2010 event
(Courtesy of Tineke Franssen)

Indonesia Naval Cadet parade as a head picture in a page on Sail Amsterdam 2010 website

“This is not just a story about achievement of Indonesia Navy or Indonesian Naval Cadet, this is a story about achievement of Indonesian people, since all KRI are properties of the citizen of Republic of Indonesia. I remember vividly when I experienced sailing with KRI Teluk Banten 516, one of its officer, Sea Colonel Heriyanto told me: ‘This KRI is owned by entire nation of Indonesia, we only take care of it.’

Dewa Ruci on Sail Amsterdam 2010 (Video source: Radio Netherlands Worldwide)

Dewa Ruci’s crew parade in Sail Amsterdam 2010 (Video source: Radio Netherlands Worldwide)

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