No liberty from high moral standards

Sailors: Indonesian cadets aboard the Dewaruci stick to code of conduct despite temptations of shore leave.

June 28, 2000|By Deborah Bach | Deborah Bach,SUN STAFF

Tales of sailors on shore leave are notorious - debauched nights on the town, girls in every port, trails of broken hearts and quickly forgotten liaisons.

But aboard the Indonesian barquentine Dewaruci, docked in Baltimore until tomorrow as part of the Operation Sail 2000 tall ship tour, such ribald legends are, well, just that. Most of the ship's 77 cadets, 55 crew members and 18 officers are Muslim, which rules out drinking and any hanky-panky with the young women who have been flocking to the Inner Harbor since last week to fuel their men-in-uniform fantasies.

Religious codes aside, Indonesia's military regulations are even more restrictive in some respects. The rules vary for officers, crew members and cadets, who must be back on the ship each night at 10 p.m. While the Indonesian sailors' counterparts from other countries are free to imbibe at local pubs, stop by a disco or kick back with a cigarette (or a girl), it's clean living only on the Dewaruci.

The ship's commander, Capt. Darwanto, rattles off the cadet rules for a reporter: "No alcohol, no smoking and [they] must be exact about the time [they] come back to the ship," he says.

Staying within the guidelines may be a challenge when the weather's hot, the clothing's scanty and temptation abounds, but cadets Yoni Kusumawan, 22, and Adi Wirasmo, 23, don't mind saying no.

"Sometimes [other sailors] ask me to drink, but I said, `We have a rule - we can't,'" Kusumawan says.

"They have their regulations and we have our regulations," Wirasmo says with a shrug. "It's different, but we don't mind."

Earlier this week, the ship's cadets, crew and officers mingled with Indonesian dignitaries and business people at a benefit for The Friends of the Dewaruci, a foundation raising money for the 48-year-old ship's restoration. A crab buffet lined one side of the deck, while on the other, bartenders stood behind a table filled with bottles of liquor, pouring drinks. The cadets kept their distance, standing well away from the bar.

John Hartono, a retired merchant marine officer and chairman of The Friends of the Dewaruci, says the cadets are expected to follow a strict code of honor after securing a coveted spot in the country's naval academy. The academy accepts only 250 recruits annually from among a field of applicants that last year totaled 300,000. With that level of competition, Hartono says, the academy can afford high expectations.

"They're very good kids," says Hartono, a native of Indonesia who now lives in California. "The cadets are really the cream of the crop in Indonesia."

Penalties for infractions of naval restrictions can range from push-ups to climbing each of the 191-foot ship's three 105-foot masts not once or even twice, but three times. Serious offenses may prohibit a cadet from going ashore, and theft or fighting brings expulsion from the academy.

Hartono says the cadets are often each other's strictest enforcers, ordering those who show up to morning inspection with sloppy uniforms to run or do push-ups. Transgressions do occur, he says, but with a group of young men all in their early twenties, the occasional slip-up is to be expected.

"They're a very spirited bunch of kids," Hartono says. "You get a bunch of young people together, they're going to try to do things."

Overall, though, Hartono says, the cadets onboard the Dewaruci for its 4 1/2 -month trip from Indonesia to Boston are models of good behavior whose decorum works in their favor. A tip to other sailors: Good guys get the girls, according to Hartono.

"The cadets are so nice, girls like them so much, they follow the ship around," Hartono says.

Kim Hall liked one cadet enough to travel to Baltimore after meeting him during the ship's stop in San Francisco, where she lives. Hall, 17, says while the rules seemed limiting at first, she quickly discovered that the Dewaruci is the place to be - especially after dark.

"Every night there's a party," she says. "It's pretty happening."

Hartono says while other ships are closed to visitors after 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., people are free to drop by the Dewaruci at any time. Those who do are likely to find the cadets dancing and playing traditional and modern music late into the night, sometimes until just a few hours before their 6 a.m. wake-up.

"The other night I was awake until 1 a.m. and they were still going on," he says. "It always seems the Dewaruci is the best party ship of the whole fleet."

One night last weekend, 14-year-old Chelsey Barrett of Columbia was strolling past the ship with her family when she heard the crackling of trumpets, the pounding of a bass and driving rock music. The Indonesians were playing "La Bamba." The teen ran up the ramp and was pulled onto the dance floor by a sailor named Suyadi. He smiled broadly as he twirled her around, while his crewmates eyed him enviously.

"They're party animals," grumbled Chelsey's father, Rob Barrett, clearly unfamiliar with the ship's rules.

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