If Indonesia as a nation was sailing through a patch of rough water in 1999, the same could be said for the 200 man crew of its once-proud Barkentine tall-ship training vessel - KRI Dewaruci. Despite severe economic hardships and political uncertainty at home, the bold young recruits set sail from Indonesia on the tri-masted KRI Dewaruci in that year, destined for San Francisco to participate in the Gold Rush Sail and Tall Ship Parade sponsored by the State of California.
Promised financial and material support upon arrival on America's West Coast, the young cadets arrived in San Francisco Bay in July of 1999 only to be told that their hosts had suddenly withdrawn support for the event. The proud crew of nearly 200 on the KRI Dewaruci found themselves in a foreign land without fuel, water, essential food supplies and on board a ship in bad need of repairs following a rough Pacific passage.
Fortunately, their plight did not go unnoticed. Russ Coggeshall, the General Manager of the San Francisco Yacht Club and a friend with Indonesian roots, John Hartono, visited the ship and fell instantly in love with its fast fading glory. Determined to come to the rescue, the San Francisco Yacht Club's management, staff, and the Club's Chef lobbied San Francisco purveyors of fresh produce, meat, and other necessities (including a local brand of gourmet ice cream) to donate their stocks for the 200 cadets and crew.
Buoyed by the their replenished food lockers and their instant adoption by the people of San Francisco, the young Indonesian swabbies repaid their host at the San Francisco Yacht Club with an impromptu show as their contribution to America's Independence Day celebrations.
That night a long and very mutually beneficial friendship was established between the people of America and the eager group of select young Indonesian sailing cadets.
The KRI Dewaruci was built in Germany in 1952 and is one of the few remaining tall ships of its kind still sailing the seven seas. The KRI Dewaruci's only armament is the goodwill carried by her Naval cadets, selected from over 300,000 candidates who come from all of the islands of Indonesia, many from Bali. Her main role in the Indonesian Navy's Armada is to act as a training tool for her Cadets. Her unofficial role, however, is as a symbol of national unity and cross cultural cooperation among the Indonesian people she representes in her every port of call.
When the ship arrived in San Francisco in 1999 she was showing the wear of its many years of service and the lack of funds from a Government with, frankly, facing more pressing social requirements than the upkeep of its aging sailing vessel.
Undeterred, Russ Coggeshall and John Hartono established the Friends of the Dewaruci Foundation to raise funds for much needed repairs to the vessel. Working together with their Indonesian counterparts at the Yayasan Sahabat Dewaruci approximately US$3 million was raised through events held in Jakarta and during the ship's port calls in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Florida, Baltimore, New York, Boston and Hawaii.
Just three years later, by July of 2002, the KRI Dewaruci has been completely refurbished and ready for another 50 years of service to the Republic, conveying her Indonesian ambassadors of goodwill to every corner of the world.
"Spirit of the Dewaruci" lives on.
Russ Coggeshall has adopted Indonesia as his second home, visiting regularly with friends to supervise the restoration work at the Surabaya dockyards, touring the country, and finding new projects such as securing valuable volumes for Indonesia's Naval Academy Library.
Ross is due for his next visit to Indonesia in September, bringing a group of friends from the Yacht Club for an extended visit to Bali with arrangement handled by Bali Discovery Tours.
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