Aboard the Bintang

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

Few boats plying the waters of the Mentawais have as much surf exploration history as the Bintang, and few have as much charm. With sails billowing, the steel-hulled schooner glides around the Ments in old world style.

The Bintang was built in Perth 1988 and has been working in Indonesia since the mid-90s. It was recently purchased by Mick O'Shea who sailed it to Malaysia during the off season for a complete refit. While up on the slips getting worked on, Mick also redid the rigging on the Bintang. Redesigned the lot, which speaks volumes about how he views his traditional schooner - whenever possible he likes to unfurl the sails and shoot the breeze.

When Swellnet called to talk about the boat Mick was again busy at work, so instead we chatted to first mate on the Bintang, Guy Morgan.

Swellnet: You guys are one of the last boats left to hoist the sails. What’s the advantage?
Guy Morgan: What’s the advantage? It’s the beauty of sailing, mate. It’s how they they pioneered the world. We’ve got motors as well, of course, so we can get around quickly if we want, but any time there’s enough wind to sail, then we sail. It gives everyone that experience of being solely under wind power, which is a great feeling.

And there’s no pounding of the diesel engines when you’re relaxing on deck?
None. It’s relaxing. The best way to travel! Surfers can sleep in comfort while we move around if they want.

Speaking of moving around, I notice you guys travel north to the Telo and Banyaks. Is this new to you?
No, we’ve always chartered up there. It’s always been a part of our schedule, especially ‘cos we like it up there. I’ve spent some time up in the Banyaks on another boat, and now any chance to go up north we go up there. It’s a little less crowded and there are some amazing waves.

You touched on your past there, where else have you worked before crewing on the Bintang?
This is my seventh year in Indonesia. I left school at 18 and worked some odd jobs to travel Europe and ended up working on superyachts in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, then got my skippers ticket up there and applied for jobs out here. I started working in Sumbawa, then made my way along the islands in various jobs: I used to run Macaronis Resort, ran the Jiwa up in the Banyaks, worked in Simeulue at Aura, had my own place at Uluwatu….

That’s quite a resume. You’re also shooting photos and video on the boat?
Yep, I’m the resident photographer and videographer, plus social organiser and problem solver.



Harrison Roach, single fin searching on the Bintang

And the bloke at the bridge?
Mick? He’s the sole owner and skipper. Yeah Mick comes from a boating background, his parents were always around boats so he’s been around them his whole life. He worked up in the mines for a few years, saved his money and that’s how he bought the Bintang.

You guys have a good rep, not just for scoring waves, but also hooking up fish.
Ha ha...I’m not the keenest fisherman in the world, I’ll take a few beers and that's it for me - a good afternoon on the water with a drink in hand. But Mick is mad, he’s a dead keen fisherman. Every chance he can he’s rigging up and casting away.


indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Thursday, 10 Aug 2017 at 3:32pm

I don't think I've ever seen a charter boat with sails actually use them.

Ada gula, ada semut!

black-duck's picture
black-duck's picture
black-duck commented Thursday, 10 Aug 2017 at 10:54pm

The Barrenjoey uses sails

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Friday, 11 Aug 2017 at 9:00am

I've done a lot of sailing in the past- Mirror dinghy's, little Norman Wright skiffs, Hobies, Nacras and right up to 45ft mono's and 65ft cats. Big or small, nothing beats wind power.

When I retire, I'd love to sail again.

Ignorance is Zen