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HOMECOMING VOYAGE

OF THE 36 METER MOTOR-SAILING Pinisi SILOLONA

36m Phinisi Silolona - Designed by Kasten Marine Design, Inc.
Click for Larger Image

THE BUGIS PEOPLE OF INDONESIA

"The Boogie man (Bugis-man) will get you if you don't watch out!" is perhaps the best known reference to a truly remarkable people, the Bugis. There are an estimated five million of the largely seafaring Bugis people amongst some two hundred million Indonesians.

Indonesia is a collection of around 17,500 islands which stretch thousands of miles across the Southwestern Pacific Ocean, in effect creating the boundary between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Indonesian archipelago extends over a region larger than the US. High island mountains, tropical jungles and volcanic activity throughout Indonesia have never made roads and transport of goods over land very easy. As a result, the seaways have always been, are now, and will always be the primary freight rails of Indonesia. The boat building and sailing prowess of the Bugis people have been an indispensable part of the survival and economic growth of the island peoples of Indonesia.

The sailing-dhow-like Indonesian pinisi is a freight hauler uniquely well suited to the waters of Indonesia and to the available local technologies. Like most other South Asian craft, and very much the opposite of craft built in the West, these vessels are built planks-first, then the frames are fitted afterward. The skill required to log massive trees from the jungle, transport them, and hew the timbers required to build these relatively large wooden vessels right on the beach is unique, in particular as it is accomplished without a high tech infrastructure as back-up.

Historically, the various ceremonies of the native Bugis and Konjo boat builders have been an integral part of the construction and launch of these craft, and are in fact an epic part of the Bugis culture. During recent times, much too little focus has been placed on the celebration of and the preservation of the rich cultural traditions of the Bugis / Konjo people.

Contemporary pressures to motorize the fleet of cargo carrying Pinisi, and to build boats ever larger, have caused these people to little by little abandon the 'cultural' side of the boat building process.

Ara Fish Logo - South Sulawesi - Copyright 2002
Ara Fish Logo Watercolor -

THE 36m PINISI

Fortunately, over the last decade or so the concept of recreational tourism in Indonesia has become a dream moved to reality. A small but growing fleet of traditional sailing pinisi now cater to divers and cultural tourists. Their overall focus is on the physical and cultural diversity of the remote and magnificent Indonesian islands, essentially a celebration of sailing aboard an authentic Bugis Pinisi..

Among the vessels in this fleet is the 36 meter Pinisi Silolona, a traditional Indonesian charter yacht designed by Michael Kasten of Kasten Marine Design, Inc. in 2001. In the case of the Silolona, rather than having big cargo holds as would be the case with commercial cargo Pinisi now being built, Silolona has luxury accommodations in order to serve a diversity of guests interested in diving, bird watching, cultural adventures ashore, or the wildness and beauty of the Indonesian archipelago.

To create the Silolona, the Bugis / Konjo builders were not asked to simply create another motorized cargo vessel... Instead, among the primary objectives were the building process itself and to observe the age-old rituals of boat building. Having been built in such a way as to honor the Bugis boatbuilding traditions and ceremonies, the Silolona is considered by the Bugis people to be unique and therefore a rather special vessel.

For a thorough review of the design and building of the Silolona, please see our web page on Building the 36m Pinisi. For detailed background information about the boats themselves, check out our Pinisi History page.

You can also review a number of images from this and our other trips to Indonesia at our Indonesia Boatbuilding Images page.

The 36m Phinisi Silolona Anchored Off Gunung Api, Indonesia, 2004
36m Pinisi Silolona anchored off Sangeang volcano during our voyage in 2004 - Click for Larger Image

Service On Deck | Tools of the Trade | Bugis Sailor | Toward the Islands

THE VOYAGE

After a season of charters following her launch earlier in 2004 the owners of the Silolona wished to take a special trip at the end of the charter season in order to observe the significance to the Bugis people having built the Silolona. On the agenda was to resurrect several rarely observed launching ceremonies no longer commonly practiced.

I was invited so naturally I accepted! This would after all be the "homecoming" voyage of the Silolona. On this trip the vessel would for the first time visit the original home of these craft, considered to be the village of Ara and Tanah Biru in South West Sulawesi, also home to the Bugis / Konjo builders.

Silolona was actually built in Batulicin, Kalimantan Selatan (Borneo) by people from Ara in South Sulawesi. When asked about this, pak Tandra one of the Konjo builders said, "We are boat builders. We will always follow the wood." Since Kalimantan is where the big timbers are found these days, that was the chosen venue for building the vessel. This trip would be a chance for us to bring the Silolona to the actual home of the people who had built her.

The trip lasted for two weeks and covered a total distance of approximately 1,100 nautical miles. See the map below for the route that we followed. During those two weeks we took part in a variety of cultural events, we experienced world class diving and snorkeling, saw birds and sea life, found dragons, celebrated the building of the Silolona with the Bugis / Konjo people, and visited a number of other villages among the islands of Nusa Tenggara and others on our way to the rendezvous in South West Sulawesi.

The route began in Bali. On arrival, we stayed a few nights in Wantilan Lama, a traditional Balinese pavilion in the town of Sanur. We then boarded the Silolona and departed for Lombok to the east of Bali. In the days that followed, we explored several of the islands near Lombok and Sumbawa. We circled the large volcano-island of Gunung Api, where we went ashore at a local spring. We had fine diving, beach parties, excellent food and fine wine on the way to Komodo National Park. Within the park, on the island of Rinca we went in search of dragons - and we came upon quite a few of them feasting on a water buffalo...!

Near the Komodo island group, we visited Labuanbajo on Flores then headed northward in order to spend a few days visiting the islands and atolls between Flores and Sulawesi. One such village was Bonerate, near the town of Asambi on the chart below. With an excellent harbor and a strategic position in the middle of the traditional trading routes, the people of Bonerate claim heritage from quite a few places in Indonesia. And of course a variety of large and small boats were being built on the beach, as is the case in most coastal villages throughout Indonesia.

The highlight of the voyage was our arrival in South Sulawesi at the village of Ara, just to the south of Kajang on the chart below. This is where the homecoming celebration was to take place the following day. The homecoming celebration was spectacular - a heartfelt experience! After almost three days in South Sulawesi visiting the villages of Ara, Tanah Biru, and Bira Beach we sailed southwestward, bound once again for Bali.

Overall, we experienced excellent diving and snorkeling sites, saw plenty of indigenous boat building activity, participated in a number of outstanding cultural events, and... we were very well cared for along the way.

Aboard the Silolona we had comfortable rooms, were served the best food that the region has to offer, wines from around the world, and were very fortunate to enjoy local music performed by a Bugis / Konjo drummer as well as one of Indonesia's most popular native music performers.

Here is the chart of our Homecoming route:

Silolona Homecoming - Voyage Chart
Image Copyright Microsoft Encarta 2002 | Story Copyright Michael Kasten 2005 - 2010
 

MORE INFORMATION

If ownership of a similar private sailing yacht or charter yacht is of interest, we offer a thorough design service. We honor traditional boat building methods to the maximum extent possible. We then detail the structure to assure compliance with the requirements of Germanischer Lloyd and the British Lloyds Register. We offer custom design services to create new boat designs, or we can modify any of our existing designs to suit a new purpose. After the design work is complete, we follow up with our local knowledge in order to facilitate construction all the way to launch.

For complete information about our work with these vessels please see the following links, or for more information please inquire.
 

Our articles about building an Indonesian Pinisi or KLM:
Pinisi History  |  Pinisi Building  |  The Ultimate Charter Pinisi
Sailing vs. KLM Types  |  A Cargo Pinisi as a Yacht...?

Pinisi and KLM designs that we have created or have planned:
30m Pinisi, DATU BUA  |  36m Pinisi, SILOLONA
38m Pinisi, AMANDIRA  |  50m Sailing Pinisi

27m DIVE Charter KLM  |  30m Charter KLM  |  33m Charter KLM
36m KLM, DUNIA BARU  |  40m Charter KLM  |  50m Charter KLM

Descriptions of our adventures with these boats:
Silolona "Homecoming"  |  Indonesia Boatbuilding Images

Five Schooners and Two Arabian Dhows Suited to Building in Indonesia
17m Flores Privateer  |  20m Sulawesi Privateer  |  31m Komodo Privateer
36m Tern Schooner  |  36m Lombok Privateer  |  45m Kalimantan Privateer

22m Arabian Baghala  |  36m Arabian Baghala

Two junk rigged KLM types for construction in steel:
25m Lady Destiny  |  55m Lady Destiny