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Cruising through Indonesia one encounters a large variety of indigenous sailing craft and today over a thousand wooden ships still ply the inter-island trading routes carrying cargo. Yet throughout the archipelago there are also about a hundred traditional-style sailing craft specifically built and licensed to carry passengers, five times as many as 10 years ago. These small vessels all have wooden hulls and long, elegant bowsprits. In the brochures most owners call these 'Pinisi' or Bugi schooners, but there is no such thing as a Pinisi class and in reality all these ships are very different from each other, both in size and design. (More about original Bugis Schooners).
Although we confess to a preference for beauty over size, we do not see it as our task to judge these boats on their authentic features or even their performance under sail. The selection of fifteen ships that you find on this page has been made on the level of comfort and service they offer, as well as on their ability to keep a schedule when covering large distances. We judge them on the experience they deliver.
There is however a set of characteristics that all vessels in the fleet do share. They were all built by experienced Bugis shipwrights and the hull is always made with ironwood (ulin) planking. Ulin is an indigenous hardwood with a specific gravity heavier than water but it has the great quality of being impervious to rot and to teredo (naval shipworm). The Bugis are a tribe from South Sulawesi known since ancient times as great seafarers, who regularly sailed as far as Australia; drawings of their outrigger canoes were found in cave paintings while some Bugis words were absorbed into aboriginal languages of northern Australia. There is also ethnological and linguistic evidence that Indonesian sailors made their way across the Indian Ocean and reached Madagascar between 0 and 500 AD.
Silolona & Sidatubua
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