Phinisi – Classic Indonesian Ship
You may have noticed that the Samata has a unique design. With its distinct masts, long bowsprit, and rounded hull, many of our guests remark that it looks like a pirate ship. Funnily enough, this off hand comment does have a touch of historical context! The Samata is a traditional style of Indonesian ship called a Phinisi, one with a long and storied history in the country.
The term Phinisi (or Pinisi in Indonesian) is in reference to the sails and rigging of the vessel. A Phinisi sailing ship typically has two main masts and 7 or 8 main sails and a variety of hull shapes. These classic ships are the modern evolution of the traditional boats of south Sulawesi. The Konjo people of south Sulawesi are the main boat builders of the region who have built boats for Makassarese and Bugis seafarers for hundreds of years. These traders are known as strong sailors who travel across the Indonesian archipelago, Malaysia, and throughout the Indian Ocean.
They were also some of the first people to visit Australia to trade for materials such as sea cucumber. The seaworthiness of the vessels and the seafaring skills of the people led them to become a major influence in Indonesian history. The Bugis and Makassarese sailors often sought conflict with the Dutch colonialists of the time. These conflicts even led the Dutch to consider them as “pirates”!
The Evolution of the Phinisi
The original sailing boat of the area is the “Padewakang”, a smaller boat that traders used since the 16th century. By the 1700s, the European influence led the Sulawesians to build larger vessels. The Palari (which means “to run”) is the hull design created to carry more cargo. This boat became the predominant trading vessel in the region in the 1800s. It was not until the early 1900s that the first “Phinisi” sailing rig was created.
The European inspired design of the sails was to make the larger hull designs easier to sail. The new sail rigging also allowed the ships to use the wind more as an advantage. This evolution allowed larger cargo ships to carry more supplies quickly around the archipelago. At one point, the Phinisi fleet of Sulawesi was the largest sail powered fleet in the world. It was not until the 1970s that the ships began to add engines to increase efficiency.
Although most commercial cargo Phinisis no longer have masts and sails, there were enough of them still in operation in the 1980s to inspire a few visionaries. Early travel industry players began to repurpose these boats as a platform for cruising and diving. From these first few budget minded liveaboard boats, a new fleet of modern Phinisi vessels has evolved.
The Modern Phinisi Vessel
The first ships of this new industry were repurposed older boats. With growing demand and increasing expertise, boat owners now actively design their ships with the traditional boat builders. Kendari (the home of Samata), Bira, and Kalimantan now specialize in modern custom built Phinisi ships. Although they are able to sail, the hull designs are now better shaped for cruising. Of course the sails are often unfurled for both added wind power and photo opportunities. The old cargo vessels still make up a large percentage of coastal trading boats throughout Indonesia. The modern cargo vessels no longer have masts or sails but do retain the same hull design.
Our custom built Phinisi was lovingly crafted by master boat builders in Kendari. Combining modern amenities with the classic structure of the Phinisi, the Samata celebrates the best of both worlds. The charisma of a traditional sailing ship creates a special sense of charm. We are sure you will love the added spice of a ship crafted by loving hands the old fashioned way. If you would like to learn more about the history of Indonesia please read “A Brief History of Indonesia”.