For an idea of a sample cruise read the story of the El Aleph’s maiden voyage below:
The luxury expedition phinisi Schooner El Aleph started life on the beach of the boat building village of Bira in South Sulawasi , her hull and rigging based upon the traditional Indonesian phinisi design – trading vessels which have sailed the archipelago for four centuries. Back in Bali for the fit out, there was a nod to the 21st Century luxury chartering: inverter-based power systems, satellite broad-band internet, and full navigation suite…as well as an interior finished in precious hard woods for 200,000 man-hours by a team of almost 100 carpenters and craftsmen – impossible anyplace other than Bali! But after two painstaking years building his impossible dream, Franco-Russian yachtsman Eric Kraus was tired of lying in Benoa harbour – and ready for a little adventure!
El Aleph had been built with the dream of exploring the remote and legendary Raja Ampat, a naturalist’s paradise – home to 70% of all known hard corals and no fewer than 1320 species of fish, along with the world’s most extraordinary profusion of bird life including the legendary Bird of Paradise whose mating dance is performed here only. Having positioned the yacht in Sorong Harbour, ten days steaming from our home port of Bali, the guests and owner arrived by the night flight from Jakarta to Sorong —1800 miles east. Coming in for a landing – sleepy and elated – we were treated to the sight of our great pirate vessel outlined against a spectacular sunrise.
The two fast RIBs were waiting at the pier to whisk the guests aboard el Aleph, with a 13-man crew representing the entire ethnic composition of Indonesia. The mariners are descendants of the fierce Buginese seafaring pirates and traders from the parched villages of South Sulawesi whom the Dutch colonists could never pacify – the origin of the modern term “the Bogey-man”. Among them – Captain Kahar who happily threw over his job as Chief Captain for the largest ship charter company in Indonesia to join the building project, overseeing construction in the ship-building village of Bira for the chance of commanding his own phinisi – bringing his chief engineer, Andi – with a wife in every port, equally capable of mending a recalcitrant diesel engine or a Swiss watch. Of course, the tough, adventurous Bugis would be among the world’s worst choices for service personnel – so the waiters and cooks we recruited the gentler and more refined Balinese Hindus, rounding it off with a Christian first mate and third engineer. Finally, the intrepid David Curic, our Swedish cruise director and chief dive master, who has explored and dived Indonesia for the past decade, brought some much needed Viking blood to the mix.
According to aboriginal tradition, the Raja Ampat — meaning four kings – hatched from the eggs of a monstrous bird, each egg shell forming one of the major islands — regional islands: Wageo, Batanta, Salawati and Misool. Of a total of 610 islands, only about 35 are inhabited, generally with aboriginal villages isolated from each other, and totally removed from contact with the outside world.