New Engine: Maintaining Bugis & Phinisi Traditions

We are delighted to announce that this month El Aleph has had a brand new engine fitted while being docked in Bali. El Aleph’s new engine increases her available Horse Power by one third which now means she can easily cruise at 8 knots. El Aleph was built with luxury firmly in mind but now she has the speed to match too.


Phinisi El Aleph
El Aleph under sail


In order to honor both Phinisi traditions and Balinese rituals, a ceremony was called when the engine was installed. The Buginese ceremony is a Muslim ceremony (known as Selamatan) to give thanks to God for helping them (our Muslim staff) to achieve their goal and the Balinese side of the ceremony was a cleansing ceremony to neutralize any negative energy. The Balinese ceremony was conducted by our very own General Manager “Gusty”.


Phinisi traditions
General Manager Gusty, blessing El Aleph and her new engine


Traditional Buginese ceremonies include a sacrifice to the Gods in return for their blessings and a goat is usually the unfortunate animal of choice. Incense and Balinese flowers were also offered in “Canang” which are the small offering trays found around Bali.  The ceremony held on board El Aleph was conducted by a local priest and whilst it was not for the faint hearted, in Indonesia and especially to the Bugis, these ceremonies are an essential part of daily life.


El Aleph Phinisi Blessing
Two goats were brought on board for the Muslim ceremony


After the ceremony there was a small celebration on board with a barbecue (to ensure the goat did not go to waste) and El Aleph and her new engine are now blessed and ready for her next voyage.


Phinisi traditions
El Aleph is blessed according to Balinese and Muslim traditions and ready for her next voyage


El Aleph is a traditionally built Indonesian Phinisi style vessel. Phinisi ships were originally used to navigate the Indonesian Archipelago under sail while carrying precious cargo from port to port. The seafarers of yester-year used these ships to sail as far as Singapore to deliver their wares in return for other exotic and sought after items.

The Bugis, who are an ethnic group in Indonesia and often referred to as sea gypsies, were (and still are) the master craftsmen behind these beautiful vessels. The majority of Bugis shipbuilders are based around South Sulawesi where they have long wide beaches for the construction site of the vessels, easy access to the ocean for launching and a healthy supply of hard wood in the forests nearby.


Phinisi building
The beaches of South Sulawesi offer space for construction, easy launching and a nearby source of hard wood.


El Aleph was no exception and her hull was built in Bonto Bahari Village in the Bulukumba regency of South Sulawesi in 2007. The Bugis people are predominantly Muslim and El Aleph’s master shipbuilder was Haji Ahmad Nur who descends from a long line of shipbuilders. The unique skills which are used when building a Phinisi are unlike any other boat building techniques and these skills are handed down from generation to generation. The techniques have even been recognized by UNESCO as an important part of Indonesian heritage.


Phinisi Bugis
A traditional Phinisi under construction in South Sulawesi


During the Phinisi construction process there are numerous ceremonies which are usually held after the completion of a specific project, such as the all-important laying of the keel and for the joining (or “marriage”) of the stem and stern posts to the keel timber.

Ceremonies can last for days and involve different processes, blessings and sacrifices. It is believed by the Bugis people that if these ceremonies are not conducted then the ship will be doomed at sea.


Luxury Phinisi
El Alephs lavish interior design and fittings were finished by a French cabinet maker in Bali


Once El Aleph’s hull was completed, and blessed, it was brought to Bali in 2008 for final furnishing and fitting by a French cabinet maker. El Aleph’s luxurious interior was carefully crafted by over 70 workers, working 6 days a week until her launch in October 2009. Every feature has been thoughtfully incorporated to ensure that El Aleph’s lavish design and luxurious finish is unsurpassed by any other Phinisi schooner ever built. For more detailed information about El Aleph, view our full vessel specifications.


Phinisi liveaboard
Go off the grid and explore Papua New Guinea with El Aleph


El Aleph is available for cruises around all of Indonesia including Komodo, the Banda Sea, Alor and Raja Ampat. We are now also exploring the magnificent region surrounding Papua New Guinea and the Bismark Sea for those who want to really go off the grid and experience an unforgettable exploration voyage.

To enquire about our rates and availability or to make a booking please contact us on:

Please note that to ensure your privacy and an exclusive experience we only offer full charters and do not take bookings for individual cabins.




Sarah Wormald

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