Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Matthew and Athena Downes have been living in Indonesia restoring a phinsi-rigged wooden vessel for the past two years. A phinsi is a traditional Indonesian ship handcrafted on the beaches of Tanah Beru and constructed of ebony "ironwood/ kayu besi" and teak "jati". Phinisi carry seven sails and are designed by the "bugis" tribe of South Sulawesi who gained their reputation hundreds of years ago as the fearsome sailors or "bogeymen" of the East Indies.

The Downes' KLM Citra Pelangi ("the image of a rainbow") was launched in 2000 and is just under 131 feet. They currently hope to become only the second-ever Indonesian phinsi to cross an ocean, and the first phinsi to enter the Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean Sea by sail.

The current crew includes a man named Ismail, the son of Muhammad Hasan who was one of the sailors aboard the Nusantara Jaya, the only other phinisi to successfully cross an ocean in 1986 from Sulawesi to Vancouver, Canada via Hawaii.

This previous expedition was financed by Suharto, the former authoritarian and polarizing president of Indonesia for 31 years (which kept it from becoming a huge international success as well as kept it from being fondly remembered by present day Indonesians).

The three Downes moved onto the Citra Pelangi in September 2009 with a mission and a dream. Along with a crew of dedicated professionals, they hope to make history by studying and preserving nautical life, assuming they can raise $500,000 to assist with the ocean voyage and the making of a feature-length documentary. As a team, the Downes and the ship owners William and Johnna Anderson have spent the last two and a half years, strengthening, streamlining and preparing the ship for this voyage.

They hope to depart from Benoa, Bali, Indonesia in Fall 2012 to cross the Indian Ocean, navigate through the Red Sea and Mediterranean, and then sail trans-Atlantic to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the West Indies – approximately 12,500 nautical miles.

(For more information: Matthew and Athena Downes, www.mayantriangle.com,
seawolf@mayantriangle.com, citra.pelangi.charters@gmail.com,
+62 (0) 821 8744 5120)

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