Pak Haji Wahab (above) has built more than 50 boats in the 40-year career that has made him the leading boat-wright in Ara community. The Konjo people of this part of southern Sulawesi were already legendary boat-builders long before the first European frigate or caravel was even seen in these waters. This week Dunia Baru was anchored off the reef at her Ara hometown, undergoing the scheduled maintenance that is needed to keep her “Bristol fashion”. The crew was delighted to welcome Pak Haji Wahab back onboard the boat that helped to make him a local hero.
“Dunia Baru took seven years to complete,” he said, “but it was worth it because this was the perfect marriage of the finest Konjo boat-building tradition and the best western marine technology.”
He took a look around below decks at the hull he sweated over for two years in the Borneo jungle and nodded approvingly: “There’s never been a boat like her built in Indonesia… and I don’t think there’ll ever be another,” he smiled. “She’ll always be nomor satu – number one.”
Photograph and text by Mark Eveleigh