Cruising grounds the length of the continental United States sit in slumber, isolated by vast bodies of water the size of small countries. Picture sapphire waters and over 18,000 islands home to diversity ranging from Caribbean-like white sand beaches to the oldest rainforests on Earth.
In the Golden Age of Discovery, when maps had no definitive end and the high seas were the ultimate frontier, this dream of sailing to remote lands captured the imaginations of mankind. Today, Indonesia’s sparsely inhabited islands offer a window into the past, where the far reaches of the archipelago offer the sensation of exploration and the freedom of sailing in remote natural splendor.
When French superyacht Captain Dominique Gerardin first experienced a sailing trip in Indonesia, he was enamored with the region, but more so astonished with the undeveloped state of the yacht charter industry. As a captain of yachts over 50m in Europe, Dominique could not believe such a market did not exist for cruising Indonesia’s resplendent seas.
Dominique was born in Madagascar and spent his childhood around the globe wherever his father, a French Foreign Legion offer, was posted. In the early 80s, a TV show starring a cargo ship captain inspired young Dominique to pursue a career at sea. After realizing life on a cargo ship was too mundane for his sense of adventure, Dominique joined the French polar expedition in Antarctica. Years spent in far-flung regions satisfied his sense of exploration for the time being, and in the mid-90s, he relocated to France.
After a short stint on land, Dominique yearned for a new challenge. His brother suggested the booming yacht industry, and after starting on smaller charters, Dominique quickly scaled the ranks to earn his Captain’s license. In 1996 he began working for Camper & Nicholsons on 24-50 m motor yachts in the Mediterranean and Caribbean with occasional charters in Thailand and the Maldives. Eventually captaining motor yachts above 50 meters, Dominique embodied an adventurous spirit and charm which led him to the height of the global yachting industry.
In 2012, a combination of coincidences and circumstances aligned to again alter the trajectory of Dominique’s illustrious life and set him on course for the exploit of his life – Lamima.
During Lamima’s construction, Dominique became more familiar with traveling throughout Indonesia and began to gain a deeper understanding of the regions and their varying cultures. His challenge ahead was to assemble a crew of Indonesian sailors to man Lamima to the same level of international yachting standards expected in Europe and the Caribbean.
Khiat Reba had recently retired from a career as a divemaster in East Nusa Tenggara and found himself working on fiber glassing boats when his and Dominique’s paths first crossed in 2014.
Khiat’s own life parallels the development of Indonesia’s marine tourism industry from the very beginning. Born in West Papua in the mid 1950s – what seems like recent history to the west – is a disproportionately long time ago in a region that had remained unchanged for centuries if not thousands of years.
For reference, as recently as the late 1950s and early 1960s the American Vice President’s son, Michael Rockefeller, was taking expeditions to Papua and sending back primitive Asmat art for display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Expeditions to these regions still have the potential to unearth new species and it is hypothesized that uncontacted tribes may still live inland today.
Khiat left the confines of village life at the edge of the rainforest in Cenderawasih Bay, which later became a popular region for marine tourism access to whale sharks. This, however, only began in 2010. For comparison, Cenderawasih Bay itself is around the size of Belgium.
Khiat’s life took him on an adventure spanning Indonesia’s archipelago from Sorong to Jakarta. in a variety of positions in the marine and industrial fields. Each step added to his experiences and competency to eventually crew Lamima.
It’s no wonder that when two men from vastly different life circumstances, but sharing an affinity for venturing into the unknown, met in a remote part of the islands, a friendship was born.
Dominique had one final vision to complete before Lamima set sail. He wanted to embark on an expedition to scout the islands of Raja Ampat for future charters. However, this was not to be a leisurely cruise as Dominique believed the best way to learn about the region would be to emulate how the locals lived. Khiat was the perfect companion for this journey.
The two friends set off for the relative unknown, taking a boat from Sorong to Waisai where they began their search for an appropriate fisherman to show them their version of living in the islands. Khiat and Dominique received mainly laughs and were rejected five times before they happened upon two brothers who agreed to show them their method of navigating the seas and living amidst Raja Ampat’s karst pinnacles.
Khiat and Dominique would embark on a trip with the two brothers who agreed an eight-day trip would be a good introduction to living off the sea like a local fisherman in Raja Ampat. It is to be noted that fishing is prohibited in Raja Ampat’s marine protected areas, however, locals have the right to fish for sustenance.
The expeditionary vessel was to be an 8-meter open canoe-styled boat with dual 40 hp outboard engines. Equipment included a tent, a knife, a cooking pot, a few fishhooks, hand lines, toothbrushes, 200 liters of fuel, 20 kilos of rice and a bag of lemons. No more, no less.
Without charts or communication equipment aside from a cell phone, it was an absolute barebones voyage aside from one small modern convenience: a single plastic razor Dominique used daily without the assistance of shaving cream.
Dominique recalls the foursome commencing their journey on an overcast day in October under scattered showers, which soon gave way to beautifully sunny skies. The oceans were calm and the small boat had no problem slicing through waters between rocky islands.
On the first day, their small boat crossed paths with whales, dolphins, and huge turtles. The abundance of marine life made it easy for the guides to catch dinner. The brothers would drop a hand line to a specific spot and ask what kind of fish their guests would like. As if magic, within a few moments there would be a pull at the end of the line and the requested fish would be pulled into the boat. According to Dominique, it was like going to the fridge.
Dominique and Khiat lived on the azure waters under the guidance of the brothers surrounded by Raja Ampat’s characteristic karst islands jutting from the sea. The islands rise sharply and despite their inherent beauty are inhospitable to farming or dwellings without enough flat land. They learned to find dugout shelters and natural formations interspersed between the islands, used by locals when on extended fishing trips, for shelter.
Some of Raja Ampat’s islands are home to villages with flat land and populations with their own semi-autonomy. In one such village on Batanta, the rugged foursome landed to make camp and was greeted by an exceptionally hospitable village population.
Shut off from the outside world due to geographical location and a total lack of tourism, some locals rarely use currency. Their survival is dependent on fishing, sustenance farming and making their own necessities.
When Dominique’s party requested permission to camp on the beach, the village chief refused and instead insisted the visitors would sleep in the chief’s home, no less bestowing upon Dominique the honor of sleeping in the chief’s own bed.
Little did this chief know he was welcoming the man who had endeavored to build the largest phinisi to ever sail Indonesia’s waters. The village hospitality was genuine and irrespective of any agenda other than treating guests well. This is the spirit of Indonesia’s island cultures.
This humbling reminder reassured Dominique that this was the ideal cruising ground for Lamima to provide his guests access to untouched, remote lands where nature was a direct part of life.
Building an all-Indonesian crew, which would be assembled with this standard of hospitality in mind, was his next step.
As Lamima launched in 2014, she began following the seasons cruising in Komodo and Raja Ampat. Her itineraries are based on local experience that cannot be rivaled as her crew guides guests to access the most untouched regions of the archipelago.
Cruising Indonesia aboard Lamima is to return to a time when nature’s grandeur reigned free. Immerse yourself in the romance of a voyage through untouched wilderness aboard the region’s largest ironwood sailing yacht.
A charter aboard Lamima is focused around exploration and relaxation with comforts equal to or exceeding the most sumptuous land-based accommodations.
Spend the day exploring villages, trekking through jungles, snorkeling with manta rays or relaxing on pristine beaches.
Kayak, paddleboard or dive in crystal clear waters with no one around for miles. Unwind from the day’s activities with a massage by one of the talented onboard masseuses.
The crew’s knowledge forges a connection to the islands and imbues an appreciation of native traditions, making guests feel like family through their generous spirit.
Brought to life by Dominique’s ardent pursuit of a dream, intrepid spirit, and fine attention to detail, Lamima captures the essence of adventure with the promise of memories to last a lifetime.
Every time she sails, Dominique’s dream lives on as Lamima cruises through the islands that gave her the wood for her hull and the inspiration from which she was born.
This is Lamima, a yacht that could just as well be a time travel machine back to when the seas were the final frontier and the explorers who sailed it were the commanders of their own destinies.
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