The History of Phinisi’s

Silolona is a ship with a long tradition deeply rooted in history, a living spirit from the golden age of sail. Still built by hand in the traditional manner by the Konjo people of Sulawesi employing exotic tropical hard woods, these majestic sailing ships have been sailed by the Bugis people for centuries.

OOriginally employed as cargo ships, the the main carrier of sandalwood, spices and cermonial textiles along the legendary Spice Routes to the ancient Kingdoms of China and India. Over the centuries the rig evolved from rectangular sails to gaff sails.

Si Datu Bua phinisi vessel drawing

In the 17th century the Dutch introduced new methods and rigs, including “modern” gaff sails, by building European style vessels in their Javanese shipyards. Soon Sulawesi sailors seeing how effective these new inovations were began to combine their big black rectangular sails with the fore-and-aft sails they saw on the locally built European ships.

Reports from the 1830’s mention locally build vessels, both schooner and ketch rigged, with cloth sails rigged in immitation of the European manner. The Bugis people skillfully adapted what they saw to what worked best for their building materials, waters, and winds. The result was the magnificient sailing Phinisi.


The traveler who has eyes to see occupies a world as fresh as the first day and just full of wonders.