There are so many adventures to be had out there,” says Mark Robba, owner of 51m sailing yacht Dunia Baru. “I wanted to build a yacht to take me and my family on these adventures, to help us explore new places and have incredible experiences. What I didn’t bargain for was that building Dunia Baru would be an adventure in itself.”
The adventure began in 2005, a 15-hour journey from Bali and two hours by speedboat up a winding river on the fringes of the jungle in Kalimantan. Robba moved from the US to Indonesia almost 20 years ago to be close to one of his company’s glove factories.
The Konjo shipwrights from Ara, Sulawesi have been building the finest wooden trading ships by hand for centuries. “I wanted my yacht to be instilled with their spirit and skill. Their knowledge of wood, how to manipulate and build with it, is unique. We are talking about generations of knowledge passed down from father to son.” One of the Konjo village elders agreed to travel with 20 master shipwrights to Kalimantan to oversee the construction of Dunia Baru’s hull using ironwood from the surrounding jungle.
The bow was first lifted by a handmade ironwood crane before the keel was laid in a muddy dugout on the riverbank. Each piece of ironwood was worked and bent over a fire. The only power tools used were a wood planer, sanders and a chainsaw. Despite their time-proven artistry, Dunia Baru presented an unprecedented undertaking for the Konjo and the yacht’s complexity and magnitude meant that it took over two years just to construct the hull and superstructure.
The dedicated pursuit of perfection in the jungle wasn’t the only challenge. Just before the hull was towed to Bali for the interior outfitting, it was seized by the local mafia who threatened to put the yacht into auction if they didn’t receive US$100,000 (RM435,000). Robba was advised not to give in and to push for the auction. “This definitely annoyed them. I managed to buy the hull back for around US$40,000 (RM243,000). It was a gamble, but I already had around half a million dollars invested in it at that point.”
The hull was towed to Bali where, over the next five years, the interior was finished, her British rigging was added, her high-tech marine systems were installed and her bark-coloured sails crafted in Thailand were raised.
The interior is contemporary and luxurious while remaining authentic to the vessel’s roots. She sleeps up to 14 guests in seven cabins, and Robba took styling inspiration from local furniture aesthetics, Indonesian culture and his world travels. It is no exaggeration to say that structurally the entire boat has been handcrafted from wood: every nail, rivet, hinge and lever; every handrail, door and air-conditioning vent. The steering wheel alone took four days of shaping and bending strips of ironwood before joining them by hand in a mould.
What makes this yacht all the more impressive is that the Konjo shipwrights do not work from technical drawings or plans. “Everything is conceived in their heads. Tell them the problem and they will craft the solution from years of hands-on experience.”
Aptly, dunia baru means ‘new world’ in Bahasa Indonesia, and her iconic profile can be seen sailing through South East Asia.
“I wanted Dunia Baru to be more than just the best boat ever built in Indonesia,” says Robba. “I wanted her to be world-class. Perfection takes time. And it was worth every minute and every dollar.”