Messing about in boats since 1975.  Online Since 1997.

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Would a Cargo Pinisi or KLM Make a Good Yacht...?

Copyright 2009 - 2016 Michael Kasten

Two Cargo Phinisi on the Sangkulirang River, Borneo - Photo Copyright 2006 Michael Kasten
Two fine Cargo KLM on the Sangkulirang River, Kalimantan Timur (Borneo), 2006


The following notes are in response to several inquiries I've received about the prospect of finding a good Indonesian cargo Pinisi or KLM for use as a personal or charter yacht, primarily in order to save time and costs. My thoughts on this concept are as follows...

There are several characteristics of the cargo Pinisi boats that conspire to make them somewhat less than ideal as private yachts or as charter yachts. Among those factors are the following:

Cargo Phinisi in Alor
Deeply Laden Cargo KLM in Alor, Nusa Tengara (Indonesia's Eastern Islands), 2001

Now... if one could find an extremely fine cargo Pinisi for sale, it might very well make a good yacht, but its life-span still could be fairly short. This is so even if you happen to find a really fine cargo Pinisi / KLM under construction, and for the reasons given above.

Whether it is newly built or used, it is always highly advisable to hire an experienced and trustworthy surveyor to assess the condition of the vessel, its quality of build, its underwater shape, rigging, superstructure, etc. A traditional aesthetic quality should also be present, primarily for its own sake, but also because it is an indication of quality and pride of workmanship on the part of the builder.

It is extremely unlikely that any Pinisi that was originally built for a Westerner will even come close to the required quality. What's more, most of them end up with deck structures that are, in my view anyway, dreadful looking, too tall, and too long. As a result they impose a much greater liability in terms of weight and windage.

If one were to actually find a worthy vessel, it will be difficult to justify spending too much on remodeling it unless it happens to be a spectacular specimen that is fairly new. I have seen many extraordinary cargo vessel examples, so they do certainly exist. Conversely I have also seen many extremely sad cases, in particular where some misguided Westerner has bought an old derelict local and is trying to revive it.

Large Phinisi on the Sangkulirang River, Borneo
45m Cargo KLM on the Sangkulirang River, Kalimantan Timur (Borneo), 2006


If we were to create an interior design for one of these boats, the vessel would have to be a top quality specimen in order to be worth the effort and cost. The chances are that I would encourage keeping the traditional house structures as-built, with a newly defined purpose on the interior only.

On an existing vessel, an inclining test should be done in order to precisely determine the as-built stability. This is quite accurate, but it requires that the shape of the vessel also be accurately known. Therefore the first task would be to record the hull and superstructure shapes so that the overall weight and center of gravity can be determined via the inclining test.

After the stability has been determined, the structural scantlings should be recorded and the "percentage" of compliance with existing structure rules determined. Indonesia has a good rule for wooden vessels, but it is not often followed. Our approach is to use the Germanischer Lloyds rule for wooden ships.

Next would be to reinforce the structure wherever it might be needed and to sub-divide the interior for water tight integrity and structural integrity. Next would be to create a design for the use of the interior spaces. Next would be to install tanks and machinery, and then finally, to build out the interior and finish out the systems.

Regarding the cost of this work, as a very rough guide it would be more or less as follows:

Overall, if done properly it is unlikely that there will be much difference in overall design costs. And, since the machinery and systems represent such a large portion of the overall vessel cost, there is very little incentive to try to find a "bargain" on the hull itself...

50m Charter Phinisi - KLM
50m KLM Charter Yacht


An interesting article on our work with these vessels appeared in the New York Times, called The Traditional Pinisi - And Then Some.

For complete information about our work with these vessels please see the following links, or for more information please inquire.

Our articles about building an Indonesian Pinisi or KLM:
Pinisi History  |  Pinisi Building  |  The Ultimate Charter Pinisi
Sailing vs. KLM Types  |  A Cargo Pinisi as a Yacht...?

Pinisi and KLM designs that we have created or have planned:
30m Pinisi, DATU BUA  |  36m Pinisi, SILOLONA
38m Pinisi, AMANDIRA  |  50m Sailing Pinisi

27m DIVE Charter KLM  |  30m Charter KLM  |  33m Charter KLM
36m KLM, DUNIA BARU  |  40m Charter KLM  |  50m Charter KLM

Descriptions of our adventures with these boats:
Silolona "Homecoming"  |  Indonesia Boatbuilding Images

Five Schooners and Two Arabian Dhows Suited to Building in Indonesia
17m Flores Privateer  |  20m Sulawesi Privateer  |  31m Komodo Privateer
36m Tern Schooner  |  36m Lombok Privateer  |  45m Kalimantan Privateer

22m Arabian Baghala  |  36m Arabian Baghala

Two junk rigged KLM types for construction in steel:
25m Lady Destiny  |  55m Lady Destiny