This wonderful ship was built recently in the age old manner at the owners instructions in the Celebes and it might just be of interest to know what an extensive history this type of vessel was drawn from. It would seem that for nearly 2000 years on this mass of islands, now known loosely as Indonesia, particularly in the South Sulawesi, people had been building sailing vessels, known as ‘perahu’, These vessels, of varied sizes, were rigged with rectangular sails 'layar tanjaq' and traded all over this vast area. It would have been the biggest sailing fleet the world has ever known.
With their innate skills in following the monsoon winds, and the seasonal changes of direction, these fleets covered the many thousands of islands of the area. Some found their way across the Indian Ocean to Africa, and trade with the Arabs was substantial. They regularly reached Northern Australia, and were well known to, and traded with, the aborigines, long before the rest of the world knew it existed. It is known that illustrations of this type of vessel exist in the Borobudur Temple from around the ninth century, and in the early cave paintings of the Australian aborigines.
It has to be acknowledged, by some of the great boatbuilders of the South Sulawesi, that the jungles of this area are fortunate in producing some of the finest type of timber that could possibly be used in making great vessels. ‘Kayu Manis’ is built in that exactly traditional style. The hull, made from the famous ironwood known to us as 'billian' which is the finest of its kind in the world, is still constructed in the old ways, joined by wooden pegs with no iron piercing the wood. The main deck and the upper construction all made of the finest teak, which once again is of superb quality.
Some time later in the 17th century with the incoming Europeans the Indonesians began to combine some of their 'tanjaq' sails with a normal fore-and-aft type, which they'd seen on these foreigners vessels.
It is thought around 1850 that a type of vessel, in a similar layout to that of ‘Kayu Manis’, was built in Trengannu Malaysia for one of the Sultans, and as soon as this was seen in the area it was adopted as the 'perahu pinisiq'. This is called by some a 'schooner', fully rigged with cloth sails, and was therefore faster and better able to take advantage of all types of winds than the old-fashioned types.
Several thousands of these boats made in the South Sulawesi area, traded and pirated all over the East. They were of similar type with the long bow-sprit and three foresails, main mast and a mizzen mast with standing gaffes, two top sails a stay-sail on the mizzen mast forestay.. The hull shape was elegantly adapted to the faster sharp-bowed and center-stern rudder, which they describe as ‘perlari’ ( run fast ).. This was traditionally maintained for a greater part of the times since then, and it is only in recent years that the use of internal engines reduce the size and elegance of the sailing layout.
All this is beautifully preserved in ‘Kayu Manis’, with both the same skills and workmanship and timber, derived from such a fantastic and long history..