By the Founding CEO and owner
Captain Raymond La Fontaine
In 2006 I set sail with the Sail to Indonesia from Darwin Australia, we automatically joined the rally as we meet friends along our journey up the East Coast of Australia who told us that by joining the Rally we would get easy entry into Indonesia.
After arriving in Kupang we saw a difficult situation unfolding with the security of my yacht SV Basilea. After clearing we hung around for a week bobbing up and down on anchor in Kupung, when we made our way to shore to see the sights or do shopping we were always worried about the security of our tender or the Yacht breaking anchor so we were never really relaxed, the bay was full of every type of vessel so we decided to leave the rally and go our own way, we arrived at the northern Gili islands with other friends on there yachts and had a wonderful time, some left on their way to Bali and onto Sumatra and eventually Malaysia where as we ventured south of the Gili islands to the less discovered Southern Gili Islands where Basilea found an amazing safe natural anchorage tucked away on the less shores of the prevailing south easterly trades, it was bullet proof on from the North west monsoons as well being protected by the largest of the Gili Islands called Gili Gede now known as #portgiligede #GiliGede was surrounded by 12 other pristine islands which were more or less deserted. The diving, fishing surfing opportunities were easily as good as Flores and Komodo but without the hype and crowds, we later ventured further around Lombok and back tracked to Sumbawa and witnessed beautiful sailing archipelagos that the Rallies miss on there way always rushing to Malaysia and Phuket to keep up with the Rallies who’s organizers arw always incentivized by other Rally organizers in Malaysia.
Eventually we did the same thing but under our own pace and ended up in Malaysia and Phuket and for three seasons sailed across the Malarka Straight to Banda Arche and then down to the Mentawai islands of west Sumatra.
It was there I witnessed what I believe as a westerner was real poverty and beauty, I saw problems that I could try and change, by creating Tourism a tourism based on Marine Infrastructure, like a Marina that also helped sailors go there own way to Indonesia and have a safety net.
In my time there I had several occasion where business, health or family commitments meant it was difficult to find a safe place to leave my beloved home Basilea, but, that proved difficult and so we had to always return to Malaysia or Phuket for safe anchorage in a Marina where the risks of the yacht being unattended were much less and our Insurance company would pay up in the event of a unlikely accident happening.
In 2009 after a breakup of a special relationship, siting in Chalong Bay wondering what to do next, I read a news article about Indonesia wanting to build Marinas and open up its country for Investment in Sailing Tourism. It was done by the then President by way of a decree that instructed its varies ministries to make it possible for foreign Investment to build Marinas and I thought abut Sumatra and Gili Gede.
I decided on the later because it was close to known international airports like Bali and would be an easier political option than Sumatra which until now is still of the main cruising routes.
After our time spent in Bali, we became close friends to Jack Made Dana who is still our company Chairman and like a brother. I phoned Jack and asked him to fly with me and meet on the first parcel of land we bought on Gili Gede (where the Toilet and clearance facilities are located now).
Then I sailed for the last time via west Sumatra solo. On the way Basilea hit a large log in heavy seas 100 miles from the Sunda Selat between Sumatra and Java. The yacht was slowly sinking, and I managed to do temporary repairs on the way, but that’s another story for another chapter in itself but for the purposes of this article I will keep going.