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.
Eventually I managed to make Batavia Jakarta where it took me four months to make seaworthy repairs, it was very difficult, the Insurance company would not pay and to find a yard to Haul Basilea and then make repairs almost impossible.
After months I was eventually was able to conclude my journey and I arrived at the southern Gili Islands where I met up with Jack again and in strong winds and seas, we sailed the 20 NM south to Gili Gede. As we approached the lee of the island the seas disappeared, and the winds abated. Turning the southern corner of Gili Gede’s cape between its southern end and mainland Lombok the bay was an incredible site for us weary sailors. We weighed anchor in 17 meters and drank Bintang Beer until the wee hours of the morning.
The Next Day a local named Sai paddled out to the yacht and asked Jack what we were doing there,
(Sai Later became the companies first ferry Captain of Gili Gede Fast Boat that ran from Bali to the island).
Jack explained that we were going to build a Marina which I don’t think then Jack really new what that was as was the case for many years, including most Indonesian’s and government officials which made the formation of our business a reality the hardest task I have ever undertaken in my life.
From those early days in January 2010 I began the unenviable task of building Indonesia’s first integrated Marina.
For the Investment to be sure and to raise capital I knew I had to have the legal weight on our companies’ side. That involved six years of lobbying government in Jakarta and all its agencies, none who really ever read the Presidents decree. It involved many lonely sleepless nights in cheap hotels over the years commuting from my yacht on Gili Gede to Jakarta, I hardly spoke Bahasa and was unfamiliar with the Laws and customs of Indonesia. Many people told me what I wanted to hear but not what was the truth and by sheer trial and error I managed to tick the boxes as Indonesia also began to change or create new laws to allow a Marina to be foreign owned and become a reality.
One especially important law that was changed was a customs law allowing foreign goods to be temporarily imported for three years instead of three months. That law alone made the Marina Investment made sense because foreign yachts under the law are seen as goods.
Eventually in 2016 we received the first seabed license allowing our Indonesian company that was owned by our Australian company to occupy and attach a Marina to the seabed. A Milestone in Indonesia’s history. Once the company had the land and the sea bed license we were able to raise capital by selling equity in a business that had legal equity.
During this time we ran Marina Del Ray as a safe mooring facility and it was in this time I was able to teach the locals about our customers needs, we also ran yachts for charter and ran our ferry business while we occupied another premises on the other side of the island as small hotel and bar.
By the end of 2018 I had raised enough capital to break ground on the Marina site. Because the island had no water or electricity it involved either power generation or a main supply that had been promised to the locals for years but never happened. As a threat or a reality we put on notice to the electrical supply company that unless they supplied power we would using a mixture of cold power fuel and solar, we even deigned the yacht club for the solar panels and built it that way. Eventually the supply company installed a main cable to the island which our company basically funded by the huge fees they charged for connection to the Marina and the ongoing monthly costs just to have the privilege of the electricity that the marina and its 1000 residents enjoy now. Without the Marina investment things would still be as they were and remain that way.
Water was another critical investment as the government never had the money to supply Town water to Gili Gede. Interestingly, the biggest cause of infant deaths in Indonesia is a unhealthy water supply and yet the government has never done anything to resolve that issue, way more deaths than the recent CORVID threat as is the case with Malaria or Dengue and other disease due to a lack of important hospital facilities that plague the Indonesian people.
Anyway, the company purchased its own desalination facility, turning seawater into fresh drinking water and as of 2020 the Marina has its own agriculture program to grow fresh produce that the locals can get involved in and sell to the Marina patrons or for use to create their own healthy existence.
Construction of the Marina began in January 2018 and was concluded in October 2019 however before we could operate we needed anther arduous license which was impeded by one of the existing foreign land owners of the island who wanted to keep its inhabitants poor to suit their own needs, despite the paid protestors the villages supported the marina and we began commercial operation in November 2019.
By February 2020 we had reached an occupancy of 65% from yachts from all around the world, our Resort and Yacht Club was finished and our port clearance facility complete. We had commissioned the construction of a larger and faster ferry service but at the time of writing this its still plagued by jealousy and bureaucracy for its licenses
by the Harbor Masters department how has a vendetta with a local boat construction company which is also affiliated with our Marina as a dockyard that provides repairs for our customers boats.
D Day came on March the 12th 2020, the Marina was instructed by Ministry of Sea Transport to close due to the threat of this corona virus thing. After ten years of work and heartache and overcoming incredible obstacles we had been stopped by something outside our control.
Fortunately the government has since reviewed its policy and seen that there is little treat of contagion (which we never saw any evidence in Lombok or Bali despite what the media portrayed) we have since opened Port Gili Gede Marina Del Ray to all foreign yacht owners.
To this day our staff continue to strive to provide professional Marine services and are worth a huge thank you from me and the rest of Indonesia and our clients. The effort over the years came true the day we lit the lights on our wharf and my staff whom I first met with Jack ten years ago eyes filled with tears as did mine.
I dedicate the Marina to them, my seven-year-old daughter back in Australia, my sons James and Mitchel, my father and shareholders, my brother Michael and the thousand customers and friends who have supported our dream to come true, you know who you are.
As a cruiser who feel in love with Indonesia we have tried to build something at Marina Del Ray that provides a sailor safe haven and time to relax and enjoy our wonderful hospitality and we hope to encourage other cruisers the option to go your own way to Indonesia without the need of joining rallies, to slow down and take a lifetime to explore the largest island chain in the world that has the best year round climate without the constant threat of cyclones where we are relatively inexpensive at our tropical island paradise and a home for you and your boat to always be able to come back to.
Raymond La Fontaine
21st July 2020.