Small Ship Cruise | Indonesia

Courtesy of Silolona

I fell in love with Silolona the moment our tender pulled up to the magnificent phinisi (traditional Spice Route sailboat) off the shore of West Papua, Indonesia. It likely helped that I was with Patti Seery, the American expat who handbuilt this five-cabin teak boat (with a skilled team of Indonesian craftsmen) and now sails on it often, guiding expeditions throughout the archipelago.

My enchantment grew when we set sail and the crew — 17 of the friendliest, most hardworking men I’ve ever met — blew conch shells, sang, led us dancing around the deck and gifted us with beads (an act they’d reprise when we crossed the equator and again when we reluctantly disembarked). Not two hours in, I was hooked.

The next nine days cruising through Raja Ampat meant sunrise paddles on a kayak or stand-up paddle board, fluffy eggs, epic dives, lavish lunches (Japanese one day, Thai the next), sunset lounging on the daybed atop the prow, dinner under the stars. The cabins belowdecks were lovely, each boasting artifacts from a different Indonesian island (Javanese batiks, Asmat masks), but life outside was more so.

I did do some work, completing my scuba certification (the Silolona is an official PADI center). I'm not sure which I'll remember more: doing my last skills test with 15-foot manta rays swimming overhead or the wisecracking divemaster Goris giving me my certificate during the Balinese-style farewell ceremony — the perfect finale to a week of singing, dancing and feasting.