Indonesian Borobudur sailing ship reaches Durban

Dec 2, 2003
Author: P&S


One of the strangest seagoing craft ever to visit Richards Bay and Durban arrived unexpectedly this week, partly as a result of weather and for other operational reasons.

The vessel in question is Samvdra Rausa, a replica of an 8th century Indonesian sailing ship which is on a voyage to recreate the ancient trading voyages between Indonesia and Africa.

The intention is to show how seafarers from Indonesia, using this type of vessel, were capable of making such epic voyages across the Indian Ocean more than 1,200 years ago, and that it was quite likely they who were responsible for spreading Indonesian influence and trade to Madagascar and the African mainland.



History records, but is seldom taught in Western circles, that for centuries the two regions were connected by trade and commerce, both from the Indonesian region and from China. Goods traded would have included spices and silks from the east and iron ore, ivory and skins from Africa.

According to the expedition currently in South Africa, the people responsible for this exploration were known as Austronesians and the most likely vessel used by them was that which is depicted on the Borobudur Temple dating back to the early 8th century, which has been replicated and is now visiting Durban.

The double outrigger vessel was carefully built by a team of Indonesian ship builders working accurately to the image found on a stone relief on the Borobudur Temple.

On Sunday, 30 November the Richards Bay National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) was requested to provide assistance to the vessel, which had encountered adverse winds and required a tow into port.

The expedition has since asked NSRI if some form of handover could be arranged for the respective NSRI stations down the South African coast, with each station contacting the craft at predetermined times and advising the expedition of any serious weather or sea conditions likely along the way.

Here is an excerpt from the Samvdra Rausa’s latest email to be found of the expedition’s website (www.borobudurshipexpedition.com) : Please visit the site for further updates if you wish to follow this epic voyage.

Durban, so near and yet at times not near enough…
The good weather window that most had predicted to last up to three days in fact lasted less than 24 hours. But by the time we got within 9 miles of Durban the wind was a reasonably fresh south westerly and dead ahead. We were only making about a knot of headway at best with our small long-tail outboard (underwater some say!) engines and there was a possibility that conditions would worsen. Our options were to either to turn about and head back to Richards Bay or call for a tow from the superb team at the National Sea Rescue Institute. We wisely took that latter option and are now moored in Durban harbour. We will wait for the next and hopefully longer-lived weather window before heading on towards East London and the Cape. We are a little disappointed we didn’t have just a couple more hours of the north easterly winds to bring us to Durban under sail but otherwise the crew are in good spirits.
Vessels name : SAMVDRA RAUSA
Registered : Djakarta
Call Sign: YC4483
Length: approx 15m
Beam: approx 8m
Construction: wood, twine and anything that floats!

Master: Alan Campbell
Chief Officer: Corrine Gillard
Expedition leader: Philip Beale

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