Tribute to a Visionary: Patti Seery
Seery was the driving force behind Silolona, Si Datu Bua and the entire luxury phinisi charter industry, which she pioneered in tribute to her love of Indonesian culture.
The yachting world mourns a pioneer of the industry, following the death of Patti Seery, the founder, visionary and trailblazer behind the world-class private charter phinisi operator Silolona Sojourns.
Founding Silolona Sojourns in 2004, Patti Seery became a well-known and respected figure, not only in Indonesia but around the globe, for her achievements in the protection and preservation of cultures, traditions, art and architecture of her beloved Indonesia and indigenous tribes in the region.
In 1990 she became cultural liaison for ‘Dynamics of Irian’, a cultural exhibition featuring Asmat artists and Dani Chiefs. The exhibition travelled the breadth of the United States, showcasing the intricacies and anthropology unique to the cultures and traditions of the tribes that at the time was little-known outside of Indonesia.
In 1998 Seery organised and collected a private exhibition of Asmat Art, leading a group of Asmat drummers and traditional carvers, on a cultural exchange across the United States. As a result of this, Asmat leaders met with Native Americans to further develop their vision to form the ‘Lebaga Musyawarah Adat Asmat’ – a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the protection of tribal environments and cultures across the Indo-Pacific.
Patti’s love of Indonesia went deep. When the environmental disaster El Nino devastated Indonesia’s Baliem Valley in the 1990s, the sweet potato crop of the Dani people, which was central to their survival, was decimated. To prevent many from starvation, Patti raised funds for food and medical care for villagers and the tribe. Later that same year, she initiated a local mapping project of Dani tribal areas in the region – a first step in establishing legal land ownership of ancestral lands of the Dani.
Returning back to Indonesia and the Baliem Valley, she had made such an impact on the hearts of the Dani tribal communities that she was adopted into the Dani tribe by respected tribal Dani Chief ‘Siba’ and given the name ‘Herage’ – an honour that no foreigner since has been bestowed. The Dani people never forgot her love for them and later, throughout Silolona Sojourns expeditions, villagers joyfully recall their meetings and love of Patti.
It was Patti’s first phinisi, however, the MSV Silolona, that put her on the map. Following years of travel and exploration with her family to the furthest reaches in Indonesia using traditional Indonesian wooden cargo ships, her love of the sea and in the preservation of this form of transport, saw her search for her own phinisi builders. Finding them in Sulawesi, the Konjo boat builders she employed would go on to build the yachting industry’s ultimate phinisi.
The boat was built traditional Indonesian boatbuilding techniques and fulfilled internationally acclaimed German Lloyd’s standards.
“My goal was to create a traditional hand-crafted vessel that spoke of the history of the Spice Trade and embodied the spirit of the Indonesian archipelago, whilst ensuring the highest standards of safety and comfort,” she wrote in her journal.
Patti’s accounts of those early building days in remote Sulawesi make for fascinating reading. The boat builders and Patti set up a makeshift camp using jungle vines and bamboo, creating a rustic onsite camp in which she lived and worked alongside the Konjo builders.
All 164ft of Silolona, with its breathtaking black sails, intricate carvings native to the Konjo and Patti’s personal collection of Indonesian textiles and art, is in keeping with Indonesian traditions both architecturally and in terms of interior design. The result is a mesmerising, unsurpassed vessel of history and beauty, exactly what she had set out to achieve.
With the completion of MSV Silolona came the birth of her company Silolona Sojourns which since inception has been providing guests with a unique insight into Indonesia and the Indonesian peoples. Leading many of the earlier sojourns herself, Seery was extremely passionate and at home, leading her guests into the heart of Indonesia. A fluent speaker of Indonesian and native tribal languages of the region, her knowledge of Indonesia was extraordinary.
Silolona Sojourns brings far-flung destinations alive, in a way that’s as much part of the experience as travelling on the phinisi itself. Seery’s handpicked crew, which remarkably still includes many of the original crew from the very beginning of Silolona Sojourns, deliver exceptional experiences and interactions under the very guidance and vision Seery trained them to deliver – building bridges and lifelong friendships between foreign guests and local communities.
Following the success of the Silolona build, Seery went on to grow her fleet with an ambitious second phinisi – Si Datu Bua (Beloved Princess) in 2012. Using the same Konjo builders, she brought in her son Tresno, a US-trained naval architect, to conceptualise a smaller phinisi, using the same concepts of tradition with modern standards and comforts.
Since her passing, tributes have flooded in for Patti Seery. “I would like to pay my respects to a legendary woman. Patti did so much for the boating industry in Indonesia. She brought the phinisi to an internationally recognised level. We are all following her path. Rest in peace, Patti,” said Boum Senous, a fellow yachting industry member.
In 2019, Seery decided to step back to allow her time to enjoy her many passions, but not before
scaling her business to five destinations also including Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and the Andaman Islands, delivering the same style, grace and authenticity of her Indonesian sojourns.
In late 2019, she handed over the helm of Silolona Sojourns to her son Tresno, announcing him as CEO. Tresno was the perfect choice to take the company into the future. A distinguished naval architect, Tresno has spent most of his life exploring with Patti aboard her phinisis. A passionate adventurer, Tresno recently welcomed a new generation into the family with the birth of his daughter Phoenix.
While Patti’s death has left a hole in the private charter world, the travel and yachting industry waits to see how Silolona Sojourns scales and develops under Tresno’s leadership and vision, and bids to overcome one of tourism’s most difficult periods in 2020-2021.
For enquiries please reach out to Silolona Sojourns; firstname.lastname@example.org