Three young Britons move to Singapore to work. They head to Indonesia for their holidays: kite-surfing in North Sumatra, bumping along tracks in South Lombok on dirt bikes, surfing off West Sumbawa, and mucking around on boats in East Nusa Tenggara. Smitten, they toss in their jobs to focus on projects in Indonesia, among them building a yacht. But not just any yacht – a 31-metre contemporary version of a phinisi, a traditional Indonesian boat, that took a team of 40 craftsmen three years to build.
Working on a remote beach in South Sulawesi, where the craft originated, and without plans, the artisans used traditional techniques, such as bending ironwood over an open fire.
Co-founder Erik Barreto and his partners launched Rascal and their private charter business in March last year, taking groups of up to 10 guests on voyages to Komodo National Park and Flores, in the Lesser Sunda Islands, and to pristine Raja Ampat, off the north-west tip of West Papua.
"We spent time exploring the diversity and raw beauty of Indonesia," says Barreto, "and wanted to make it accessible to others."
Rascal has the lines of a phinisi but amenities designed for 21st-century fun. "We wanted to push boundaries," Barreto says. "Phinisis are full wooden boats and the cabins can feel dark and claustrophobic. The white walls, high ceilings and raw, unfinished timber floorboards really give Rascal's rooms that bright, beach-house feel."
The five cabins each have an ensuite, wi-fi audio systems, and the ambience of a tropical villa.
The boat dispenses with the twin masts typical of phinisis, creating breezy, open communal areas. By day the top deck doubles as a sunbathing space and diving platform; at night it becomes a starlit cinema. Guests lounge on rattan deckchairs in front of the bridge – the best views in the house – or on beanbags on the master cabin's terrace.
Among the crew of nine are a divemaster, two waitstaff, and a chef, who prepares menus designed by the team at Watercress, the popular rustic-hip cafés in Seminyak and Ubud. Formerly of Byron Bay, old friends Pablo Fourcard and Jordie Strybos launched the first (in Seminyak) in 2012 and their style is evident in a signature Watercress salad of organic greens, marinated feta, radish, pomelo, and crisp tempeh, served (onboard or at beach barbecues) with grilled fish caught off the yacht.
"We wanted the food to be light, fresh, healthy and to use locally sourced ingredients," says Barreto. The drinks menu is written by Proof & Company, best known for its speakeasy 28 Hongkong Street in Singapore. It also blended an exclusive Rascal Rum for sundowner cocktails on the deck.
Rascal can navigate anywhere in Indonesian waters and around its 17,500 islands, though the yacht largely divides its time between Komodo National Park and Raja Ampat. Guests might find themselves snorkelling with manta rays at Makassar Reef or kayaking around the mangrove forests of Yanggefo. Or embarking on unscripted adventures not yet captured on Instagram – itineraries are devised in tandem with guests, allowing maximum flexibility. There's only one restriction, as the yacht's motto indicates: "If coconuts don't grow there, we don't go there."
Rascal is available for exclusive hire only, for groups of up to 10 people, from $US9,350 per night for the entire boat (minimum three nights). A typical four-night itinerary in Raja Ampat, which includes all meals and non-alcoholic drinks, park and harbour fees, fuel and crew, costs from $US41,800. rascal-charters.com