Big ideas are often the most successful ones though they usually come with the risk that they are just too bold and will not work. And then, of course, there is the additional risk of things happening that are completely out of your control!
So it happened when our first boat the SMY Ondina was launched back in October 2001 – just 30 days after the devastating terrorist attacks in New York. The 9/11 attacks were followed by several other significant events – not the least of which were the Bali bombings in 2002, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the incredible devastation in Aceh from the 2004 tsunami.
Things were not easy. It seemed like every year there was some kind of natural or man-made catastrophe sent to test our resolution. But we had faith in what we were doing with Ondina and, as word spread about the amazing diving along the archipelago, more people made the journey to Indonesia to dive with us. It really is a source of great pride for us that we were among a very small group of pioneering liveaboard operators that explored and opened up the vast Indonesian archipelago for international dive travellers…
Around 2006 we began to feel increasingly confident that we had overcome the worst of the storms that hit us in our first five years of operation. Our occupancy rates were increasing nicely, and the pioneering nature of what we had done in those years had led to easier logistics in the ports we visited as shops and services developed to service our needs.
Perhaps the thing we are most proud of is the high number of guests who come back time after time on board the Ondina. We call these people our “dear repeaters” and always reward them with special rates and addittional discounts on their trips. Repeat business is a very clear sign to us that we are doing things right with the boat, where we go, how we dive, and how we care for our guest when they are with us. Most of our repeaters have done around 4-5 trips with us. We even have some “super repeaters” who are well into doubling those figures and now they sometimes charter the whole boat and bring a party of friends with them!!
After every single cruise, we seek feedback from every guest who joins us and their comments and ratings on our services allow us to make continuous adjustments and improvements within our operation. The feedback from our repeaters is particularly valuable as they have experienced how we do what we do in different locations and have typically developed a deep understanding of how it all works.
As our business grew and our occupancy rates remained constantly high, we started to get feedback about alternative routes. We saw this as a very positive input though logistically difficult with just one boat. So in early 2016 we started to consider adding a second boat as a sister ship to Ondina, which would give us the flexibility to explore and offer alternative routes to our guests and specially to our dear repeaters.
The Second Boat…
Adding a second boat, when you have a well-established first one with a great reputation and loyal followers should be, in principal, a great idea. But get it wrong and you can do significant damage to everything you have worked so hard to achieve! We thought long and hard about how to go about it and it came down to two options – either we build from scratch another Ondina or we find a suitable boat and convert it to our very specific needs.
Replicating the Ondina seemed to us too challenging at those specific moments in terms of time and resources so we finally decided to go for option B and the search began for a suitable boat that we could turn into a great diving liveaboard boat.
Enter Xavi Garcia and Oceanic
Xavi Garcia, who had joined our team in Indonesia in 2014, greatly contrinute with the search for the right second boat and finally he found the Oceanic – a 28m boat that had been built in Kalimantan around 2012 for spear-fishing expeditions.
There were some really key points about the Oceanic that convinced us to invest in it. Firstly, she was built using the best timbers for a boat, a type of Indonesian wood calledulin. She also had an excellent main engine that was similar to Ondina’s, good gensets and installations, plus the overall design, layout and an open deck suitable to be turned into a spacious dive deck. Yes, she was ready to be suited the way we like. On the negative side, the interior had been finished in plywood and the general atmosphere was poor but we knew we could fix all that and the decision to invest was made!
The 100 Day Refit
Once that big decision was made Xavi took the lead in planning the refit and worked like a trojan to get it all completed – here is what was done:
- Oceanic went into dry dock so that everything below the waterline could be inspected and repaired as necessary.
- The main engine and gensets were completely overhauled.
- All the decks and superstructures were completely waterproofed.
- All the interiors were removed and made new with natural woods. To do this we flew in a team of the best boatbuilders from Ara, in South Sulawesi!
- Completely renewed all plumbing and electrical circuits and fittings.
- Installed new compressors, nitrox system and a complete filling station.
- New R.I.B. tenders with 50 hp 4-stroke outboard engines were acquired.
- Finishing and details to give it the final touch of comfort.
Xavi and Ricard were able to complete the refit in the 100 days that it had been planned for and in January 2017 Oceanic successfully made her maiden cruise from Bali to Komodo!
What This All Means…
Since completing all the work on Oceanic we have also done a major upgrade to Ondina so that both boats are now of the same high standard though we continue to position our rates at the most reasonable in the region. Having two such well-built, highly reliable and extremely functional boats give us the versatility we need to meet the needs identified from all the feedback we have received from our guests and collaborators.
Both Ondina and Oceanic use the proven mother ship concept developed by Ricard to ensure the best and the safest diving wherever we operate. Our crews are both highly trained and very experienced, plus they are led by the best Cruise Directors in Indonesia, assuring that the boat you embark is maintained and properly operated for the area of the Indonesian archipelago you will be diving in!
Our New Routes and Our Greatest Hits!
In upcoming newsletters and posts in our blog we will be telling you more about the new and exciting places we have explored, plus the new routes we are going to add to provide more variety to our actual proposals,what we call our “greatest hits”…Stay tuned, a lot of great work has gone into getting us where we are now and we would love you to enjoy it and become part it in the future!