A huge part of me has always been drawn to sailing and the open ocean. Unfortunately, the rest of me lives in a landlocked city, nowhere near the water.
Completely lacking any seamanship and a not wanting to spurge on hiring a crew and a private yacht charter, I was afraid I would have to forgo my dream of sailing. Then I discovered by the cabin charters. These allow couples and solo travelers (or even a small group) to rent a cabin on a luxurious yacht to enjoy all the adventure of sailing without any navigational abilities.
My significant other and I debated before picking Thailand for our first sailing adventure. While the Caribbean is a classic for pirates, there is something particularly breathtaking about Thailand. We had traveled there before and loved the experience but were sad that we weren’t able to see the amazing limestone bits of land called karsts that we’d seen in the movies. This would be our chance to see them up close, in person.
We began our trip with an added stopover in Bangkok to see the sights of the big city before flying on to Phuket in southern Thailand. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and it is perfectly positioned for access to world class sailing and snorkeling spots. The charter’s home harbor included wifi access along with a swimming pool and fitness center to keep us entertained until it was time to board. We were greeted at the yacht by our two-person crew. They would be providing all the sailing and navigation as well as cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout our 8-day sail.
Our cabin was cozy for two but quite comfortable. Our cabin charter included the use of snorkel equipment, linens, towels, and food and drinks so there wasn’t much we needed to bring with us. After quickly unpacking our swimsuits, shorts, and few changes of clothes, we were ready to explore. We met the two other couples who would be sharing our trip and, after a safety briefing by our crew, we settled in one of the comfy lounge areas.
Our crew set sail and departed for the island of Koh Nakha Yai. They made maneuvering out of the port and out to open water look easy. Honestly, sailing along with the wind, watching the incredible scenery go by was even better than I had envisioned. Sipping refreshing drinks as we sailed and chatted seemed impossible to top. That was until we arrived at Koh Nakha Yai. There we went for a swim in clear waters overlooking the beach and palm trees. Later I filled up a chunk of my camera’s memory card taking pictures of the ocean and approaching sunset before deciding to just sit back and enjoy the view and company.
In the following days, we traveled through a cave to reach a lake surrounded by high cliffs, visited the island where they filmed the James Bond movie, Man with a Golden Gun, and stopped at a floating fishing village. The limestone karsts were even more incredible up close. Towering over the water yet covered with lush vegetation on top, it was almost hard to believe they were real until we were able to see them in person.
I lost track of how many times we snorkeled, swam, and walked on sandy beaches. I wiggled my toes on the beach in Maya Bay where they filmed Leonardo DiCaprio’s film, The Beaches and enjoyed fresh fish and other local delicacies at each meal while viewing breathtaking scenery.
While I planned to document every big adventure and experience during our trip, it just wasn’t possible. It seemed like we were constantly seeing something new and wonderful. I didn’t want to miss a minute of it. The people of Thailand are known for being warm and friendly. This trip certainly proved that reputation was well-deserved. Everywhere we went we were greeted and made to feel at home. It didn’t seem like tourist areas where the locals are perhaps being friendly in order to make a sale. This seemed to be genuine warmth. From our yacht, we would wave to others sailing by and were always made to feel welcome.
The other two couples on our trip turned out to be excellent company and, in the evenings, we enjoyed sharing stories about our home countries and our favorite travels. The island areas we visited were filled with wildlife. The coral reefs were filled with sea life and it seemed like every time we snorkeled we saw different kinds of beautiful fish. Monkey and birds traveled from tree to tree in Koh Dam Kai. In Ao Nang we added “elephant rider” to our list of accomplishments and then followed it up with a relaxing traditional Thai massage.
The Sailing Experience
In spite of all the wonders we saw, the highlight for me was probably still being able to sail there. Speeding along on the water was both exciting and relaxing. There was such a sense of freedom, not being limited to a lane of traffic or having to stop for traffic lights. Free from engine noise we could better appreciate the natural wonders around us – and easily carry on a conversation with our other travelers. At night, the sky was illuminated not by street lights but by millions of stars. After each busy day, the gentle rocking of the boat would lull me to sleep.
Because the yacht could sail right up to where we wanted to be, there was no wasted time. We could jump right off the yacht and start swimming and snorkeling. Each day we visited at least one new destination, all without any packing or unpacking. Sea kayaks were onboard in case we wanted to paddle out further to explore. Our only complaint about the trip is that went by too quickly. We’re already talking about which country we should see on our next by the yacht charter adventure.