Thursday, 30 April 2015

Thailand Yacht Charter

We are fortunate enough to have been able to charter a yacht in Thailand. As we have spent so much money on our own boat, it meant that funds were rather limited in terms of what we could spend on the charter. Unfortunately, this meant, we were unable to afford to even consider *Sunsail, especially as they were considerably more expensive in comparison to everything else available.... not that there was a huge amount of choice.

Most of the smaller boats we tried to charter were already booked up, so in the end, we chartered a heavily discounted Hanse 400 called Kinnon, through Asia Marine. Really, this should have been the first clue. Lets just say, the boat was a rather tired 2007 model.

On arrival, we were greeted by the Asia Marine representative, who talked us through various anchorage and victualling possibilities. We were taken through the usual technical and safety briefing and given a pilotage guide and various charts. We were supplied with a large cooler box filled with ice, which was a very thoughtful gesture.

Hanse 400 (2007 model) Pros & Cons

Hanse 400 called Kinnon

  • Good sized boat with a decent sized cockpit
  • Auto tacking jib
  • Large fridge with a top and side entrance (this makes access so much easier)
  • Teak cockpit
  • Good sized cabins with ample storage
  • Boat feels solid & well made
  • Double sink
  • No clutter on deck as all lines are out of sight and lead back to the cockpit


  • Single wheel
  • Gear throttle not in an intuitive spot - Bavaria 37 does this better
  • 3 cabin layout - we would have preferred 2 cabins with an extended galley
  • No way of securing shower door - it tends to swing about if the boat heels
  • **Manual sea water pump-out loos -  this is the 21st century, sailing can be civilised!

The Condition of the Boat

  • Where to start? Well, on day 1, we had an almighty rain storm, which lasted for several hours. Thanks to the rain storm, we discovered that the hatches leaked and the Bimini & spray hood had clearly not been weatherproofed at all... seeing as the rain was coming straight through it. Thank goodness the boat was well stocked with cooking pots, as we had to place these underneath the various leaks coming through the hatches. The Bimini & spray hood particularly annoyed me, as it is cheap and quick, to weatherproof these bits. I have used Renovo Ultra Proofer on both our spray hood and in the past on a rather old canvas soft-top on my car. Both are weatherproof and the cost was minimal, especially in comparison to the comfort. A 500ml bottle costs approximately £14.
  • The floors were generally scuffed and worn - this is to be expected with a charter boat of that vintage.
  • The Gib sail was either stretched to hell and gone or completely the wrong size for the boat. The track for the main sail was very sticky and in need of lubrication and the Lazy Jacks Sail Bag was in pretty worn condition - one of the Lazy Jacks snapped.
  • The dinghy and its motor had both seen better days and I think both are pretty much on their last legs.
  • In terms of cleanliness, the boat was fairly clean. It was however, annoying that the shower filter is clearly not cleaned between charters. Removing someone else's wad of hair from the filter was stomach churning to say the least. It was not helped by the fact that there was a further bundle of hair shoved up the hose leading from the filter. I still get shivers up my spine thinking of it.
  • The charts were plastic coated. This is one of those ideas that, sounds sensible but doesn't translate very well into practise. The coating had done something to the writing and symbols on the chart, which made the writing pretty much illegible. 
  • No extra rope was included on board. Annoying at best.

Thailand as a Charter Destination:

We flew into Phuket and after recovering in a hotel for 2 days, caught a taxi to Yacht Haven Marina. From Yacht Haven, we were able to get a taxi to the Thai version of Tesco, to victual the boat.

From the Marina, we headed North for the first couple of days, to investigate the Hongs. The water in the North is more of a green emerald colour and in April, it was 30 deg C...piss warm... We visited all the typical islands you would expect to (James Bond Island and so forth and so on). John even took me on a tour of Bat Shit Cave. This is obviously not it's real name... because I can't remember it but it was full of bats and bat shit. We managed to miss the deluge of canoeists going in with their head-lamps, mainly because they decided that night time was the right time to explore. Very odd because as far as we were concerned, that was beer-o-clock... or cocktail-o-clock, depending on your preference.

Bat Shit Cave
We didn't get enough time to explore as much as we wanted in the South. From what we did explore, the South has slightly cooler water temperatures in April; 28 deg C versus 30 deg C, which makes it a bit more pleasant. The sea is a bit clearer and the water tends toward a turquoise blue as opposed to emerald green.

Some of the islands we visited:

Krabi: not my favourite. Too crowded and noisy. Although, the Lady-Boys made for good people watching. To top it off, I was stung by a Jellyfish, which was pretty much ALL John's fault. I had seen a jellyfish floating about, so I asked my supposedly dutiful husband to keep an eye on it, whilst I had a very quick dip, to cool down. He watched it swim underneath the boat and the continue on to sting me on the arm and the arse. Divine justice was served up when I demanded he return to shore and find some soothing ointment. The Gods smiled down when he neglected to check the fuel level in the tender, which meant that on his return trip from shore, I had the satisfaction of watching him paddle at least half the distance back! Rather helpful at relieving the intense burning of the jellyfish stings, which left raised itchy sections of skin for the next 3 weeks. Pity he didn't run out of fuel sooner.

Although not my favourite spot, we discovered it was not a bad place to stock up on water, alcohol and food. We caught a tuk-tuk to their local supermarket and he waited, whilst we did our shopping and brought us back. Quite an experience... a bit like watching death racing toward you.

The View from Inside the Tuk-Tuk

Kho Pipi: Although busy, this had a good local feel to it. Loads of very tasty street food and good victualling opportunities. Slight annoyance was that their water facility for boats was out of order.
Crispy Chicken and Savoury Rice

Tasty Squid

James Bond Island: immediately recognisable. Makes you feel like you are on a Hollywood set. Appealed more to John's Bond fascination, than mine. I might have been more interested if Daniel Craig was to be seen exiting the water in very little swim shorts.

James Bond Island sans any Near Naked Men

PhangNga Bay: Well worth a visit. Amazing limestone rocks, which seem to rise up straight out of the sea. The rocks are also decidedly phallic in nature and therefore, massively appealing to my juvenile side. Some beautiful lagoons to explore.

Kho Khai Nok: This is a fantastic little island. It is better to get there mid afternoon, so you can still enjoy some of the stalls and food but don't have to tolerate the ***Longtail boat day-trip hoards for very long. By about 5pm, they have all packed up and left and you can enjoy the peace and privacy with a little bit of snorkeling in the buff.... The snorkeling here was truly like being in a tropical fish tank. Very colourful and massive schools of fish including the very colourful Sergeant Major Fish, Trigger Fish and Angel Fish.

Naka Yai: This was a fabulous spot, especially, once all the speedboats and Longtails had cleared off, with their masses of tourists. Although, it was with great glee, that I noticed one of the tourist speedboats, was called SuperPorn!!!! You couldn't make it up.

We went ashore with our somewhat knackered tender and enjoyed some superb Mai Tais and Pina Coladas. Absolutely yummy. Beautiful views, yummy cocktails and a quiet anchorage. What more could you want?

Would we Charter in Thailand Again?

Absolutely! The food and scenery are amazing. Make certain you try the Green Papaya Salad - absolutely superb! The people are friendly and helpful. It was a wonderful experience, unfortunately, not long enough but really enjoyable. 

Things to remember: 

  • Supermarkets will only sell you alcohol between 11am & 2pm and then between 5pm & 12am each day. Supermarkets enforce this , although, it is enforced sporadically from local smaller shops.
  • Wine is heavily taxed and therefore, quite expensive.
  • The colloquialism for the local Chang beer, is Changover. Read into this whatever you will.
  • Fill your water tanks whenever you get the opportunity. Thailand is not as well set up for chartering as the Med is.
  • Try the streetfood. It is superb.
  • Buy plenty of bottled water. You will drink far more than you expect. Ditto with beer.
  • Thai Charters are flexible about the length of charter, as well as the start and end days. We collected our boat on the Monday and returned it on the Sunday. When researching charters, we had no issue with the length or timing of the charter. Don't expect this in the Med.

*Sunsail: In hindsight, Sunsail would have bee a much better bareboat charter option. We happened to stop in at Ao Po Grand Marina to top up our water & fuel tanks, ice supplies and of course beer and wine. Sunsail just so happen to have their Phuket base in the marina. Walking round and looking at the Sunsail boats, it has to be said that from what we could see, they were in considerably better condition and they even had a BBQ mounted off the pushpit. Aside, from which, AO Po Grand Marina is far better base to explore from as you don't have to travel for at least a day before you get somewhere interesting. The marina staff were also very helpful with our shopping requests.

**Manual Sea Water Pump-Out Loos: This is truly a particular sailing bug-bear. I simply cannot understand why people insist on having sea water manual pump-out loos. Quite frankly, they are barbaric. They stink and they are absolutely unpleasant. If you can't get your wife to go sailing with you, well, look at your loo!You would not tolerate that smell at home, so why tolerate it on your boat. I think what annoys me the most is the curmudgeonly waffling explanation, from sailors, who have never used and electric fresh water flush loo, pontificating about how it is bound to block. No it isn't. In fact motor boaters who tend to be a little modern in their thinking, manage just fine with electric fresh water flushing loos. Fancy that... it is possible to come out of the cave and join the 21st century with a non stinky civilised loo experience.

***Longtail boat:  The Longtail boat seems to be a extremely popular form of water transport in Thailand. The reason it is called a Longtail is because the propeller is mounted on the edge of a rather long pole. This is used for both steering an propulsion. The boats tend to be somewhat banana shaped with a rather large battery and a car or truck engine (probably whatever engine can be cheaply sourced) as a means of power. They have a somewhat DIY quality about them.

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