Luxury is going slow and enjoying the scenery, taking time to bask in the finer aspects of life. Sailboats silently scream luxury. Onboard, time slows down. Life on land is suspended.
With no particular place to go and no particular time to be there – wherever ‘there’ turns out to be – the sea breeze whisks worries away. Relaxation has never been so, well, relaxing.
I spent a day aboard a 38-foot catamaran for a day of meandering in the waters off Phuket’s east coast. The boat’s name was ‘Hanuman’, and she was an Athena 38; built in France by Fountaine Pajot in 2003. According to the builder’s website, the Athena design “successfully combined beauty of form with intelligence of design, making manoeuvring, mooring, anchoring and stowage exceptionally easy, with the promise of happy days of cruising.” That’s a good promise.
- Phuket FantaSea Cultural Theme Park
- Phi Phi Islands Tour with Express Boat
- James Bond Island Full-Day Tour via Big Boat
- Coral & Racha Islands Full-Day Tour
- Whitewater Rafting & 4-Wheel-Drive Adventure
- Sea Kayaking at Ang Thong Marine Park
- Flying Hanuman Ziplining Experience
- Canoeing Excursion in Phang Nga Bay with Thai Buffet Lunch
- Introduction to City Tour
- John Gray's Cave Canoeing Tour in Phang Nga Bay
We set off from the Phuket Yacht Haven – its fleet of beautiful floating residents serving as an object lesson for the ‘stay in school’ message – at a respectable hour in the morning with a two-man crew. This is unusual, as the Hanuman normally sails sans crew. She’s reserved for guests who want to be captain of their own ship. But my boating experience is limited to sitting on a kayak while someone else paddles; proper sailing would be a stretch, so, for today, staff is provided.
I was blissfully unaware of our destination – or even if we had a destination – and it didn’t matter. Near the wheel, at the rear of the boat, is a horseshoe arrangement of padded seats wrapping around a table, all graciously protected from the sun by an overhead shade. With four cosy cabins, two bathrooms, and a kitchen, the boat is well equipped for a multi-night group outing. The clever storage areas – lots of latches, no wasted space – are an inner-child’s dream, making the boat’s interior like a spaceship – futuristic ingenuity. This was my home for the day.
After a couple hours of slow motoring we arrived at Koh Naka Yai, a small island off Phuket’s southeast coast. Boarding the dingy, we stormed a stretch of sand that was crowded with empty beach chairs and nothing else. The only other person was a vendor selling coconuts from a makeshift shack. As other sailboats drifted by in the background, we began the beach ritual: swim in amazingly clear water, dry off, soak up some sun, repeat. Phuket seemed years away.
Meanwhile, the crew was busy preparing lunch. Far too much Thai food sat ready to be devoured when we returned to the boat. Fresh fish, two chicken dishes, and stir-fried veggies were served at the rear table, where the island sea views changed, as if someone was flipping through channels on the television, as the boat gently rotated.
We sat there for two more hours – swimming off the boat, lounging on the bow, trying out the beds below deck, munching fruit – before returning to Phuket. More boats eventually arrived at the beach, but we were already finished with it. The freedom to beat the crowds, and to go where they aren’t, is what separates ‘luxury’ from ‘nice’. This was luxury.
In addition to the crewless ‘Hanuman’, three crewed (captain, crew, cook) yachts are also available that take the concept of luxury and multiply it. The ‘Cataleya’ is similar in style to ‘Hanuman’, but is 17 feet longer and can accommodate more guests. ‘Althea’ trades sails for twin 310-horsepower Volvo engines in a 44-foot waterborne mansion. But for the ultimate in luxury, the 89-foot ‘Lady Anita’ is a wooden yacht with five air conditioned cabins – each with a private bathroom – that has ample room for ten very fortunate (emphasis on ‘fortune’) passengers. Itineraries are customizable to fit your needs.
Charting a private yacht is an experience that’s beyond compare. Granted, the waters around Phuket – especially the Phang Nga Bay – are breathtaking under any circumstances. But the ability to take it in on your schedule, and follow your every whim and fancy from deserted island to secluded cove, is a luxury everyone should experience just once.