One of the main reasons to come to Phuket is for the spectacular sailing and boating. The province is positioning itself as a major cruising ground with the addition of several marinas. Currently, there are four completed marinas: Boat Lagoon, Royal Phuket Marina, Yacht Haven, and Ao Por Grand Marina. There is also a small government-run marina attached to the Chalong Pier – Chalong Bay has long been a favourite anchorage for yachts.
Other marinas are reportedly in the works – many of them private – but so far there have been no firm go-aheads on any of these.
In Phuket there is sailing all year off the east coast, in well-sheltered Phang Nga Bay, while the Andaman Sea (off the west coast) can become too rough for all but the most competent sailors during the wet season.
Phuket is home to three major regattas, with the most famous being the King’s Cup Regatta, celebrating the King’s birthday in early December. Around Chinese New Year (at the end of January), the Phang Nga Bay Regatta, promoted as the ‘fun regatta’, is a firm favourite. The wet-season regatta, known as Phuket Race Week, is the newest and most challenging, with lively seas and sometimes howling winds.
Even if you are not an avid sailor, you can enjoy the delights of boating by chartering a yacht for a day of sailing in Phuket – with or without crew – or joining in on a boat tour. One company offering a smaller tour that will suit those who prefer a more personalised experience that will fit most budgets is Phuket Sail Tours. The owner, Mark Pendlebury, aims to provide a family-type atmosphere on the boat, which carries a maximum of 10 passengers on day trips, or six on overnight trips. Another decent charter company with several fun catamarans is Andaman Sea Club (Tel: (086) 045 4634, Email).
We would also like to recommend the services of Faraway Yachting (20/28 Soi Suksan 2, Moo 4, Rawi. Mobile: (089) 909 6959, Email), who specialise in chartered cruises throughout Thailand, as well as to the Mergui Archipelago of Myanmar (Burma), the Indian Andaman Islands, and Malaysia. Expect unforgettable cruises to deserted beaches and rainforest islands on very well equipped yachts, all for a reasonable price. .
At the really high end is Silolona, an ultra-luxury wooden yacht that can accommodate 10 people in lavish comfort. Silolona is based in Bali, but does cruises along the Andaman coast and up into Burmese waters.
In Phuket there are dozens of boats of all sizes for charter, offered through a variety of different companies. Try Asia Marine (20/99 Moo 2, Phuket Boat Lagoon Marina, Thepkrasattri Rd., Koh Kaew. Tel: (076) 239 111) for one of the widest selections.
Fortunately for those who want to learn to sail, Phuket has the perfect conditions. Yachtpro (Email) offers the widest selection of courses, with accreditation from the American Sailing Association, International Sailing Schools Association, Australian Yachting Federation, US Sailing, and the Canadian Yachting Association. Sail in Asia, which specialises in team-building and group training, offers training to IYT (International Yacht Training) standards. Sunsail goes British with Royal Yachting Association-accredited courses.
Many cruise operators provide sunset cruises and one of the most spectacular ways to watch the sunset is from the deck of a junk. The Nakalay Junk (Thavorn Grand Plaza Hotel (3rd Floor), Tel: (076) 222 241, Email) runs a sunset cruise as well as a day jaunt, and you can even charter the entire vessel. Another junk, the June Bahtra, provides similar service.
For nostalgia, get aboard Seraph (Tel: (081) 797 1120), a beautifully-restored, 100-year-old Danish fishing ketch – day trips, sundowner trips or longer voyages. Group cruises can also be taken aboard Jabuticaba (177/29 Moo 4, Srisoonthorn Rd., Srisoonthorn, Thalang. Tel: (076) 620 214, Email), a Turkish-built, two-master that the owners tout as the ‘party’ boat. These are available for booking through local travel agents.
For something a little different, you can try an inland cruise with River Rovers (73/10 Pattana Rd., Moo 10, Chalong. Tel: (089) 875 8691), which travels through shallower, inland river routes to areas less frequented by tourists. Their tours include kayaking and visiting the sea gypsy villages and learning about the ecosystem of the weird mangrove forests.