Sailingholiday around Phuket with S/Y Patrice
SAILINGHOLIDAY AROUND PHUKETS WITH S/Y ” PATRICE ”
When my good friends asked me to join them on a sailing holiday to Phuket and sail on a Classic Racing yacht from the period when yachts were safe, strong and beautiful, I told them that I was buried with work and couldn’t possibly get away. They persisted. The area around Phuket is one of the best cruising grounds in the world and we have chartered a very beautiful, fast sailing vessel called Patrice. Patrice was a previous winner of the famous Sidney to Hobart race, but now is changed into a comfortable cruising yacht.
It wasn’t that difficult a job for my friends to convince me that a 10 day, 9 night cruise on a 47 foot Sparkman and Stevens Swan would be an opportunity of a lifetime. They said that I would visit the same islands that for the last two thousand years attracted the Chinese and Indian merchant sailors who battled with Burmese and Indonesian pirates.
A few weeks later, I packed my suitcase with shorts, t-shirts, bathing suit, a few good books and a bottle of tanning lotion, and headed to the airport to meet up with my friends and catch the flight to Phuket.
The first night, we stayed in a nice hotel in Kata bay and had a good rest. The next day we jumped on board Aa local long tail boat which sailed out to Patrice from the white beach in Nai Harn bay.
Within minutes, I felt that I had made the right decision to leave my work behind me and join this cruise with my best friends.
The feeling of warm breeze, the clean greenish water, the blue sky and the eagles that soared overhead, seemingly without a care in the world, reminded me of all the cruising books in which I had read about world cruising, and now I was here.
Already I had begun to relax and within minutes there she was, the brilliant white, elegant hull softly gliding on the clean, dark blue water in the bay.
We were met by the owner, Bo Sondergaard, who had cold drinks ready. We were given a tour of the yacht and then assigned to our cabins. Patrice’s interior was made of solid teak which gave an impression of a cozy maritime atmosphere with blue cushions and glossy wood.
When we met up on deck, a lunch of various delicious Thai foods was being set.
“Welcome on board”, beamed Captain Bo, “you are about to explore some of the most beautiful islands in world. You can still find areas undiscovered – and untouched – by international tourism. You will not hear the noises of civilization, but the sounds of nature.” He explained
THE CRUISE. Phuket – Ko Racha – Phang Nah.
We started our cruise by heading to the distant and lovely Ko Racha. We set all sails and the boat gently heeled over, gained speed and Patrice showed herself as the ocean racer she once was designed to be. One and a half hours later, we slowly approached the beautiful island with snow white beaches and the land rising sharply up out of the Andaman Sea , with tropical vegetation spilling over the top.
We were quickly ready to hit the water with a complete line of snorkeling gear made available to us. We dove into the clear waters to discover beautiful colored coral pineapples, starfish and sea- anemones as well as a vibrant variety of brightly colored reef fish.
We went ashore and relaxed in the white soft sand overlooking the blue ocean outside the bay. The next day, we sailed from the beautiful paradise island and tacked north into Phang Nah bay.
Five hours later, we dropped anchor at a island soaring 900 feet straight out of the water.
“Time to get into the dinghy and explore the caves and the lake inside the cave”, the Captain announced. What an adventure. I had never in my life dreamed about a cave with a 200m long tunnel which would lead us to a forgotten world inside the rock. We cautiously entered the dark cave with torches in hand and moved towards a beam of light at the far end. Soon the ceiling fell away and we entered a hidden dark green lagoon enclosed entirely within the limestone walls of Ko Phangan. There was a jungle of tropical flora cascading down the walls onto the green water. We had entered a world only accessible during the lowest of tides, a private world that must have looked the same a thousand years ago.
Later we cruised to Ko Hong where we anchored and Bo and our cook Chamnien made a delicious barbeque on the beach with Thai specialties. After dinner we sat on the beach enjoying a drink of the local whiskey, the moon was shining and the stars sparkling.
Next morning we took the dinghy to explore more caves hidden in the rocks. We slowly approached the majestic island which rises sharply up out of the Andaman Sea . I had never dreamed that so many caves could hide in this bay. This was just one of the many discoveries we had to look forward to next week.
By our third day we sailed towards the Phi Phi islands. I hadn’t opened my books yet, so many things to see – the birds, the jumping fish and the stunning view of the Islands that dotted the far horizon.
Our captain decided we would moor at Maya Bay on the deserted Koh Phi Phi Le. This was the most dramatic and beautiful location we had visited yet. On the face of these white limestone cliffs are numerous caves with bamboo ladders perched precariously up the sheer sides. This is where pickers of the valued bird nests have done their dangerous work for at least two thousand years, according to Bo. These swallow’s nests are thought by the Chinese to have potent medicinal value and were harvested long before there was any permanent human settlement in the area. We sat on the deck of Patrice and felt taken away by the beauty and the history of the stunning island.
The next day we sailed to Koh Phi Phi Don. We arrived in the late afternoon sun and the sound of music from the cafes and nightclubs started at dark. Bo, our guide, offered to take us ashore for some fun. We made a trip to a cozy restaurant with a view over the bay, one of the world’s most beautiful bays, and were served a delicious, tasty Thai dinner. Later we made a visit to the bars and music places.
On the fifth day, we continued north. We could see the popular Ao Nang and Railie beaches in the distance. We were now in the heart of Krabi province and sailed around many islands that seemed so enticing to stop at. “Actually,” Bo explained, “although we have a certain course to follow, we have a lot of flexibility on the Patrice to suit the preferences of all our guests. There are so many beautiful islands to explore in the region between Trang ond Prang Nah Provinces that we follow the best course depending on sailing conditions.” We stopped for the night on a beautiful reef which connected Ko Da m hok and Ko Da m Khwan. At low tide, it is possible to walk between the two islands on snow white sand that gently massages the soles of the feet – the perfect place to lie in the shallow, turquoise waters and listen to the sound of the water lapping upon the shore.
By that point of the journey, we had gotten into a pattern of living on Patrice that was going to be difficult to give up once ashore. As the days passed, so did the memories of the daily grind we had all left behind. Each morning, a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast was served with coffee and tea before the first dive, snorkel or adventurous exploration. Lunches and dinners were generous plates of Thai and Asian delicacies cooked by Chamnien to suit western tastes.
Eating become our favorite pastime, not simply because the fresh food was so delicious, but also because of the friendly atmosphere and social talk on board.
Next day, we sailed to Phang Nah beach near Krabi. We entered some of the caves there. One is called the Princes cave with a golden limestone waterfall and huge limestone terrace hanging from the top of the cave, and another where we climbed a huge limestone boulder. Inside was a lake where we had a swim. The sight was simply amazing. Next day, we sailed into the upper reaches of Phang Nah Bay . The islands are closer together in Phang Nah but just as dramatic, rising straight out of the water, and changing from blue to green as we headed north.
Again, we took short dinghy rides into hidden bays and around sheer limestone walls stained with centuries of weathering. On one of the days, we were visited by people on small long tail boats who sold us the worlds most delicious prawns fresh from the bay. Chamnien cooked and served them with lime fresh bread and cold beers.
We felt sorry to leave this wonderful world just opened for us , but it is time for us to go back to the real world and our busy lives.
We sailed to the beach in Ao Chalong Bay and followed to the waiting minibus. What a great holiday! I would recommend it to anyone interested.
Thanks to our captain – Bo and his girlfriend Chamnien.
All the bedst from Jack Ian Rooney
Brisbane – Australia