Despite its natural advantages and world beating assets, the growth in yachting and sailing has been slow to come to Thailand.
However that is about to change with Thailand's increased focus on the marine tourism market and the reduction of import taxes for
yachts in 2004. The country lays claim to the best all-season sailing waters in the world, and is poised to displace the traditional
charter destinations of the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
Phuket is unbeatable as a cruising base and hub, and it has the most advanced marine tourism infrastructure in Thailand.
The beautiful waters, islands and limestone karsts of Phang-nga Bay are just a few hours' sail east of Phuket.
Phang-nga Bay is bounded by the provinces of Phuket, Phang-nga and Krabi, and has over 100 spectacular islands. It is a popular
destination with day tours and kayakers exploring the bay's islands and sea caves. When exploring the bay in detail, a dinghy, or preferably a sea canoe, is useful to navigate the quaint little coves.
Despite its fame, it is still almost deserted by mid-afternoon.
You will encounter small, traditional fishing villages, some of them on stilts over the water. The friendly fishermen will often approach anchored yachts to sell prawns or crabs.
There is a common circular route taking in the three provinces that encompass Phang Nga Bay. This typically runs from the northwest corner of Phang Nga Bay,
(where there are plentiful and beautiful anchorages throughout the year), then a sail east and subsequently south to the Ko Hong group of islands (near Krabi),
which make a lovely overnight stop. Phra Nang (Krabi itself), is the next overnight stop for many.
Then there is an open sail south of Krabi to the Phi Phi islands for another overnight stop or two.
The Phi Phi islands are extremely beautiful and dramatic with a combination of palm-lined beaches and vast rock faces rising directly from the sea.
Finally complete the circle and the last leg back to Phuket.
The stunning Similan Islands are a day's motor-sail to the north west. These nine, low-lying islands are completely different geologically to the
karsts of Phang Nga Bay. Here, incrediblly large boulders of smooth granite lie in great jumbles along the shorelines.
To the south is the almost uninhabited Butang group of islands (Hat Chao Mai National Park). Just a little further is the
unspoiled island of Tarutao ( just 6km from the Malaysian island of Langkawi) - just one day's sailing from Phuket.
Tarutao island has many interesting caves and hidden creeks which lead into the mountainous interior; it used to be a penal colony but today it is an
island of mystery where time stands still.
The number of regattas at Phuket have increased over recent years, and now offer a good choice in terms of timing, style and specific location.
Aside from the competitive nature of racing in these beautiful waters, the events are also becoming well known for their relaxed informal beachside parties,
in which the warm Thai welcome, superb cuisine and the cultural charm play a large part.
Kings Cup Regatta
The high class Kings Cup Regatta is Asia's premier international sailing event, and takes place during the first week of December off the west coast of Phuket.
The King's Cup Regatta was inaugurated in 1987 to celebrate the 60th birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. It has taken place annually ever since then,
and is held under the Royal Patronage of HM The King, and organized by the Phuket King's Cup Regatta Organising Committee under the auspices of the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, in conjunction with the Yacht Racing Association of Thailand, the Royal Thai Navy and the Province of Phuket.
The Regatta typically attracts upto ninety yachts and has a very wide range of classes including racing yachts, cruisers, sport boats and classics.
It also provides for a big social event, with associated activities and legendery parties, especially at Kata Beach. The week's events close with the Royal Awards Ceremony.
Please visit www.kingscup.com for further details.
Tasar World Championship
From 2nd to 11th July 2007, the 13th Tasar World Championship will be held in Phuket. The Tasar class is a one-design, 4.5 metre, two person craft, and has a large following especially in Australia,
but boats and crew are also expected from Europe, North America and Japan. A total of about sixty boats will take part in this event.
The organizing authority for the regatta will be the Australian Tasar Council, which will run the event
under the auspices and guidelines of the World Tasar Class Association, Yacht Racing Authority of Thailand,
Asian Sailing Federation and the International Sailing Federation.
The HQ for the event will be the Cape Panwa Hotel.
Tasars may also be available for charter if there is sufficient demand.
Event details at www.tasarworlds.com
Formula 1 UIM Grand Prix
This power boat race will be held in Phuket in 2008. Please visit:
F1 boat race 2008
Phuket International Boat Show
Phuket International Marine Expo (PIMEX) is held annually, usually in December, and is a showcase for typically one hundred exhibiting companies not only from Asia but from around the
world. Historically it was held at the Boat Lagoon Marina but in 2007 ( 6th to 9th December ) it will be held at the Royal Phuket Marina. The Expo typically coincides with the King's Cup Regatta.
It is certainly a large event for luxury yachts, charter boats, marine services and equipment, as well as Phuket property, resort and lifestyle businesses, and is open to both trade visitors and the general public.
Visit: www.phuketboatshow.com for further details.
To book space at the Expo, email: email@example.com
Phuket Race Week
This event is steadily becoming one of Asia's most exciting low season regattas with a mixed fleet (IRC, multihull and charter fleet).
It is held annually in the quite breezy month of July and thus provides a good international challenge for the highly competitive crews from Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore.
The week's events are held at the 5-star Evason Resort and Spa (Ko Bon just off the coast of Rawai).
Visit: www.phuketraceweek.com for further details.
In contrast to other regattas, this one is by strict invitation only. It is a December rendezvous for graceful classic vessels and multi-million dollar motor yachts over 30 metres.
The event, which is organized by Seal Super Yachts Phuket and sponsored by Featship, is a fun sailing event with on-board cocktail parties culminating a superb gala dinner.
Details at: www.phuket-invitational.com.
Phang Nga Bay Regatta
This is a fun party atmosphere regatta with great course settings but with less desire in the actual winning. It is a four day event held during the Chinese New Year (January or February) in the spectacular scenic Phang Nga Bay.
There are typically about forty participants who sleep on their boats at different island bays each night. The regatta is sponsored by the maritime insurance company QBE.
The northeast monsoon season from November to May creates the best climate for sailing, with usually clear skies, calm seas with a steady temperature of 28C, and steady
winds. The best winds are from November to February.
During the south-east monsoon from May to November, sailing conditions in the Andaman Sea (off the west coast) are less favorable.
The western coast of Phuket is then exposed to a short swell, and occasional strong, onshore squalls.
Although the wind usually shifts to the northeast monsoon during late November, note that westerly squalls can sometimes occur upto late December.
However, in the calm and protected waters on the eastern side of Phuket, safe and exciting sailing is possible throughout the year.
Accordingly, there are no recommended anchorages on the west coast of Phuket from May to November, and they are only applicable from November to May.
The best anchor to use on the west coast is a Bruce or a Danforth, due to the harder sand lying just below the surface.
But the sheltered east coast offers year round anchorages. The three main Marinas ( Boat Lagoon, Royal Phuket Marina and Yacht Haven Marina) are all on the east coast.
Traditionally, the first port of call for visiting yachts is Ao Chalong in the far south east of the island.
West coast anchorages (late November to May only)
Nai Harn is a quiet sandy bay, in the south-west corner of Phuket, with two hotels, including the 5-star Le Royal Meridien Yacht Club. Anchorage is in 8 - 10 metres throughout the bay.
There is a tiny adjacent Jungle Beach (Ao Sane), - access to which is via a road under the Yacht Club - with anchorage in 10 metres.
Kata has a nice village atmosphere with a beautiful beach. There are a number of restaurants, hotels, bars, and small shops. The 4-star Kata Beach Resort, usually hosts the Phuket King's Cup Regatta.
The southeast corner of the bay has anchorage in 8 metres on sand.
Karon beach is a long two mile stretch, with several hotels, including some high rise ones, restaurants and shopping mainly focused at its northern point.
There is protected anchorage in 6 - 8 metres on a sandy bottom along the whole beach.
Patong beach is the most popular and busiest resort on the island. Patong has everything. There are numerous hotels (from 5-stars and boutiques down to budget hotels), excellent shopping, a vast range of
restaurants and a stunning nightlife. Fuel can be obtained here. The gently sloping sandy bay offers anchorage in 5 - 12 meters along its three kilometer length.
Kamala has a reasonably pretty bay. There has been only limited development and is not very touristy. There are a few hotels and several restaurants in a busy village atmosphere section.
The famous Phuket Fantasea Park is close by. You may anchor in 6 - 8 meters on a sandy bottom, but well out in the bay.
Laem Sing offers a real touch of paradise. This very small curved bay is a beautiful spot at the foot of forested hills just south of Surin. Access is on foot only down a steep path. There are basic amenities including a few daytime restaurants.
Anchor in approx. 10 metres on a sandy bottom.
Surin is a good sized sandy bay with a zoned public beach and no resort complexes. But there are several beachfront restaurants, bars and food stalls at it's southern end, and it is becoming increasingly quite popular.
Behind the beach there are also a few restaurants and small guest houses. Anchor in 10 metres on a sandy bottom.
Pansea is a very small and georgeous cove of white sand, just north of Surin. It is one of the best beaches on the island.
However it is essentially a private beach for the deluxe resorts of Chedi and the ultra exclusive Amanpuri. Anchor outside the hotel moorings in 10 metres on a sandy bottom. The hotels will allow you to
use their restaurants.
Bang Tao is a beautiful long sandy bay. Adjacent to the bay is the luxury resort complex of Laguna (comprising the Amora Resort, Bang Tao Resort, Dusit Laguna, Laguna Beach Resort, Sheraton Grand Laguna, Allamanda and Banyan Tree Phuket hotels) set in lovely grounds with several small lagoons and golf course.
Anchorage is in front of any of the hotels (8 metres on a sandy bottom). The complex offers a wide range of tourist facilities and restaurants.
Twixt the rocky headland, north of Bang Tao, are essentially three peaceful idyllic sandy beaches (including Naithon Noi and Naithon). There is however a new hotel development. Anchor at the middle section in approx 8 metres on a sandy bottom.
Nai Yang is a long curving bay lined with casuarina trees. There is quite a large coral reef with many species of fish. The northern end forms part of the Sirinath National Park. At the southern end, there are a couple of good hotels,
and a few small, open-air restaurants and shops. Anchor in front of the two hotels in approx 8 metres on a sandy bottom (avoiding the reef outcrop).
This is Phuket's longest beach, stretching for some seven miles. It can be a very lonely and isolated place. But there has been some development
such as the JW Marriott Resort. Anchor close to the Marriott about 100 metres offshore. The beach is quite steep, and is most definitely not
recommended from May to November due to strong currents.
East coast anchorages and Marinas
The large relatively shallow bay of Ao Chalong lies in the far southeast of the island and provides anchorage throughout the year. It is usually the first port of call, especially for the formal checkin of visiting yachts. On shore there are restaurants and marine service providers, and the Ao Chalong Yacht Club.
There is an 800 metre concrete jetty which can get quite busy. A floating pier head caters for larger vessels. Anchor in about 5 metres on a muddy bottom keeping clear of the concrete jetty. Bear in mind that the north of the bay has shallow sandbanks, and that there is also a shallow sandbank just south of the jetty.
About 8 kms due south of the large island (Ko Lon) in the middle of Chalong Bay lies Coral Island (Ko Hae), which is popular with day visitors. There are a couple of small sandy bays with live coral, and the anchorage lies due north (centre) and due south (centre) of the island.
The eastern side of Chalong bay is partially bounded by the Cape Panwa peninsular. On the southwestern tip of the Cape are Fisheries and Marine departments and the Phuket Aquarium, and a concrete jetty. Anchor on a muddy bottom in about 5 metres, avoiding the jetty, and fish/pearl farms.
Nearby is the small fine bay, with anchorage, of Ao Yon - onshore is the original Phuket Yacht club.
By proceeding further north west along the cape, one can access a small sandy beach known as Panwa Bali. There are a few expensive private houses and a couple of restaurants. Anchor here to visit a nearby mango swamp, and to access the good views from the central hilly part of the Cape.
Proceeding north, on the northeast coast of Cape Panwa is the Deep Sea Port at Ao Makham (opposite Ko Taphao Yai whose north west tip provides good anchorage). This is not a very pretty spot, but is useful if one wishes to visit Phuket city.
Just east of Phuket city is the island of Ko Sirey, which in fact is merely seperated from Phuket island by a small river. At the southern end of the river are three boatyards (and also the main fishing depot).
These yards can now handle keelboats but seek advise from one of the marine service providers. Anchor due south of the mouth of the river.
The Boat Lagoon
Royal Phuket Marina
The Boat Lagoon (opened in 1995) and Royal Phuket Marina (built in 2005) lie a couple of kilometers from each other and midway along the eastern coast. Both are approached via a three kilometer creek (Klong Tha Rua) from the bay of Ao Tha Rua (aka Ao Sapam).
The Klong Tha Rua was the original port of Phuket some one hundred years ago. Both Marinas provide world class facilities and services.
Boat Lagoon is a circular 168 berth lagoon, and is the centre of marine services in Phuket; it also stages the annual Phuket International Boat show - PIMEX every December. There are serviced apartments, condominiums, a hotel and restaurants and shops.
For visiting boats, there is a chandlery as well as water, fuel, repairs and maintenance services.
If you need to lift your boat the Boat Lagoon has travel lifts and hard stand areas.
There are also boat charters and tour companies in addition to a host of marine service companies.
VHF channels: 71 & 67
The Royal Phuket Marina initially had berths for 76 yachts at depths of four metres. It's second phase will add 250 berths at a depth of 3.2 metres in an innner locked basin, and a prestige home development. The Marina has excellent services and facilities.
for further details.
Ko Kai Nok, Ko Maiton
Ko Yao Yai, Ko Rang Yai
Phuket and Phang Nga Bay are blessed with a multitude of neighbouring islands, many of which provide superb anchorages and quaint little coves and bays.
Proceeding north along the eastern coast from Chalong, these include Ko Kai Nok, Ko Maiton,
the quite large island of Ko Yao Yai, and Ko Rang Yai just off the coast from Boat Lagoon.
Ko Naka Yai and Ko Naka Noi
Further north, the islands of Ko Naka Yai and Ko Naka Noi (the home of a cultured pearl farm) are of interest.
The mainland bay of Ao Po is the main departure point for boats to Ko Naka Yai and Ko Naka Noi. Just around the headland, the Ao Po Grande Marina opens in late 2007 and will provide 195 berths.
And 500 metres offshore, on the small island of Ko Reat, a high-end villa development will open in 2008 at Barama Bay - this will include a 73 berth deep water access marina.
Yacht Haven Marina
Tucked away in the far north of Phuket island and just south east of the Sarasin bridge, is the Yacht Haven Marina at Laem Phrao. This Marina has more than 200 berths and, along with Boat Lagoon and the Royal Phuket Marina, is regarded as one of Phuket's top three marinas.
Yacht Haven can be accessed from the east on all tides. All berthings are entirely free-floating, and the marina is very sheltered.
On shore there is the marina office, dockside service companies, a restaurant, general facilities, and work facilities for smaller jobs.
One reason for its popularity is its close proximity to the numerous karst islands in the heart of Phang Nga Bay.
VHF channel: 68
There are numerous boat charter companies offering bareboats, luxury sailing yachts and shared join-ins (including crewed), and liveaboards.
In addition, there are game fishing charters, lovely junks, and even high speed water taxi services.
Toppers, dinghies and beach catamarans are available for hire at most major beaches.
Many hotels have boats that their guests can hire. If you are a novice to sailing, you can hire someone for a small fee to take you out.