Selamat tinggal Langkawi, Sawadika Phuket
Updated: Oct 18, 2020
Mid-December, we decided to sail up to Phuket. We visited Thailand several times before, for work and for vacation. We had already enjoyed two Sunsail charters, once earlier that year and another five years ago on our first charter together. We were familiar with the area and excited to go back on Skylark to our favorite locations.
We decided to make Phuket Yacht Haven Marina our home base since it was close to the airport and they had availability. We made a booking for the three weeks that we would leave Skylark and arranged for yacht care. We picked Vince at Phuket Yacht Care based on the positive reviews and the level of service he offered. We would get full weekly system checks and email reports, daily line checks, deck cleaning, and interior cleaning before we returned. He could also arrange for anything to be fixed or added while we were away. This allowed us the luxury of returning from work to a fully functional boat that is clean and ready to go.
We invited our friend Slater, whom we met in Langkawi back in November, along for the journey. He was already on vacation in Malaysia after delivering a power yacht from Langkawi to the Maldives. After his vacation, he would be heading back to the Maldives to continue to Europe via the Red Sea. One month ago, we waved Slater and Darcy off in Langkawi as they set off for the Maldives. We were excited to see him again and have him on board!
We spent the last two week of December carefully crafting a route from Tokyo to Langkawi. Many of the flights were sold out due to the holiday season. We found a good route from Tokyo-Mumbai-Kuala Lumpur-Langkawi. Although a nearly 24-hour trip seemed ridiculous, we arrived at the same time as if we would have waited around Tokyo all day and taken the shorter flights. Another reason I pushed for this plan was because I looked up the restaurants in the Mumbai airport and saw a tempting Indian restaurant, the Indian Kebab Grill. It was not the first time my stomach dictated our travel plans.
When we arrived in Mumbai, we were exhausted since we had trouble sleeping on the flight, so rather than feast on Indian delicacies for five hours and check out the lounge, we went to a short-stay hotel. Thankfully, after our four-hour stay, we had a flight delay. Normally, I wouldn’t be excited about a flight delay, however this allowed us to stop for chicken tikka and a curry at the Indian restaurant next to the gate. To add to this great fortune, it was a satellite location of the restaurant I had found online earlier that inspired this routing. Mission accomplished. If we went all the way to Mumbai and did not enjoy some local treats, it would have been a waste.
Onboard Malaysia Airlines, we both were able to sleep. It was our first time traveling internationally on Malaysian business class and I wasn’t about to pass up some Malaysian hospitality before a snooze. I had a crisp glass of champagne, some of their signature satay, and then was off to sleep.
We met Slater at the gate in Kuala Lumpur and took the same flight to Langkawi. We traveled for nearly 36 hours this time to reach Skylark and thankfully our series of naps along the way gave us energy to continue.
We dropped our bags off, provisioned, and completed the check out procedures with immigration and customs. It was efficient since we hired an agent in Langkawi who advised us what time was best to avoid the ferry rush and she had all the paperwork pre arranged. We were coasting on caffeine, adrenaline, and a rush of dopamine for the adventures ahead. It took us only three hours to complete all the preparations and set sail for Thailand around 1 pm.
We anchored the first night off of Langkawi to get a proper rest before continuing into Thai waters. Fatigue risk management is important and we didn't want to be too exhausted. Dutyfree champagne, amazing weather, and great company was a fantastic start to the trip!
The following morning we were up early. There is a two-hour time zone change from Japan, and once the sun is up it gets quite bright inside the cabin. We had coffee, apple cider vinegar, and I practiced some light yoga. This, combined with a spectacular sunrise, made for a great start to the day.
We sailed most of the way to Phuket and received many useful sailing tips from Slater. Slater grew up on a sailboat, has an engineering degree, has completed several ocean crossings, and is currently working on a boat, so he is a wealth of information. It is great to have a competent, helpful friend like Slater on the boat!
Also, my dad would be happy to see somebody using the Crocs he left behind. (Chris would rather cut his feet up on jagged rocks then wear Crocs.) And Chris’s mom would be happy to see somebody drinking the Mountain Dew she left. Thanks Slater, for posing for a pic to keep our parents happy! There is nothing going to waste on Skylark!
The check in process at Chalong Pier was quite efficient since Chris had copies of all the required documents ready to go and completed the pre-check online. We stopped by the Harbor Master, Immigration, Quarantine and Customs. We were in and out within one hour and went for a fabulous lunch at Kein Pier restaurant, a Skylark Preferred Restaurant. We had an amazing cinnamon iced coffee, oysters, green curry, fried pork belly, and a papaya salad. It was not Thai-level spice this time since Slater isn't a spice hound like me and Chris. While cooking on the boat, we slowly stepped up the spice level. We wish for all our friends to experience the same level of pain that we somehow enjoy.
That afternoon, we sailed off for Nai Harn beach. We had plans to meet Darcy and his friend Mailee for drinks on the boat and then go ashore for dinner. After several drinks aboard, we found an Italian restaurant with a great view of Skylark. We love leaving our spreader lights on when we go to a seaside restaurant so that we can gaze out and see our lovely boat. We also never have any issues finding our boat when we come back in the dark when the spreader lights are on. It is one of my favorite features of the Amel 54, and it is unique for boats of its size.
Trattoria del Buongustaio offered free dance lessons that night. There was an outgoing Russian dance instructor who taught us to salsa in between eating pizza and pasta.
It was somewhat of an early night because the following day, Darcy had a flight to catch. He was returning to the Maldives. We danced until sailors' midnight and then retired to the boat.
Early the next day we sailed north towards Yacht Haven Marina. We stopped overnight at the Santhiya resort on Ko Yao Yai for drinks and dinner. Here there is a beautiful jetty bar with a spectacular sunset view. There is a minimum spend of 1000THB (33USD) per person for outside guests, but we managed to reach that threshold between drinks and food quite easily. Funny enough, three months later we would go there during the Covid slowdown and there was an online special for $45USD/night, including breakfast, as well as specials for in-house guests like 2 for 1 drinks during happy hour and 30% off at their restaurant…I’m always on a hunt for a good deal, so I just booked a room for a few nights and we would have breakfast and enjoy the facilities. This saved us from spending 1000THB/person at the bars or restaurants and we could leave our dingy at the jetty guilt free since we were registered “guests.” Chris initially thought I was ridiculous for booking a room. He rescinded this judgment once he enjoyed a lengthy shower in our air conditioned room and indulged in a deluxe breakfast that would have cost us 20$/person if we had just rocked up. We also felt more justified accepting the offer from their staff to cart eight bottles of Songsam and three cases of beer down the jetty. We were their hotel guests after all.
We walked along the beach and found 'Mama seafood,' a resort that had fantastic Pad Thai and green curry. I’m sure they had other amazing dishes too, but we stuck to the good ol’ classics we knew at this point. They did not sell alcohol on the premises, but there was an agreement with a lady who sold beer and wine next door. We bought a couple large bottles of Chang and enjoyed a fantastic meal. Another great day in Thailand.
The final night out on this trip we anchored next to Koh Panak. There were spectacular cliffs nearby giving lots of protection. We went by dingy into a nearby cave along with some touristy kayaks. We turned back about half way since it was crowded and spooky.
We docked at Yacht Haven Marina a few days before our departure back to work. We had several tasks to complete:
Fold away the FRIB. Our dingy folds up and fits into the lazarette. It is very convenient for storing away for weeks at a time to prevent sun damage and not take up deck space.
Meet with Skylark's new yacht care manager, Vince. Vince met us at Skylark and we gave him a list of the tasks to be completed: daily line checks, weekly engine runs and systems checks, full interior cleaning before we return (including laundry), a full exterior polish, and fixing our VHF radio that was intermittent.
Buy new 100Amp charger and inverter. We went to Electrical Marine and they offered us a package deal to buy these two items and they would have somebody install them complementary.
Rolly Tasker Sails. We wanted new lifelines and a new UV stip added in beige Sunbrella to match the other sails. We didn’t consider changing this until Slater suggested the upgrade. He has a keen eye and thought this would enhance the appearance of the boat and it wouldn’t be too expensive to replace. He helped us take the lifelines off, and bring the stay sail down. The line wasn’t long enough to lower the sail so he sewed another line on it to make it possible. Thank you, Slater!
Chris celebrated his 28th birthday at Yacht Haven. We had several birthday drinks on board and then went to The Deck restaurant for a Thai feast and several glasses of wine. There was birthday cake (of course) and the staff sang Happy Birthday.
The day after Chris's birthday, we had to finish our preparations. I was also keen to get our seat selection on Thai Airways. We booked business class to Bangkok, and since it was on the 747 they don't sell the first class seats, but instead issue them to business class customers. It was only an hour flight, but on a previous flight six months prior, we had booked a ticket last minute and checked in and were able to select seats at the front of the nose in what is normally first class! I love to sample out different airline's business class seats even if it is only an hour. This time, we booked a flight that was 30 minutes earlier than we needed since, based on my extensive research, the airplane type was the newer model of 747. When I checked in online exactly 24 hours out, I was unable to select a seat. I had expected to select my dream seat. Unfortunately, it auto assigned two regular business class seats that were in a bulkhead without windows. Seat guru rated those seats red. I called Thai Airways and, since they were full, they were unable to change the seats. I should have just bought economy.
We hopped in a taxi and drove to Phuket Town to check some of the items off our list. The taxi was quite expensive from Yacht Haven and I was hoping to find a grab but there were none around. There was also ton of traffic and the journey back took much longer than expected. We skipped lunch since we were so busy so hanger was in the air.
When we finally made it back to Skylark, we retreated into the air-conditioning and chilled out with a snack and cold beer. It was then that we heard the unfortunate news that the boat Slater was working on in the Maldives had a fire and sank. Thankfully, everybody on board was able to get to safety, but it was super troubling to hear.
After this news, we made a mental note to purchase extra fire extinguishers and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors that are remotely connected. These detectors are fantastic since when one senses a fire or carbon monoxide it announces the condition and the location. We now have three: “Bedroom,” “Living Room,” and “Guest Room.” We tested them while we were at the dock and discovered they are incredibly loud and should wake us out of the deepest of sleeps.
Prevention is one of our highest priorities. We must exercise extreme caution to prevent fires. If a fire were to occur on passage or somewhere remote, it would be severe. Thankfully, as pilots, we are trained to use fire extinguishers and understand that there is very little reaction time. Where there's smoke, theres fire, and where there's fire, there's trouble.
When we have guests on board, we conduct a safety briefing so that if there is an emergency, everyone is aware of escape routes and where fire extinguishers are located. Everyone on board is important when it comes to overall safety and we must all work together and speak up if something does not seem right or is not understood.
When searching for a boat to purchase, there was another Amel on the market we nearly flew out to look at, but were turned off when we learned there was a fire in the aft cabin and the watertight bulkhead was completely rebuilt. The fire was caused by the air conditioning unit, which we later learned is a common source of fire on boats. Therefore, we never run the air conditioning when we are not present, and we don't use the air conditioning while at anchor overnight (primarily to not have to run the generator extensively, but this is another reason). Over time you get used to being hot at night. Safety first!
The following morning, we had to depart early to the airport. It was bittersweet since we had such an amazing trip, but also a heavy heart thinking about the boat fire and everyone impacted.
Upon check in at the airport, there ended up being two business seats on the upper deck available and the flight was nowhere near full. It seemed so petty to have worried about that in the first place after the bad news put things in perspective.
Our next trip: I am turning 30 and we are sailing with Justin and Nadia for three weeks around the west coast of Thailand!