Home Page Back to Destinations
by: Lynelle Parker
Photos by: Lynelle & Lloyd
When we sailed into Ao Chalong Bay on the southeast corner of Phuket Island on the 2nd Jan 2003 we dropped the anchor, walked back into the cockpit, looked at each other and said, "We're home".
Leaving Darwin last year in August,
we talked of having Xmas 2002 in Thailand. But for one reason and another, we arrived a week late. It didn't matter, there would always be next year. Twelve months on, we are still here, still loving it, and contemplating yet another year in
There is definitely a "line in the sand" here. When you reach Phuket Island its decision time. The best part is you have so many choices. Maybe a little sortie west to Sri Lanka, Maldives, Chagos, and across to the east coast of Africa before returning to Thailand. A few months could be spent exploring the eastern shore of the Malay Peninsula and further east to the Philippines. But if you have time constraints and need to move on either to South Africa or
Up into the Red Sea there will only be sufficient time for a spin around Phang Nga Bay, perhaps a quick trip into northern Thailand, and a short sortie into Vietnam or Cambodia, then its time to reprovision and get ship-shape for the next ocean passage.
But we had no intention of moving
on and for us it's been a leisurely 12 months just "pottering" around the shores of Phuket Island and the west coast of the Thailand Peninsula.
Just 8 degrees north of the equator, Phuket is considered by most cruisers to be an ideal place to season over, recoup, regroup and do some serious land travel. The island's weather is tempered by cool northeasterly breezes from November to March, and by fresh on-shore winds in the summer months.
The Island has excellent anchorages suitable for the prevailing seasons. In the NE monsoon you can linger along the west coast in the beautiful bays of Patong, Karen, and Kata or Nai Harn in the south, and Kamala, Bang Tao, and Nai Yang Bay in the north. Wall-to-wall white powdery sand, clear water and cool breezes make it hard to leave. The nightlife of Patong will keep you busy into the wee hours of the morning and during the day Patong is a very busy little township with no end to the restaurants, shops, hotels, guesthouses, and bars, bars, bars. For a laid back pair of Aussies like us, it's a bit of a zoo really, but we love the atmosphere, and a night ashore is always included when we visit the west coast. The southern end of Patong Beach is the
most popular anchorage on the west coast, particularly around Christmas.
Anchored in Patong on New Year's Eve, a spectacular fireworks display ashore will take your breath away.
The beaches on the west coast are sometimes wall-to-wall beach
umbrellas where after a rollicking night out you can lie for hours with food, drinks, and massage beds right at your fingertips. One could spend days and even weeks in these little bays, we know, we've tried it.
Life is a little more laidback on the eastern side of Phuket Island. Ao Chalong Bay on the southern end of
the island is a protected anchorage all year round. You can find everything here that you will ever need, and life can become very established (you can stay forever, and some people have done just that!!) Dingy access is a bit tricky when the tide is very low, (a mud flat comes to mind) but once ashore provisioning and having repairs carried out is no problem. Many small bars and eateries are close by, and the Suda Bar has become known as a local meeting place and watering hole for cruising yachties. They provide Internet access, a laundry service, food and drinks. Just up the road you can rent a motorbike or a small sedan - cheap as chips, and make your way all over the island. About two miles from Ao Chalong Bay is a small bay affectionately known as Ban Nit.
The anchorage is superb in NE winds, the water is clear, and you can chill out here for as long as the provisions last before returning to Ao Chalong Bay to resupply and chart your own course for a leisurely sail around the rocky isles of Phang Nga Bay to the north east of Phuket.
Phang Nga Bay's dramatic seascape features many pristine lagoons, sea caves, looming limestone karsts, and quite secluded bays. We have spent weeks just enjoying the sheer awe of Mother Nature in its distinctly quiet environment. No bars, no billboards, no radio or TV, no piers, just the sound of the village long tail boats passing. We never complain about their noise, and accept their passing to and fro as just another part of the landscape. In any case they may just have our next seafood meal on board. The only pressing decision we have found when cruising Phang Nga Bay is choosing our next anchorage. The water is relatively shallow, and the anchorages are well protected. Life simply doesn't get more idyllic than this.
continued on left below photo..
Hello Phuket continued...
Phuket is also a perfect base for exploring the many islands that lay just to the south. Phi Phi Don and its smaller sister island Phi Phi Le are close by. Phi Phi Don is considered by many to be one of the worlds most beautiful islands and is a perfect stopping off point on your way south to Langkawi. Emerald green water and safe anchorages have lured us back there time and again. Each time we visit we take ourselves for the rather strenuous walk to the lookout and sit for a while to take in the stunning landscape. Dramatic limestone cliffs soar skyward, and are reflected in the clear turquoise waters. The islands are small and we have been tempted several times into raising the anchor and circumnavigating the islands just for the day. Tourists abound here, it's noisy and its busy, but the special little bay known as Monkey Beach, seems to keep luring us back time after time.
Its impossible to name and describe all the islands in this area, but you
can be confident the view from your cockpit will change everyday of the year, and you will never tire of the pristine anchorages in this part of the world.
The waters surrounding Phuket are also home to a vast array of marine
life and we have discovered the beauty of the Similans, lying to the northwest of Phuket. Unfortunately neither of
us scuba dive, which is a shame, but nevertheless this is an exceptional place to just lay face down on the water and drift over the incredible seascape.
For anyone pining for some more organised sailing, just hang around long enough and you can take part in the regatta madness that seems to grab Phuket from time to time during the year. The Phuket King's Cup Regatta, indisputably Asia's premier race gets underway in early December, and is followed by the slightly more sociable Phang Nga Bay Regatta to name just a couple.
The Island of Phuket has two very nice marinas one on the mid east coast of the island and the other is on the northern tip not too far from the Sarisin Bridge which joins the island to the mainland Thailand. Both marinas offer long-term stays, and Boat Lagoon has a very good haul-out facility with most of the other conveniences
yachties like to have nearby such as electricians, woodworkers, painters, mechanics, and chandleries.
Yacht Haven Marina in the north is quiet
and peaceful and managed by a young couple who have cruised extensively themselves and understand our cruising lifestyle. We often anchor
just off the marina where the anchorage is sheltered in both seasons and enjoy going ashore to eat at the small restaurants that line the waters edge. We don't mind that it's a long way from Phuket town, a friendly little man delivers meat, fruit and vegetables daily and water and fuel are available nearby. We like the simplicity of the place and this is our favourite spot. A rather large shipyard is situated on the southeastern side of the island, and caters for all kinds of craft from huge 100 plus footers to small fishing vessels. We slipped our boat here this year, and only had one major complaint. It was too hot!!
We have no idea what made us decide to sail Chappie north, when our original plans were to go east into the Pacific, but we enjoyed every day of our cruise to Darwin, into Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia and on to Thailand. Our twelve-month stay has been an incredible learning curve as well as an incredibly good time.
But good news travels fast, and already we have cruising friends back home, who are asking questions about how to get here and what to bring. An
Aussie guy we have met up here has this to say "Be sure you are tired of the Thailand before you leave, it's the world's best kept secret, and hard to beat as a cruising destination". That probably explains why we've met so many people who arrived here as long as 10 years ago, and haven't been able
to drag themselves away. In all probability, we might still be here when you arrive...
Our cruise so far:
Chappie departed Darwin 08 Aug 2002, sailing via Roti Island,Timor Island, and north to Flores Island in Indonesia. We then sailed westward across the northern shores of the Indonesian Archipelago to Bali before going on to Kalimantan, and up the Kumai River. Leaving Kalimantan we turned west and then north again for Singapore, and the Malacca Straits. In November we continued on to Langkawi in Malaysia arriving Phuket Island in Thailand 02 Jan 2003.
Chappie is a 40ft Joe Adams design
aft cockpit built of steel, and she looks after us just fine. Shes comfortable
for two people on board. (OK for 3 or
4 but only in short bursts).
She's our home!
The author in beautiful Phang Nga bay.