Sailing in Phuket
Imagine the scene: a fresh tropical breeze blows through your hair whilst relaxing on the deck of a beautiful luxury yacht or cruiser, sailing with an expert crew in warm turquoise waters around the Andaman Sea. You open your eyes and an attractive woman tops up your champagne glass. Bliss! Does it seem almost too good to be true? This tantalising prospect is within easy reach and is relatively affordable in Phuket, which is probably the finest place in Thailand from which to sail around the Andaman and the entire west coast of the country and beyond. The area’s undisputed natural beauty and long coastline, hundreds of jungle-clad islands, brilliant white sandy beaches and diverse landscapes are all compelling reasons why Phuket is attracting visitors in ever increasing numbers to sail. The first class local marinas and supporting industries are expanding every year, and catering to all the needs of visiting and resident sailors.
Phuket is an ideal sailing location and allows access to the wonderful nearby places such as Phang-Nga bay, with its stunning limestone karst scenery and sheltered sea conditions (which makes year round sailing possible), the Phi Phi Islands (Leh and Don), and the relatively unexplored and pristine Andaman Islands that lie between Thailand and India. Phuket is also very conveniently placed as a base from which to explore further south, down the Malacca Strait towards Singapore, with the chance to stop at worthwhile locations on the way past Malaysia.
Phuket boasts modern, well equipped marinas with excellent facilities for boats and yachts of all shapes and sizes. Any repair and engineering work necessary can be undertaken in Phuket and there are very well-equipped sail makers and chandleries that have spare parts and other supplies. These are just some of the many reasons why mariners enjoy visiting Phuket throughout the year, not least because of the pleasant temperatures, stunning scenery, safe waters and an enviable onshore lifestyle to boot. However, it’s not only an exclusive activity that the rich and famous can enjoy; there are many opportunities for everybody to sail inexpensively around Phuket, whether by chartering a small boat with an accompanying captain and crew, or by joining an organised day tour it’s now easier than ever to get out on the water and make the dream become a reality!
Top Sailing Destinations Around Phuket
Phuket is just a stone’s throw from some splendid locations that can be visited by boat in just a few hours. There are many lesser known and secluded spots that are well and truly away from the tour group schedules. All around the coastline are dozens of quiet little bays and hidden coves, and some gorgeous spots a little further away that also make convenient stops when sailing to other destinations. Since the marinas in Phuket are all located on the eastern side of the island, the most popular sailing destinations at least for day trips are the islands scattered about close to this coast. However, it’s also possible to venture to the Similans, Koh Phi Phi, and all around Phang-Nga bay but you probably need to spend a night or two on the boat or accommodation onshore. Here are details of just a few favourite sailing spots around Phuket.
Only 10 nautical miles southeast of Phuket are the attractive Racha Islands, which includes Racha Yai and Racha Noi. These two relatively uninhabited islands (especially Racha Noi which is deserted) are well known as superb diving and snorkelling spots that have fantastic fish, corals and very clear waters. In the afternoon, the bay of Ao Dawan Tok (which means sunset bay) is usually very popular with visiting yachts, and is a good place to come ashore simply to lounge on the beach or enjoy some fresh seafood at the local restaurants. There are also several resorts and accommodation options on Racha Yai, if you fancy staying longer.
Closer to the east coast of Phuket are the Rang Islands, namely Rang Noi and Rang Yai, located around 4 nautical miles from the Boat Lagoon Marina. Due to their proximity to Phuket they can be reached in next to no time and are consequently very popular with boat trips. Rang Yai is best known for its pearl farm and as an outdoor activity centre, especially for team building, corporate events and adventure pursuits. There is a pleasant bike path through the forest, mini golf, camping, a sports centre, accommodation options, a restaurant and a beach bar. Almost everything you could want for a day trip!
The tiny Kai Islands comprise Koh Kai Nok and Koh Kai Nui, two idyllic islands that lie approximately 13 nautical miles east of Chalong and make a great day’s sailing from any of the east coast marinas. Koh Kai Nok (Bird’s Egg Island) is very diminutive (about 100 metres at its widest point and less then 300 metres in length) but has excellent snorkelling and you can swim amongst thousands of friendly fish which swarm around the visitors throwing bread into the water. The island has a small shop, restaurants and bars in the middle area, and despite its small size there is usually sufficient space to sit on the beach and top up your tan. The island can become a little crowded at times as many tours stop here on the way to Koh Yao and Phang-Nga bay. A few hundred metres northeast is the even smaller Koh Kai Nui, which is little more than a rocky outcrop. The views are great and it’s a popular place for wedding ceremonies, and also has an amazing coral reef.
Both Koh Naka Yai and Koh Naka Noi make up the Naka Islands, not far from Phuket’s east coast and easily accessible from the Boat Lagoon Marina. Naka Noi Island is just 9 nautical miles away and mainly densely forested, but there is a lovely sandy beach on the north and the western side. Boats can anchor on the wooden jetty on the northwest corner of the island. The most popular activity here is to visit the pearl farm and see how they are grown and harvested. Naka Yai (11 nautical miles away) is home to just one small village on the west side, and an exclusive spa resort occupying the northwest corner called The Naka Island resort (formerly known as the Six Senses Spa). The eastern coast has two long sandy beaches separated by rocks, with some of the best swimming in the area. There are also two jetties, one in the centre middle on the western side, and another that leads to the Naka Island resort.
Further south, Coral Island or Koh Hae is 9 kilometres south of Chalong, and is a popular getaway for tour groups mainly for the amazing snorkelling and pristine underwater coral formations that surround the island, and therefore can be very busy with day trippers. There are a few restaurants near the beaches, and the only accommodation on the island is the Coral Island Resort which has a range of quite luxurious beachside bungalows.
Phuket Charters and Tours
Phuket has a very wide choice of day tours and cruises available, as well as charters of all types that needn’t break the bank. For those on a budget it’s possible to book an inexpensive trip and visit the main highlights, but the larger and more luxurious vessels are also a fine way to explore in style.
Charter yachts and motorboats are available in Phuket, either as bare boats with no crew for those with experience that can handle them independently, or alternatively as a fully crewed yacht with a professional captain, boat crew, a cook and even waitresses. An advantage is that no prior sailing experience is needed and it’s a great option for diving as you can visit any of the famous dive sites around the island and beyond. Bareboat charters typically start at around 10,000 baht for a fairly small boat, but the price reflects the boat size and the onboard facilities. Prices can be as much as several hundred thousand baht for a large luxury yacht, but such boats can cater for large numbers of guests on a cruise, so this amount can be split between everybody. In the low season when the weather is not as good, the price can fall to 100,000 baht for a decent sized but luxury yacht; you could also charter a smaller boat for less than 10,000 baht per person.
The choice of charter vessel really depends on a few factors and there are some important things to consider, such as the type of yacht required (either sail or powered), the size and whether you need overnight accommodation with enough sleeping berths, as well as other factors such as where and how far you want to go. Make sure you have suitable local seafaring maps and adequate insurance, but most boat companies can provide all the information required. Finding a charter is easy, just visit any of the marinas (see later in this article) or contact any of the tour companies located in Phuket.
Day Trips and Tours
For anybody that doesn’t want the expense of a charter and would prefer to join an organised trip as a complete yachting experience, or simply as a stylish way to reach some other destinations for a spot of snorkelling and sightseeing, a boat or yachting tour is recommended. Typical prices range from around 5,000 to 6,000 baht per person per day but this will include all meals and drinks as well as hotel transfers. Most tours last all day and visit nearby places such as Koh Kai Nok and Rang Yai Island, and the boats tend to have attractive cabins and good onboard facilities. The cheapest tours use smaller boats with less luxurious facilities, and it’s possible to find a tour for only 3,500 baht per day.
Phuket Yacht Clubs
There are a few yacht clubs in Phuket which are an excellent way to meet like-minded individuals that share a passion and love for yachting, as well as being excellent resources for all things boat related. The clubs are as much about the social side of sailing and meeting people, as taking part in the sport itself.
The Ao Chalong Yacht Club (ACYC) is a long established members club which organises frequent twice-monthly Sunday races, giving everybody a chance to compete in a friendly environment. For more details, visit www.acyc-phuket.com.
The Phuket Yacht Club is based at Ao Yon in Cape Panwa on the southeast coast of Phuket, and organises regular recreational and club sailing and racing, as well as speedboat rental, sail tours and sailing lessons. They can be found online at www.phuketyachtclub.info.
Phuket Competitive Regattas
Phuket hosts several competitive sailing regattas each year. The most well known is undoubtedly the Phuket King’s Cup Regatta, which is held every December (in 2011, the date is December 3-10). This has become a very famous and highly regarded international yachting event which heralds a week of thrilling sailing (and hard partying onshore). It’s certainly the largest and most well known regatta in all of Asia, and celebrates it’s auspicious 20 year anniversary in 2011. The regatta was launched in 1987 to commemorate the 60th birthday of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is known to be a keen yachting enthusiast and is also patron of the Cup. The event has been gaining in popularity every year, and when the boats are not out racing they’re anchored just off Kata Beach. For more details, check out www.kingscup.com.
Another popular regatta held in February each year is the Bay Regatta (also known as the fun regatta), which comprises four days of racing from Phuket to Krabi going through Phang-Nga bay and then back to Phuket. On average, around 40 to 50 yachts take part in the competition, with most participants sleeping on their boats as they visit different anchorages each night. You can find more information at www.bay-regatta.com.
Finally, Phuket Race Week is a highly competitive event which takes place every July. Established in 2003, this exciting series of races features four days of intense yachting competition with many different classes of boat involved. Check out the website at www.phuketraceweek.com for more details.
Phuket is fortunate enough to have some excellent marinas with top notch facilities, which are excellent bases from which to explore Phuket, Phang-Nga bay and many other places. The marinas present another side to Phuket that many people might not be aware of, and with all this yachting and boating heritage around, there are thousands of dedicated yachties in Phuket all year round. Here is a brief rundown of the marinas in Phuket.
Phuket Boat Lagoon
The Boat Lagoon was the very first marina established in Phuket, and is surrounded by hotels and apartment complexes. You wouldn’t even know you were in Thailand – it could quite as easily be somewhere in the Mediterranean! Based in Sapam Bay on Phuket’s east coast, it has 180 wet berths, 144 hard stand spaces, and dry stacking for 20 boats. Electricity and water is supplied to all berths, and all the essential facilities are available such as a fuel dock, storage lockers, Internet, telephones, restaurants, a supermarket, accommodation, a club house and a swimming pool. Besides the comforts of home, engineering services and mechanical repairs can be carried out onsite, and there are several tour companies based here that can organise trips or hire out charter vessels.
Yacht Haven Phuket Marina
The Yacht Haven, completed in 1997, is situated near the Laem Phrao viewpoint which is just east of the Sarasin Bridge (which connects Phuket to the mainland) at the very northeast tip of Phuket. This marina’s advantages are the location as it’s very close to the airport, and the convenient access to the local attraction all over Phang-Nga bay. Being a deep water marina means it can be accessed in all tides when coming from the east, however it’s not recommended to approach from the west without local knowledge due to the height and depth restrictions in the narrow channel. There are 160 berths for vessels up to 60 metres in length, and 220 berths for those up to 70 metres, all of which are free floating. The onshore facilities are good as expected and include showers, lockers, fuel and water, restaurants, bars, and a swimming pool.
Royal Phuket Marina
The Royal Phuket is impressive, as the largest one of the newest marinas in Phuket with a focus on sailing, sports, leisure and entertainment, as well as providing private luxurious accommodation and amazing facilities. The marina is protected from the wind and waves and has excellent security. It is considered one of the very best marinas anywhere in Asia and it’s easy to see why. There are 350 berths in total (some private only and some for public and private use). There are at least 85 wet berths for vessels between 10 and 35 metres, and hardstand space for over 35 boats and 120 dry berths. The inner marina is for use only by those lucky marina residents, adding greatly to the exclusive and luxurious atmosphere. Having said that, anybody is welcome to visit and use the facilities, and it’s a very pleasant place to hang out and dream about the sailing life!
Tel: +66 (0) 76 379 397-8
VHF Channel: 79
Ao Po Grand Marina
This marina is a fairly recent addition to the ever expanding marina industry. Construction started in 2006 in the northeast of Phuket near Reat Island. The facilities are able to handle the massive super yachts and it includes a deep water fuel dock, as well as a chandlery, and engineering and mechanical services. Of course, there is also a bar and restaurant to keep visitors entertained. The capacity is around 200 berths of all different sizes from 6 to 80 metres, and the super yachts are something of a speciality.
VHF Channel: 69
Anchorages in Phuket
During the wet southwest monsoon period, there are no ideal anchorages anywhere along the west coast of Phuket, but in the high tourist season (the northeast monsoon) there are dozens of seasonal anchorages on this coast which have very still waters and near perfect natural shelter. The east coast however has some all year round anchorages. For more details about what to do on each beach, read our related Beaches in Phuket article.
Seasonal Anchorages in Phuket
Favourite anchorage spots include Nai Harn Beach which is rarely crowded, Kata Beach which also has the famous boathouse and is a firm favourite with most yachting types, Karon Beach which has up to 10 metres depth all along with a fine sandy bottom, as well as Patong Bay which gets very busy in the high season but has the best access to all the vibrant nightlife, with up to 15 metres of depth all over the bay.
Kamala is another suitable spot not far away, and Laem Singh is a really lovely and uncrowded bay nestled between two rocky headlands, with an attractive beach and a few restaurants. Further north, Surin Beach and Bangtao are convenient anchorages close to some great restaurants and small bars, but these two locations are much quieter than Patong. At Nai Yang, anchorage is possible in 6-10 metres depth with a sandy bottom, and the local hotels have fairly good facilities. Further north, Mai Khao Beach is a very long and almost deserted sandy beach and not at all touristy, located just south of the Sarasin Bridge. However, it’s not recommended to sail further east due to the sand banks; instead you can anchor south of the bridge by just a few hundred metres.
Year Round Anchorages in Phuket
Thankfully, Phuket has a number of decent year round anchorages on the south and eastern side of the island that are protected and provide good shelter. Chalong Bay is an ideal natural anchorage, being a large shallow bay facing south and protected by Lone Island which sits in the mouth; Chalong is often the first place encountered by many yachts approaching Phuket and is convenient as it’s close to entertainment, as well as companies that can service the boats and carry out repairs. Chalong has a few long jetties and it’s possible to anchor offshore in up to 7 metres of water. Longer term visitors can buy a mooring for a monthly fee. The eastern side of Phuket is also home to the aforementioned marinas, which can all be used year round.
Phuket Charter and Tour Companies
Here is just a small selection of boat charter and tour companies in Phuket. They offer a range of tours, charters, sailing courses and lessons, with a variety of sailboats, motorboats and catamarans of all sizes and comfort levels. There are so many such companies in Phuket, that it’s simple enough to find one that fulfils your needs.
Andaman Sea Club
Tel: +66 (0) 86 045 4634
Charter Yachts Phuket
Tel: +66 (0) 87 999 3374
Elite Yachting Company
Tel: +66 (0) 76 273 476
Tel: +66 (0) 76 379 707
Tel: +66 (0) 83 110 5302
Phuket Sailing Adventures
Tel: +66 (0) 81 788 9428
Phuket Sail Tours
Tel: +66 (0) 87 897 0492
Simba Sea Trips
Tel: +66 (0) 81 081 7163
Tel: +66 (0) 76 384 115
2 Sea Tour
Tel: +66 (0) 94 593 1039