Same same, but different
Andaman Islands essentials: All you need to know
Think of a ‘sailing mecca’, and Thailand is unlikely to spring to mind. Instead, you maybe think of it as a place where westerners go to escape the realities of grown-up life, or the location of that Leonardo DiCaprio film from the noughties. You know the one.
The truth is that Thailand is one of sailing’s most promising cruising grounds for visiting yachtsmen that want to be immersed in a rich cultural landscape.
The avid Mediterranean bareboat cruiser should seriously consider a charter around the Andaman islands. While there are obviously differences to the Med, Thailand provides rich rewards for the bold, and the number of similarities may just surprise you. Here’s what you need to know when planning your Thailand charter.
We designate Thailand as level 2 sailing area. This places it on par with Corfu, any of our bases in Italy and Dubrovnik, so if you’ve sailed in any of these areas before you should be more than competent in Thailand. As a point of reference, we designate Palma and the Saronic Gulf as more advanced, level 3 destinations.
With over 100 islands in our cruising area to explore, Thailand offers a mix of long and short hops. So if you’re interested in a little blue water sailing, it’s there for the taking, but there are also plenty of line-of-sight passages, not unlike the Northern Ionian.
It’s a common misconception that the humidity on a boat charter in Phuket will have your t-shirt clinging to your skin the whole time. That may be partly true during the wetter part of the year (May to October), but as the old saying goes: “if you can’t stand the heat, charter December through April.”
The air temperature will hold respectably between the mid-twenties and thirties all year round, meaning that if you don’t mind a little bit of the wet stuff (and you are a sailor, after all!), then Thailand is a year-round option for you. April and May are the hottest, while locals like June, July and August, when things are a little quiet and the odd heavy downpour is buffered by plenty of sunshine.
The back end of the rainy season is particularly wet, but the driest months of December, January and February see similar levels of rainfall to Tropea in May.
More on the weather in Thailand
Dominated by two monsoons, the dry season is fed by prevailing north easterlies that generally produce between 5 and 16 knots, very much within sailing range, with the occasional need to engage the diesel.
The south westerlies synonymous with the humid rainy season offer a little more chutzpah, and can typically be expected to get up to around 27 knots on the windiest of days. This is not dissimilar to the famous meltemi in the Saronic Gulf and Cyclades.
There are mooring buoys in the sailing area, but they are poorly maintained, so your absolute best bet is to find a nice spot to drop anchor for the night. In many places this will be free, though even in national park areas it will be around £10 per person, per night, so pretty comparable to the Med in high season. The extra space this gives you compared to Med-style stern to mooring makes catamarans in Phuket a worthy consideration.
Tidal heights in our Thai sailing area have an average range of around 2 metres; considerably more than in the Mediterranean, and worth some notable planning. Our base briefing will give you the full tide tables, to make sure you know when and where is safe to stick the hook in. Larger man-made marinas and berths attached to high end resorts will be largely unaffected by the tides.
Admittedly, getting to Thailand is not as straightforward as going to Croatia, but with various flight routes, flexible charter start days and destinations suitable for sailing all year round, you can plan ahead and get the right flights at the best value. We can then match you up with the right boat for your chosen days, and can even book the flights for you.
Once you get to Thailand you’ll be sure of a warm welcome. They don’t call it 'the land of smiles' for nothing. You’ll also find that English is widely spoken, and British visitors don’t need a visa for stays under 30 days. For more information and verification, visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office page.
Top tips for a Phuket boat charter
The hotels around the coast are so luxurious, and the wildlife is so diverse. We went on an excursion to an elephant sanctuary and met these incredible, sociable and intelligent animals in their natural habitat. Washing them was a real highlight. The food was amazing, especially the Pad Thai, as you can probably guess! Anchoring the yacht and kayaking through caves at Ko Muk was another highlight for me.”
We also recommend
Rock climbing on Tonsai
Trekking the rainforest on Koh Lanta
Exploring the underwater sculpture park with a scuba dive at Ko Racha Yai
Attending at least one of the famous full moon beach parties if you can.
Sailing in Thailand all year aroundThailand is located very close to the equator and outside the cyclone zone of the Pacific and Indian Ocean. That’s why it is possible to sail all the year around. There are 2 main seasons, the rainy season and the dry season, also called the southwest monsoon and northeast monsoon. Seasonal winds are predictable, but if the winds change the weather can change very fast.
The northeast monsoon (dry season) begins in November and ends in April. The wind speed during this time is between 5 and 20 knots (1 kn = 1.852 km/h) from northeast. The winds are stable and the temperatures are normally around 30°C. Consistently dry and sunny weather are the best sailing conditions. The Similan Islands can only be visited during the northeast monsoon. In January and February winds are usually weak. People who want to sail in this period must use the boats engine because the winds don’t provide sufficient drive.
The southwest monsoon (rainy season) begins in May and takes place until October. Wind speeds are 10 until 30 knots from southwest. During this time there is much wind and better sailing conditions as in the dry season. There are some rain periods, sometimes persistently, but normally for 1 until 2 hours in the afternoon or in the early evening hours. The existing wind direction is important for the anchorage. During the rainy season it is not possible to anchor at the west coast of Phuket. It is recommended to anchor at the east side of islands or in protected bays. Sailing in the Phang Nga Bay right down to Koh Phi Phi is possible at strong sea conditions. The Similan Islands are closed for visitors during the southwest monsoon. In September and October long rain periods are possible and can sometimes take place up to 5 days without a break.
Navigating in Thai waters needs much attention, especially when the sea charts don’t provide sufficient information. GPS and chart plotters should be used as a support only. Electronic sea charts are not as precisely as paper sea charts. Especially in shallow waters and danger spots you should trust the paper sea charts.
Night sailing is forbidden in Thai and Malaysian waters. The anchorage should be reached by 4 pm in the afternoon. Daylight is between 6 am and 6 pm. We recommend to plan your trip in advance.
You should think about the reduced visibility when it's getting dark. Along the west coast of Thailand you can find hundreds of fisher nets (sometimes marked with a flag at the end of the net, sometimes not). The nets are located in water depths from 20 until 100 feet (6-30 meters) and the distance from the boat to the net can be deep enough to sail over, but sometimes not. A small fisher boat is often the first sign for existing nets in the water because the nets are attached to the boat.
Usually the nets are further down on the seabed to avoid the contact with boats cruising by. If you see a big trawler be careful and don’t sail too close to the stern of the ship because a net is fixed there. Sometimes nets are towed by 2 trawlers. Be careful in this situation and never sail between them. Always keep sufficient distance to danger spots.
Channels are marked like in Europe. Red on port side and green on the starboard side when arriving in ports. Modern Marina in Phuket
High and low tide:
There is a height difference from 1,5 until 2,5 meters between high and low tide (twice a day). Be careful of the currents when sailing in narrow areas located between 2 islands. The tide timetables for our base in Phuket you can find online at:
Refilling of water and fuel:
Water, fuel and diesel can be refilled at Phuket marinas, in Chalong (south of Phuket) and at Phi Phi Island.
There are 2 possibilities how to get your provisioning. First, we can do it for you. Second, you can do it by yourself. Phuket and Krabi are good locations to go shopping. There you can find big supermarkets like Big C and Lotus. Chalong (south of Phuket) is also a good place for purchasing food.
At the Phang Nga Bay you can buy fresh seafood. Local fishermen offer food directly from their longtail boats. During your sailing trip you can anchor at many big islands and eat there in a restaurant. On some islands, like Phi Phi you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
VHF is used by the marina officers or in case of emergency. Communications with the shore and yacht charter base is only possible with cell phones. For weather forecasts please contact us by cell phone or use the Internet.
If you plan to sail from Thailand to Malaysia or vice versa, you can do the customs clearance already in Phuket (Chalong bay) and in Langkawi (Kuah town). During the winter sailing season there is also an immigration office on Koh Lipe.
The west coast of Phuket offers some of the clearest water and most beautiful beaches in the region. Consequently, here you find the biggest concentration of hotels and beachside activity in the Andaman Sea. In the southwest monsoon, the anchorages are totally exposed, with a short swell (as much as 2 metres), a beach break, and the occasional strong, onshore squall. There are no recommended anchorages on this coast during the southwest season (June-October). In the northeast monsoon season, these anchorages offer perfect shelter in depths of 4 - 12 metres on a sandy bottom.
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Being an island, Phuket's a popular yacht destination and its sheltered east coast is an ideal mooring location with its three major marinas. So far so good but a quick glance at a chart will reveal that the marinas can only be approached from the south as the island's link to the mainland - the Sarasin Bridge - is fixed and too low for most boats to get under.
However the marinas' great facilities and easy access to beautiful and fascinating Phang Nga Bay more than makes up for this.
To the east and northwest of Phuket are some of the most stunning sailing grounds to be found anywhere. There are hundreds of anchorages, hidden coves and beaches among the many uninhabited islands, under soaring limestone cliffs and in waters teeming with tropical marine life. Some spots, such as Phi Phi, are now well marked on the tourist map, while others may still offer quiet new surprises for cruising yachtsmen. Good sailing conditions year-round in many areas.
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South of Phuket through the Malacca Straits lies one of the busiest and most modern ports-of-call in the world, the island state of Singapore, with many fascinating points to see along the way in Malaysian waters. For a completely different experience, sail northwest to Myanmar's Mergui Archipelago or further still to the Andaman & Nicobar Islands of India - both of these remote areas remain largely undiscovered sailing paradises. Aspiring adventurers take note.
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On Phuket Island visit Chalong Bay, an informal yachting community comprising of restaurants, shops, pubs, a yacht club and more. Spend a few days anchored off Phuket’s beaches, including Nai Harn and Kata on the island’s southwest shore.
Sailing north from Phuket, you enter Phang Nga Bay. Anchor between Koh Hong and Koh Yai and take a longtail boat to Koh Phing Kan, the world famous "James Bond Island", visiting on your way Pan Yi, the local Gypsy village, built on stilts.
The unspoilt area around Krabi has some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in the region. There are plenty of locations for a comfortable overnight stop around the Koh Dam Group, which offers scenic year round sailing. There are a number of restaurants around Ao Nang and in Krabi town itself, reached by longtail boat from Pra Nang.
Best time to travel to Phuket is during the cool NE monsoon season from November to March when the weather is sunny and dry with calm seas, though the NE winds are ideal for sailing and keeps things comfortable. The temperatures range from 24-32°C.
The hottest time is from April to May with temperatures 27-36°C and a lack of wind makes it feel very humid. From June through to August, the SW winds pick up, though sailing is still sheltered in most of the cruising area. Brief but heavy showers but the area is less crowded. During September and October there are heavy rains.
The area is tidal with a range of approximately 2m. Experience level 2.#
Find peace and tranquillity amongst the dramatic scenery and beautiful beaches of Phuket.
Lying just 8° north of the Equator, Phuket is a wonderful sailing area in the Andaman Sea. Phang Nga Bay lies between the island of Phuket and the mainland of Thailand and is a protected, very dramatic sailing area, with a fantastic gallery of giant limestone sculptures rising out of emerald waters.
With 42 islands in Phang Nga Bay, there are many miles of beaches, creeks and anchorages. The beaches are palm fringed, with pristine white sand, crystal waters and superb coral reefs. The snorkelling is exceptional, with stunning coral reefs to explore. You may find yourself being escorted by some of the local dolphins, if you are lucky.
Add to that the renowned friendliness of the Thai people, their magnificent cuisine and culture and Phuket has deservedly become South-east Asia’s premier sailing destination and home to the Phuket Race Week, King's Cup Regatta and several marinas.
DAY 1 : ?Embark at Phuket Yacht Haven Marina in the North East of Phuket at noon. Sail into the majestic and magical Phang Nga Bay, (10nm)with limestone cliffs and islands offering spectacular views.
DAY 2 : Visit James Bond Island, the location for the film “The Man with the Golden Gun”, and anchor at Koh Yang (8nm). Or visit Sea Gypsy Village at Koh Panyi (12nm), set on stilts over the water.
DAY 3 : Swim at the fascinating Koh Hong Island, named for its large internal lagoon, and visit Panak Island. Continue sailing to Krabi, another great sightseeing destination, ideal for swimming and relaxing on beautiful beaches. Anchor for the night at Ao Nang Beach (15nm) and go ashore for shopping.
DAY 4 :Sail to Phi Phi Islands (22nm), renowned as paradise islands. Discover the magical landscape of Maya Bay where you can enjoy snorkelling on colourful coral reefs in emerald sea. The movie “The Beach” was filmed here.
DAY 5 : Racha Islands (25nm) south of Phuket island are best known as excellent diving and snorkelling destinations. Racha Yai has a strip of fine white sand tucked deep into the long bay, called Ao Tawan Tok or Ao Bungalow. Racha Noi is uninhabited but there is some great diving in the area.
DAY 6 :???Sail to Ko Kai Nok (15nm) a hidden gem with superb shallow snorkelling. Good anchorages on Koh Yao Yai opposite this island.
DAY 7 :Return to Phuket Yacht Haven Marina (15nm). Disembark around noon.