By Marie Genteale
When new sailing friends asked Chris and me to join them in chartering a 46-foot catamaran in Phuket, Thailand, we said yes. The vessel had four staterooms and four heads, a large common area inside and out, and was a stiff sailor. A dinghy and two double kayaks would allow us to go exploring.
We arrived in Phuket four days early, checked out the vessel and took in the countryside. One day we rode elephants through the jungle and kayaked on swollen rivers. Another day we toured Phuket, visited the great marble Buddha overlooking the harbor and shopped. Our hotel, the Supalai, sat high on a hill above the sea.
The geological formations in the Andaman Sea intrigued Chris and me. Many of the karst rock formations have hongs, which is Thai for “rooms.” At low tide, you can kayak inside the formations to reach the hong.
Part of the Thai national park system, each formation is different. Some have dark caves inside with bats hanging overhead, some have stalactites and stalagmites, some have beautifully walled channels, and others open to lagoons. Kayaking in and around these formations was a highlight of the trip.
You can kayak hongs in Phang Nga Bay, where “The Man With the Golden Gun” was filmed; Phi Phi, where the 2004 tsunami hit; beautiful Krabi; and Racha, which has great snorkeling.
The Andaman Sea requires careful navigation; some passages are quite shallow. Since this was our first charter, we studied charts before leaving home. When heavy surf made it difficult to launch our kayak, we realized that we were in an arm of the Indian Ocean. We soon became skilled with the two-person kayak, embarking and disembarking from the big cat.
Sailing in waters at a 7-degree latitude meant hot days and warm water. The farther south we went, the bluer the water became. Winds were light, and the catamaran needed winds of 12 knots or more to sail well, so we had to motor a lot. Despite that, we enjoyed sailing in Thailand.
P/C Marie Genteale, JN, of Greenwich Sail & Power Squadron/2 began sailing in her teens as a Girl Scout Mariner. She has sailed from Maine to the Florida Keys, Bermuda and the southern Bahamas, and she has chartered vessels in the Virgin Islands and Thailand. She learned about USPS when a friend suggested that her late husband, a bass angler, learn the fundamentals of sailing. They both served terms as squadron commander, and Marie remains active in squadron life. An earlier version of this article appeared in the squadron newsletter, Harbor Lights.