This article appeared in the Boston Business Journal on November 16, 2018.
Outdoors & Travel – EXECUTIVE PURSUITS
Just because the boating season ends in New England, doesn’t mean you have to wait until next spring for the joys of cruising.
I just returned from the” Land of Smiles” — Thailand — a bit jet-lagged, but fully immersed in its approachable culture.
I have now experienced the yachting scene out of Phuket on the Andaman Sea first-hand. It was a “work”-related junket that we call a “fam trip,” or “familiarization trip,” which segues into the end of the New England boating season and how to keep summer alive.
My son and I had made that anticipated last cruise to the boatyard guy, who met us with our trailer, ready for hauling out our 24-foot Mako (named, appropriately enough, FamTrip) into safety for the winter.
Most boat owners resign themselves to experiencing end-of-season sadness and the promise of next summer. For some of us however, this can lead into keeping summer alive by traveling to those warmer paradise islands of the world.
The Bahamas and Caribbean are an easy jaunt, whether to Nassau or St. Thomas. For one week, you can choose to “skipper your own yacht” or try a “Captain-only” trip, in which you cook and clean, or the ultimate no-work, no-think option: A fully-crewed vacation.
For an exotic winter escape, I fully recommend Thailand. Best cruising season is mid-November to February, with peak from December to January. The weather starts heating up in March and April, and then the windy, rainy season begins in May and lasts until October.
Unlike a Caribbean yacht vacation, you do not go to Asia for just a week. For me, this trek was a three-week indulgence of bustling Bangkok, spiritual Chiang Mai and Phuket Island, where the yachting seascape is dramatic.
Many readers may travel to Asia for work and may already know that Boston to Bangkok takes at least 22 hours, and that time zones can be a challenge. However, one must spend at least three days exploring Buddhist temples, the Golden Palace in Old City, authentic cheap-eats street food, ride a “yellow licensed”-only Tuk Tuk cab, get on a long-tail boat cruising the Chao Phraya River, sit and relax for a one-hour foot massage for 200 Baht ($6), shop at the markets and malls, experience a Lady Boy Show (surgically enhanced males that can fool the best of us), signature cocktails at the Bamboo Bar at the historic Mandarin Oriental, and then top off a day at the Dome Bar for the best sunset scene from one of the highest bars in the world.
Getting from Bangkok to Phuket is an easy, direct one-and-a-half-hour flight. With at least 12 flights per day, it’s easy to fit your schedule to board your yacht out of one of the three top marinas on the Bay of Thailand. I boarded the 108-foot motor yacht “Dolce Vita” (a modern four-stateroom luxury yacht), captained by Danilo, a Roman who raised his two sons with his Thai wife in Phuket.
We cruised to the popular “Jurassic Park” Phi Phi Island’s (pronounced “pee pee”) and the shores of Thailand’s Krabi province. Sensational scenes are just as you see in magazines, only you are there with very few boaters and no cruise ships (because the water is too shallow).
One can choose to charter a sail catamaran equipped with an instructor and full dive gear. If you didn’t see a shark this summer off Cape Cod, Shark Point is regarded as one of the best Phuket diving locations for leopard sharks and even the odd whale shark. Yachts range in size from 50 to 150 feet, taking you island hopping for four days to a week or more, in the picturesque Bay of Thailand.
Welcoming and hospitable Thailand embraces LGBT travelers, as do many Southeast Asia destinations. This is the time to think about where in the world might you be when the temps drop to zero, and the blizzards sweep the local bays of Boston.
Carol Kent is president and owner of Carol Kent Yacht Charters, based in Marblehead.