My first live-aboard experience on a boat was in Australia in 2012, when I cruised through the Whitsunday Islands on a catamaran. I loved the experience, and it was one of my favorite memories from Australia. After enjoying a couple of other boating trips, I started taking sailing lessons. I went to Greece last fall to take classes with the Aegean Sailing School. I decided to take another course in Thailand with Andaman Yachting, which is based in Phuket.
The course was for five days, and a couple of expats rounded out the crew. One was a Swiss working in Singapore, while another was a Brit working in Kuala Lumpur. Our instructor was a Scot named Mervyn, who married a Thai woman named Sonia. I got to have dinner with Mervyn, Sonia, and their son Michael before the course started. The family was lovely.
All the students had their own cabin on Mervyn’s boat Sita. Sita was clean and comfortable. I was fortunate to get the master cabin, which included an ensuite bathroom (or “head”). Each night, Mervyn served a delicious dinner cooked by Sonia.
Mervyn was unfailingly patient and allowed each of us to gain plenty of hands-on experience. I had the least sailing experience out of our crew, but Mervyn guided me through every maneuver and drill. I couldn’t have asked for a better course, especially considering the gorgeous surroundings.
On most nights, we anchored or moored next to small islands. We anchored at Koh Phi Phi one night, which is famous for its beautiful scenery and party scene. I had been debating whether to spend a couple of nights at Phi Phi after the sailing course. I wanted to see the island but was having trouble finding highly rated accommodations. Our crew walked around Phi Phi for a couple of hours in the evening to check out the scene. The island is full of 18- to 24-year olds, tattoo shops, pizza places, and fire shows. If any of those appeal to you, you’ll have an awesome time in Phi Phi. While I was grateful to have seen Phi Phi, I decided I’d spend nights on other islands after my sailing course.
We moored by Monkey Beach for lunch one day, which is a popular stop for travelers. As the name suggests, many monkeys live on the island. Mervyn warned us that the monkeys were aggressive and often stole people’s belongings and food. They also bit people who tried to shoo them away. I had met another traveler who was bitten by a monkey, so I stayed away from the beach. One of our crew members went to the beach by dinghy and later reported that monkeys ravaged through a trash bag that was on the dinghy. He also said that he saw “unmentionables” while snorkeling. I didn’t ask for additional details, but you can use your imagination.
Even though it was the wet season (early June), it didn’t rain during our course. On our last day, we saw dark clouds and sheets of rain in the distance, but we managed to outsail the clouds.
The course with Andaman Yachting was pricey (35,000 THB or about $1,030 for five days), but I thought it was worth the money for the high-quality instruction and clean accommodation. This course will probably be the largest single expense of my trip, but it was wonderful to be able to see the islands by boat and hone my sailing skills.