Sailing is a timeless pleasure and it is also the perfect way to enjoy Thailand's marine treasures and is environmentally sound too. Trips can be as relaxing or demanding as you want. You can charter a crewed yacht and lay back as you sail away; or if you are a more experienced sailor, charter a bareboat yacht and have the excitement, challenge and rewards of sailing it yourself.
Phuket is Thailand's premier sailing destination, attracting the cream of Thai society's as well as the international sailing crowd. From September to May when the weather is at its best, there is a migratory fleet of yachts anchored at Nai Harn Bay at the southern end of the island and Chalong Bay to the southeast.
Phuket's marinas have a huge variety of vessels for charter, from old wooden schooners to sleek fibreglass cruises and state-of-the-art powerboats. Find them at Laem Phrao Yacht Marina, Phuket Boat Lagoon and the Yacht Haven. As well as established yacht agencies, informal arrangements can also be made at Jimmy's Lighthouse, a restaurant at Chalong Bay that serves as headquarters for the yachting fleet.
Phuket is also home to one of the most popular sporting events on the yachting calendar, the Phuket King's Cup Regatta, taking place on the weekend closest to HM the King's birthday. Yachts arrive from Australia, Europe, Hong Kong and Japan to spend a few weeks cruising through the Gulf, down to Malaysia and enjoying practise runs around the Similans before heading to Phuket for the races.
In Pattaya, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, founded in 1957, holds almost weekly regattas for the smaller beach launched sailboats. The Ocean Marina Yacht Club in Jomtien Beach, just south of Pattaya, offers jetty, pontoon berths, and onshore facilities for skippers and crew members with hotel, condominium, cocktail lounge, twin restaurants, tennis courts, and roof-top swimming pool.
Sailing a yacht competently requires skill and experience; don't overestimate your capabilities as a sailor when chartering a bareboat yacht. If you are heading out on a longer expedition, make sure you check out the weather and tides, especially in the stormy season from June to October. Be well-prepared with communications equipment, first aid, water and food.