One Man’s Experience Cruising the Andaman Sea

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This post was written by Bob McIntyre.

1-Cruising the Andaman Sea on SY Jelita

Cruising the Andaman Sea on SY Jelita

Malaysia’s waters are a sailor’s dream come true. Ripe for discovery, these warm emerald seas are dotted with islands and a host of ports along the coast, all the way into Thailand. Experienced sailor Bob McIntyre shares here his experience of life aboard a yacht cruising the Andaman Sea from his base in Langkawi.

One segment of the international yachting community comprises those intrepid souls who set sail around the world in search of adventure in far-flung exotic destinations. Many include the Andaman Sea area in their ports of call. And many of those sail no further, or end up staying far longer than ever intended. Why? Because there is so much to offer the sailor in this beautiful part of the world – myriads of tropical islands large and small, crystal-clear waters, beaches too numerous to count, great sites for diving and snorkeling on coral reefs with abundant fish life, and of course all that Southeast Asia has to offer in the way of delectable cuisine at highly affordable prices from an abundance of eateries. Add to this the balmy tropical weather and the extensive support facilities for the boating community in the way of marinas and marine service and supply centres, and it all goes into making the Andaman Sea a perfect location for maximizing the boating and cruising experience.

Cruising on my Own Yacht

2-Tranquil anchorage at Hole-in-the-Wall, Langkawi

Tranquil anchorage at hole-in-the-wall, Langkawi

After living in Malaysia for the last 12 years of my working career, I began to live out my retirement dream of cruising on my own yacht and chose the Andaman Sea as the area in which to fulfill this dream. I purchased a new yacht and made the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club my home base. This marina is the best in the Andaman Sea in my view, offering excellent facilities, a pleasant and convivial atmosphere, and close proximity to a town providing all the necessities of modern living. And Langkawi is well served by air and sea connections to mainland Malaysia and beyond and has the added attraction of duty-free shopping, while checking in-and-out at immigration, customs, and harbor master for international voyages is a breeze at the one-stop locations.

At a grand handover ceremony at Langkawi International Boat Exhibition in November 2006, the new yacht was duly named Jelita – “beautiful lady” in Malay – and subsequently registered in the port of Langkawi.

Cruising the Andaman Sea

4-Charlie's Beach, Ko Muk, Thailand, a favourite anchorage


Charlie’s Beach, Ko Muk, Thailand

Cruising the Andaman Sea for the past eight years has been the adventure of a lifetime. Every cruise has been a voyage of discovery. Setting anchor in a new location is always an exciting moment. And with so many islands in the area in which I have cruised, from Penang in the south to the Surin Islands in the north on the Thai-Myanmar border, there are still many anchorages to be ticked off my bucket list. The east coast of Peninsular Malaysia also beckons with its attractive islands, as does East Malaysia (Borneo) and the Mergui archipelago of Myanmar, yet to be explored.

8-Family & friends enjoying a day sail

One of the joys of this lifestyle is the opportunity to give friends and family a wonderful and very different holiday experience. So many friends from around the world have joined me on a variety of cruising adventures. A typical short-duration cruise is four or five days circumnavigating Langkawi with its 99 islands, stopping each night at a very secluded anchorage and taking an evening meal either ashore at a distinctive restaurant or barbecuing aboard. Longer cruises of two weeks or more take in a short voyage to Phuket with stopovers at any number of fascinating islands en route and sailing the spectacularly scenic Phang Nga Bay where “everywhere you look there are islands.” A cruise of three weeks or more can take us to the pristine Similan and Surin Island groups northwest of Phuket. These two marine parks offer excellent snorkeling in crystalclear water and the chance to stroll along stunning beaches and to trek in lush green forests.

A special treat is to participate in one of several sailing regattas held annually in the region,my two favourites being the Royal Langkawi International Regatta, which is superbly conducted, and the Bay Regatta in Phang Nga Bay, which is a fun event mixing competitive sailing with partying each night at a different and invariably spectacular location. I well recall the comments from good friends fromAustralia who spent several weeks cruising the Andaman Sea with me including participation in Phang Nga Bay regatta – “Amazing! Every day just gets better and better!”

10-Racing in Royal Langkawi International Regatta, January 2015

Racing in the Royal Langkawi International Regatta, January 2015

For those with little experience of sailing, the Andaman Sea is an ideal area to take up the cruising lifestyle. Quite apart from affordability and the boating facilities available, there are no cyclones or hurricanes which periodically wreak havoc in many other cruising destinations of the world. And there is any number of anchorages in the region offering safe haven no matter what the weather may bring. Arming yourself with a copy of the venerable “Andaman Sea Pilot” tells you everything you need to know about where and how to set anchor for the night and what sights to explore when going ashore.

In my view, a cruising lifestyle is the ideal retirement plan. It keeps body and mind active, so important for health and wellbeing as old age comes upon us, due to all the physical and mental tasks involved in running a boat and navigating safely. And it puts you in touch with the wonderful community of sailors who are a special breed, always ready to lend a hand and to regale you with their tales of adventure.

As the years have begun to catch up with me, I am changing tack with a plan to dispose of my sloop and move to a catamaran. While I will sorely miss the sheer pleasure of sailing my beautiful yacht Jelita, a monohull preferred by traditional true-blue sailors, the extra comfort and space of a catamaran will enable me to continue to enjoy cruising the Andaman Sea to a ripe old age.


Read This: Two Expats and Their Experience Sailing (and Documenting) Southeast Asia

Source: Senses of Malaysia July/August 2015

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