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By David Millner
(Editor of and The Multihull Yearbook)

Charter catamarans are to be good value for money when shared by six or eight people, but are expensive for two. An affordable budget catamaran in a beautiful tropical location would be an ideal sailing escape.

Spirit House

Siam Sailing in Thailand ( has combined these ideals by setting up a fleet of Wharram Tiki 30 and Tiki 38 Polynesian style catamarans professionally built by the Swiss run Seascape Boatyard ( situated just behind the beach at Chalong on Phuket Island.

We sailed “Veni Vidi Vici”, one of Siam Sailing’s Tiki 30’s for two weeks in January 2004. Filling the nominal six berths of the yacht would be crowded but two to four good friends would be fun.

Imagine a 30’ beach cat with bimini for shelter from the tropical sun, an excellent large fridge box on deck powered by solar panels, a simple galley, separate head, fantastic swimming ladder, even an electric anchor windlass, and you are ready to explore the many unexpected facets of this stunning cruising area.

The boat may be simple but the essentials and more are included in the comprehensive welcome pack. Unusually, the boat has twin fresh water systems, a drinking and a domestic supply. We were economical but had water to spare after two weeks, even using the essential deck shower after each swim.

Most people remember the “James Bond Island” featured in “The Man with the Golden Gun”, the limestone stack in the shallow and sheltered waters of the Andaman Sea between Phuket and Krabi.

'Charlies Bungaloe shot'

Unsurprisingly it is a major tourist attraction served by fleets of speedboats and the traditional long-tailed tourist boats. Sail right past because there are hundreds of little islands to choose from. The comprehensive pilot book shows a selection of islands and anchorages and encourages the reader to explore some of the others.

The tidal range is a couple of metres so watching the echo sounder and keeping a visual watch in clear shallow waters with the sun behind you allows shallow banks to be crossed. We were in depths of under 10m for a number of days.

The wood – epoxy Tiki 30 has substantial low aspect ratio keels which may leave tracks on the seabed when the depth drops to the 50 cm draft. Do not attempt this over the coral reefs though.

To the north of the area lies the Pan Nga national park. Approaching from the south the many islands make an incredible sight. Each one dwarfs the little catamaran. At the north of the park are rivers edged by mangroves. We made a seven mile loop up one river and back down another one. The chart does not even show the narrow waterway connecting the two rivers upstream. Further east we took the Tiki four miles up a rock strewn river near the top of the tide to explore by kayak caves with prehistoric cave paintings, rivers running right through mountains and the” hongs”. You will definitely not see monohull yachts in these shallow waters.

Hongs are in essence, collapsed caves. The visitor sees a lagoon surrounded on all sides by high cliffs, often only accessible via a tunnel through these cliffs. Many were only found by aerial survey. Some are dry inside, and some tidal.

A catamaran is ideal to reach many of these, then explore by kayak. We managed to take the Tiki right inside two Hongs at Ko Hong West and Ko Hong East, same name but two different islands.

Further south, away from the rivers the waters rapidly become crystal clear. Lift the slatted hatch on the aft deck, drop the swimming ladder, don mask snorkel and fins, and lower yourself gently into the water to swim with the colourful fish and observe the coral reefs and outcrops.
Now the islands are further apart and the sea seems less crowded.

Phi Phi Don Island is a backpackers resort island. We took a day off from sailing and made a two-dive scuba trip with lunch for only £30 with Moskito Diving. We dived off two islands, one being Phi Phi Leh where we had a long lunch-break between dives in the crowded Maya Bay, where the Leonardo Di Caprio film “The Beach” was shot. At the dive sites we swam with green turtles and barracuda, whilst just missing a sight of a black tipped reef shark pointed out by the instructor. Returning to Phi Phi Don Island we had our only sighting of dolphins, about 30 in all who stayed close for about five minutes before swimming off. After the dives we took the Tiki to Maya Bay to enjoy a night in Paradise without the tourists.

South again we visited Ko Lanta, Ko Kradan and Ko Muk and kayaked in total darkness through the emerald cave to the small hong beyond. These islands are distinctively different, more remote, and consequently have fewer tourists. The even clearer water means still better snorkelling as at Ko Ha Yai and Ko Rok Nok.

Two weeks allowed us to visit many beautiful places and log 235 miles. Often we were the only yacht in an anchorage. The Tiki 30 surprised us with her quick response and turn of speed. We saw bursts of over 10 knots on the GPS both upwind and downwind. She can be wet going upwind and you can get cold from spray, even in the tropics. Watch for wind over tide conditions. The strongest winds are in the morning and evening. Watch the tides if you anchor close in to go ashore for superb, cheap Thai food and Thai massage. You might return and find you are aground. Our aim was to experience as many Thai meals as possible and only on one day did we fail to anchor within reach of some kind of restaurant. The best plan was to eat lunch ashore allowing us to find remote anchorages at night. Many restaurants only opened during the day unless they were within hotel or bungalow resorts.

We sailed in January in the dry season of the N E Monsoon. The winds were constantly from this direction except for about four days. As these should have been downwind days we only set the spinnaker once.
If you do not need the comforts of the expensive catamarans and can enjoy the simple life this trip is an absolute must. The cabins are cozy with narrower than usual double berths. They are well ventilated in dry weather. When possible you can sleep under the stars and before you doze off listen to your CDs or to one of the 30 Satellite Radio channels available on board.

The Author in Kayak!

Make the most of tropical daylight with an early to bed, early to rise policy.

Some of the best winds were from 7am to 11am. The approximate location is at 8 degrees North, 98 degrees East. Spend a couple of nights ashore to acclimatise before taking over the boat.

The locals are very friendly and English language is spoken in the tourist areas. The area will become busier as the Thai Government have just lifted import taxes on foreign boats so don’t delay. Book today.

Siam Sailing
Makz Marine Co Ltd
6/3 Moo 8 Tambon Vichit
Amphur Muang, Phuket
tel + 66 76 200507
fax + 66 76 200507
mobile + 66 62 835536

website :
Copyright David Millner 16 March 2004

email David

Heavy weather sailing
March 2009

"I have been capsized, foundered, run-down and placed in more survival conditions than I can remember"


A Voyaging Canoe for Tikopia
March 2009
A project to build a sailing double canoe for Tikopia.

Tikopia is a tiny remote Polynesian island in the Western Pacific, which has maintained self-sufficiency for 3000 years.

Using a Parachute Anchor
March 2009

Peter Clutterbuck, MOCRA Safety Officer, examines the benefits of carrying one on board, and compares with the conventional anchor.

Budget charters in Thailand
March 2009

We sailed "Veni Vidi Vici", one of Siam Sailing's Tiki 30's for two weeks in January

Read on...

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