THE SAIL SPIN IS a Singapore-based enterprise that combines party events, various entertainments and extraordinary travel adventures – rather like the Croatia-based Yacht Week, I muse, as I attend The Sail Spin’s launch party at Boujis.
But while Yacht Week is a little too much hassle for those of us based in Asia, I find myself a couple of months later en route to Phuket to unwind on a Sail Spin excursion, the prospect of sleeping, drinking and partying away for four days and nights at sea on a yacht, while taking in sumptuous dinners on land at secluded beach clubs and resorts, and meeting people from around the world, being too much to resist. Sounds great, right?
What follows is my diary – or, if you like, my sailor’s logbook.
I take a 1am flight to Phuket, and by 4am my friend Sammie and I are in a taxi heading for Yacht Haven Marina to meet The Sail Spin founder, Alex Linnerth. The narrow streets of Phuket are dark and I’m starting to get nervous; this is way too dangerous! But once at the marina Alex comes out to greet us. I’m surprised he’s still awake. It seems there’d been a welcome party at Catch Beach Club, with our fellow Sail Spinners dancing and drinking crazily. Some were already exhausted and fast asleep; others were still awake and drinking; all had already been allocated to their yachts, where they’ll spend the next four days cruising, drinking, dining, partying and sleeping with their crewmembers. As we walk along the pontoon, we pass a boat with its lights still on. A couple of guys wave us over. Sammie and I decide to join them, and they’re already pouring us drinks and introducing themselves as we climb over the high ropes. We take it fairly easy though, Sammie climbing into bed after several glasses while I stay awake, surprisingly not sleepy at all, silently sitting outside on the porch waiting for the sky to light up.
As the sun rises, people are slowly waking up. They’re all talking about the dancing overweight transgender chick from the night before. I feel like I’ve missed out.
After a brief introduction to our skipper, she hurries over to the bough and starts anchoring. Our Bettys – pretty Sail Spin helpers – deliver freshly baked croissants and other goodies for breakfast. Before we anchor off I catch a glimpse of the beautiful Phuket sunrise on shore.
We sail off with eight other yachts, some luxurious with all sorts of equipment and some only big enough for four people. I’m excited! I start meeting the crew that I’m sailing with. Our skipper takes us to Phang Nga Bay, known for its dramatic rock formations, and to unspoiled beaches far away from the day-tripping crowds. It’s a pleasant contrast to the last time I was in Phuket, when every island I visited was filled with tourists.
We enter one of the caves with our motorboat, not knowing what to expect, and the skipper’s being very coy. It’s really dark inside and there’s a weird, pungent, smell about the place. When I look up, the cave walls are filled with bats. I’m so terrified I keep my head down for the remainder of the ride.
As the night draws closer, we anchor near the amazing Paradise Koh Yao Boutique Beach Resort and Spa. Once on shore, most of our group start drinking and sunset-watching, but I take the chance to slink off to the resort’s spa facilities. After a long, hot shower I feel wonderfully clean. Later I join the delicious meat-and-seafood barbecue prepared by Paradise’s master chef. We’re allocated seats far from the crewmembers we’ve grown close to and are forced to sit with strangers from the other yachts. I find myself arguing with the guy sitting next to me over which is Dan Brown’s most interesting book.
After dinner, the DJ starts turning up the music. I’m expecting a quiet, early night but my Sail Spin companions insist I stay on shore to party. Others are already half drunk and dancing away. During the revelry I sit at the nearby beach hut and end up talking to everybody on the trip. They’re all nice people.
En route to Koh Phi Phi we stop by some island groups around Koh Hong Krabi, famous for their spectacular vertical cliffs rising from the clear sea and beautiful lagoons enclosed by rock walls. There are already quite a few groups out paddling, some in kayaks and some in long-tail boats. It isn’t easy going in with our motorboats, but we manage, the guys paddling and the girls issuing directions. It’s quite fun to put the guys to work! I feel a sense of teamwork and achievement. The lagoon is really beautiful, lit up by sunlight from the open ceiling created by enclosing rock walls. The water shows a hint of turquoise and dark emerald as we paddle through. I hear a splash and think someone’s fallen into the sea, but when I turn around I realise a couple of girls have actually jumped in to enjoy the cool water. They sing as they swim along.
In the afternoon we stay on board for some sunbathing. The weather’s perfect. A couple of guys help the skipper manage the forces of the wind on the sails by pulling the rigging. You can tell instantly who’s strong and who’s not!
It’s pitch black by the time we reached Koh Phi Phi town – I didn’t even know the island has a “town centre” until that moment. While we wait for the long-tail boats to take us to a dinner party on shore, two guys on a nearby fishing boat surround us with their fishing net. It’s all lost in translation, and we have no idea what they want. The eight of us suddenly toughen up and grab huge long knives. This seems to scare them off, so, relieved, we start drinking to celebrate our transformation to real-life pirates. After dinner we party at one of the beach clubs, where there are fire dancers performing. The night ends with us having way too much to drink and dancing the night away with the rest of the crew.
The next morning, everyone is hung-over. Some sleep on shore and some fall asleep on board; no one sleeps inside the cabin. Those who manage to regain their strength after a healthy breakfast take the speedboat to one of the nearby cliffs for some cliff jumping. I spend the afternoon reading a book while the rest go to a secret island. Later, knowing it’s our last day, we gather on the top deck to watch the sunset together. It’s stunningly beautiful. We chat and exchange contacts before heading to our last dinner at Coconut Island Village Resort. I’m lucky to have quite an intelligent group on my yacht. We spend most of the time chilling and discussing politics, society and health. Some would have preferred the party boat next to us, the crew of which has been blasting hardcore dance music day and night, singing and dancing and getting drunk. But sometimes you need to relax. As the excursion comes to an end, I reflect that not only have I done one of the most keenly anticipated trips of my life, I’ve also made new and life-long friends.