Fast Track To Ocean Skipper in Thailand

by Chris Devonshire-Ellis

June 12th, 2009

This past week, and for the next two, I have gone to what amounts to a Maritime University – to sit both theory and practical exams for qualifications to Advanced Skipper on Ocean-going yachts. I’m based at Yacht Haven in Phuket, a quiet spot, yet home to a variety of craft – catamarans, cruisers and so on, but most of my time is spent on 32 and 34ft yachts. So far I haven’t managed to sink any of them, and my man-overboard techniques seem to be intact and responsive. Navigation too, and chart plotting remain good – at least in theory, but the drudgery of reefing, and hauling jib and main sheets up and down again not only plays havoc with my complaining muscles, but also my hands, which are blistered, and in one or two places, raw. Gloves are an essential, and no yachtsman ever wins beautiful hands competitions.


The weather though has been good, reasonable breeze, a bit of cloud cover to keep the sun off, and of course Phuket is always beautiful. This weekend I shall sail, while being assessed, from northern Phuket to the island of Ko Yao Yai and back, a three day and night round trip, and a precursor to a longer voyage to Malaysia’s Langkawi island. Life doesn’t get much better – fresh grilled prawns, crab and lobster washed down with Singha beer and spectacular sunrises.

I used work for a yacht charter company years ago in Greece and the Canary Islands, and I’ve participated in Thailands Kings Cup previously, but the real deal with taking this course is two fold – the ability to follow in my Grandfathers footsteps – he was a Royal Naval Commander in World Wars I & II, and secondly to assist my good friend Andreas with crewing his yacht from Cape Town, via Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Maldives, Sri Lanka and here, to Phuket, when it’s finally ready. That may not be now until next year, however Thailand’s Kings Cup looms again this December, and I’ll be aiming for a third place and higher. Pictured is Yacht Haven – and right now, nautical miles, tidal ranges and cool beers are the most important things in life…

More on this when back from the yoyage to Ko Yao Yai next week.