Sailing and Yacht Charter in Thailand Info #1

After almost 10 years skippering charter yachts and working as a yacht charter agent in Thailand, I would like to share some of my experiences in a series of articles, highlighting the differences to other sailing areas, explaining common types of charter and giving some advice on the dos and don’ts how to get the sailing holiday you are looking for.

Where and how to book a yacht charter in Thailand

yacht charter in Thailand - Ang Thong
This morning I googled “sailing Thailand” and found in the advertisement section a web site I’ve never heard of before, offering the astonishing amount of 130 boats for charter in Thailand. Since this is probably close to the actual amount of real yachts (in opposition to tour boats) doing yacht charters in Thailand, I was intrigued.

And what a surprise, even my very own yacht was listed on the first page as the third boat on offer. Ok, kind of. There is only one Freedom 40 on Koh Tao (and entire Thailand) doing charters so I assume it must be Freedom Fargo despite the fact that the boat picture shown on is a different Freedom 40 which has two different salons and a different layout. And the price, well, starts from 3,960 Euro / week while our Charter Yacht Freedom Fargo is listed for 16,000 Thai Baht + 7% VAT / day in low season, which amounts to 3,180 Euro for an entire week meaning in this case full 7 x 24 h.
But who cares, since the boat looks pretty expensive to charter anyway, given that there is nothing mentioned about that the price includes skipper, chef, all meals and soft drinks.
catamaran Nakamal under sailsTwo boats further down there is Nautiness (RB 45), moored at Koh Samui Marina (a lot must have happened in Samui, since there was none when I was last there 3 weeks ago ;-)) and the listing is alternating between 2 and 10 passengers while the Sailing Catamaran Nautiness takes up to 6 guests over night and is specialized on sail and dive charters.
Next on the list is Nakamal, mostly booked out hence to the unique mix of (diving) adventure and comfort the swiss owner/skipper and his wife are delivering for a maximum of 6 guests. Not only that the amount of guests is wrong, but the owner only accepts agency bookings from less than a hand full of hand selected yacht charter agents.
It’s continueing with three boats called “Mozart”, “Faraway 48” and “Amadeus”. Mozart and Amadeus are both Faraway 48s. There are these two in Thailand and none of them has an alternative Base in Telaga/Langkawi, which is Malaysia. That would rather be a sign of an illegally operating vessel, since every charter vessel in Thailand has to be commercially registered here and basing a boat abroad is not an option.
Of course it is not mentioned that both sailing catamarans are specialized on crewed charters and are famed for their gourmet cuisine tickling your taste buds with the best of Thai and European cuisine. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that Amadeus and Mozart are somehow related – but it is interesting to know that the owner is Austrian, like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was, his name is Wolfgang and he is a former chef who has set the standards for gourmet cuisine on crewed charters in Thailand 15 years ago.

Enough picking apart this sorry excuse for a yacht charter booking web site. The point I wanted to put accross is my first advice when booking a yacht charter in Thailand:

Stay away from those yacht charter booking engines!

In my humble opinion booking with an agent should give you unbiased opinions about the boats you wish to charter. A good agent should have visited the boats he is offering and know the owners and skippers personally. This is especially important on crewed charters where you are spending a good part of your holiday in the relatively confined space of a sailing yacht together with some people you have never met before. But as well when interested in a bare boat charter it is paramount that the yacht charter agent knows the companies whose boats he is offering intimately. The yacht charter business in Thailand is distributed over a myriad of tiny businesses with pretty much every single one having a slightly different idea about their terms and conditions. So either the company running the booking engine leaves the details to the owner, who is then already upset about the booking where he has paid commission for a service he did not receive or even worse, you are arriving with the wrong details which can jeopardize the entire charter.

How to recognize those booking engines?

It’s easy. Except Sunsail, there is not a single company physically present in Thailand which is operating far from Thailands borders. If you come accross a page offering boats on other continents – move on. Furthermore, know Google. The Google search algorithms are very sophisticated and in the case of Thailand there is not a single booking engine coming up in the generic search results when using the most relevant search terms like “Sailing Thailand” or “Yacht Charter Thailand”. The rotten tomatoes are coming up in the paid for search results, tagged as Ad on the top, side and bottom of the search results page.
Another way of avoiding those yacht charter booking engines brings to my second advice for hiring a boat here in Thailand:

Book your boat with a company properly registered in Thailand

TAT license number of Island Cruises Co. Ltd.
Only companies registered in Thailand and licensed by TAT (Tourist Authority of Thailand) are allowed to conduct charters and/or broker yacht charters in Thailand. The TAT license number is usually shown on the web site in the footer or even more prominent, like in the picture shown. This does not mean, that companies brokering boat hires from abroad are fraudsters and your yacht charter does not take place when the payment is done, but it should be self explanatory that you are better off with a company physically present in the country and being able to assist with your travel arrangements, speaking the local language etc..

To be continued…

skipper and yacht charter broker Alf BirneckerAbout the Author: Alf Birnecker arrived in Thailand in 2005 after sailing for 7 years on his own sailing yacht Freedom Fargo from Germany via the carrebean and the Panama Canal through the pacific ocean mostly single handed to Thailand. Since 2006 he is part owner of Island Cruises Co. Ltd. on Koh Tao skippering the Freedom Fargo and brokering together with his Thai business partner Chitlada Treerarat yacht charters all over the country

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