High-end travellers go island hopping  

Sailing boat cruises, right out of the pages of a yachting magazine, are up for grabs in Phuket starting this month.

Based in Phuket, the hybrid sailing craft, SY Diva Andaman, started its first Andaman Sea cruises this month after leaving the dry dock in Bangkok, last July, for a final fitting in Phuket.

The boat is owned by Diva Group of Companies made up of Diva Marine Company and Diva Diving Company, and established in 2008 by 14 “friends who shared a love for the sea, sailing boats and diving”.

One of the shareholders, a Thai businessman and the group’s executive director, Chakkrit Bhamornsatit, estimated the boat cost Bt20 million to build.

“This is the first sail boat in Thailand that can really be sailed most of the time due to the use of a hybrid system. Built by Suthorn Group, a Thai company that specialises in fishing boats, we took on board a Thai national sailing team coach as an advisor for the design and construction phase,” he said.

Based on a wooden hull, the vessel is powered by sails made from Dacron textile imported from the Netherlands and noted for strength and lightness.

The vessel is rigged in a traditional schooner fashion with some adaptations based on the rigging of a Chinese junk. It has 420 sqm of sail surface that helps it achieve speeds of eight knots with winds of around 15 knots.

A single lower deck has eight double cabins, six with double beds and two with bunk beds. All cabins have private bathrooms.

The main target audiences are up-scale sailing enthusiasts and families, while the vessel will need to achieve a 60% occupancy, September to December, to be financially viable. By mid-2010, the company will start construction of a second boat similar in design that will be based in Phuket.

SY Diva Andaman’s will cruise the islands in the Andaman Sea , from its Phuket base. The five-night/six-day cruise anchors at Mai Phai island, Phi Phi Lae island, Ha island, and Rok island. The trip costs Bt48,310, per person. The shorter one-night/two-day cruise, during weekends, departs from Phuket to Racha Noi island and is priced at Bt16, 260 per person.

The rates include scuba diving, snorkelling and kayaking. They do not include air fares, drinks, Thai traditional massage and roundtrip limousine transfers to the hotel and airport. There is a special launch 20% discount on cruises booked and paid in full by 30 September.


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