Retirement was boring, this owner tells Grace Tofa, so he got busy refitting and chartering yachts in his adoptive Thailand.
My family always had boats. I remember our first boat was a 1966 Senior 26. I was eight at the time and we sailed her around southern England where I lived until I was about 40 years old. We had a family business there and I expanded to Thailand in 2005. When I sold the business, I chose to remain in Thailand – I find boating far more interesting here than in the Mediterranean.
In Thailand, you go out for a week or two, cruising from island to island with no marinas and pretty much no one around. My favorite cruising ground is from Phuket down to Burma. It takes about two days, and cruising around the islands you come across mostly fishing boats.
The most visual experience on any yacht, I think, is when the seas are rough. The worst I remember was during a trip from the Gulf of Thailand up to Singapore. You know the height of (135ft tri-deck) Ocean Emerald? We had waves coming over the top, about 40ft high. I worked out it was another three days to Singapore, but we could get back to shelter in less than a day, anchored in a national park. We were stuck there for six days along with about 70 fishing boats; the winds were 70mph with 25ft-high waves, and 12 fishermen died in the same area where we had been.
Ocean Emerald is an iconic yacht; there were lots of people who thought I was mad to buy it, but I felt the design was something different and I liked the challenge of it. She did get some negative press (that said) Norman Foster was not a yacht designer so it wasn’t safe, but that was rubbish. Because the yacht is unique, she was very popular in Asia. I owned her for seven years before someone approached me to buy her. I just thought it was the right time to move on.
This boat, Navis One – it’s hard to come up with a name for a boat – is 153ft and I bought her at auction through a sealed bid. I figured out what she was worth and knocked off 30 percent and I won. Then I went to see it and wondered what I had
got myself into. But that’s life, isn’t it? The Latin-Lebanese owner had created a dark interior with patent leather flooring. But I enjoy working on yachts as much as I enjoy being on them so it’s all changed now. What I like the most is that it is quite wide with lots of outdoor space; it’s right on the limit at 498 tons and makes the most of it. I probably spend about three months a year cruising, another three months on board working, and then for six months she’s on charter.
After I sold my business, I felt lost for six months. I was so bored with life. I thought, I know what I’ll do, I’ll buy a big boat and start chartering, and now I am back in the state as I was in before – so busy I can’t fit everything in. I also have a 100ft Turkish gulet, not one of my best moves. With the termites we have in Asia, I’ve rebuilt it three times; but it’s fun and a totally different feeling. I also have a 110ft Italian Versilcraft with five cabins and I might want one of those older gentlemen-styled yachts, like a 40-year-old Feadship. For me, one of the nicest things in life is to be on a yacht at night when the sea is flat.Read More/On board with Nigel Plaskett, owner of divisive yacht Ocean Emerald