Every month, superyacht owners reveal where they are in the world, how they're dealing with Covid-related disruption and share their future plans.
You finally escaped Singapore!
That’s right – after being confined to Singapore for 12 months, my wife Coni and I flew to Phuket in mid-February and did the mandatory 14-day quarantine at the Anantara Mai Khao. We took a pool villa and had one of the two bedrooms converted into a gym, so quarantine wasn’t that tiresome!
Phuket is a very different place right now. In 35 years of coming here, I’ve never seen anything like it. Tourism has almost stopped and the people who work in the hospitality sector have all returned to their homes across Thailand. As a result, Phuket is only left with its permanent residents, which is a fraction of its population at normal times. We’ve been driving around the island, which we would never normally do, as trips that would usually take three hours now only take 45 minutes. We’ve even managed to get to some restaurants on the south side of the island. Meanwhile, the beaches are all empty and the seas have been clear and blue. It’s like it was back in the 1970s.
Have you done much cruising?
We’ve spent quite a bit of time on Latitude cruising and scuba diving in the Andaman Sea. We have been down to Koh Lipe, which is right on the Malaysian border. We took some time to visit Tarutao, a very interesting island and the site of a famous prison, which we accessed on the tender up a winding river. Then we sailed to the Similan Islands, about 45 nautical miles west of Phuket, for diving. We finished the trip in the Surin Islands, close to the Myanmar border, for more exploring.
Where’s the boat now?
She’s tied up at the Ao Po Grand Marina. Several of the crew who haven’t been away from the boat for over a year are taking their vacations, visiting family and friends in South Africa, so we’ve been enjoying more land-based activities. I feel terribly sorry for all the people who work in the hospitality and tourism industries, but I must admit we have been enjoying the feeling that we have the place to ourselves. We went across to Krabi and spent time on a beach that is usually crawling with tourists and long-tail boats – there was not a soul on it!
Owner of Vijonara
You’ve been exploring Croatia. How was the sailing?
The Croatian coastline is blessed with more than 1,200 islands big and small, as well as two national parks, providing ample opportunities for very protected anchorages even when the wind blows at 25 knots. There are almost no depth restrictions, beautifully restored ancient cities and villages, great restaurants and very friendly people.
Did you make any discoveries when you were there?
The cities of Dubrovnik, Tagir and Hvar are must-sees. As is the blue lagoon at the Island of Vis, a very similar but much less crowded an attraction compared to the one in Capri. The national park area around the Mljet islands is also incredibly beautiful. I strongly recommend a visit.
You’ve also been cruising around Malta and the Adriatic. Did you have any difficulties moving around?
We had to provide a PCR test to get in and out of Malta. The nurse who did the test came to the boat. For Croatia, proof of vaccination was sufficient, or a negative PCR. On the whole it was pretty easy.
What’s the best thing about Malta?
It’s one of the best natural harbours in the world, has great history and architecture, super sailing and diving. That goes for its neighbouring island of Gozo too.
Why did you decide to cruise this region?
We love the history and sights of Valletta, home to the order of the Knights of Malta for centuries. As for Croatia, it was our first visit, and it exceeded all our expectations.
Did you see many other big boats in the areas you went?
As sad as the Covid-19 situation is, the silver lining is that we had little or no competition for services and anchorages in the places we went. Plus, there were far fewer tourists. We basically had the places to ourselves, which was quite magical.
What was the welcome like in the places you went?
The locals were happy and excited to see yachts and revenue for their businesses slowly but surely returning. Everyone was super-friendly wherever we went.
You’re wrapping Komokwa’s hull in vinyl, instead of painting it…
Yes! We’re doing it for a couple of reasons. Wrapping is a lot less expensive – $60,000 compared to $350,000 for a repaint. It also takes a lot less time, nine days versus four months, which means we won’t miss a season, and lastly wrapping is much more environmentally friendly. You can recycle the vinyl and there’s far fewer chemicals involved.
Were you nervous at all about it?
Very. My biggest concern was that the seams between the sheets of wrap would stand out. In fact you can’t see them from about five metres away. If you get closer, you can see them, but barely. The sheets are about 23 metres by 1.5 metres, so there are a number of seams, but it looks exactly like fresh paint. I’m really pleased with the result.
How long will it last?
I’m told five-plus years, although due to the type of material used (our wraps are manufactured by Avery and Orafol) we had to order “fluffy” covers for our fenders so the hard seams in the fenders don’t scratch the wrap.
What colour did you go for? Were you tempted to do anything wild?
We went for the original stone grey colour, but I did wonder whether to try “Capri blue” or some other cool colour. But let’s face it, with those costs and timing you could do a new colour each year and still be ahead of the game.
What are your plans for this summer?
We will be on the west coast of Canada all summer. We start with a cruise of the Gulf Islands on then move to Desolation Sound. I’m currently discussing donating her to the International SeaKeepers Society in September for an Alaska cruise to record whales communicating with each other.