I had had my eye on Mark’s RYA Sailing Courses for the last couple of years and was particularly attracted by the Learn to Sail Sailing Holiday from Phuket to Langkawi. Finally in December 2010 we were going to be in Thailand and so booked what had become a “must-do” trip for me.
Also see Julie's comments on our Comments Page.
I am a big fan of Day Skipper Courses and my friends laugh that I have a fair few under my belt. In my defence, they are a great way to go sailing in waters you might not dare sail yourself, learn from different skippers and meet fun, like-minded people. So considering myself a bit of an expert in Day Skipper Courses, I would highly recommend doing one with Mark. The days are full but the week is relaxed, so you don’t realise how much you are learning and it really does feel like a holiday. And of course, sailing around beautiful Thailand cannot fail to impress.
Paul and I already had our Day Skippers (or three) and Mark is very flexible in tailoring the course to whatever you wanted to focus on, both in terms of sailing and navigation. “Meniscus” is an interesting boat in that she has lots of “knobs and twizzles” I have not come across on other boats, which makes you think outside the box. Quite a lot is manual on board but we had some strapping men on board to do the “grunt work”.
Our crew for the week met in Phuket, heaved our bags on board and set off for a gentle sail to the famous Koh Phi Phi island. Evening one was spent in loud and crowded Koh Phi Phi bay which is a good place to practice your anchoring in tight spaces, while trying to avoid the chanel. It is a good sociable first stop to get to know your fellow crew members and learn just how much the tide can rise in 4 hours while you go off to have dinner and drinks. First valuable sailing lesson regarding tying up your dinghy!
Evening two was spent on Koh Lanta, well away from the tourists in the tiny former capital where the pier is longer than the main street, where we drank singha beer in a local bar and enjoyed great food in a restaurant on stilts. Those who had been navigating that day kept a constant eye on the rise of the tide through the many bottles of singha.
The next few days slipped into a routine of long sailing days, good wind, interesting navigation, good banter and conversation on board and lots of food. One of my favourite times of day was when we would barely drop anchor before night fell, Mark would bring us all much-needed post-anchor beers and a short hour later he would serve us the most amazing Thai food. I had read that Mark was a good cook but was still constantly impressed by the lunches and dinners he surprised us with, all with tasty fresh Thai ingredients and interesting spices.
uring this stretch of the trip our feet did not touch dry land for 3 days and nights and the trip really started to have the feel of an expedition. There was Meniscus and the 5 crew members out in the wilds of Thailand. I loved this part of the trip as we swam to deserted beaches, took the dinghy into caves, marvelled that some of the sailing areas were really only 5 meters deep, felt far removed from tourism as the only other boats we saw for days were fishing vessels and spent each night in secluded spots, rocking gently at anchor, far from lights and life. This was a very seductive change from normal life and exactly what I had hoped for when booking this trip. And the scenery did not disappoint as we passed island after island and huge craggy outcrops, many of which are uninhabited or have one lonely resort on them. James Bond Island times one hundred!!
We were also lucky in that we had real “weather” on this week. It was no longer supposed to be the wet season but we had a wonderful mixture of sun, rain, storms, wind and with Mark on board there was no need to worry and we took full opportunity to learn just what the boat could do. Somehow it is exhilerating to helm in shorts and a rain jacket.
All too soon Langkawi loomed mountainous and misty in the distance. It truly seemed as though we had been at sea for weeks and daily life seemed like a distant memory, “boat life” having become our new lives. We had 170 sea miles under our belts and felt very confident sailing Meniscus in most conditions. “Bring on the wind and rain” we said!
I must also say we were very fortunate on this trip that we had such great company. Tim, Terence, Paul, Mark and I all got on very well, the whole week was very harmonious, great tales were swapped and we spent a lot of time laughing. We were all very supportive of each other and all pulled together even though we were all strangers. Thankfully this meant there were no arguments about who was going to be skipper or whose turn it was to do the washing up!
And finally a word about Mark. Mark is an amazing skipper, very calm and he exudes experience. Or maybe that is just from all his tales of sailing around the world. His teaching methods are very relaxed and he allows you to try things for yourself to gain in confidence and experience. He is also great company. Most of all I felt very spoilt at the end of this trip. Mark had really gone out of his way to make this course a fun and relaxing holiday as well as a learning experience, but he also really looked after us all and that was much appreciated. Let me tell you, this is not something you can necessarily expect on all Day Skipper Courses!
Thanks for a great week Mark, Tim, Paul and Terence. And after this course you will be pleased to hear we went on to do our first bareboat from Koh Chang for a week, which turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I will definitely return to sail in beautiful Thailand again and will be sure to look up Mark again.