Phuket is located in southern Thailand and is the biggest island in the Andaman Sea. Throughout Thai history, Phuket has long been known as one of the major trading sites between India and China. So much so, in fact, that it was frequently mentioned in logs dating back to the 1680s, specifically those of early Portuguese, French, Dutch and English traders. Those mariners sometimes commented in their log books that they found Phuket, then known as Jung Ceylon, strange because it has ‘nine brooks and creeks but no major rivers’ and that this was ‘unusual’ as was the ‘wooden boats that were being used by locals’ – presumably, these were the traditional Longtails.
I doubt that these sailors would recognize Phuket nowadays but perhaps if one takes away all the twenty first century architecture, they could – after all the Andaman Sea itself could not have changed that much. I like to imagine that they could have felt at home and amongst fellow kindred spirits.
As I waited for the kettle to brew, my wandering eyes were drawn to a newspaper, I forget which, but it had a promotional deal that Thai Airways were offering. Before I realized, I was automatically thinking of the ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’. Incidentally, it is the thirteenth and final complete James Bond that was penned by Ian Fleming himself. As any Fleming reader will recollect, James soon finds himself flying in and around Phang Nga Bay observing the unusual towering limestone formations in the archipelago that consists of Khao Phing Kan Islands. One of which, now has actually been affectionately dubbed James Bond Island, although traditionalists will prefer the Thai name, Ko Tapu. Unlike James, I do not have to rescue Goodnight and the Solex from Franscisco Scaramanga but home my radar towards the Phuket International Boat Show (PIMEX).
Getting in in the mood of all things nautical, I imagined donning a crisp white cotton cap. The type that has a navy peak to it, and yes, it has yellow braiding and an embroidered gold anchor on it. Along with this necessary hat gear, I wore a long sleeved striped top over navy trousers and shoes to disguise the wooden sea legs. I also wore an eye patch and a silver hook – well, I had to improvise on that part! It was a cork wine bottle remover but its close enough. Lastly, to complete the look, I had a miserable squawking parrot called Biscuit that needed to be reflated every few minutes by a series of jerky chicken like movements with the left arm! Armed with phrases like ‘Ahoy Captain’, ‘Freshwater swabs’ and ‘Squawking popinjay’ I felt ready for adventure on the Seven Seas. After an hour or so doing all this, getting some politely, okay, more frightening looks at the local supermarket when picking up some forgotten supplies I called it quits. Not before long, I may add, because, as I was paying, walking down from his office was the security guard, reaching for his radio, I imagined to call for help, so I felt even more foolish and hastily stuffed my bag with the can of spinach and pouch of tobacco, to walk the plank homeward bound….
Relieved to be back home, and that nobody of any importance had seen me, I changed into acceptable normal attire and sat down to consider what else I could do that would not involve making a spectacle of myself, no, I never attempted to chew and spit the tobacco; I am not that old of a seadog, before any of you point it out. Tut!
The annual Phuket International Boat Show is a four-day event held in January at the Royal Phuket Marina. The Royal Phuket Marina offers, state of the art floating docks with water and electricity available at all the slips and has an array of staff on hand. I imagine that if James Bond could have left the airplane here instead, he may well have done so, as it is conveniently located within five minutes of several resort hotels that can provide customers with a range of options for pre or post charter accommodations, thus remaining the versatile jewel of Southeast Asia when not hosting the ultimate marine show.
The Phuket International Boat Show has ensured that there is more to this seafaring extravaganza as landlubbers can access the eclectic combination of exhibition hall displays, shops and bazaars with over a hundred brands not all for the boat and marine orientated aficionados. Just about anything, one would potentially like, is readily available when one observes which and what brands, boutiques, bespoke, lifestyle, luxury and quirky stalls there are altogether. It has been reported that ‘Over a hundred British brands alone are estimated to be being featured’ and if correct, then in the words of James Thomson’s ‘Alfred’ in 1763, one can perchance be snobby to say something silly like, ‘Rule, Britannia! rule the waves: Britons never will be slaves’ as that is an achievement.
Cars like Jaguars, Lexus to Land Rovers are on sale alongside the huge diversity in clothing apparel, as are sporting goods and equipment, not forgetting the tools, gadgets, latest accessories and other associated gizmos that can be acquired. They even have Thai real estate and property agents at the show advertising the latest projects in Pattaya’s Ocean Marina and the newly opened Port Takola Marina in Krabi. All are offering investors, boat owners and ramblers alike a combination of berthing and onshore residential properties. Some are within Thailand itself, others are from further afield. Philippine resort developers Megaworld and residences at the Vista Del Mar and RPM La Reserve are present.
For the more serious individuals amongst us, one can even attend conferences and business meetings by attending the Safer Phuket Charter, whose representatives, agents and suppliers are from the marine related industry. Thailand’s leading dealers and brokerages are all on hand with noteable names like Ferretti, Pershing, Riviera, Jeanneau, Cantiere Della Marche, Riva, Crownline, Azimut, Lagoon, Swan Nautor, Beneteau, Gulf Craft, Formula, Majesty, Princess, Sunseeker, Fairline, Tiara Yachts, Selene Ocean Trawlers, San Lorenzo, Fontaine Pajot, Island Spirit, Hanse and Wider Yachts Asia and, oh, so many more, ready to help potential clients.
Young adults and those with families are not forgotten or sidelined. There are entertainments, tours, indoor and outdoor skills set and fun zones, playground and interactive stage with life-sized characters of Kids and Teen Mania. The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), which highlights scuba diving and snorkeling sessions, are there along with ever-successful land and water themed displays. For those who want to dabble in aquaculture one can learn how to cast a net, use a rod and reel or learn about the plentiful marine life found around Phuket with a strong emphasis placed on responsible ecotourism.
Informa Yacht Group founder and Show organizer, Mr. Andrew Dowden, explains that the boat show contributes to Phuket’s tourism industry and he plans even more exciting ways to promote the leisure, business and luxury lifestyle attributed to the island. Mr. Dowden says, that ‘Since I launched the Phuket International Boat Show in 2003, Phuket’s marine industry has grown more than 500% and today it is a 10 Billion Baht per year industry. From just a few hundred boats prior to 2003, Phuket now welcomes more than 2,000 boats and more than 70 super yachts each year.’ In 2015, the Phuket International Boat Show averaged six Billion Baht to the industry while through sales and leads it generated an increase growth of 11%.
This has also been further supported by Andaman Marine Consultants, who state that ‘the event continues to grow in numbers and quality of product and is without doubt the premium boat show in the region, helping the Thai economy.’ Phuket is the third highest Gross Provincial Product on the back of a resilient tourism industry. Andaman Marine Consultants goes on to state that they will ‘continue to organize the event’ because they have an experienced ‘in house team’ with ‘local PR and IT consultants and advisors’ that ‘Focus on bringing the exhibitors and quality visitors together in a relaxing environment at Royal Phuket Marina and provide an excellent business platform for all concerned.’ As they ensure ‘that all visitors, exhibitors and celebrities alike can enjoy the pop-up bars and eateries along with established restaurant and beverage outlets which are open all day and long into the night, throughout the four days.’ The exhibition itself is open from 11:00 to 19:00.
It is as Michael Morpurgo writes in Alone On A Wide Wide Sea, ‘You have to understand the sea’ by ‘listening to her, to look out for her moods, to get to know her and respect her and love her. Only then can you build boats that feel at home on the sea.’ So apt are Mr Morpurgo’s words that, at this venue there is an impressive and almost overwhelming display of craftsmanship and diverse boats & boating products of all kinds that reflect the love of the sea and all things marine.
On show are locally built boats from Cata Thai and Sunnav, a plethora of composite catamarans, cruisers, seat boats, speedboats, powerboats, windsurfers, canoes and dinghies, however, they do rather pale in comparison to the magnificent grace and prestige of the Tallships and large Yachts. Many of these tall masted beauties are as high as they are long at lengths of between 32 to 112 feet long. Creating the biggest splash of all is the Sunseeker 131, a tri-deck 40-meter long yacht that costs in excess of £16 million, beating the previous exhibition record. It really does make one think of all the others as child toys, albeit in a big bathtub.
For those not wanting to go to quite such expense then rest assured there still are iconic and historical boats available to capture the wind in your sails or cruise along with softly purring motor power, such as the beautifully refurbished nineteenth century sailing barges, the SB Melissa and Massey Shaw. Others like the 1935 vessel that rescued more than 500 troops from the beaches of Dunkirk are also boasting their pedigree. Other highlights that have been reported to be assembling back stage waiting for their turn in the spotlight are the Americas Cup commentator Tucker Thompson, Volvo Ocean Race winner Ian Walker & record breaking female sailor Dee Caffari MBE amongst many others. No doubt, they are providing book signing and inauguration speeches amongst the raffles, quizzes, competitions and sponsorships that will all add to the fun.
One competition, that I took note of, is open for university design students and is not surprisingly called the UK’s Superyacht UK Young Designer. The proper terms and conditions apply so it is best to research these beforehand. In essence, entrants have to create their own unique concept and hand draw a yacht. Industry experts will judge the designs – though they are not revealing who but, rest assured, they are present at the show itself – so it is a matter of Guess Who! The lucky winner will receive a four weeks internship at the Pendennis Shipyard, a world class and award winning UK Custom Build and Refit superyacht yard located in Falmouth that specializes in luxury sail and motor yachts 30-100 meters and, to cap it all, will reportedly implement your design making it into a finished product!
As the Phuket International Boat Show expects to welcome more than 7,000 visitors and 2,000 trade visitors from more than 35 countries represented, it is wise to spend the entire day (or several!) to soak in the atmospheric vibe, hospitality and excellent Thai food. I will now weigh anchor but before I avast the scene I will impart to my readers Martin Luther King Jr’s wise words … ‘We all came in on different ships, but we’re all in the same boat now.’ You see, despite the present monetary concerns with the ‘fear of appreciation’ and ‘fear of floating in reverse behavior’ currently observed in the falling Stock Exchange Markets across Asia, Europe and the US, I feel that the Phuket International Boat Show mounts something tangible and suitable for all individuals regardless how great or small a fry one may currently be.