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Thailand – Seascape and Siam Sailing

By James Wharram

My last Blog (God, how I hate that ugly word) was about our visit to Mumbai, India, the Mumbai Boatshow and our new Professional builder Rajesh of Viking Boats.

Before we went, Hanneke pointed out that Phuket, Thailand was also in Asia, i.e. on the way and we had three good reasons to visit there. So two planes and 8 hours after leaving Mumbai, I was staggering (and I mean staggering - my right knee has gone, due to a miss spent youth rock climbing and carrying a heavy pack over mountains) off the plane into the beautiful morning light of Phuket.

The four reasons to visit Phuket were:

  • To visit the Seascape yard again and see our builder Günther Nutt (Liechtensteiner)
  • To meet Mad Max Jurgens the Dutchman who charters Wharram catamarans in Phuket (Siam Sailing)
  • To sail on the Islander 55 which is used as a charter boat by Alex who is Spanish
  • Finally, to visit the Rolly Tasker sail loft

Günther had arranged a room for us at The Lighthouse, a beautiful room with a wide view across Chalong Bay. There were ten Wharrams in view, oh dear I thought, 10 Wharrams, that means either 10 owners who tell me how bad the design is and the improvements I need to make, or 10 who tell me how good the designs are, don't change anything, who tell me what a wonderful sailing time they are having and why am I not out there sailing with them.

Günther has lived in Thailand for 22 years and speaks Thai, he is an authority on Thai relationships, which includes their women (behind their beauty they are tough intelligent women), and on the Thai food he introduced us to; do beware the red Chillies, one small piece and you won't taste the delicate flavours of the rest of the food.

James and Günther in the yard
James, Günther and staff in the yard
James and Günther discuss the details of the beautiful Tiki 38, and talk to the very competent yard foreman.

In Günther's yard was a nearly complete Tiki 38; the photos show the quality of the workmanship. Günther's apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker is evident in many of the subtle details. What we missed seeing was the latest Pahi 52 'Calagorm' built for a Scottish doctor, which had just recently left to sail to Europe (via Red Sea into the Mediterranean).

Günther is a very keen sailor; he regularly races his traditional Friendship Sloop (American design), complete with jack yard topsails. He wins races too!! So I particularly value his remarks about the sailing qualities of my designs. He is an enthusiast for the Tiki 30 and dreams of taking one out at the right time of the Monsoon season, to drive her further then anyone has done. Question: Will he be the first to drive the boat under?

The second person I wanted to meet again in Phuket was the Dutchman Max, who runs Siam Sailing; most of his boats are Tiki 38s and Tiki 30s. He had recently written asking us whether we could design a new Tiki specially for Charter.

Islander 39 drawing
Islander 39, Eco charter catamaran.
Tiki 38 and Islander 55 on the water
One of Max's Tiki 38s and Alex's Islander 55 Tiaré.

At the moment Eco design is a buzz word in many design areas, including yachting. When I began sailing, all sailing yachts, by virtue by their natural building materials and lack of energy consuming equipment, were Eco designs. Modern yachts, particularly the catamarans designed for charter use, are expensive energy wasting constructs to persuade soft Urban Man that he can go sailing in 4 Star Urban comfort. However, a large number of modern Man go on adventure camping trips, adjusting their bodies to nature, rather than adjusting their surroundings to urban bodies. Eco holidays in tents, Yurts, simple cabins, caves etc. are becoming ever more popular.

Max had written to me:

"Another nice aspect of your designs, which is actually rarely mentioned is that, unlike nearly all other boats, they are not white shiny plastic symbols of Western affluence, totally out of place in remote areas, which are as yet little touched by Western civilization. Consequently when sailing a Wharram, one does not feel like a total prat when sailing in such places. My guests tell me time and again of local fishermen coming for a look and a chat about the boat, something that happens a lot less when they sail a Bavaria, so I'm told!"

So we designed all the various eco attitudes into a new simple 39ft Eco charter catamaran, to be called the Islander 39. After studying preliminary drawings of the design Günther said it excited him so much it kept him awake all night. Max is still coming to grips with the concept; he would have preferred a slightly smaller design.

The third reason for visiting Phuket was to sail on the Islander 55, 'Tiaré', owned by Alex and built several years ago in Indonesia. The build in Indonesia was not a success, chiefly because it was built in a major big shipyard, which had the wrong management structure for what to them was a small craft. Alex had patiently and persistently, while living with the yard manager, got his boat, but it took a lot of blood, sweat and tears.

His experiences explain my attitudes to proven franchised boatyards.

Tom Cunliffe, a well-known British yachting writer and sailor, had chartered/test sailed the Islander 55 a few weeks before our visit. His article about his experiences will be published soon in Yachting Monthly. I will leave it to him to describe how the boat sailed.

James, Hanneke and a third person looking at sails on the floor

All the boats in Phuket were using Wharram Wingsails made by the redoubtable firm of Rolly Tasker who have a beautiful new sail loft, one of the biggest in the world, ten minutes drive from Seascape. We work closely with the staff and approved the details of their latest suit of sails made for the Tiki 38 in the Seascape yard.

As one who goes on about Eco subjects, I am this year a conspicuous user of polluting air miles and could well be described as a hypocrite.

Next instalment will describe the Conference in Oslo...

- James Wharram

PLEASE NOTE that the franchise agreement for Seascape to build Wharram catamarans has now ended. Seascape is therefore not currently endorsed to build Wharram catamarans as part of the JWD professional builder family.