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  3. 3. 103 SHOWBOATS INTERNATIONALKo Phi Phi Don lies uncomfortably warm beneath ashrunken, worn emerald cloak, and the humidity fillsthe salty, lazy air, licking all surfaces in its vicinity.IT’S 5 A.M., AND DARKNESS LINGERS OVERthe restless rises of Ko Phi Phi Don, the largest of sixlimestone islands known collectively as Ko Phi Phi inThailand’s Krabi Province. The island lies uncomfort-ably warm beneath a shrunken, worn emerald cloak,and the humidity, 90 percent and heavy as an anchor,fills the salty, lazy air, licking all surfaces in its vicinity.I wipe moisture from the aft deck table on 136-footmotor yacht Calisto as I sit sipping the day’s first potentcoffee, breathing in perfume from my jasmine-and-rosewelcome garland and taking in my surroundings. Beforeme is an imposter star—a light atop a nearby mast hunglow against the island’s crown. Portside, to the northwest,cliffs peter down to form the transfixed face of a forlornpuppy gazing toward an egg-shaped rock just offshore,like a ball that has strayed just out of reach.The previous evening, we motored 40 nautical milessoutheast from Phuket’s Yacht Haven Marina, on theisland province’s northeastern tip, and along its easterncoastline before delving further into the Andaman Sea.By the time we arrived here, in the quiet cove of MonkeyBay, I’d already passed out amid a cocoon of cool Egyp-tian cotton sheets, weary from a lengthy plane journeyand lulled by calm waters and a dinner of fresh pan-friedwhite snapper, “sarong” prawns, smoked salmon saladand a fine French rosé.With senses freshly alert, I smile and wait for sunrise,basking in the knowledge that, aside from an eight-strongcrew, I have this grand, beautiful vessel all to myself.Calisto began her life in 1944 as an YMS-1 class mine-sweeper, built for the U.S. Navy but transferred uponcompletion to the Royal Navy of Great Britain. In the early1950s, the late Thomas Loel Guinness, an Irish tycoonand former Member of Parliament, purchased and trans-formed her into his personal luxury yacht. A prestigiousFrench family was the next owner; when they sold herto Saigon-based entrepreneur Eric Merlin, they did sowith the stipulation that she continue her glamorous lifeas a cruising yacht and not become stuck idly in port,spending her days as a tourist bar or restaurant.And so in early 2007, she made the journey fromFrance to Southeast Asia where she underwent a fairlyextensive refit—which included, among other things,repairing the hull, new paint, an interior refit and joineryupdating—before being relaunched as a Phuket-basedcharter yacht. Aside from one cabin, which once fit boththe captain’s and second officer’s cabins, the existinglayout was maintained, and all seven guest stateroomswere refurbished with the help of an interior designerselected by the owner.Life in this tropical paradise seems to suit Calisto. Thisgracious lady is gloriously tethered to history throughstructure, fittings and old photos, and she stylishly beamsin anticipation of future explorations. I join FrenchCaptain Philippe Cathala in the wheelhouse for a chatabout the day’s activities and cruising itinerary. This roomthese pagesCalisto’s classic linesstand out against therugged, limestone cliffsof Ko Phi Phi, whilelocal long-tail boats,known as Ruea HangYao, maneuver throughthe tighter passages(right page). Calisto’sinterior is Old Worldcharm meets refinedluxury and incorporatessome of her original1944 fittings, such asthe bronze telegraph(above).PHOTOSBYINGIMAGE/PAKHNYUSHCHYY(RIGHTPAGE);TOURISMAUTHORITYOFTHAILAND(TOPLEFT);KARAMURPHY(TOPCENTER,TOPRIGHT,LOWERRIGHT,LOWERLEFTANDBOTTOM)
  4. 4. 105 SHOWBOATS INTERNATIONAL SHOWBOATS INTERNATIONAL 106Calisto moves on towards the 40-plus enchanting lime-stone islands of Phang Nga Bay in Phang Nga Province.Venture on the shores of James Bond Island, Ko PhingKan, a location for The Man with the Golden Gun. Alsonearby is the famed 66-foot-tall limestone rock Ko Tapu,which is thin at its base, then weirdly doubles in diam-eter as it rises out of the water (pictured far right). Onthe final evening, Calisto anchors at Ko Hong, deliver-ing her guests back to Phuket the following day.For keen divers, Captain Cathala recommends an itin-erary to the Similan Islands instead. A marine park, thesenine small, low-lying islands—set approximately 55nautical miles northwest of Phuket—are known for theirexceptionally clear waters, beautiful corals and abun-dant sea life. A typical weeklong dive-focused charterpicks up guests from Patong Bay, on Phuket’s touristywest coast, and visits the Similans as well as the SurinIslands, a five-island archipelago located another 55nautical miles north and also known for its excellentcoral. Richelieu Rock, one of the Surins’ dive sites, luresunderwater explorers with the possibility of whale sharkencounters in March and April. Other cruising destina-tions aboard Calisto include Myanmar’s Mergui archi-pelago and India’s Andaman Islands, both of which, saysCaptain Cathala, offer very good diving.Calisto’s sister ship, Calypso—also built as a mine-sweeper and once owned by Guinness—facilitated thedeep-water ocean explorations and studies of none otherthan Jacques Cousteau for nearly 40 years. John Denvereven wrote a song about her, “Aye, Calypso, the placesyou’ve been to, the things that you’ve shown us, the storiesyou tell….” Exploring the ocean’s wonders alongside Cous-teau would have been an incredible experience. AlthoughCalypso’s classy relative doesn’t have an underwaterobservation area or famous resident explorer on board,embarking on a semi-deep-sea adventure from herpolished vantages is still an exciting prospect.Following a 45-minute cruise, including a brief dinghyjaunt into Phi Phi Leh’s Maya Bay, famous for its role in the2000 movie The Beach starring Leonardo DiCaprio, wearrive at the formidable, lonely cliffs of Bida Nok. CaptainCathala and I enter the 82ºF water at the island’s southernend and swim north along a steep, cotton candy pink coralwall, sticking to a shallow depth of about 39 feet. Visibilityis average, perhaps 33 feet, but I don’t spot any of themarine life that one of the dive books say should be here—leopard sharks, black tip reef sharks, Kuhl’s stingrays,bamboo sharks. However, the vibrant corals along withbrilliant blue pufferfish, several anemonefish and hugeschools of other colorful fish make our 50 minutes under-water plenty enjoyable. And a couple other fish greet usback on Calisto as well, although this time part of a tableladenwithprawnPadThai,saladNiçoisewithfreshchunksof local tuna and a spicy white snapper.these pagesA combination ofscenic hikes, secludedcoves and prime divingspots—all hidden awayfrom other visitors—are part of a weeklong,205-mile cruisingitinerary aboard Calistoin the Andaman Sea.Captain Cathala and I enter the 82ºF waterat the island’s southern end and swim northalong a steep, cotton candy pink coral wall,sticking to a shallow depth of about 39 feet.features a couple items original to the yacht: a beautifulbronze telegraph and magnetic compass. Captains wouldhave used the former to relay desired speed to themechanic, who would then adjust the speed in the engineroom. Wheelhouse activities are, of course, much easierwith modern equipment, and Captain Cathala says assoon as the tides have shifted in our favor we’ll cruisesouth around Phi Phi Don, past the impenetrable cliffsof uninhabited Phi Phi Leh, to the small nearby islandsof Bida Nai and Bida Nok where we’ll scuba dive. Andtonight we’ll anchor in Phi Phi Don’s southern bay, TonSai, which is much busier, but it will give Captain Catha-la’s antsy sole passenger the chance to go ashore for awalk whenever she likes.Captain Cathala is likely accustomed to guests with rest-less energy. He tells me the owner occasionally brings hisyoung family aboard for holidays, emphasizing that theyacht is well suited for family groups as it easily accom-modates three couples and some kids. “Sometimes thefamily lives abroad, like in America and Australia andHong Kong, and they want to have a holiday in Phuket. [Soall the families] will meet … together again on the boat.”Our time in Ko Phi Phi is actually the first leg of afamily-friendly, weeklong cruising itinerary, which travels205 miles of the Andaman Sea in a counterclockwise loopand allows plenty of opportunities for stretching one’slegs on beautiful beaches and kicking one’s flippers along-side colorful fish. Captain Cathala has drawn on 26 yearsand 106,000 miles of Andaman sailing experience tocreate this itinerary, which covers scenic highlights—topsnorkeling spots, nature stops and hidden coves—whileproviding plenty of downtime to relax on and off the yacht.To the southeast, in Trang Province’s Rok Island group,guests can explore Ko Rok Nok and Ko Rok Nai, settingoff on a jungle walk up to a viewpoint, meandering alongbeaches and drift snorkeling over a coral reef at low tide.If tides are low enough at Ko Muk, also in Trang, you canwander through Tham Morakot, known as the EmeraldCave, a 263-foot-long, winding limestone cave thatempties onto a beach with a glistening emerald-colorpool. Afterwards, Calisto cruises to Bamboo Island, justnorth of Phi Phi Don, for lunch, and stops at snorkel sitesen route to the Dam islands in Krabi Province. Here, feelthe sand beneath your toes on one of the larger islands,Ko Dam Hok and Ko Dam Kwan, and, if tides are low,walk a sand bridge, dubbed “Miracle Beach,” between KoDam Kwan and one of the smaller islets.At uninhabited Ko Hong, visit a pretty cove beforeTHAILANDPHOTOSBYINGIMAGE(TOPLEFT);INGIMAGE/PAKHNYUSHCHYY(TOPRIGHT);ISTOCK.COM/SHUTTERWORX(BOTTOM);KARAMURPHY(CENTERRIGHT)TOURISMAUTHORITYOFTHAILAND(BOTTOMRIGHT)PHOTOSBYiSTOCK.COM/CHIRASAKTOLERTMONGKOL(TOP);INGIMAGES(BOTTOM);KARAMURPHY(TOPLEFT);KJERSTIJORGENSEN(BOTTOMLEFT)
  5. 5. SHOWBOATS INTERNATIONAL 108107 SHOWBOATS INTERNATIONAL       M AY 2 0 1 3CONNECT WITH US PHANG NGABAYKoPhi Phi DonKoDam HokKo YaoYaiBida NokKo Rok NokKo Rok NaiKoYaoKoPhi Phi LehMAYA BAYNai HarnPATONG BAYKo LantaYaiKoLantaNoiPhuket TownTHAILANDPHANG NGAKRABIANDAMAN SEAPHUKETKoh PanyiJames Bond Islandto life aboard Calisto. The next morning, after CaptainCathala and I go for a short run ashore, hauling ourselvesup to the second of Phi Phi’s viewpoints and back downagain, I realize another enticing aspect of this vessel: thepresence of a Thai masseuse among the crew. Chalisagives Thai massages on the open but semi-private upperdeck behind the wheelhouse, where she works wonderson aching muscles earned during the day’s activities.An hour of jasmine-scented, blissful relaxation later,and we’ve arrived at the doorstep of Nui Bay, which lieson Ko Phi Phi Don’s northwestern section, near thestationary limestone pup and ball I sighted yesterdaymorning. Following a short snorkel off the bay’s invit-ing beach beneath jagged, paralyzed limestone drip-pings, we say goodbye to Ko Phi Phi, continuing ontowards the other Andaman treasures that await us.Calisto’s galley isn’t large or overly fancy, but I’mastounded by the magic that happens there. Chef SowatNaknonhan prepares French and Thai dishes for justabout every meal, although he can cater to any taste. Onthis cruise, the spicy Thai creations are clearly for me,while the French influence is intended to please CaptainCathala. Recognizing my love of heat, he serves up tiny,individual dishes of fresh, chopped chilies in vinegar andfish sauce as well as ground chili with each meal, includ-ing breakfast. And he begins challenging my tolerancewith at least one dish per sitting; the tofu, coriander andlime juice Thai noodle salad nearly breaks me, but, asserious chili lovers will understand, reaching one’s thresh-old, where you’re swallowing loads of water and sweat-ing profusely, is an immensely fun experience, one thatpropels your senses into a state of feeling totally alive.Taste, however, definitely isn’t the only sense broughtPHOTOBYISTOCK.COM/SHUTTERWORXfact fileCLIMATE: Tropical monsoonCURRENCY: Thai bahtLANGUAGE: Thai, althoughmany Thai people also speakEnglishTIME ZONE: UTC +7AIRPORT: Phuket InternationalAirport, Phuket IslandWHEN TO GO: The best time tovisit the Phuket area is betweenDecember and May, when the wetseason is over. The sea state inthe Andaman is the mostcomfortable in April/May.ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:A passport with at least sixmonths’ validity, visa and proof ofonward travel is required for entry.ARRIVING BY PLANE: Ifyou’re a citizen of one of theapproximately 40 nations thatqualify for a visa waiver or visaexemption and are staying 30days or less, you may not requirea visa.ARRIVING BY BOAT:Captains and crew without apre-arranged visa will be issued anon-extendable, one-month visaupon arrival. Persons (but notpassengers) with this type of visawill need to pay a refundablebond if they need to leaveThailand during this time.Regardless of method of arrival,it’s best to check visa requirementswith your nearest consulate orembassy prior to travel.YACHT ENTRY:Visiting yachts must complete allincoming/outgoing clearance atthe Ao Chalong office, locatedsouth of both Phuket marinas.Yachts will receive a six-monthpermit, which may be extended.Longer stays are also possible;inquire with your agent or marinamanager.MARINAS: Yacht Haven Marina(Phuket) can accommodate yachtsup to 262 feet in length, with up toan 18-foot draft. Yachts with morethan a 14-foot, nine-inch-plusdraft should approach at high tide.www.yacht-haven-phuket.comAo Po Grand Marina (Phuket)accommodates yachts up to 262feet in length.www.aopograndmarina.comCHARTER: To charter Calisto,contact Fraser Yachts, Tel: +37793 100 480; Email Massima.Piras@fraseryachts.com;www.calisto-cruises.comSUPERYACHT AGENTS: AsiaPacific Superyachts, gordon@asia-pacific-superyachts.comSEA Marine Services, rogerg@seamarineservices.comSUPERYACHT REFIT ANDSERVICES: Meteor Yachts,Duncan@eclipsemarine.netAbsolute Yacht Interiors, info@absoluteyachtinteriors.comTOURISM:www.tourismthailand.orgTHAILAND