The Southeast Asian Sailors Bible

August 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Related Interests

If you’re travelling around the region by boat, there’s one publication that you must have.

In the past 20 years Thailand has become the boating capital of Asia, with both locals and foreigners taking to the sea in large numbers. Some prefer to sail yachts and enter the many annual regattas held in Thailand, while others prefer a boat with a motor and go cruising along the coastlines or weave their way through the country’s many small islands. One thing both groups have in common – apart from being surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world – is the need for a comprehensive guide book. They need to know where it’s too shallow to go, where to drop anchor for the night, where to get fuel, food and water, and most importantly, where there are reefs or rocks that will send their boats down to Davy Jones’ locker if they’re not careful.

For many years the guide book many used and swore by was the Andaman Sea Pilot. Now the third edition of this book has been released and it has been updated and expanded to cover a much larger area, and given a new name. It went on sale last month after an official launch party – aboard a boat, of course – during the annual Phuket Raceweek Regatta. It is now called Southeast Asia Pilot, and since its launch in Phuket last month orders have been flooding in from skippers and boat owners around the world. “We call it the Sailors’ Bible and I wouldn’t go to sea anywhere in Southeast Asia without it,” says Captain Marty Rijkuris, who runs the hugely popular internet sight, which covers all aspects of sailing in Asia. The latest edition of the book covers approximately two million square miles and nine countries, with detailed information about marine conditions in Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore,

Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Hong Kong and India’s Andaman Islands. There is also a lot of detail on the best east-west routes through southern Indonesia. For those sailing to Thailand from Australia or New Zealand, or coming from Sri Lanka or India in the west, this book is a must have. Between the maps and charts is a wealth of information, covering everything from where to anchor through the day and at night, if a water supply is available, seaside restaurants, transport and even diving and snorkling locations. Even for a non-sailor this book makes fascinating reading, and it’s easy to see that the two experienced men who wrote this book have really done their homework. For example, one section on the sea gypsies, or the Moken people, in southern Burma, reads: “We occasionally come across the Moken in the Mergui Archipelago. They pull into a nearby beach in their flotilla of boats. Adults, children, cats, dogs, chickens and ducks leap off each boat and rush into the jungle to forage. Suddenly, at some hidden signal, people and animals come rushing back out of the forest and jump on the boats just before they leave for another anchorage. “Sometimes the Mokens cautiously approach our yacht with a gift of rock oysters or the haunch of a wild bear after a successful hunt. They are always delighted when we give them a gift in return – a roll of cloth or a dive mask. If the Moken do not approach you they want to be left alone.” The book’s two authors, Englishman Andy Dowden and Australian Bill O’Leary, who also took the beautiful pictures in the guide, are both colourful characters with a wealth of experience on the water. O’Leary, a professional mariner, sailed to Thailand from Australia in 1987 aboard a sleek yacht called Stormvogel, which was featured in the Hollywood film Dead Calm. O’Leary helped with the filming off Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef before sailing the yacht to Phuket. He then joined the up-market Amanresorts as founder and general manager of Amancruises, the original luxury powerboat charter business in Phuket which caters to the rich and famous. For more than 20 years he built and commissioned scores of local and imported charter vessels and trained more than 150 Thai crew, before retiring early this year. Dowden left the UK in 1981 aboard his own 46-foot sloop to cruise the world and arrived in Thailand for the first time in 1984 after several years of cruising Southeast Asia. In 1989 he set up a yacht services and boat building business in Phuket and wrote a number of cruising guides for the local waters. Dowden has spent 25 years sailing the waters of Thailand and Malaysia and is still involved in the yachting industry, helping to organise two of the country’s most popular regattas and running the annual International Boat Show in Phuket. “Bill and I put a lot of hard work into every edition of this book because we both realise what a great advantage it is to have on a boat,” Dowden told Brunch. “Apart from all our own research, we invited a select number of well qualified voyagers to update facilities and opportunities in this rapidly developing cruising destination. “The best professionals have created detailed, helpful and accurate charts and a logical, easy to use, layout style.”

Southeast Asia Pilot is available at most leading bookstores, or it can be ordered direct from the website,

SOURCE : Writer: By Alan Parkhouse
Bangkok Post Newspaper section: Brunch

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