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Freedom in South East Asia and Myanmar's restricted waters on a 68 Sports Motor Yacht

by Riviera Australia 25 May 2020 20:17 PDT
The 68SMY offers plenty of room and foredeck versatility © Riviera Australia

The world's your oyster on a 68 Sports Motor Yacht, so say Jacky and Rudi who recently returned to their home port of Phuket after cruising the Mergui Archipelago on a 10-day trip.

Cerulean waters and white sand beaches provided the perfect backdrop for a week of exploration, swimming and entertaining friends aboard the deluxe Fatboy.

In the Andaman Sea off southern Myanmar lie scattered more than 800 islands barely populated by an ethnic group of sea gypsies called Moken. Officially named the Myeik Archipelago, but better known by its colonial name, the Mergui Archipelago covers 36,000 square kilometres in a narrow north-south axis.

Only opened to tourists in 1997, this slice of sea is regarded as one of the region's final frontiers.

"It's like Thailand 50 years ago, maybe more," says Martin Holmes, Riviera's representative in Phuket. That is why he jumped at the chance to put his experience as an offshore yachtsman to the test aboard Jacky and Rudi Dijk's sparkling Riviera 68 Sports Motor Yacht, Fatboy.

The Dutch couple acquired Fatboy for its level of luxury and offshore capabilities - and with the express intention of being able to travel beyond Phuket waters in complete, carefree comfort.

"When we decided on the Riviera we said, okay, we have to make two to three adventures every year," says Jacky. Due north and relatively close, Myanmar was a 'no-brainer'.

They left Phuket at the start of February for a 10-night cruise with four friends and three crew comprising Captain Kay, the Dijk's Thai captain (who has progressed from driving the couple's previous 5400 Sport Yacht and spent time cruising in Australia on Fatboy following the handover), a Myanmar guide and Martin.

"It started as a joke," says Jacky. "I asked Martin if he thought I should bring a deckhand and he said, 'I'm your deckhand!'"

Jacky and Rudi welcomed his support as the archipelago has no mobile phone coverage, no emergency services, and as it belongs to Myanmar that means it is still under military control and in restricted waters.

Martin says Mergui's isolation made it a real adventure. Certain permits first need to be acquired and an itinerary pre-approved.

"Taking a Myanmar guide is also mandatory and actually very helpful. The archipelago is huge and was last surveyed in the 1930s, so there are unchartered rocks and bommies. Having local knowledge and someone to assist with translations was important."

Cruising at an average of 12 knots, they took two nights and three days to reach the Myanmar border, some 185 nautical miles from Phuket. From there, they weaved between the islands for a week's exploration.

For Jacky and Rudi - who normally sail with their Thai captain but also enjoy being part of the navigation and like to get involved - there is great pleasure to be taken in entertaining friends amid spectacular scenery. Their favourite part of Fatboy is the flow between indoor and outdoor areas.

The wide side decks of the 68SMY and stainless-steel handrails make walking around the vessel easy and safe. The foredeck's fold-out lounges, in particular, were well-used by the Dijks and their guests who spent countless hours relaxing, reading books and chilling out while cruising. There were even a couple of nights slept on the foredeck to count shooting stars.

"Here it's always hot and humid, but on Fatboy it's not always necessary to have the air-conditioning on because we can open everything up and the design of the boat is perfect for airflow," says Rudi. "It's also why we wanted an enclosed flybridge, especially for extended cruising, otherwise, you get grilled or its too wet."

"It's a very luxurious vessel," agrees Jacky. "We glide along on the water in luxury and there's space for everyone. There are so many different areas to hang out, even with bigger groups of people on board."

This is why the couple opted for the Classic layout for the accommodation deck; three additional guest staterooms and three designer bathrooms enable them to have many friends aboard in comfort and style.

"But one of the things that we love most is the position of the aft galley, right in the heart of the saloon and mezzanine. It makes cooking a very social activity and the large awning window is one of the nicest things. It's a very social boat," says Rudi.

Provisioning for 10 days of entertainment was a breeze, with plenty of storage space on the 68SMY. With longer trips in mind, the couple converted the cockpit fridge into a freezer, although fresh fish came cheap. "We exchanged $2 bottles of rum and $5 cartons of beer for fish from the locals. It was fantastic!" says Martin.

While Jacky had brought all their fishing gear along, in the end, he says they simply weren't in the mood for it.

"We were socialising, swimming and exploring new places. That's true; one of the reasons we upgraded from the Riviera 5400SY to the 68SMY is the bigger tender - in this part of the world where there are no marinas you really rely on your tender."

For two days straight while they island-hopped, they didn't see another soul. Similar to the Similan Islands northwest of Phuket, the Mergui Archipelago is made of rocky limestone karsts, little pinnacles and granite rock islands. Arctic-blue waters edge impeccable white beaches.

"Every single anchorage was a dream, each one better than the last one was. We were pinching ourselves," says Martin.

While the crew took care of most of the logistics, Jacky said he appreciated being able to keep his fingers on the pulse, especially the navigation and weather.

"You can monitor everything from every corner in the boat on your iPad, and what I really liked was the ability to connect the navigation charts to the big TV in the saloon so that our guests could always see where we were."

After their experience in the Mergui, Jacky says he's sure Fatboy's offshore capability will continue to be put to good use.

"We took the option of long-range diesel tanks to be able to take on extended trips. Through the Mergui we were using around 13.5 litres per nautical mile, which is very reasonable for a boat like this."

Watch this space: Jacky currently is plotting their next offshore adventure to the Andaman Islands.

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