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"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."
- Robert Louis Stevenson

Onboard SY Straycat - Sailing Southeast Asia

When I began my long-term traveling over two years ago, I had three goals I wanted to accomplish – to hike in the Himalayas of Nepal, get scuba certified, and sail on a boat. I managed to tick the first two items off my list but sailing continued to elude me. With the occasional ferry ride and small riverboat cruise, I have used boats as a means of transportation but never as a method for serious exploration.

Boats were the first vehicles that took people around the world and there is a certain amount of appeal and charm in that idea that speaks to me. It is probably the most old-school way to travel the world and as long as are going with the wind it can be cheap and environmentally friendly as well.

Sailing also brings me closer to my biggest fear of being stranded in the middle of the ocean with only a life jacket or log of wood just large enough to support my weight. I can’t think of any other situation that makes me more afraid. I don't want to ever be in that situation, but I find satisfaction in facing my fears that same way I enjoy challenges. It adds a certain extra thrill to life on a boat and for some reason I find that appealing. I’ve had extensive traveling adventures on motorcycles, cars, buses, trains, and now I can finally add boats to the list.

Currently, there are no plans that would take me very far from the shore and no plans to cross any ocean, but it’s a start. Here’s how I got on a boat.

Finding a Boat

The traditional way of getting on a boat is to simply head to a marina somewhere and walk down the docks and start talking to people. With the internet there are new easier ways for boats to find crew and crew to find boats. The two websites I used to look for boats are FindaCrew and Crewbay. I could see information about captains and their boats, where they are, where they are headed, and what they were generally looking for in crew. For Southeast Asia, I found that there are more opportunities on FindaCrew.

Over a year ago I had tried using these sites to a find a boat, but I never found one going the direction I wanted at the right time. This time, I was open to finding a boat that was sailing anywhere and for any amount of time. It didn’t matter to me anymore about where I was going, I only wanted to experience life on a boat and learn to sail.

After broadening my travel requirements for a boat I sent many messages and still had no positive responses. Luckily, I had a nice backup plan that consisted of buying a ticket to the Philippines. One day before I was going to buy my ticket for a flight three days later, I got a message from a captain, from FindaCrew, inviting me aboard. He said he wasn’t sure how far or long he would be going and couldn’t commit to anything beyond the initial week. I didn’t care. I was going to get on a boat!

The boat was in Ao Chalong, a bay on the east side of Phuket. I had a few days to kill before meeting up with the captain and spent them exploring Krabi and the west side of Phuket before heading over.

Long-tail boats at low tide, Krabi

Railay Beach, Krabi

Krabi

The Boat

The boat is a 2012 Fountaine Pajot Lipari 41 or, in other words, a 40-foot boat, three cabin, catamaran named Straycat with a basic rig of a main and headsail. It is a beautiful boat that provides more luxury than three-quarters of the places I have stayed over the last few years. It’s awesome and I feel incredibly fortunate for the opportunity to be aboard.

SY STRAYCAT

The captain, Rob, is from Australia and has almost 40 years of sailing experience. Four months ago he bought Straycat and decided it was time to take her on her first real adventure. In the sailing world there are few places better to explore than Indonesia. So that is where our course was set.

The other member of the crew is Larissa from Brazil. She came aboard the day before we left Phuket and was only catching a ride to the nearby Koh Pi Pi Island. However, life on the boat and the opportunity to sail quickly became more attractive than her plans on the island and she decided to join us. She’s a great cook and I must say I am happy helping her in the kitchen instead of eating my own cooking.

My job is basically to help Rob with everything that happens on the boat and help Larissa with everything that has to do with food. I view myself as the chief assistant doing what I can to help the professionals.

Larissa, Captain Rob, and I at Nongsa Point Marina, Batam Island, Indonesia

The Beginning of the Journey

In the first three weeks we motored our way from Phuket, Thailand down the coast of west Malaysia and across to Nongsa Point on Batam Island in Indonesia. The tentative first week has blossomed into an adventure all the way to Bali. The winds haven’t been quite favorable yet, but that is to be expected this time of year. As our course changes to a more eastern direction hopefully we will spend more time with our sails up.

 Current Route -  Free World Maps

Current Route - Free World Maps

Life aboard a boat so far has been wonderful. From Thailand to Indonesia the cruising has been without major incident. I take a watch shift every day steering the boat, avoiding any large debris or fish traps in the water. A few times I have had to jump over the side to cut away plastic or rope that has gotten tangled around the engine propellers. We haven’t done any night sailing yet and spend our nights either pulled into a marina or anchored off shore in a bay as sheltered from the winds that we can find. The solitude underneath the stars is incredibly peaceful when you have anchored alone off the coast and the fellow boat company in the marinas makes for many lively evenings.

On a boat there is a lot of free time and when you can’t leave the boat you need to come up with things to do. I am trying to teach myself harmonica again, probably to the dismay of my crewmates (I don’t think anyone enjoys the squeaks and screeches of someone learning a new instrument). I have plenty of time to read and enjoy playing cards with the crew or alone. When we are anchored up it is always great to just jump over the side into the water, but not all water has the same appeal to swim in. It is a simple, slow, and peaceful journey as long as you don’t have rough weather. I haven’t been seasick yet *knock on wood*.

When we arrived in Johor Bahru we needed to make a stop in order to get our Indonesian visas. The process for our personal visas was not tricky, but for anybody reading this trying to get anything done at the Indonesian consulate, make sure you are wearing the appropriate attire. It can be fairly frustrating once you have compiled all the paperwork needed to be turned away by security because you are wearing shorts.

Now safely harbored in Nongsa Point, we are waiting for our visas to be stamped and a break in the weather before heading south to explore a few of the 18,000 islands of Indonesia.