Even though Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs) have opened up, it can still be quite the hassle to travel overseas, with multiple PCR tests, and the need to confirm the still constantly changing requirements. Staycations, the local equivalent of a holiday, sometimes just feel a little too close to home to feel like a real getaway, while cruises may feel just a little too crowded for comfort.
If your idea of a perfect holiday is relaxing on a beach, or hiking in nature, a sailcation may just hit all the right notes. Sailing away on your own private yacht into the peaceful solitude of the sea may sound like a dream and Discover Sailing Asia (DSA) has made it a reality with their ‘sailcations’. Taking up to 2, or a group of 5 (as of current prevailing COVID-19 restrictions) on a private yacht with its own crew, you can enjoy a romantic getaway, or family adventure on the sea.
The yacht for my sailcation.
All you need to bring for this sailcation is pretty much what you need for a normal staycation – a change of clothes, underwear, and a bathing suit. No passports, applications or paperwork needed. A few cans of beer or a bottle of wine would probably be a great addition too, as DSA doesn’t charge for corkage. Towels and blankets are provided, as are shower amenities like soap and shampoo, but you do have to bring your own personal toiletries such as toothbrushes and toothpaste.
My sailcation destination was Pulau Ubin. The boarding point was at the SAF Yacht Club in Admiralty, which was a 2-hour sail away.
Our yacht was 45ft and fairly roomy. It had a sizable deck for suntanning and selfie-taking, and a covered section to enjoy the sea breeze.
Roomy covered deck
Making the most out of the deck
In case you’re wondering, since we were still in Singapore waters, my 4G connection worked just fine throughout the trip with minimal interruption. Anyway, the lovely sun and sea breeze made me put away the electronics to really enjoy the moment.
The yacht crew also offered me the opportunity to help sail the yacht. I helped to put up and let down the sail, which was much heavier and more difficult than expected. I also tried my hand at steering the boat, not very successfully. It was an eye opening experience for someone who hasn’t sailed before.
Attempting to pull the sail back down
The crew were extremely helpful and knowledgeable. They pointed out traditional kelongs, floating fish farms, that we passed, and taught us all about the Singapore waters. A great learning opportunity about our waters and history.
We stopped next to Pulau Ubin after 2 hours of sailing, in what was akin to a cruise ship stop. The itinerary allows for a few hours of free and easy time on Pulau Ubin. DSA does suggest highlights of Pulau Ubin to visit, such as the Chek Jawa watchtower for a view of the coastline, or the boardwalk. Since I haven’t been there for years, I enjoyed having tea at an old school zi char restaurant and walking along the hiking trails. There were also lots of wild boars and macaques around. The macaques are especially aggressive, just like the ones on the mainland, so take precautions with your bags. If Pulau Ubin isn’t your cup of tea, DSA also offers sailcations to other islands such as Lazarus Island and St John Island.
Stopover at Pulau Ubin
If you prefer more sea adventures, having your own private yacht offers you the flexibility of skipping the land stop to head to the final destination near Pulau Ketam, a small island off Pulau Ubin. In this idyllic spot near naturally forested areas and mangroves, it’s easy to imagine you’re somewhere much more exotic.
The yacht would park at the spot for the remainder of the trip and we had free time to do water sports or sunbathe on the deck. (This is also the perfect time to take glamorous yacht pictures against the late afternoon sun.) There was a paddleboard and a cloth kayak on the yacht, which were made of fabric and much more comfortable and stable than the hard plastic ones I remembered from OBS days. If you need a crash course on how to steer and control the kayak, the crew are there to assist, or just jump straight into the clean, cooling water for a swim.
Enjoying the sun from the deck
With the kayak and the paddleboard, it’s possible to paddle deeper into the shallow mangroves. We spotted what appeared to be some oysters, although we couldn’t pry them off. There are also some mud crabs around. It was certainly my first time kayaking through such shallow waters with mangrove branches all around me. This mangrove exploration would be excellent for anyone who longs to be closer to nature, and also quite an adventure for boisterous children. Just be careful of the sharp branches and roots, and the mosquitos.
Rowing a modern sampan
Kayaking into the setting sun
The Pulau Ubin sail also includes a BBQ dinner on the yacht itself, which was definitely a highlight. Luckily, if you prefer not to struggle with fire starters and undercooked meat, the crew will expertly fire it up and barbecue up a storm for you as the sun sets. The yacht also has a well-stocked fridge with canned drinks and fruit juices. This would also be the perfect time to crack open a beer or two, if you’ve brought some. With the BBQ smoke billowing into the sunset and 90s hits on the radio, I felt transported to a quieter, more serene time.
Barbeque against the sunset
There were more mosquitos and other unwelcome insects at night, but the yacht was well stocked with supplies like mosquito patches, which was definitely nice attention to detail.
Inside the cabin, there was a roomy common area with kitchen counters and simple appliances, tables and cushioned seats. There were a total of 3 bedrooms, one ensuite and two smaller ones (one which was reserved for the crew). The bedrooms are rather compact, similar to a smaller cabin in a cruise ship, but with comfortable pillows and mattresses. Definitely a comfortable vessel with modern conveniences, if not exactly luxurious.
Roomy common area
Compact but clean toilet and shower
The most unique part of the yacht was definitely the toilet. There was a complicated-looking mechanism for disposing waste in the toilet bowl and filling it up manually – the pumping mechanism worked similarly to a bicycle pump. Therefore, it took a little more effort to go to the toilet each time, although I did come to appreciate this authentic part of living out at sea. Even the shower had to be drained after use. Detailed instructions posted on the door made operating these fairly simple with a little bit of elbow grease.
Manual flushing required
During the day, there was no electricity on the boat, which also means there isn’t any aircon in the cabin. DSA suggests bringing powerbanks in case you need to charge any devices. The cabins can get rather hot and stuffy in the daytime, so the best place to spend it is on deck, enjoying the sun and sea breeze.
Unfortunately due to Singapore’s light pollution, no stars were visible in the night sky. The moon was perfect though, as well as a brightly shining planet. Lying on a deck of a gently rocking boat under a clear sky was soothing and carefree. With good weather (good breeze, not too humid, no rain), you could go one step further and sleep under the night sky as well.
Else, the cabin’s bed and pillows were plenty comfortable too, and yes, there is aircon.
Of course, the next highlight is waking up to a serene, beautiful sunrise.
Waking up early to see the sunrise
A simple breakfast selection is also provided, including bread, cereals, granola bars and hot drinks.
The expert crew worked tirelessly through the entire trip to ensure the yacht was always comfortable, including doing maintenance late into the night. They were extremely invaluable and helpful. With the crew around, I could enjoy being out at sea without the hassle of handling maintenance, piloting and other technical matters.
One side effect of the trip is probably the rocking sensation I felt for the remainder of the day after disembarking, as if I were still on the yacht, which could be slightly disorienting. Luckily, this dissipated after a day on land.
Overall, the sailcation was definitely a new and unique experience, especially for those who love their seas and beaches. I definitely see our waters and islands in a different light now. The sailcation also offers a chance to get away from the city and closer to nature without the hassle of travel admin. Close to home yet still feeling like an exotic locale, the excellent crew made the trip fuss-free and relaxing. Perfect for both a romantic getaway (or even a mini honeymoon!) and a family adventure, there is something to offer for anyone with a love of the sun and sea.
Discover Sailing Asia’s 2D1N Pulau Ubin sailcation package starts from $1,805. For DollarsAndSense readers, they are offering a special promo code: DOLLARANDSENSE10. This will enable you to enjoy 10% off the retail price and is valid from 27 November 2021 to 11 December 2021 for travel dates between 27 November 2021 to 28 February 2022.
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