Reflections from our Sailing Holiday to Anambas Islands
We asked our guests, Shawne Koh @shawneydepp and Umehara Keiji @umeandhara, and our intern Vanessa, some questions about their experience at our recent open sailing holiday to Anambas Islands on 14 - 19 Jul 2019, and here’s some of their thoughts:
Q1: Share with us some of your expectations about the sailing holiday prior to the trip - were those expectations true?
The image that I have in mind about sailing is that it’s very captivating - pretty yacht, smooth seas, clear skies, and definitely good company. The actual journey was actually everything that I’ve envisioned it to be, especially when we reached our destination.
However, what I forgot to factor in are the tougher parts, just like many other things that we do. Our journey from Singapore to Anambas and back was really tough. It’s not what you’d think of it to be - the glamorous, luxurious kinda trip. The process, for me at least, was very draining. The seas were not in our favor - it was rough - most of the time the currents were too big for our liking, and the winds were sometimes against us (which pushes the yacht backwards, causing us to not be able to sail as quickly). We had to physically cope with it and it was tougher than I expected.
I’ve never actually (sailed before), the only boat that I’ve actually been on is the ferry to Tekong and all. I’ve been on cruises, but sailing is something that I’ve never done before, I’ve seen it in movies and ya. So, my idea of sailing is what movies and TV shows have portrayed to me - you know those very grand, very fancy, people drinking wine, everybody wearing white (HAHA). But, when I was on the boat, yes, everything actually looked really fancy but it wasn’t as smooth as how the movie portrays it, because we were out in the open seas so the waters were really rough. And movies are fake, you know? But I think other than the waters being really rough compared to what I perceived it to be, everything else is pretty much accurate.
I try to hold no expectations to any trip but I would say, I was looking forward to a really relaxing trip that was totally cut off from the world, beautiful turquoise waters full of marine life and of course, mentally preparing for rough seas. It was for sure one of the most off the grid experiences I’ve ever had, the islands were so remote and beautiful. I was also looking forward to seeing sea turtles for the first time but well, you can never guarantee wildlife sightings.
Q2: What were some of the thoughts that were going through your mind during the sailing holiday? (Singapore > Anambas, around Anambas Islands, Anambas > Singapore)
“Please let this be over soon”, “Is that the island that we’re going to? No? Aw man!”, “Are we there yet?” “How long more till we reach the island?”, “Waves, have mercy on us first timers ”- LOL
I also thought about how little control we have over the things that are going around us. In this case, there really wasn’t anything that we could do about the sea conditions. We had no choice but to sail through it. I also thought about how much we trusted the vessel and her captain. I didn’t really think about it then, but now that I look back, after so many charters, there wasn’t an instance where I had doubted the vessel and my team’s ability to get us safely to the island. I feel that the entire journey was very representative of life in general. Out at sea, you have a destination in your mind, and you sail through whatever sea conditions to get to the destination.
However, if you have no idea where you’re heading, you’ll sail aimlessly. Where you ultimately reach will not bear the same type of satisfaction as compared to when you had a goal in mind. Similarly, if you have no goal in life, you will not know what are the next steps to take, or what decisions you need to make. At this current juncture in my life (as an adult), I don't think I have the luxury to pray and hope that whatever I do will bear the fruits that I want, everything that I want to do must be done with some intent and an ultimate goal in mind.
Like the sailing quote goes, "If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable." ― Lucius Annaeus Seneca
So before the trip, Shawne had already told me “oh it’s gonna be like a 30 hour sailing trip, Singapore to Indonesia, Anambas” and I was like “Yo, i can do it. Easy.” But the first day I already puked… so ya, I clearly couldn’t do it. And not only that, I actually have very bad car sickness and I didn't take any sea sick pills, so, for me to only just puke, I think I did a pretty good job. So, coming back, I was already mentally prepared for what to expect of the journey, so it gets easier because you really know what to do… and what to do, is to sleep. So that’s what I did. Coming back, just sleep, and you’ll feel fine - and you wake up BOOM! SINGAPORE!!
There was definitely much excitement at the beginning of the trip, but when the seas turn rough unfortunately, all I wanted was to sleep it off and get to Anambas in an instant. However, this made it so rewarding when we reached the islands and there was really that sense of euphoria upon reaching land and paradise. From there on, it was bliss and we experienced so many things we haven't done before (e.g. fishing, catching fresh uni, diving, just relaxing on the yacht during sunset etc.). Finally of course, I wasn’t looking forward to the journey back.
Q3: What do you think differentiates a sailing holiday from other types of holidays?
The journey is what I would say is the key difference. Yes, it’s still a form of transportation but it was much more hands on than a typical plane ride. All of our guests had a chance to be at the helm to helm part of the journey (when the sea isn’t as rough). Also, we were very close to the elements. The wind was constantly blowing, and the seas were just around us. It’s a unique experience. To add on, the rough seas during this trip made the experience of reaching the island even sweeter. The kind of peace and quiet that is entailed with a sailing holiday is also not something that you can find elsewhere. I’d even go to the extent to say that the effects of a sailing holiday is truly what it means to have a city / digital detox.
So, a sailing holiday is really completely different from other types of holidays, like when you take a plane, or you take a bus or something like that. Because, I mean, a plane journey is never exciting, you always plan like, okay I can do Netflix, I need to download movies, I need to sleep and all. But sailing, the journey itself is also an adventure. It’s not just going to the destination, but the whole sailing part is part of the whole trip, the whole experience.
The two key differences between a sailing holiday and a typical holiday, would be the journey and the experience of remoteness. The journey might be rough, and it's definitely a lot longer than typical beach holidays but what you get at the end is entire islands, unspoiled nature and remoteness to yourself.
Q4: Which part of the whole trip did you enjoy the most?
The nature and the food! I found it extremely calming and exhilarating to watch the fish swim around the corals, to walk on the beach and just be in touch with nature. The food that was cooked on board was amazing as well. It was really hearty and always eaten with company.
Definitely, what I enjoyed most was reaching Anambas (HAHA), the destination because it was SO BEAUTIFUL. It's something that made the whole 30 hour journey worth it - when you get to see the crystal clear blue waters, when you get to snorkel as much as you want and everything. I definitely had a more than enough share of the sun, clearly because of all the sunburns that I have accumulated, but definitely (x3), when you reach there, the destination is the reward.
I would say, just having jazz music played while we were just relaxing in front of the islands on the yacht was an amazing feeling I’ve never felt before.
Q5: Would you encourage others to go on a sailing trip, and why?
100% YES. I feel that everyone should give sailing a chance as it's truly a one-of-a-kind experience. Whether or not it’s couples, family, or friends, I feel that the trip will definitely help everyone reconnect with one another. Also, sailing is not “mainstream”. It’s not something that’s very accessible currently in Singapore and not many people will think about going on a sailing holiday. If you have a chance, grab it and give it a shot!
I would highly recommend anyone, ANYONE, who has never done a sailing trip to do it at least ONCE. Because, I live by the motto where - if you’ve never done something before, TRY IT. if it doesn’t hurt you, if it the opportunity comes where you can try it, DO IT! And you guys are providing a service (Ximula Sail) where people can actually do this whole sailing trip - it is an opportunity and not a lot of people are doing it? It's definitely an experience like no other.
For sure, I’d encourage everyone else to consider this because it's such a unique experience, though it's not for everyone (especially for people who are really prone to seasickness) and you do need a more daring sense of adventure to do this. 30 hours on sea with a yacht is still pretty crazy!
Q6: Any other reflections?
“You cannot change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust the sails.” - you’ve always or somehow heard of this phrase. But to actually experience it is an experience on its own. There are so many factors to consider in trimming the sails. The 2 major factors - the wind and currents, can be constantly changing by the minute. It is physically draining as the captain needs to be very aware and sensitive to all these changes.
I also feel that the yacht industry (super yachts, to be precise), is over glorified. Yes, many times, chartering a private yacht can be very glitzy and glamorous. But that’s not all there is to a yacht. I, for one, am guilty of having such an impression. There’s so much more meaningful activities that is offered in this lifestyle!
Through the trip, I also learn to appreciate modern technology more. Never have I thought about the consequences of a broken water pump. It’s really something that we took for granted. I can’t imagine not being able to shower properly, or wash the dishes, etc etc. it’s something that’s so incorporated into my daily life that I’ve forgotten its significance.
This brings me to my next point - impression of workers within this industry. I don’t think people see how much effort goes into the work of those in this industry. While we (the guests) are all trying to cope with the motion sickness, our crew worked through day and night to ensure that we reach our destination on time, so that we have enough time for snorkeling and other activities. Everyone was very well taken care of. So much more time and effort is put into the planning of this trip as compared to a typical holiday - we needed to ensure that everything that was on the yacht was sufficient to get us through the next week as we literally had no place to stop and refill. Everything has to be prepared, checked and thought through thoroughly before hand to ensure a smooth sailing trip.
My final thoughts - the easiest way to understand what I went through and all is to watch Shawne’s video (below) (LOL) - you can see me puking, you can see me when I’m really excited, fishing, snorkeling and everything. And I truly think that this is an experience like no other I’ve tried. You go through a painful period, but the reward itself made the whole journey worth it. But the pain itself is not like pain pain (physical), it's just… tough waters. But if you think about it, its part and parcel of life, like when you’re climbing a mountain, it's tough to climb and all, but when you reach the top and you see the view, ooohhh everything is just worth it.
Thank you Shawne, Keiji