I spent a day on a sailboat at sea in southern S'pore to escape from city life

Fun in the sun.

Sumita Thiagarajan | August 18, 2020, 11:16 AM

With hotels opening up for staycations in Singapore, most of us might still be looking for an experience with gets us on our feet, with more physical activity.

One company, Discover Sailing Asia (DSA), is offering staycations at sea for those who enjoy being under the sun, and are not prone to getting sea sick.

With only one sailboat left, the 43-year-old founder of DSA, Chong Weiyong, is currently running local staycations from ONE°15 Marina at Sentosa Cove where the boat docks at.

The company, which used to do long-distance sailing trips from Singapore to Tioman, Malaysia or even to Phuket, Thailand, has adapted to offering short local staycations due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

On August 3, I boarded their sailboat for a short day trip from Sentosa to Lazarus Island to live the life of sea-loving Disney's character "Moana".

Four crew members aboard

It was a small team of four that runs the boat.

A former sailor, Chong is the boat's skipper, an informal term for captain.

Along with Chong are two interns — 20-year-old Chang Min Wen Jillian and 24-year-old Kevin Goh Chee Kean.

Chong, and the two interns. Photo by Sumita Thiagarajan

Chang is an undergraduate at the National University of Singapore, majoring in Communications and New Media, while Goh is in his fourth year majoring in psychology and business management (operations management).

Chang helps out with marketing, through the posting of advertisements, and reaching out to media outlets.

For Goh, as the operations intern, he helps with structuring the standard procedure, ensuring that logistics are in place.

The interns also help with the sailing and the clean up of the boat.

The last "crew member" aboard is a seasoned Stand-Up Paddling (SUP) instructor, Tong Wing Yan Lilian, who facilitates SUP for this add-on activity.

A day in the life of "Moana"

Being on a sailboat also offers a lot more peace and tranquility as compared to being on a regular motorboat as it is being powered by the wind.

Without the sound of an engine, I could unwind on the boat and have some "me time" to reflect on life, or get really philosophical (if you don't get sea sick).

As you are sharing rather limited space with a few people aboard, it can get awkward to not talk to the crew members.

This might be tougher for introverts as you might feel the need to talk to them.

However, if you really need privacy, you can always escape to the front of the boat to chill (but just remember to watch out for the sails).

Here's footage from part of the journey to Lazarus:

Footage by Sumita Thiagarajan

In addition, as Chong would like for every Singaporean to learn about sailing, you will find yourself working with the crew, if you are up for it.

While I did bring a book to read on the trip, I was quite busy helping out on the boat and talking to the crew members.

As I've had the opportunity to go sailing for two weeks in the past, I jumped right in to lend a hand to Chang and Goh.

As someone who enjoys getting my hands a little bit dirty, I really liked the hands-on experience, especially when steering the boat:

As the sailboat had its sails down in the marina, I got the chance to raise the sails with the crew members by helping to pull on the red-coloured rope, using the winch handle, to bring up one of the sails of the boat.

It was quite easy to pull on the rope with the help of the winch (the silver part that the red rope is coiled around) to raise the mainsail, as seen below:

A tour around the boat

There are three bedrooms in the boat, and the interior of the boat is air-conditioned.

While I did not manage to take any photos, here are some photos taken by the company showing how the interior looks:

Photo by Discover Sailing Asia.

Photo by Discover Sailing Asia.

Photo by Discover Sailing Asia.

Just to manage expectations, the interior of the boat looks dimmer in real life, and it is slightly smaller than what it seems from the photos.

I did not stay overnight on the boat but the beds are quite comfortable.

That said, they are definitely not made of mattresses that you can sink into if that's what you are looking for in a staycation.

Stand-Up Paddling near Lazarus Island

Once we reached Lazarus island, we anchored off a beach and got ready for a private lesson on SUP with Tong.

She taught me how to keep calm and find my balance on the paddleboard.

Before getting on the paddleboard, Tong also gave comprehensive and clear instructions on what to expect.

I was quite tense at the start of the SUP session, but I eventually got the hang of it after I relaxed and became "one with the board".

I also didn't fall down during the experience, which I attributed to Tong's guidance and my natural talent at SUP.

Photo by Jillian Chang.

Photo by Jillian Chang.

Photo by Jillian Chang.

Photo by Jillian Chang.

If you would like to do so, you can SUP to the nearby beach (as seen below) and explore the island of Lazarus Island.

Photo by Jillian Chang.

I was pleasantly surprised at how clear and clean the water was near Lazarus, I saw parts of a coral reef when I was paddling closer to the shore.

Photo by Jillian Chang.

After much struggling, trying and paddling, I got quite tired from the one-hour workout on the sea so I just decided to lay down on the paddleboard.

Another round of "me" time:

Photo by Jillian Chang.

Luckily, I didn't have any muscle aches the next day, but I definitely had a really good sleep that night.

Sailing into the sunset with handmade pizza

The SUP session expended our energy really quickly as Tong and I got pretty hungry afterwards.

At this point, Chong's handmade pizza came timely as we sailed into the sunset.

Photos by Sumita Thiagarajan

Besides being the captain, Chong is also capable of whipping up a few dishes.

Here's the menu for a two-day one-night staycation on Chong's boat:

  • Dinner on Day One: Pizza and pasta, salad, and fruits
  • Breakfast on Day Two: Bread, eggs, fruit, coffee, juice and tea.
  • Lunch on Day Two: Cold noodles and Some side dishes, miso tofu soup will be served.

However, the menu is subject to change depending on what the skipper can procure on the day when you set off for the staycation.

You can request for food that fits your dietary requirements, just as I had requested for vegetarian food.

Chong's handcrafted eggplant pizza made me feel right at home on the boat, as it was simple and cheesy, and the crust was nice and crispy.

Here's a photo of the hand-crafted pizza made by Chong:

As with most food after a swim or water sports, it really hit the spot.

What made dinner even more satisfying was definitely this gorgeous sight of nature:

At the end of the day, I was grateful for the experience with Chong and his team, as this was the first time since the start of the year where I got the opportunity to get as far away as possible from the city life of Singapore (without travelling to another country).

While it might not fit the bill of conventional five-star hotel service, the crew's hospitality is no less than five stars.

Staycations at sea

The team offers a range of staycation packages ranging from USD$180 (S$251) to USD300 (S$418), depending on whether you'd like to add activities such as SUP and diving to a 2D1N staycation.

You can also customise your staycation package by requesting to visit other islands or have a full day skipper course.

The meeting time to set sail from ONE°15 Marina at Sentosa Cove is 5pm on the first day, and the boat arrives back in the marina around 1 pm on the next day.

In the case of wet weather, the team would wait it out with the customer or reschedule the staycation for another day upon the customer's request.

If it is a light drizzle, the staycation will continue as per schedule as it is still possible to sail with wet sails.

The prices can be pretty steep to some people but the experience is somewhat one-of-a-kind.

You can find out more about DSA packages here if you are interested.

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Top images by Discover Sailing Asia