I first encountered 51m Northern Sun back in mid-2012 when I interviewed her owners and captain for issue three of The Superyacht Owner. Launched in 1976 by the Japanese shipyard Narasaki Building as a Japanese ice-class marine research vessel, Northern Sun (ex. Hokko Maru) was purchased in 2005 by her owners who were after a unique conversion project. The yacht has recently been listed on the charter market for the first time, by CA 37 South.
Having written about the boat before, it was a real pleasure to be invited by 37 South to join a familiarization trip on board and get to experience her for myself. The six-day trip will take us from Langkawi to Phuket, taking in the incredible scenery of the region along the way. My huge thanks go to the owners for the generosity in hosting this trip, and to 37 South, the captain and crew for all their hard work in organising it.
Normally, Malaysia is an easy hop over from New Zealand. Unfortunately my trip to Langkawi from Auckland was a lot longer than it needed to be thanks to Qantas… after flight delays meant I missed my connecting flight, I ended up staying in Singapore unexpectedly for the night before taking the first flight to Langkawi in the morning to meet the yacht. The flight from Singapore to Langkawi was quick and easy and I was soon in a taxi on my way to the yacht.
Driving across Langkawi and through the town of Kuah, where the Yacht Club is located, made me think how important the role of local agents is for visiting yachts. There was an abundance of shops, services and companies but if I were on a visiting yacht I wouldn’t have the first clue where to start, let alone what the best option was. Having local advice, or a crew experienced in the local area (as is the case on Northern Sun), would probably make all the difference if you only had a short amount of time in an area.
The Langkawi Yacht Club was a modern facility, and would make a good drop off point for owners and guests. I was met by two of the crew – CJ and JoJo – and taken by tender out to the yacht. After nearly 36 hours of travel the yacht looked mighty appealing!
My arrival was followed by the final three members of our party. On board with me are Fleur Tomlinson, from 37 South, Vilena Pavlova from Burgess Moscow, Alexander Kulish, a fellow journalist, Kirsten Ringsing from Yachtzoo, Pierre Hurel from Camper & Nicholsons, Gaye Burgeous from Burgess, and Sara Hill from Y.CO.
We enjoyed a wonderful lunch on the aft deck that showcased some of the amazing local flavours, while undertaking a short one-hour cruise of about 10 miles to the nearby island of Pulau Deyang. The scenery here is quite amazing, with sheer cliffs covered in lush vegetation, all set off by the beautiful colours in the water so it made for quite the backdrop during lunch.
After we had eaten, Captain Lawrie gave us the full tour of the yacht, and explained some of her history. Having been on board, with wife Jan, for so many years there is nothing he doesn’t know about the yacht! Although there are clues to her history as a fishing vessel in features such as the original windlasses, it’s really quite amazing the detailed work that was done on this yacht to transform it.
She’s a very elegant yacht on the inside, and amazingly stable. Furnished with features such as her owners’ collection of antique Iranian rugs, ship models and paintings, she has a classical air about her. In certain areas of the yacht, such as the engine room, you move from superyacht back to ship and the fact they have embraced her history like this, without removing it all, really gives her character. Another example of this is in the owner’s master cabin (a huge full beam space) where the owners have kept the original camber of the yacht. As the captain, Lawrie, says, all these different elements are ‘what keeps her interesting.’
With the yacht moored up, we went ashore in two of the tenders (according to Captain Lawrie there is an impressive 19 types of watercraft on board… the huge toy garage is well stocked with everything from a fleet of glass bottomed kayaks to Seadoos).
Our destination was a huge freshwater lake – known as ‘The Lake of the Pregnant Maiden’. A short 10-minute walk through the jungle took us to the lake and along the way we saw lots of monkeys, none of whom had the slightest fear of humans. Down at the lake they have built a floating pontoon, which creates lots more space, which I am sure is at a premium in peak time, for families and visitors to base themselves on. Some of the pontoons had shallow bottomed pools sunk into them, which would be good for children, but we all bypassed these and launched ourselves into the main lake, which was beautifully warm like a tepid bath.
After we got back to the tenders, we took an extended route back to the yacht to get a closer look at some more of the amazing scenery, and cliffs with little caves in them. As we approached the yacht it was just getting dark and she made for a really beautiful sight lit up against the water.
Later, canapés were served on the forward deck seating area with lanterns lit on the table, before going inside for another delicious meal at the main dining area. By that point it was 3am New Zealand time and I was very ready for bed. Day two will see an early start to cruise into Thailand followed by a day of watersports.
MENU - DAY ONE
Fresh fruit and yoghurt Blueberry lemon muffins Egg, ham and cheese baked crepes
Roti canai (chicken curry with pancakes) Beef rendang Seared scallpps with chilli, ginger and garlic