Feb 01 2013
There are lots of ways to explore the waters and islands off Sihanoukville. Two of the most popular ways are by longtail boat to Koh Russei (Bamboo Island) and by ferry to Koh Rong. If you’re well-heeled or can get a large enough group together, you can hire a private sailboat for the day — captain and crew included. If the idea of sailing appeals, but you’re not well-heeled, you can rent a Hobie catamaran and take the helm yourself.
The Nautica Sailing Club has been in a few different locations on Otres beach for the past 10 years, but I only discovered it a few weeks ago, when I rented a kayak from them. I wanted to rent a Hobie cat, but didn’t have the $10 it costs to rent one for an hour, so had to settle for the budget $3 kayak. I vowed to return, though, and try my hand at sailing as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
That opportunity came when I woke up one morning to slightly overcast skies and a steady breeze. Having nearly cooked on my kayak excursion, I welcomed the cloud cover and the breeze gave me confidence I wouldn’t be stranded somewhere between Otres and an uninhabited island. It didn’t give me confidence in my sailing ability, though. Although I’d been on a few sailboats before, I’d never actually sailed one myself.
“It’s easy,” the proprietor assured me and after raising the sail, he gave me a two-minute primer. There’s one rope for the sail and a bar for the rudder. He also told me the one thing I did know about sailing a catamaran: when the wind is making it tilt in one direction, sit on the opposite side. The best piece of advice he gave me, though, was to make the sail “look like a [crescent] moon” rather than keep it taut.
Fully trained, I set sail for Koh Khteah. I reckoned it would take me about an hour to travel the two kilometres out to the island and back again. I was wrong. The Hobie cat was surprisingly fast and I was within the 300 metres my instuctor had told me to stay away from the beachless shore within about 10 minutes. The extra time gave me the opportunity to hone my sailing skills and by the time I returned to the beach, I felt ready to tackle a bigger challenge.
$10 an hour is a deal, but $30 for six hours is an even better deal. The proprietors of the Nautica Sailing Club have set that price to make sailing to Koh Russei and back an attractive proposition for members of their “club”. My mentor told me it’s best to leave at 11:00 and shoot for a 17:00 return to Otres; these being the most reliable times for winds. He also assured me that six hours gives you plenty of opportunity to go ashore, eat, swim and relax before your return journey. Now all I have to do is find someone who trusts my sailing skills enough to come along for the ride.
The Nautica Sailing Club is located at the far end of Otres Beach, at the end of the long beach park (now officially called Long Beach). Just look for the sign.
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