During my time living as a temporary expat in Koh Samui I have been fortunate enough to enjoy many amazing sunsets just a few minutes down the road on Bangrak Beach. One of the things that makes this particular view so enjoyable is the sight of one specific sailing yacht with huge red sails: The Red Baron. Finally, after three months of enjoying it from afar, we decided to board this elusive boat for a daytime Champagne Brunch.
It turned out to be a fantastic day of sailing from Koh Samui and around to Koh Phangan. We stopped to snorkel, sunbathe, enjoyed two delicious meals including a thai green curry, and the staff made us feel like royalty paying the outmost attention to even the smallest detail. Champagne in hand with a sparkling cerulean sea and coconut trees swaying in the nearby islands, the experience couldn’t have been any more perfect.
While the setting around us was extraordinary, all the attendees agreed that it was the allure of the luxurious sail boat that captivated everybody the most.
The original Red Baron may have been the greatest and widely known fighter pilot of all time, and indeed this Red Baron pays homage to him, but for me personally – the story of this sailing Junk Yacht is even greater.
Weighing in at fifty four tons and with a length of thirty metres, the Red Baron is now the largest Sailing Yacht within the gulf of Thailand. Although it looks like it could be older than the legendry Manfred von Richthofe himself, the overall construction is in fact less than two years old.
Bernard, an architect and the owner and proud father of the Red Baron, spent over four and half years realising his dream. This journey included a rather bizarre agreement with the Thai authorities which allowed Bernard to dredge up sunken ships and salvage the timber to be used to build his dream boat.
As part of the exchange, he then had to re-sink the wrecks with controlled explosions which would consequently free up more shipping lanes around the Gulf. A win-win situation for all parties involved – the Thai government, the cargo ships, fishermen, and Bernard.
Once Bernard had salvaged what was to be the core of his new Yacht, he then enlisted the help of the Pernor Shipyard in nearby Surat Thani. For Bernard, who is an established architect and has worked on designing airports all over the world, the ship’s design became one of the most difficult parts of the long four year process.
Since he hadn’t drawn up any real plans or specifications on what the finished yacht was to look like, the old Chinese boat builder took it upon himself to design what he thought would be a magnificent looking Junk ship. For the next few years Bernard waited not knowing what the finished yacht was going to look like. The boat builder just asked him to trust him to do his job so he did.
Bernard may not have known what the finished product would look like, but his judgement in trusting the old boat builder certainly paid off.
All the effort and passion that was put into producing this stunning looking boat is something that is evident to onlookers gazing at the final product. And from the enamoured look on everyone’s faces throughout the sailing trip, I’m not the only one that finds this boat and the owner to be absolutely extraordinary.
Sailing the Red Baron in the gulf of Thailand around the Samui Islands really was as luxurious as it looked to be from afar. Another couple on board even got engaged that day as the groom felt a sudden surge of inspiration due to the awe inspiring setting! For me, it was Bernard’s adventure of how it all came to be, that truly captured my imagination.