Lady Azul seems to possess an adventurous spirit. After several charters from Phuket since emerging at the end of last year from an extensive refit, the 39.4m Heesen is emerging post Covid-19 with plans to cruise up and down the Andaman Sea this winter.
Malaysia-based Gerry Ross has been Captain of the four-deck, five-cabin superyacht since 2015 and overseen two major refits including last year in Langkawi, his home for the past decade.
The blue-hulled Lady Azul appears to inspire loyalty, not only among Captain and crew but also charter guests, who make the most of a yacht now fully equipped for diving and packed with new toys including a 15m inflatable netted lap pool.
Trips since the refit include a first charter into Myanmar after an active family – who had used the yacht a year previously – booked her again after confirming the Captain and key crew were still aboard.
“The Mergui Archipelago is stunning. The beaches and the islands are something else,” says the New Zealander, who first came to Asia on the 26m Azimut Verena V, the smallest yacht he has captained. “Another attraction is that you basically have the whole place to yourself.”
DIVING WITH ELEPHANTS AND TRAINS
As well as visiting Myanmar for the first time, the guests – including several keen scuba divers – also cruised in Thailand during the 10-day charter. Ross ensured they had some underwater experiences they’ll never forget as they made the most of the yacht’s new brand-new dive gear, including eight tanks and a dive compressor.
Off Koh Racha Yai, south of Phuket, Ross led the clients on 18-20m dives to see 3m-high concrete elephants and giant statues plus a huge network of concrete cubes, all placed on the seabed after the 2004 tsunami to attract divers. The charter guests also dived boat wrecks and even sat on a motorbike still standing upright on the seabed.
That was just a taste of things to come, as further down the coast they visited Koh Waen, southeast of Koh Lanta Yai, where they swam through a series of open train carriages that had shifted off their train tracks!
“The guests loved it. In Asia, we’re in a place where it’s a lot more adventurous. There’s a lot more to do than if you were chartering in Europe, where sometimes guests are more interested in being seen in a marina,” Ross says. “I find that Lady Azul is the perfect size for Asia. We can get close enough to beaches so you can swim there or get near dive spots.”
Lady Azul, originally commissioned for a Malaysian and launched by Heesen in 2001, has benefited from enormous investment from its new owner, who bought the yacht in April 2019 and used it for a couple of months before embarking on an extensive technical, interior and exterior refit in Langkawi.
The yacht feels immaculate when you’re on board, with the woodwork, flooring, ceilings, lighting, furniture and soft furnishings all looking as pristine as on a new build.
It also feels immensely comfortable inside and out. The main saloon is bright, with comfortable white sofas and lots of space on starboard side to walk past the centrepiece to the formal dining area, overlooked by a colourful painting of a phoenix.
The upper deck also has a saloon, with a large corner sofa, chairs, big TV, card table and a corner bar, which also serves the aft deck, where a long table comfortably seats 10 and offers great sea views. As the yacht’s most popular place for meals, it can be used for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and has cosy lounging areas on both sides.
The sun deck offers even more panoramic views and has several intimate seating, dining, lounging and socialising areas including a large aft-facing sunpad, a nice place to hang out for drinks before or after dinner.
As for who’s sleeping where, Lady Azul has a huge master suite forward on the main deck. Space has been given priority in a beautifully designed room with a forward-facing bed that enjoys light and 270-degree views, a forward TV, portside desk and an enormous marble bathroom with his and her sinks, shower and portside bathtub.
The four lower-deck guest cabins are also hugely comfortable and light, with full-beam VIP cabins fore and aft of two surprisingly large twins, all with large windows, good natural light and elegant en-suites.
However, this is a boat to be enjoyed outdoors and is packed with toys galore since the refit. As well as the diving equipment, new gear includes a 5.5m Williams Dieseljet Tender, two bright-orange Seabobs, two inflatable kayaks, two paddleboards and snorkelling gear.
However, the real party piece is the custom-made FunAir lap pool, which provides a safe, netted area to swim and play around in – no jellyfish here – as well as sitting and sunbathing areas around all four sides.
In fact, the far end of the 5m-beam pool is long and wide enough for two people to enjoy floating yoga while taking in views of the skies and sea.
The pool connects to the refurbished beach club, which is a hub of any active charter trip, providing a large area by the sea for sitting and relaxing, launching water activities or showering outdoors when you’ve finished.
It also has an upgraded ‘garage’ behind sliding glass doors that now also houses an air-conditioned gym with four machines, weights and yoga mats, plus a TV and WiFi. Working out on an elliptical or rowing machine is a lot more fun when you’ve got a view of the sea that you can dive into after you’ve finished.
Matthew Gusman, the yacht’s representative, is delighted with the new-look Lady Azul, which had full exterior paint work and a huge range of technical upgrades including new air-conditioning, frequency converter, AV systems and navigational equipment.
“The owner has invested a lot to ensure the yacht is of the standard he expects. The upgraded navigation system is particularly important as the boat is now exploring less-documented places off the beaten track, which is exciting for charter clients,” says Gusman, who also reveals the owners’ concerns for the environment.
“They were shocked with the amount of plastic they saw on beaches and decided they weren’t going to contribute to that. They installed new water-makers and a water-filtration system, so now you can drink out of any tap on the boat.”
Crew play a key role in any charter holiday and Lady Azul benefits from an experienced, multicultural seven-strong team. Malaysians Farid Mohd Isa (First Officer), Izuan Bin Hasan (Deckhand) and Amira Binti Ahmad (Stewardess) have worked with Ross on Lady Azul for several years, while Pole Greg Biskup (Chief Engineer) and Filipina Irish Teves (Chief Stewardess) joined in the past year.
And although Ross may be boss, the most important crew member for many guests is the one rarely seen – the chef. Born and raised in Phuket, Nobphadon ‘Ko’ Hiranchai has spent three decades in the catering and hotel industry, and joined Lady Azul after spending six years working on the 56m Lady D.
This master of the kitchen can cook practically any cuisine, essential considering the yacht’s international clientele, and specialises in vegan menus. He even bakes fresh bread every day, also hand-making his own bases when pizzas are the order of the day.
“I’ve been working in kitchens for three decades, so I can cook anything – Thai, Chinese, Malaysian, sushi, other Asian, Italian, European, Western, Mexican,” says Ko, who has worked at some of Phuket’s leading resorts and hotels.
“If guests want Thai food, I can cook different Thai dishes every day for a week. If they only want seafood or want a healthy menu, I can do it. Once I know what the guests like and need, I take care of everything.”
BRAVE NEW ERA
Considering the strong reputation of the crew and the yacht, Gusman is confident of Lady Azul’s charter appeal, both for clients based in and outside Asia.
“Lady Azul has been blessed to have key members of the crew stay with the boat, starting with Captain Gerry. It’s good for the boat and the charter guests, and the whole team have had rave reviews from all our clients,” Gusman says.
“Many of our target clients are used to a certain level of service when chartering in the Med or Caribbean, and we now offer that level of service and comfort on a Dutch-pedigree yacht in Southeast Asia.”
Likely to operate between northern Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar from about November through March or April for the coming season, the plans for the rest of next year remain more flexible.
Singapore, Malaysia’s east coast and the Anambas Islands are among potential destinations, along with Sumatra, Komodo and Raja Ampat in Indonesia, the Philippines and even the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
“People can now enjoy a high level of service and luxury in places they haven’t been before on a North European-built superyacht, such as the Mergui, Anambas, Raja Ampat, Bali, Komodo,” Gusman says. “The target is charters off the beaten track, for the adventurer in the family or the adventurous family.”
For Lady Azul charter enquiries, contact Matthew Gusman: email@example.com; +356 7925-2928
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