|From growing orchids to designing world-class boats|
Surapon Sanguthai, Thailand's orchid king, started building boats a few years back and the way he is going it won't be long until he is named Thailand's boating king as well. So far he has designed seven models, the 72 F.B. Flybridge, the Gladiator 38S, the Gladiator 38SE, the Gladiator 39HT, the Gladiator 42S and now two transport boats (the 42-ft TRD model for diving and the TRV for VIPs). And the seven models have the boating world turning its head and marveling at the work produced in Surapon's Ratchaburi shipyard, since 1980 (www.bangkokgreen.com).
But we need a little background on Surapon before we get into his boating interests. He did graduate work in Hawaii, furthering an already large knowledge of the orchid business. He then brought this increased knowledge back to Thailand and quickly grew his orchid business, the Bangkok Green Company.
However, with innate navy blood, inherited from his father, and long inspired by the luxury and beauty of the yachting world Surapon decided he wanted to get involved in boating. He decided to buy himself a gift in 1995; a Sunseeker Manhattan 58, which he had seen displayed the year before at the London Boat Show. He christened the craft Tawanwan and used it to yacht, dive and fish in the Andaman Sea, and he also made forays into India's Andaman Islands. Then in 2003, with one professional captain and one crew Tawanwan initiated a private charter business in 2003, thus launching Sunnav as a yacht charter business company in Thailand (www.sunnavcharter.com).
Surapon was very impressed with the luxury, speed and performance of the boat and a number of years later, Sunseeker offered him a 72-footer for 2 million pounds (the first boat had cost him US$1 million).
But Surapon thought the price was too steep, and he was determined to build his own superyacht, instead of buying another from Sunseeker. Along with a friend, Somsak Na Nakorn, an experienced architect, who graduated from the Thai-German Technical College, they designed the 72 F.B., Sunnav's first model yacht, finished in 2007.
This was built in Sunnav's Ratchaburi shipyard with a workforce of 30. Surapon drew the workers from his orchid fields as many had previous experience in trades like carpentry, painting, and iron working to help build his first boat those workers from the orchid farms joined with 20 boatbuilders to form the Sunnav Company. They took three years to build the 72 F.B Flybridge, the first of it's kind in the Thai boat building industry.
The boat ended up costing 60 million baht, about half the price the 72-foot Sunseeker would have cost if Surapon had bought it. The Flybridge 72, is an elegant power yacht featuring twin 1,300 horsepower engines, and is capable of a maximum speed of 25 knots and a cruising speed of 23 knots.
But wanting to reach a broader market, Surapon then decided to build a sports cruiser, the Gladiator 38S, which he put on display at the Düsseldorf Boat Show. This boat was initially presented at the Phuket International Boat Show 2007, and so far there have been three orders to customers in Phuket, Suratthani, and France.
The 38S has a maximum speed of 38 knots, and Sunnav gives you a choice of two engines: a 4-stroke outboard from Yamaha or Suzuki, or a Volvo 330HP/370 HP double diesel engine. The boat has a maximum speed of 38 knots and a cruising speed of 33 knots.
A couple years ago Sunnav launched the Gladiator 39HT at Bangkok's Shangri-la hotel, offering a choice of engines. This boat has a maximum speed of 40 knots, and a cruising speed of 35 knots. Sunnav went on to build the Gladiator 42, which it sold to a Russian buyer who keeps it in Phuket's Ao Por marina. Sunnav has expanded its boatyard to increase its construction capacity to 10 boats annually. More models are now in the design process, including a 42ft jet pump, a 44- footer and 47-footer.
Sunnav can build a Flybridge 72 in 3 years, the 38S in four months and the 39HT in six months. There's a five-year warranty on the hull of each yacht. The 60-ton 72 Flybridge retails for Bt40 million; the 9-ton 39 HT sells for about Bt16 million, while the eight-ton 38S goes about Bt11 million.
Sunnav yachts are designed to the latest international standards, employ cutting-edge technology and they utilize the highest quality materials sourced from around the world. Vinyl ester resins imported from Japan allow Sunnav's designers to give full reign to their creativity and durability, imagining and then realizing artistic yachts in the Italian style, featuring powerful, reliable engines from Japan, the United States, Germany and Sweden.
All Sunnav yachts are built from fiberglass with lightweight but durable materials. A combination of real leather satee and cherry wood inside provides for luxurious accommodation. All details are deliberately planned for perfect balance, and constructed with careful quality assurance. Sunnav yachts sail on the surface of the water with fast and fabulous beauty.
Khun Surapon's latest creation is the 42ft transport boat (the TRD model for diving and the TRV model for VIPs). Four of these boats have been ordered by a Russian named Vladimir Vylegzhanin, whose company SEA SAFARI (www.seasafari.ru) runs day charter trips from Jomtien to the outlying islands. He can't say enough good things about Sunnav's boats. The boats can hold 43 people with 3 crew, they are workhorses and can sustain significant wear and tear. Sunnav is also planning to build a 47-footer in the future.
Previously Sunnav built transport boats for Oddee Marine in Boat Lagoon (39T prototype), as well as Watchara Marine (39T new prototype), Kriangkrai Marine (42T), all located in Phuket, and Go Andaman (42T) in Phang Nga province.
By the way, Surapon chose the name Sunnav, an amalgam of sun and navigation, because he believes the sun is the primary compass for navigation and it gives energy to life when traveling. And as he switched his focus to the boatbuilding business, he started handing over the reins of his orchid business to his daughter Kanokorn. Most importantly Sunnav is proving that Thai boatbuilders can compete with the best in the world; something the whole country can take great pride in.
Sunnav's Charter Boat in Phuket
Tawan-Tawanwan (the Sunnav Flybridge built in 2007) is moored at Boat Lagoon Marina. This yacht features:
• 4 staterooms, 3 bathrooms, 1 saloon, a Jacuzzi on the Flybridge
• LCD TVs in all rooms, a BOSE hifi surround system with DVD/CD player.
• Accommodates 25 people on a day cruise.
Packages include trips to Phi Phi Island, Maya Bay, Bamboo Island, Phang Nga Bay, Jame Bond Island and Koh Hong. Charters include transfer to and from your hotel, fuel, a professional captain, crew, a hostess, a cook, food, soft drinks, beer and wine.