First hydrofoil service makes public debut
PHUKET: After more than two years of refurbishment and sea trials, Phuket’s first hydrofoil service was launched on Sunday (January 22) with a complementary trip to the Similan Islands for around 120 tour agents, hotel people and media.
Tuesday 24 January 2012, 09:31AM
The Flying Dolphin 1, the first of three hydrofoils to be operated by Dolphin Seaways, took around 90 minutes to travel from Patong Bay to the Similans, with passengers seated in air-conditioned luxury, fed and watered, and entertained by a close-up magician from Palazzo in Kathu.
At the Similans the passengers disembarked and were then offered trips by speedboat to other islands for snorkelling or scuba diving.
The hydrofoil cruises at speeds of 35 knots (65 kmh), and – thanks to the hull being lifted clear of the water by the foils below – with none of the gruelling crashing through waves associated with a conventional 2.5-hour boat trip to the Similans.
Hydrofoils are lifted out of the water by what are effectively underwater wings. As a result, travelling in one feels more like air travel than boat travel. The Flying Dolphin 1 can “fly” in waves as high as two metres without discomfort to passengers.
The hydrofoil is also more environmentally friendly than most powered vessels. Because the water resistance is much lower when it is “flying”, it uses far less fuel.
Adviser Denys van Rooyen said the company is looking to decrease its carbon footprint further by deploying solar-powered electric boats for the ship-to-shore transfers, rather than the speedboats currently being used.
The Kometa hydrofoil was originally built in Russia, but was bought from Greece, where such machines are routinely used for island-hopping.
Sakwuth Udomsrisak, principal of Dolphin Seaways and tour company Phuket Adventures, said the second-hand hydrofoil cost B45 million, including B9 million for transporting it from Greece, and a load more for the new 1,050-horsepower diesel engines and overall refurbishment.
The company is not yet ready to launch the service, said Mr van Rooyen. “I want to wait until we have our second hydrofoil ready,” he said. “I don’t want to be in a position where we have to cancel bookings because something goes wrong.”
The second hydrofoil should be ready for service, he said “in two to three months”.
As to price, he said this had still to be decided. It will depend on a number of factors, he explained, including the services offered in the final package.
The website for the hydrofoil service is here.