Written by Roger Kamholz | Photography by Jamie Elvidge
Twelve months a year of tropical-warm, boating-friendly weather, miles of magniﬁcent coastline, and a national cuisine that he touts as “delicious and healthy” surely help to keep Meridian owner Hasan Basar ﬁrmly planted in Thailand. But those ﬁne qualities are just bonuses for him; what he cherishes most about living in Thailand are its people.
“It’s disorganized, and the city is noisy,” Hasan says of his hometown of Bangkok. “Things work, things don’t work. But the people are great. There is still among the Thais a genuine desire to be nice ﬁrst to people. And that’s wonderful. No matter who you meet, people’s ﬁrst reaction is to be decent toward each other.” Coming from a Western con-text, in which you’re typically on guard meeting new people, that may come as a surprise to some, he says. “The Thais have a genuine desire to please any person they meet.” As a result, his business dealings generally lack confrontation. “At the end of a day’s work, you can go home without stress.”
Turkish by heritage, Hasan was born and spent his child-hood in Thailand, before moving to Turkey to learn the language and stay connected with his roots. He then went on to study in the U.K., where he completed university. After his schooling, he returned to Thailand to work in public relations and has remained there ever since. He now heads up a Bangkok-based PR ﬁrm that assists global companies and even does work for the Thai government. With the Gulf of Thailand at arm’s reach, Hasan has in the past few years reignited an old love of being on the water. “My interest in boats goes back to childhood,” he says. “I was a fan of ski boats and played around with them a lot...rather than cars,” he laughs. “From the age of 6 or 7.”
Hasan recently became proud owner of the ﬁrst Meridian Yacht sold in Thailand. His 441 Sedan is docked at Ocean Marina in Pattaya, a waterside town southeast of Bangkok that’s also home to Seat Boat, his Meridian dealer. Seat Boat sold Hasan his previous boat, too, which was the ﬁrst he owned. The service experience made him a loyal customer.
When he began to feel the urge to upgrade to a larger vessel, he recalls, “The ﬁrst thing was, I wanted to do business with Seat Boat. I had always been concerned that, with a bigger boat, there’s care that goes into keeping it running in top form, and I don’t have a lot of time to spend looking after it. So the key for me was to have a dealer who I know I could call on for all sorts of support well after the purchase.”
That distinctively Thai inclination to please was on display when Hasan took his ﬁrst major voyage with the new 441 late last year. Hasan’s sister Caniko Basar and niece Ece Olcay joined him for a weeklong cruise from Pattaya to Koh Chang and Koh Kood, two large but remote islands located near Thai-land’s eastern border, shared with Cambodia. Caniko was visiting her brother from Izmir, a city on the Aegean coast of Turkey. Ece, also in the PR business, was taking some time oﬀ between jobs (by the end of the trip she’d agreed to a two-year stint at Hasan’s company—with the Meridian doing most of the persuading). The staﬀ at Seat Boat has an extensive network of contacts in the Thai marine industry, and without Hasan knowing it, they had made arrangements to ensure he got top-notch service along his route. “I went to a refueling stop, and the dealer had phoned ahead, saying, ‘By the way, we have a customer coming, take good care of him.’” The proprietor was ready to bend over backward, oﬀering to help if any issues arose during their cruise.
“The Zeus drives felt very comfortable... You felt like you were on a much smaller, nimbler boat with the Zeus drive. When I finally got to the destination, about four to five hours later, I didn’t feel tired.”
The fastidious care was much appreciated, but ultimately unneeded. “It was my ﬁrst long trip, so there was a little bit of trepidation,” Hasan says. “I wondered what we would discover”—with the 441—“and what we were going to have to debug. I really enjoyed the trip because…well, there wasn’t any-thing to debug! The fact that everything worked was wonderful.”
Hasan had ﬁrst eyed the 441 in Hong Kong. He was immediately taken with the vessel his ﬁrst time onboard. “You sat inside and you felt comfortable,” he recalls. “You didn’t feel like you were being pushed into awkward spaces, as you often do on a 40-plus-footer.” After considerable research, “I could also see it was underpinned with solid boating experience, from looking at the people who were producing it. It represented good value,” he says. The choice to forgo a lower helm station—a freedom other boat models he considered didn’t aﬀord—was another attractive quality. “I thought I could get a lot more space. For the price of a smaller boat, I could have a much bigger boat.”
Trekking the 360-nautical-mile round trip to Koh Chang and Koh Kood didn’t just prove the 441 as structurally sound—the cruise also revealed to Hasan several unexpected qualities. “Sitting up on the ﬂybridge, the level of noise was low,” he says. “And the Zeus drives, they felt very comfortable as you were going through. It was eﬀortless steering. You felt like you were on a much smaller, nimbler boat with the Zeus drive. When I ﬁnally got to the destination, about four to ﬁve hours later, I didn’t feel tired.” On friends’ boats, he says, the background noise and the vibrations coming through the boat has tired him out. “But with the 441 I didn’t feel that at all.” The 441 delivered the crew to their destinations refreshed and ready to enjoy the pristine scenery.
“The skyline is just trees,” Hasan says cheerfully. “They don’t have structures breaking through the skyline. When you look at the shoreline, you just see coconut trees. You don’t see huts or this and that. When you’re at anchor and you look onshore, maybe you’ll be able to see a light at night somewhere here or there. But during the day, you’ll see basically just trees.”
Anchoring the 441 was no issue. The islands’ winding coastlines create lots of sheltered bays with calm waters. “The water, particularly on Koh Kood, is absolutely crystal clear,” Hasan enthuses. “You can see the shadow of the boat on the seabed, which is always nice.” But calm seas don’t necessarily mean restful sleep. Prior to the excursion, Hasan wasn’t sure if the crew would like staying aboard at night. “My initial thoughts were that living in ‘constrained quarters’ would begin to bother me after a few days,” he says, “and I had prepared for lodgings ashore on one of the islands. As it turned out, we were all very happy staying on the boat and, in fact, always looked forward to going back aboard at night after a dinner ashore.”
Between the two islands, the crew favored Koh Kood, which reminded Hasan of 1980s Phuket—“still a pristine paradise.” At many of the anchorages they visited, the 441 was one of the few or the only recreational boat around. As the sun set in the evenings, Hasan, Ece and Caniko would gather on the 441’s top deck, accompanied by a bottle of Champagne and chilled ﬂutes, to take in the array of changing colors against the deepening expanse of blue.