From Somerset in the UK originally, Andy studied structural engineering at Bath University and worked for a decade in that business including time spent on the Thames Barrier.

In 1982, he embarked on a two-year around the world sailing cruise on his 46ft sloop Buccabu with six crew including his wife, Jenny, and business partner, Reg, They left from Poole in Dorset. Things went well until they hit the Red Sea, where near Elat they ran into engine trouble, a big storm came up and sunk their boat. Two of the crew abandoned ship at this point. Luckily, the boat was insured, so Andy flew home and filled a container with parts he needed to fix the boat. The repair took 8 months and then the crew of 4 (Andy, his wife, partner & crew, Thelma) sailed into Port Sudan, where they spent the next four months operating a dive charter. Andy still says that the area has “the best diving in the world”.     

From Port Sudan, Buccabu sailed down the Red Sea eventually winding up in Sri Lanka where it stayed for a while doing charters (sail & dive) mostly for friends who had flown in from the UK. Buccabu then headed off for northern Sumatra, and wound up in Phuket in November of 1984 with just three crew remaining (Andy, Reg & Jenny). They camped in Phuket for the high season, becoming the charter boat for the all old Pansea Hotel (which became The Chedi, and has now been renamed The Surin).

In April, 1985, they set off again, heading down to Malaysia and Singapore before heading over to Borneo, Sabah and Sarawak and then to the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. In September of that year, they landed in Cairns. They did a bit of sailing in Eastern Australia and in the Barrier Reef, but Reg was ready to move on and Jenny wanted to go home and start a family. But Andy (pictured below, middle, with Bill O'Leary, right. & Bart Duykers, left, then the GM of the Boathouse) wasn’t ready to go home, so the trio decided to sell the boat and they put it on the market in Sydney around Christmas time.

vince tabuteau bill oleary  andy dowden circa 1992

After paying the import taxes, they found a prospective buyer (a Russian), who put down a deposit on the boat, but the Aussie dollar tanked and Andy decided to keep the boat and buy out Reg. Andy and his wife sailed back through Papua New Guinea (doing 3 months of charter there), then Indonesia, before arriving in Phuket in November of 1986, which is where Jenny left and returned to England.    

Andy hired a crew and for the next couple years did general sailing charters out of Phuket, linking up with Jan Jacobs at Pansea Yacht Services. In 1989, Vincent Tabuteau and his company Asia Voyages wanted to build the Mekala, a river boat based in Bangkok. So Andy took off to the Big Mango for a year, where he built two Mekalas.

Then Asia Voyages decided to start a joint-venture with Aman Cruises called Amanpuri Yacht Services, but they needed a place to service, store and fuel their boats so they decided to form a yacht management service with Pansea Yacht Services and Jan Jacobs and Andy. The group formed Phuket Yacht Services, first in Bang Tao, in high season, then in low season they acquired some land in Laem Phrao, and this became their main depot (which is now Yacht Haven). They had a jetty, fuel supply, water supply, and workshop – it was the first marina in Phuket. In the beginning, there were 4 boats from Asia Voyages, 6 from Aman Cruises.    

In 1991, Phuket Yacht Services became Sunsail’s representative and received 7 new boats from the company. It was the first bareboat fleet in Thailand. In 1993, Sunsail sent over 12 used boats from another fleet in the Seychelles. Now, since Sunsail had 19 boats in country, they decided to send their own man in, and in 1995 Kevin Quilty arrived to oversee their operation. Sunsail stayed at Laem Phrao until Boat Lagoon opened a couple years later.

Then in 1997, a Thai company decided to take over and expand the Laem Phrao marina renaming it Yacht Haven, buying out Andy and Jan and the holding company Thai Marine Leisure. So Andy moved down to Boat Lagoon and became their resident contractor for four years whilst Jan operated Charters with TML..

In 2002, Andy joined forces with Grenville Fordham and Image Asia and they decided to stage a boat show in Phuket, called PIMEX. The first one was held in 2003, around King’s Cup time, and it went well, so the two decided to stage a regatta, Phuket Raceweek, first held in 2004.

Grenville eventually grew tired of the Boat Show, fearing it was draining too much of his company’s time and resources, so he bought Andy out, keeping the regatta, while Andy was left with the boat show.  In 2007, his first year running the show solo, Andy moved PIMEX from Boat Lagoon, where it was held, to the Royal Phuket Marina. (Shows have been held at RPM in December of 2007 and 08, and January of 2010 and 11.)                      

In 2007, world-famous sailor Shirley Robertson interviewed Andy for CNN’s “Main Sail” program and this tweaked the interest of the Informa Group, who among other things run the Monaco Boat Show. Discussions ensued and they bought the show from Andy in 2008, leaving him with a paid salary to keep running it.  

Andy is involved with all of Phuket’s regattas: besides starting Six Senses Phuket Raceweek with Grenville, he’s been the President of the King’s Cup (running the racing side of the regatta for many years), he’s also been on the committee for the Bay Regatta and he plays a key role in the Superyacht Rendezvous as well.
Describing PIMEX, Andy says, “It has the best in-water display of any boat show in Asia, let alone Southeast Asia. It’s a wonderful setting; the only drawback is we can’t get really big boats in here.”      

The 2011 show had 47 boats on display and reported sales of around 20 million dollars, including luxury cars.

Andy’s two-year sailing sojourn turned into a full-time job in the marine leisure business, and the yachting community in Thailand has benefited immensely from his savvy and knowledge. Thanks for not going home, Andy.  

(Sadly Andy passes away on 22 July 2023 but he will always be remembered fondly by friends & family)




Find me on...