Hua Hin has a marina. There, I have said it, so finally the secret is out. I have met people who have lived in Hua Hin for years and years who are surprised when they find out that our local area has a marina. Admittedly, Racer Marina is a little way south of town, close to the mouth of the Pranburi River. It is a large marina with the capacity to provide 120 wet berths and 200 dry berths to yachts up to 75 feet in length, along with full, comprehensive marina services such as engineering, antifouling, boat maintenance and storage and charter hire, as well as a café and bar.
I was delighted when Khun Deer, the subject of my last feature article, recommended Lisa as my new interviewee, particularly as I had had the pleasure of working with her previously, organising an event. For the last year and a half, Lisa Mackenzie has been the Marina Manager. She is a woman with a long history in all aspects of the yachting industry, who has brought a new sense of vitality to Racer Marina. Along with her colleague members of the Royal Coast Riviera Club, Lisa shares a vision of how the Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces of Thailand can become Thailand’s own Riviera. And a successful, thriving yachting industry with a well-staffed and equipped marina, is central to that vision coming to its fruition. Racer Marina is the only marina on the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand, and although the area is yet to be known for its yachting in the same way as Phuket or Ko Samui, the calm waters around Hua Hin are just made for yachting and all sorts of water-based sports.
Lisa was born in Bristol in England but moved to France with her family at the age of six, initially to the renowned playground of the rich and famous, St. Tropez and then to Antibes and its environs. Although English is her mother tongue, she is equally as competent communicating in French and moves seamlessly between the languages. While living in France, which she did up until the age of 45, she considered herself a Francophone, though now in Thailand she has reconsidered that as English is the main language used to communicate amongst the diverse expat community.
It was in 2015 that Lisa first came to live in Hua Hin, after initially living for some time in Bangkok. She has spent time in Phuket as well and admits that her love for travel and visiting new places means she has a real fondness for Asia and the Americas, and looks forward one day to travelling as far afield as Australia. I hope for her sake that she was not just saying this for my benefit. What attracted Lisa to make Hua Hin her home is that it is a town of “just the right size”, with good restaurants and a friendly, welcoming multinational community which made her comfortable right away. She does see a business opportunity though for anyone who wishes to open a homewares shop, because she likes to decorate her home with beautiful things which she has not yet been able to source in Hua Hin. I have to admit I agree with Lisa on this, having brought some of my own treasures from Australia to decorate my Thai home.
Lisa has a grand passion for the sea and for boating. Since the age of 7, she has believed that is where her future lay. Lisa has a hankering for a sailing trip of 10 days or more but remains ever practical. Should she have a lottery win, it would be a hard choice, but she would buy a powerboat over a sailing vessel, as she knows that she would require a much greater level of skill than she currently possesses to go sailing off into the sunset. Indeed, Lisa has an enthusiasm for lifelong learning and wishes to keep improving her skills and understanding of the yachting industry. She is still astounded by the breadth of the industry, and the diversity of tasks she undertakes daily in her role as marina manager.
Lisa confirmed my suspicion that the industry is still highly male dominated, but has never really let that faze her. She believes that her success in the industry has come from being her authentic self, working hard and speaking respectfully but on an equal footing with all people, regardless of their wealth or status. Taking over the management of Racer Marina saw Lisa applying this philosophy, along with leadership by example. The marina staff she inherited was not initially fully comfortable with working for a female boss, particularly one who was not Thai nor a fluent Thai speaker. So, Lisa had to take a distinctly hands-on approach to her leadership position. To this day, Lisa is reluctant to direct staff to undertake jobs she is not competent doing herself, so she is often found helping to lift a vessel out of the water or undertaking any of the other myriad of jobs needing to be done at the marina. This was quite a successful strategy for earning the respect of her staff while developing a trusting and co-operative work environment.
Frankly, a desk job is something which would bore Lisa to tears. Being in the fresh air and sunshine is much more Lisa’s style, though she remains attached at the hip to her phone and iPad which allow her to complete the multitude of communication, financial and administrative tasks which also make up a significant proportion of her role. She is a woman very much in demand at the marina. Despite the fact that Lisa had set aside dedicated time to chat with me, there were many others who also needed her skills and expertise, so we had interruptions galore, just proving to me what a busy lady she is. Thank goodness she has excellent organisational skills and multitasks with great efficiency.
Lisa admits she is a naturally shy person, and is quite selective about who she allows to shares her life and thoughts. Unlike many people, her social media footprint is minimal, and even the Racer Marina’s website doesn’t mention her by name. This is likely to change, however, as the website is currently undergoing a refresh and Lisa is planning a page with pictures and brief biographies of the Marina’s sixteen staff members. What was surprising for me was that such a naturally reserved woman would choose to be involved in a leadership role involving socialising and company promotion. Lisa organises frequent events at the marina and travels regularly both within Thailand and internationally to attend boat shows and other yachting events as the face of Racer Marina, a job which takes her somewhat outside of her comfort zone. Luckily, she is able to view it as a further learning opportunity and chance for personal growth, describing herself as loyal, hardworking and persistent, a good thing when trying to build the reputation of the marina in an area less well-known for pleasure cruising.
Although she is shy, Lisa is still clearly a social person. A secondary passion for her is undoubtedly food. She enjoys going out to eat with friends, particularly if French or Spanish food is to be on the table, but equally likes to cook meals and host her friends. She has completed a Thai cooking course and loves to cook with local, fresh market ingredients, finding that her cooking now has a greater focus on vegetables and fruits than in the past. As an additional benefit, she is able to cook delicious Thai food for herself, with much less added sugar than she would be able to buy in local eateries. But a woman can never completely escape her heritage, and Lisa’s ideal last meal would still be traditionally French, a veal Cordon Bleu, accompanied by a glass or two of a full-bodied red wine. Sounds pretty good to me.
As opposed to retired expats such as myself, workers in Thailand don’t get a lot of leisure time. Lisa spends hers with her two-and-a-half-year-old calico cat, a constant companion. She makes time to read each day, dipping into literature in both English and French alternately, often on the recommendation of friends. Lisa reads books from a variety of genres, but particularly enjoys a book which hooks her in immediately.
A relatively short-term goal is to become fluent in Thai, something Lisa works on every single day. She hopes within the next year to be able to communicate effectively with her staff in Thai. As for longer term goals she isn’t so sure. Lisa has a history of spontaneity, and is likely to seize a perceived opportunity without too much soul-searching. Her younger self would not believe how readily she relocated her life to Thailand when the possibility arose. So, where she will be and what she will be doing 5 years from now remains a mystery, even to Lisa. But what is certain is that in 5 years’ time, Racer Marina will be a thriving enterprise, pulsing with customers and visitors. Lisa was proud to host the Energy Observer earlier this year on its voyage of renewable energy research and world travel, glad of the exposure for its ground-breaking journey as well as media exposure for the marina. She is brimming with ideas and has a self-confessed stubborn streak that accompanies her serenely calm exterior. Just don’t shout at Lisa, whatever you do. She gets quite annoyed at people who disrespect others in that way. A smile and a measured voice are much more likely to get you what you need when dealing with the lovely Lisa.
I am very much looking forward to my next interview in the People of Hua Hin series. My mouth just won’t stop watering even thinking about it.