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Michael (Mick) Kealy

Former Ao Chalong Yacht Club (now Phuket Yacht Club) Commodore, Mick Kealy, has the weathered good looks of an adventurer, mariner and world traveller. He found his niche in life running his nautical electronics business in Phuket… We met at the yacht club (where else?) for sunset drinks.


How old are you and where are you from?
I'm 54 and I come from the tiny Aussie town of Bunyip, named after a mythical Aboriginal swamp monster, on the Princes Highway east of Melbourne. It has a population of about 950 and my family with my seven brothers and sisters is a fair part of that! I went to school there, then did an apprenticeship in electrical engineering. Once I had that qualification, which gave me the ability to get work anywhere, I started a life of travelling, sailing and adventuring which was a true passion for me.

How did you come to Phuket?
I did some wonderful trips working on sailing vessels, such as a gaff-rigged schooner, to many of the Pacific Islands. In between sailing and travelling I needed to generate income so I worked in mines and mining towns in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. I'd back-packed to Thailand previously, so when I was offered a crew position on another schooner from Pattaya to Koh Samui, Phi Phi and Phuket,

I jumped at the opportunity.

I loved Phuket and kept coming and going while I was working on boats in Singapore and Indonesia, so I eventually bought my own sailing boat and then spent a lot of time sailing around the Andaman region.

When and why did you set up your business in Phuket?
Well fate took a hand! I was sailing my boat off Ralai Beach near Krabi one day when I saw a lovely girl running on the sand. We got talking and it turned out she was an English girl who was also interested in sailing and had worked on boats. We ended up getting married and decided to settle in Phuket about 20 years ago. We now have two children, a son of 18 and a daughter of 15.

With a more settled family life starting, I decided to start my own company, Octopus Electrical Services, based at Boat Lagoon in 1997. It was good timing as the yachting and boating community started to grow rapidly in Phuket around that time, so we were busy from the start. Since then we’ve grown to become one of the region’s leading marine electrical companies.

What does the future hold for your business in Phuket?
I think the exciting new focus for us is on alternative energy such as solar power, which is a personal crusade of mine and, of course, is really needed with the effects of global warming affecting the sailing community in many dramatic ways.

How does running a business in Phuket compare with elsewhere?
The Thais put a lot of emphasis on developing personal relationships over time and I think I'm fortunate as I am not as tough, or as outspoken, as many Aussies. So I've built up a lot of trust and long term staff loyalty, which has been a great plus for the business. I think my style is well suited to doing business here. In fact, and I don’t believe I'd survive in business back home!

What are the specific challenges in running a business in Phuket?
Mostly the red tape, which causes inefficiencies and lost time. Slowly over the years I've seen improvements in these areas, but there's still a lot more to be done.

Apart from that, one of the biggest problems facing everyone these days is traffic, which just slows everything down and makes things take longer to achieve than they should.Where do you live in Phuket?

I rent a small house in Chalong which is low maintenance and backs onto the jungle. As the price and situation suits my present circumstances, I haven’t bothered looking into purchasing a property.

Have you always lived around Chalong?
When I first arrived in Phuket, I stayed at Nai Harn Beach, which is beautiful and peaceful.

I enjoyed the beauty and the lifestyle of southern Phuket – Nai Harn, Rawai and Ao Chalong – and the area's great for sailing as there's always a safe anchorage somewhere, depending on the wind direction.

Basically, southern Phuket offers a sensational choice of restaurants, great water sports options, beautiful scenery and a varied mix of nationalities, which all together makes it a great area to live in.

What car you drive?
A Toyota 4-door Vigo pickup. It's perfect for my as I can drive the kids around in the back to all sorts of sports and events – not to mention during Songkran Festival.

What charitable or community work do you do?
I’m was Commodore of the Ao Chalong Yacht Club (now Phuket Yacht Club), which is a voluntary position. I’ve been doing this for most of the last eight years and I've been on the committee for about 18 years. The club is very friendly and family-orientated and runs a huge number of events, races, courses and social activities, so in many ways it’s my social life as well as something that I enjoy doing for the community.

I've also had a a few different boats and done a lot of racing – in which, I'm happy to say, we've placed pretty well over the years. What does the future hold for you?

I'm very lucky! My work, which I love, is an extension of my life’s passion for sailing and travel, so I'm sure that I'll want to keep working. I think the idea of retiring is totally overrated. So I'll keep managing Octopus Electrical Service,

I just need to find a way to get more time off for other interests. There’s no doubt that Phuket's getting more crowded and urbanised, so I might in future look at moving down towards Krabi where a number of interesting new marina developments are starting up.

What does happiness mean for you?

Family and friends. I have two great kids who I love to hang out with and share stories with. I'm also very close with my own family in Australia who I see regularly. Living in Phuket would not be the same without the great friends I have here.

Apart from that, I enjoy being busy and discovering new things, whether it's travelling, sailing or in my work.