With not much happening at Krabi, we were keen to get the work underway. On the high tide of 5th October, Blue Heeler motored from Krabi Boat Lagoon staying a couple of rainy nights at the north-eastern corner of Koh Rang Yai before heading towards Phuket’s Boat Lagoon Marina.
Approaching the waypoint for the channel entrance, fellow Aussies aboard Rum Runner II, Chris and Liz, were on their way out of the marina. After saying hello as they passed we slowed down to pick up the local pilot who had guided them through the shallows outside Boat Lagoon. Motoring over 1nm on a 3.4m tide, we had as little as 0.3m under the keel, and with the pylons no more than 10-15m on our port side, we generally had around 0.9m under the keel. We’ll have to leave on a similar spring tide.
Blue Heeler had a berth next to the lifting area for the night only, and was lifted the following day. Our accommodation is a small brightly painted studio room with huge beds, fridge, microwave (no hotplates), sink and good bathroom. One month’s rent is equivalent to one night’s accommodation at a fancy hotel in Melbourne. We were told back in March that long term accommodation would no longer be offered between October and February, so we’re glad they changed their policy and allowed us to stay for three months. There are plenty of other places outside Boat Lagoon to stay, but it’s much more convenient for us to walk or ride our bikes to the boat. As far as the marina goes, we have all the things we need. There’s a laundry service near to the small but well stocked supermarket (although there is a laundromat outside the marina if you want to wash your own clothes); cheap and cheerful food stalls offer Pad Thai or a curry for around 60B (A$2) and there’s a few more expensive restaurants if you’d prefer to spend your money on food rather than your boat. The room service at the hotel is also quite reasonable and a meal may cost around A$5 delivered to your room. The Siam Bank has an ATM and mobile phone top-ups are easy from the 7-11 service station at the entrance on Thepkasattri Road. Tesco is only 7kms away and a taxi will cost around 400B each way, but a hire car may be a better option at around 1200B per day.
Week one – 7-13 October
Once on the hard stand, we removed the boom, the wind generator, stuff from the deck and sorted out all items from below decks, all of which would go into a very convenient and large storage area designated for our personal use. Within a couple of days, the mast was off and lying on trestles, while a tent structure was built around Blue Heeler.
The boat had to be completely stripped, inside and out. All bits and bobs were removed from the deck, while below I busily sorted out everything that had to be transported to our storage unit not far away. The ant-like workers scurried all over the boat, smiling and laughing as they removed a couple of tonnes of items from on and inside the boat. A small truck was filled with sails, mattresses, diving gear, supplies, and heaps of other stuff and taken to our storage area. Within a couple of hours, most of the stuff from the boat was gone, with only a few items remaining. It’s surprising how much ‘stuff’ we actually have. I wonder do we really need it all? After all the work is done, I’ll relish in in organising everything back on board, while dumping anything that no longer has any usefulness.
Each day our team of Thai workers begins at 8am and by 10.30am, a small van ‘toots’ to the workers and they clamber down the ladder and head over for a cool drink and morning tea. At midday, they disappear into the cool shadows of the nearby boats and have a rest, before resuming work at 1pm. After a good day’s work, they knock off at 4.30pm after making sure the work area is tidy, ready for the next day.
By day 3, the teak deck removal began. Starting at the bow, one worker drilled the teak plugs from the thousand-plus screws holding down the teak deck, while the others chipped away at the strips of wood, often times taking a bit of gelcoat with it. They’re making good progress and spend the day bent over and singing. None of them speak English but they are friendly and smile a lot.
While the boys were busy stripping the old teak deck, Wayne spent a morning working hard to describe his vision of a new davit to a local tradesman from LKC Engineering. Seemingly playing a very long-winded game of charades, he smiled and gesticulated over the course of an hour but eventually managed to convey the concept to the guy. Another fellow, K’Wiwat from AME, came by to pick up our 100m chain and two anchors for re-galvanising, and also to measure up a new double bow roller.
As we await the quotes on the bimini, davit, and bow roller, Wayne decided to tackle the removal of the rudder. On paper the task looks straightforward. In reality, after two of the six bolts had sheared off, the following six hours of attempting to drill the broken bolts out was unsuccessful. But if there’s one person who can do it, it’s Wayne. He has the patience, the expertise and cleverness to figure out these sorts of problems.
With Wayne buried in the aft cabin trying to extract the problematical bolts, I began going through some of the remaining items left on board; identifying, assessing, dumping or categorising tools and other stuff. It is so important to know where everything is kept, right down to those tiny pawl springs.
Sunday is the workers’ day off so we didn’t have to hurry across to open up the boat. With the bronze locking rings now off the rudder stem (one of which will now have to be replaced as Wayne had to cut the broken screws out), our task today was to flush the engine with fresh water and tidy up.
There’s a sneaky hornet that keeps setting up home inside the cabin. This day he came by with a worm to put in his home, but I’d destroyed the home earlier and sprayed surface spray in the area. I think he got the hint, but left a wriggly green worm behind when he fled. We removed our tri-anchor light today and decided that we’d buy a new LED one as the incandescent bulbs use a lot of power and the housing was cracked and brittle.
Week two – 14-20 October
After a lot of effort and a hand from an enthusiastic worker, Wayne managed to get the rudder off. The seals were eventually removed and at the end of the day the guys stayed around a little longer to lower the rudder onto the ground. The workers have removed almost all the teak – the cockpit and transom remain. The guys are putting in the effort and working hard.
The following day Wayne cleaned the rudder shaft and identified the various bearings to replace. The thrust bearings were rusted through and it was only a matter of time before problems would increase. Over the course of the week we received quotes for a hardtop bimini and davit system and although the price is more than expected, we’ve decided to proceed on the basis that we’d probably regret it if we don’t get it done here and now.
With the deck cleared of hardware and old teak, the workers stripped the hull below the waterline in preparation of applying antifoul, while a couple of others stayed aboard and began laying the teak on the deck. At 12mm, the wood is much thicker than the teak that was taken off and is smooth to the touch. Keeping out of the way of the workers and hornets, I generally only go to the boat to help Wayne with tasks. Much of my time is spent researching parts, general repairs and run-around person. This week I busied myself by making a complete set of saloon curtains and shower curtains to replace the old and torn threadbare originals.
I’ve struggled to find decent upholstery fabric shops in Malaysia or Thailand, so I brought 8m of fabric from Australia with me. The bimini I’d made back in Melbourne was removed, washed, the zips and tapes removed for future use, and the remaining Sunbrella fabric will be used for making bags, covers, etc.
Week three begins tomorrow. With much of the quoting done, and the teak deck laying commenced, we’re hopeful that the project will be finished before end of December.