Hard Up in Thailand
13 February 2016 | Boat Lagoon, Phuket, Thailand
The boatyard and the sailor are natural enemies.... So posited a salty old skipper well known to me. It is always with a degree of trepidation that the boat owner approaches the travel-lift, the slipway or whatever mode is chosen to haul one's precious charge from her natural environment on to dry, hard land. A nervous walk around the lifting slings, an unconscious grasp of the wallet which you know is going to be pillaged, to meet the boat's needs. Have you captured all the items on the list? What hidden fault or breakage or nautical gremlin is going to appear from nowhere and push your costs through the coach-roof? We all know that whatever the estimates, the quotes will be higher, and whatever the quotes, the invoice will be more still. We figure about 25% over what you think it will cost, is the final reality.
Such is Dreamcatcher, our "baby" or, more appropriately, our old girl - who turns 40 this year. And we are so proud of her for achieving this milestone, and she is family. She's kept us safe, without so much as a bruise and barely a band-aid, for 15 years and across thousands of miles of ocean. So, now is her time for a rest, a face lift, a new birthday frock and a bit of "lipstick". She's in Boat Lagoon in Phuket, Thailand for a make-over and we are with her (albeit in a lovely on-site apartment) and watching her go through this transformation. She was hauled out on January 29th and we see this as a 2-month renovation. We have done home renovations and boat renovations, but there is something more fearful about the latter: if they get some of it wrong, she can sink to the bottom of the ocean in minutes or come to grief on some remote foreign shore. It is the stuff of gut-twisting. But we are working with good, experienced people, boat contractors whose DNA reflects hundreds of years of sea-faring. And we are fortunate enough to be surrounded by friends in Phuket who are boaters, who offer advice and a chance to vent over a beer at the end of the day. Dreamcatcher is having a full exterior paint job, upgrades to woodwork below decks, a few mechanical upgrades and a myriad of other small changes and enhancements.
Rewind 3 weeks. We spent several days aboard her in Penang (now her home) readying her for the trip - a drop in the ocean - 200 miles, to Phuket. The awning ripped as we took it off (add job to list). We anchored that night at Pulau Bidang, the small island north of Penang and noticed a concerning leak in the muffler (add Araldite, duct tape and job to list). The passage from there to Langkawi was bumpy and uncomfortable but that was assuaged by a night at one of our favourite anchorages in southern Langkawi - peaceful and beautiful with impressive jungle clad cliffs, overseen by gliding Brahminy Kite eagles. As we set off for the last 135 miles to Phuket, the wind builds and stays between 20 & 30 knots for rest of the trip. Thus we are both awake most of the night and arrive tired, in Au Chalong for the formalities of clearing in to Thailand. We decide to leave after tentatively putting the hook down for 30 minutes in an anchorage littered with moorings, buoys, unmarked mooring lines, and trundle 15 miles up to Koh Rang Yai for the afternoon and night before motoring the remaining 4 miles in to Boat Lagoon for the haul out. Koh Rang Yai is a lovely uncluttered island - postcard perfect, blue water, white sand, palm trees, and we enjoy the evening there.
At the appointed time next day - high tide - our Boat Lagoon pilot arrives to drive Dreamcatcher up the shallow brown river known for its shifting sands. Our eyes fix nervously on the depth meter but we ace it in with 0.5 M under the keel on a published high tide of 2.39 meters. We are put alongside the fuel dock on arrival as the travel-lift bay is full. 15 minutes later, just as we are about to move the 300 meters to the lifting bay, the steering fails (add job to list). So we were expertly towed in, reversed and lifted.
So, here we are, on the hard. The first week was hot, sweaty and exhausting removing all the "stuff" from the boat to our storage locker - dinghy, engine, soft furnishings, everything in the lazarette (some of which hadn't seen the light of day for years!), anchor chain, anchors, and our personal clothing/needs for a civilised existence in the apartment for the next 2 months. We are up to our necks in paperwork: quotes, re-quotes, deposit receipts and a myriad of other bits of paper. But life here is starting to take on a certain normalcy: our lovely apartment affords us a kitchen and balcony for breakfast & dinner, Henry has a bicycle to get around the marina and hard-stand, we discover a great little laundry - a local Thai fellow who knows us now, we've befriended pussycats, we shop daily at Villa Market, a stylish supermart near the docks, we are developing opinions about any number of the dozens of eateries around the marina perimeter and are even starting to become regulars at some! And, our good pals on Kokomo are next door - on the hard and the apartments - so therapeutic drinks and nautical de-briefing sessions are a daily occurrence, at least until they depart next week.
And so we live out another sliver of the circle of life, in Phuket this time. We are enjoying it but look forward to when our girl is all tarted up and sea-ready again.
Happy 40th Birthday Dreamcatcher!!