January 2016 - Thailand and Malaysia

1 January 2016   Ko Hong, Phuket
It’s not surprising, but after last night’s surfeit of wine, we both felt very “dull” this morning, so we had a quiet rest day, reading and playing musical instruments.

The weather was lovely with blue skies, but in the afternoon, we had gusts of wind over 25 knots, shrieking around Ko Hong.  I was sitting in the cockpit reading and noticed that we seemed to be in a slightly different position.  After a few minutes observation, I confirmed that we were slowly dragging backwards in the strong gusts.

Anchored off Ko Hong

We pulled up the anchor, which came up clean with no debris, and re-anchored in 7 metres of water. Our Rocna anchor dug in well, so I have no idea why we were dragging, unless the anchor had tripped itself.  We’ve been doing pirouettes over the past couple of days as the tide changed, so maybe the anchor chain had caught up in the anchor - very strange.

2 January 2016   Ko Hong to Ko Yang, Phuket
After a leisurely breakfast, we motored 3 miles to Ko Yang and anchored in 4 metres of water at 08°15.87N 098°29.26E.  This is a stunning anchorage next to a small island with a very extraordinary pinnacle of rock - a tad phallic, but very photogenic.  We pottered about for the morning, waiting for high tide in the afternoon, so that we could visit the nearby island of Koh Ping Kan.

At 15:30, together with “Spruce”, we dinghied one mile up-wind to Koh Ping Kan, which is famous for being the remote island headquarters of the villain in “The Man with the Golden Gun” and is consequently known as James Bond Island.  It’s one of the major tourist attractions in Phuket and we’ve heard that there’s a fee of 500 Baht (£10) per person to land there.

Being late in the afternoon, it was relatively quiet, but there were still a dozen boats milling about, picking up and dropping off tourists.  It’s very shallow water around the island, but by arriving at high tide, we were able to take our dinghy into the lagoon and right up to the iconic pinnacle. There were hundreds of people on the small beach and we could see a score of permanent stalls selling souvenirs - we didn’t bother landing.

It’s all very disappointing, the island is small and the pinnacle is only a quarter the height of the impressive pinnacle back where we anchored the boat.  We didn’t stay long. 

“Laragh” arrived in the late afternoon, so we went over and had a few beers with them.

Anchored off Ko Yang

3 January 2016   Ko Yang to Ko Yao Yai, Phuket
We’re booked into Ao Po marina tomorrow, so we decided to head south and get a bit closer to the marina.  I did my usual inspection of the engine and found that the engine bilge was full of bright green water.  The coolant leak is getting much worse…  It’s obviously not the radiator cap because my sample bottle had hardly any water in it.

I spent 30 minutes poking about the engine.  I can see a drip dropping from the oil filter, but cannot see where it’s coming from.  I now suspect that a seal has gone in the fresh water pump and the water is running down behind the timing belt cover.  This is a complicated job because it involves removing the timing belt and I don’t have the gear to do that, so I’ll get it fixed by a mechanic when we get back from Myanmar.  At least it seem s to persistent now, giving me a much better chance of finding and fixing the leak.  

We’ve had loads of wind for the last five days and today when we want to sail there’s bugger all.  It was only 12 miles to the next anchorage, so I topped up the coolant in the engine and we motored south for a couple of hours.  When we reached the 20 metre deep channel to the west of Ko Yao Yai, we hove-to and drifted about for 1½ hours while we ran the water maker to top up our tanks.  Then we motored over to the north-west end of Ko Yao Yai and anchored at 08°06.60N 098°31.75E in 4 metres of water.  It’s quite a nice anchorage and, for a change, there’s no-one around.

After lunch, I reluctantly dragged out my snorkelling gear and had a go at cleaning the hull in the very murky water. The underside of the transom had a three inch wide, one inch thick band of goose-neck barnacles - it’s only 23 days since I last cleaned the hull.  This is a bad place for marine growth, but at least the anti-fouling on most of the hull is still holding up.  The bottom of the keel has been nicely scraped free of barnacles (and anti-fouling) when we hit the sand bar a few days ago.

4 January 2016   Ko Yao Yai to Ao Po Marina, Phuket
After an early breakfast and refilling the engine with coolant, we motored across to Ao Po Marina.  The plan is to get quotes to replace the teak deck from three suppliers, but on the way, I received an email telling me that Precision Shipwrights couldn’t make our appointment today.  I sent off a flaming email and within fifteen minutes, I had a response - the owner is coming out to see us later in the morning.  It’s great having 3G internet access.

We pulled into Ao Po Marina, which is a nice modern marina with a lovely looking swimming pool, restaurant and a gym.  The showers and toilets are very luxurious.  However, it’s not very convenient for cruisers because the marina is in the middle of nowhere, 10 miles from Phuket town, so without a car, it’s challenging.

Ao Po Marina

Scott from Precision Shipwrights arrived at eleven o'clock and we spent an hour discussing the teak deck and the blue stripe on our topsides.  Scott is Australian, very professional and has expanded his company so that he runs a full service operation with wood working, painting, rigging and fabrication.  Scott is very knowledgeable about teak and the techniques for laying decks.

I spent the rest of the day planning.  I've got a long list of jobs to do and have started a project plan.  Two of the suppliers are based at Boat Lagoon and would want us to be hauled out, whereas the other supplier is based up at Yacht Haven and would want us to leave the boat in the water. 

Leaving the boat in the water is marginally cheaper because there are no haul out charges, but Yacht Haven is miles away from anywhere and we would have to hire a car. We can rent a small apartment in Boat Lagoon, but they don’t have one available in Yacht Haven.  I’ve got some jobs that need us to be hauled out, but I could wait until later in the year to do that.  However, if we left the boat in the water in a marina for three months, how thick would the barnacles be?  Decisions, decisions.

After much deliberating, depending on the quotes, we’ve 80% decided to go into Boat Lagoon.  It’s a more expensive option, but it’s very convenient with many marine suppliers based there and it’s only a short motorbike ride into town.  I’ve started to think that if we could haul out this week, then the workmen could begin ripping up the old teak deck while we’re away and we might get the job finished a couple of weeks earlier.  I emailed Boat Lagoon to see if we can haul out on Friday 8th.   

The quote came in from Precision Shipwrights at £13,300 for the deck and £1,840 for the painting.  It’s a big headline figure, but still only 30-50% of the cost of doing the job in Europe. 

5 January 2016   Ao Po Marina, Phuket
I was up early doing more planning and worrying.  Nai & Toe from Phuket Inter Woodwork arrived at eleven o’clock and we went through the various jobs.  They are a family run, Thai company - Nai is the Project Manager and she speaks good English, while Toe (her husband) is the woodworker, but speaks little English.  They were very knowledgeable and I had the impression that they wouldn’t try to over-charge me for any extras.  We got along famously.

Looking at deck fittings

After lunch, Glenys and I chatted through the options.  Boat Lagoon has replied that they can haul us out on Friday.  So, depending on the quotes, we could go with either Precision or Nai & Toe - both can move quickly to start work next week.

We decided to go for it and haul out on Friday 8th at Boat Lagoon.  I confirmed the haul out with Boat Lagoon and we booked an apartment for two months starting when we get back from Myanmar.  

It’s going to be a frenzy.  We get hauled in three days’ time; we need to get the mast lifted out over the weekend; and I need to remove all the deck fittings and sort the boat out before we fly to Myanmar on Monday morning.  To make matters worse, we still haven’t decided on who will do the work.  I spent the afternoon mildly panicking and planning.

Marly from Yachts Repair Company came and measured up.  He’s an enthusiastic guy, but I suspect that he runs a very small operation and doesn’t have the resources of the other two, so I’ve knocked him off the list. He’s going to get me a quote in a couple of days, which will be an interesting comparison - although we’ll probably be on the hard before he gets it to us...  

Nai and Toes quote came in at £8,700 for the deck and £1,200 for the painting - 50 % cheaper than Precision.  Nai says that she will be able to lift the mast out on Saturday.  They look like the best bet, but we’ll sleep on it and make a decision tomorrow morning. 

6 January 2016   Ao Po Marina, Phuket
It’s a no-brainer - I told Nai that we’d go with her and she’s going to arrange for our mast to be lifted on Saturday morning.  With only five working days until we fly to Myanmar, I’m definitely panicking now.

Nai doesn’t have a professional rigger, but assures me that if I can get the rig ready to lift out, she has people who know what they’re doing.  She’s only going to charge me for the crane hire - her people’s time is no charge.  This is good because it’s much cheaper, but very worrying because I don’t know how good they will be.  

I spent an hour or so writing a checklist of steps to remove the mast and looked back at photographs of when the mast was lifted in the USA to see how and where they attached the crane to the mast.  I feel better prepared and will be keeping an eye on what they do - the last thing that I want is the mast or any of the rigging to be damaged.

Up the Mast

I then spent several hours taking photographs of the teak planks on the deck to ensure that Nai’s team lay the new planks in the same way.  They’ve assured me that the width of the planks will be 35mm with two 2mm rebates at each side of the plank to give a 4mm caulking groove.   I want the new deck to look the same as the original and I even want the Hallberg Rassy logo at the bow.

As well as taking photographs of the teak detail, I took pictures of all of the deck fittings and measured their positions.  When the new deck is put in place, all of the screw holes for the fittings will be covered up by teak.  For most of the fittings, I’ll be able to find the old holes in the fibreglass deck and can drill up though the teak.  However, some of the fittings will be in tight corners with no room to drill up from under the deck, so I’ll need to find the positions by measurement.

I spent the rest of the afternoon, pottering about doing a few jobs in the blistering heat, mostly getting ready to haul the boat on the 8th.  Glenys did lots of laundry, while we have access to copious amounts of fresh water in the marina.  There’s no launderette here, so unfortunately, she’s had to do it all in a bucket by hand.  

In the evening, we treated ourselves to dinner in the restaurant, which was very nice and not too expensive.  I had soft shell crabs, which I haven’t seen since the Chesapeake in the USA.  Apparently, there are hundreds of crab farms in southern Thailand that specialise in soft-shell crabs.  In the USA we had them pan-fried, but here they were stir-fried and very good - I’ll be keeping an eye out for them from now on.