February 2016 - Thailand

1 February 2016   Boat Lagoon, Phuket
I pottered around on the boat in the morning, getting ready to start work.  Nai came by and we agreed that the creaking deck is caused by the slight flexing in the deck, which is then rubbing against the cupboard uprights in the galley.  Not a problem, I think.

I asked Nai to block off two of the large holes in the foredeck, which used to be for dorade ventilators that we never use.  I put blanking plates on them years ago because they were letting in water when we bash to windward.  Nai is going to block them off with marine plywood and then fibreglass over.

Our new home

The rest of the deck looks very good, so Nai is now going to get her chaps to countersink the thousands of screw holes from the old teak deck fastenings and then fair the deck with epoxy filler.  They can then start the process of laying the new deck.

I pointed out that the paint job wasn't perfect, but Nai said that they still need to polish it and the orange peel and dust spots would be removed.  At the same time, they will fill and polish and small scratches in the original gel-coat, so I’m expecting to have gleaming topsides when she’s finished. 

An engineer from the nearby Volvo agent come to have a look at our water leak and after removing the timing belt cover, he agreed that the fresh water pump is leaking. Apparently, it’s not possible to repair these pumps, so I await a quote for a replacement with some trepidation.

After lunch in our air-conditioned apartment, it was tough to go back out to the humid heat, so we had a short two hour trip back to the boat to do a few jobs and gather some more personal belongings before we escaped back to our haven.

Glenys has found a dentist, a gym (which doesn't have air conditioning, so I’m not too keen) and a place that does a Visa Run to Malaysia.  When we came back to Thailand, we only received a 30 day visa, so at some point, we need to get our visa renewed because we need to be here for two months. 

The Visa Run entails boarding a mini-bus in the evening and then travelling for eight hours overnight to Georgetown in Malaysia.  We book into a hotel the following morning and our passports are taken off to the Thai Embassy.  The next morning our passports arrive back and we endure another eight hour trip on the mini-bus arriving back at Phuket late at night.  It doesn't sound fun at all, but seems to be the cheapest way of getting a 2 month visa.

We had a quiet night with a nice Chicken Pasta and a bottle of red wine - Glenys is feeling much better. 

2 February 2016   Boat Lagoon, Phuket
I went for a run this morning, which nearly killed me.  I then did half an hour of stretching and exercises including press-ups, the Plank and sit-ups.  I have to lose some weight after my indulgences in Myanmar.  After a healthy breakfast, I spent most of the morning on the internet researching anti-fouling paint and stern glands - riveting stuff.  Glenys went off for a haircut and some shopping.

I managed to get to the boat by eleven o'clock, where I found Nai’s team applying the epoxy filler to the screw holes. However, I couldn't bring myself to do any actual work, so I sloped off to check out the local area.  There’s a very busy main road outside the Boat Lagoon compound, but not much else.

Boat Lagoon Marina

There’s a Jotun distributor that sells the Seaforce 90 anti-fouling paint that has worked so well since we left New Zealand, but for some bizarre reason, Thailand only has red and we want blue.  We can get blue paint from International, but it’s very expensive and, in my experience, it’s very soft and doesn’t last as long, so we’ll probably just do a quick, essential paint job and haul out in November in Malaysia where we can apply a couple of coats of Jotun in blue - this will give us good protection all the way across the Indian Ocean in 2017.

I picked up a quote for a replacement fresh water pump for the engine - at £415, it’s twice the cost of one in the UK, but I’m just going to have to go ahead and order it.  Apparently, it’s a nightmare to try to personally import boat parts - the customs are extremely bureaucratic imposing huge import duties.

As I wandered past the local Food Court, I spotted Phil and Sandy from “Southern Wing”.  They’ve had an unpleasant two weeks, with one of their engine compartments flooding; and then they were struck by lightning causing thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.  They’re slowly sorting it out, but they’re in survival mode at the moment with no refrigeration and half of their lights not working yet.

We had a quiet night in - Glenys has recovered from the virus now.

3 February 2016   Boat Lagoon, Phuket
We picked up a car at midday and went off on a mega-shopping trip.  Our first stop was at the Bangkok Hospital where we both saw a dermatologist.  Living in the tropics is very hard on our skin and living on a boat we’re hit by double the amount sunlight because of the reflections from the water.  Both of us had spots of sun-damaged skin (Solar Lentigo), so the doctor used a laser to remove them.   It was a good, very quick process and only cost £100 for both of us.

We then wandered to various shopping malls, looking for things like a printer cartridge and a replacement seal for Glenys’s pressure cooker, but had no luck.  The malls are all full of designer clothes, wide screen TVs and mobile phones, but nothing useful.  The hardware stores don’t have the few technical tools that I want, so we need to find more specialised shops, which is challenging because of the difficulty in reading Thai shop signs.

At the end of the day, we visited a couple of the big supermarkets and had more success, so we’re well stocked up on drinking water, beer and food now.

4 February 2016   Boat Lagoon, Phuket
We still had a car this morning, so we went to Immigration to reclaim my 20,000 Baht (£400) bond that I had to post before I flew to Myanmar.  The process went okay until they had to issue a cheque to us.  After keeping us waiting for 25 minutes, they fessed up that their boss was out of the office at a long meeting (probably on the golf course) and they couldn't get the cheque signed.  Could we come back tomorrow?

On the Hard

We explained that we didn't have a car and said that we’d come back next week because we wanted to extend our visas.  At this point, the conversation became very strange with the officer saying that he might be able to bring the cheque to Boat Lagoon for us or even cash it for us.  He took our telephone number and address and we left the office without any documentation apart from the officer’s name and telephone number.

We drove about ¼ mile before we decided that this was all very dodgy, did a u-turn, went back to the immigration office and told the officer that we’d be back tomorrow afternoon.  We’ll have to hire a motorbike tomorrow and waste another day, but I want to get my £400 back.

After dropping the car off at noon, we met Tom & Suzie from “Adina” for lunch at the local Food Court.  It was great to catch up with them. They are in Thailand for another two weeks then head off to Sri Lanka and across the Indian Ocean. 

Did a few errands like paying for the engine water pump.  I called in at Octopus Electrical and they have tested our wind transducer.  As I suspected the PCB has failed, so I've given them permission to replace it, which will cost £70.  It’s a bit annoying because the transducer is only 2½  years old, but I've got more chance of getting pregnant than Raymarine accepting liability.

At the boat, I found a couple of Nai’s guys filling the scratches in the gel-coat and polishing it up.  I chatted to Nai about the orange-peel on the new painting, but again she said that it will be alright, and pointed it out to one of her supervisors - all I can do is trust that they know what they’re doing.   

After four days of messing about, I finally did some work on the boat.  I cleared the back cabin and removed the steering cables and autopilot from the rudder quadrant to check the bearings.  The rudder can be turned with a fingertip and is as smooth as silk, so I’m happy that the bearings are fine.  However, the phosphor bronze shoe on the bottom of the skeg is loose, so I’m going to remove it and get Nai’s people to re-bed it with polyester resin.

Glenys went for a run this evening and it nearly killed her.  I had a rest day, aching after two days of running and exercises, but it’s got to be done. 

5 February 2016   Boat Lagoon, Phuket
I woke up at four o’clock in the morning and then lay awake for the rest of the night worrying about the £400 bond.  There’s a huge amount of corruption in government departments in Thailand and I convinced myself that I was being scammed.  I used to have a receipt that proved that I’d paid the bond, but that was taken from me yesterday and I was kicking myself for not scanning it into my laptop before I handed it over.

Another day of Thailand Traffic

As I worried, it became clear that they had taken all my documentation away, I had signed various forms (all in Thai) and when I go back to collect my cheque, there would be no trace of it. They could deny that I’d ever paid a bond and pocket the £400 - I’m unable to speak any Thai, so what could I do about it?  

At dawn, I wearily climbed out of bed and went for a run to work off my frustration.  After breakfast, I did some internet browsing and I wound myself up even more as I discovered that there have been many recent reports of corruption in the Thailand Immigration department. 

At ten o’clock, we hired a motorbike and scooted over to the Immigration office.  They were all smiles, greeted us warmly and quickly rushed to get my cheque, which had already been signed and was waiting for me.  Perhaps I should trust people more?  In retrospect, I still think that I need to keep a healthy amount of paranoia when dealing with Asian officials - it could have been a very different story. 

The Immigration rules are bizarre.  When we arrived by boat, there HAD to be at least one person as Crew on the boat (Glenys was documented as a passenger and received a tourist visa).  When I paid my bond and left the country, I effectively signed off the boat as crew. Having returned, we’ve both been given tourist visas and I do not have to sign back on to the boat as crew, so the boat no longer has any crew.  It’s all very strange.

The Immigration officer in the marine office told us that we could now extend our tourist visas by 30 days, which would allow us to stay until the end of March, without having to do an expensive and time consuming “Visa Run”.  This only works because we’d flown out of the country for a few weeks and when we arrived back we were given standard “Visa on Arrival” visas.  

We headed off to the Visa extension office, which was jam-packed full of tourists.  We queued to get a form, then queued to get our passports photocopied, then queued to get our documentation checked.  At 11:30, we were right at the front of the queue about get a ticket number, when they closed the desk and told us that we had to come back at one o’clock. Bummer!

Polishing the Rigging

We decided to use the time to get our £400 bond cheque cashed.  The cheque was on a Krung Thai Bank account and only that particular bank would cash it, so we drove around for 40 minutes trying to find a branch.  We eventually found one about two miles away and soon had 20,000 Baht in our sticky little hands.

Back at the Immigration Office, we obtained our numbered ticket and then had to spend an hour waiting for our number to be called.  The process was automatic - we handed over our documentation, paid £40 each and were given extensions until the 29th March - a nice little money earner for the government.

We did a few more errands, then headed back to the apartment to chill out for the evening.  We hope to do some work on the boat tomorrow instead of all this running around.

6 February 2016   Boat Lagoon, Phuket
Glenys went to the boat and started to polish the multitudinous stainless steel fittings on the rigging, which are easy to get to now that the mast is on the ground.   I had a lazy morning, browsing the internet to get technical information on some of the jobs I have planned.

After lunch, we headed off to the boat and found that Nai’s team have finished repairing and polishing the gelcoat on the topsides.  The gelcoat looks great, but there’s still some slight orange peel in the blue and some worrying defects including small runs on the white stripe near the water line.

I talked to Nai about the defects in the white paint and she’s told me that her guys can polish them out.   Ten minutes later, a couple of guys were sanding the surface of the white with 2000 grit emery cloth and polishing it.   After half an hour, they showed me the white stripe again and I can still see the defects.  I was worried about them ruining the surface of the paint by too much polishing, so I told Nai to stop working on it while I do more research and think about it.

The carpenters have started laying the teak deck and already we have two planks on the port side and four on the starboard side.  The teak is machined with a 2mm rebate on each side of the 35mm wide planks, which gives a 4mm gap for caulking.  I had a look at some of the planks and they’re all quarter-sawn and look good.  There’s still some wide grain in the wood, but to my novice eyes, it looks better than the teak originally used by Hallberg Rassy.

Planks clamped with small wedges

They have stuck pieces of 2 by 1 inch pine down onto the glass fibre deck and are using small wedges to clamp the planks both horizontally and vertically.  The deck is being carefully vacuumed free of dust; a Sika flex primer is being painted on the fibre glass and the underside of the planks; Sikaflex 298 is smoothed onto the deck and the plank placed on top.  The plank is carefully bent to shape and then held in place by the wedges.

At the moment they are just laying long stretches of planking and where there are deck fittings, they are leaving the rough ends of the planks nearly touching the fitting.  I guess that a final job will be to carefully chisel this wood away to fit nicely curved border pieces around the obstructions.  

I removed the sprayhood because Glenys is going to make a new one - the old one is looking very tired and has had many repairs and patches over the past five years.   I then started to tackle the broken window in the windscreen.   When the window broke in November, we held the shattered glass in place with duct tape, which has lasted remarkably well.  

It was a very messy job, pulling off the duct tape and then picking the individual ¼” cubes of glass from the frame.  Glass went everywhere, so I had to keep sweeping it up because the carpenters are walking around with bare feet.  I just managed to lever all the glass out of the frame before it went dark.

As I walked back to our room, there was a big rain storm with torrential rain.  It’s supposed to be the dry season, goodness knows what it’ll be like later in the year when the south-west monsoon arrives.

7 February 2016   Boat Lagoon, Phuket
Glenys went off to the boat to do some more polishing of the rigging, while I did some reading up about paint.  Awlgrip a very technical paint and it’s really important that the surface is prepared well and the paint is applied correctly.  As the paint dries a thin, highly glossy clear layer comes to the surface, which should not be polished because it will lose its shine.  So really, Nai’s team should not have been trying to rub out the defects in the white stripe.

I asked Mike from “Shakti” to have a look at our paint job and he was most helpful.  He had all of the topsides of his previous boat sprayed in dark blue and said that it’s a notoriously hard colour to spray.  He thinks that ideally there shouldn't be any orange peel effect, but it’s only noticeable close up and even if I get them to respray, it might not be any better.

Re-drilling the holes for the mast step

He agrees with me that the white line is not very good and they shouldn't be trying to fix the problem by polishing - this could cause problems later.  I need to decide if I can live with the slight orange peel and the white line defects.  From six feet away, it all looks fabulous and 1000 times better than it was, so am I being too fussy?  I decided to sleep on it.

When we started to do the teak deck, one of my main worries was the mast foot plate which holds the bottom of the mast.  One school of thought is to leave the mast foot plate in place because the wood beneath it has already compressed and stabilised.   After a lot of agonising, I decided to remove it and replace the plate on top of the new teak deck, but I’m paranoid about the mast going back in exactly the same place.

One of the jobs on my list today was to screw the mast foot plate back into the existing holes in the deck to make sure that the carpenter doesn't mistakenly cover it with teak.  I collected the deck plate and screws and walked onto the coach-roof, to find that some bloody idiot had put epoxy filler into the holes.  I nearly cried in frustration - the holes had a screw thread tapped into the fibre glass and were blank-ended with no access from below.

I spent an hour measuring and working out where I should drill the holes again.  I had the correct M10 tap, so I could re-thread the holes, but I wanted to be sure that the holes were in the correct position.  After some deep breaths, I drilled a small hole in the first screw hole and slowly opened it out.  I found that the epoxy was only ½ inch deep and I could see the original tapped hole.  The new hole was offset from the original hole, but I managed to carefully open it up and found that I could use the original thread.

Twenty minutes later, I’d opened up the four holes, re-tapped them and fitted the mast foot plate in position. I’m missing 10mm of thread at the top of the hole, but the deck is 35 mm of solid fibreglass, so I’ll buy some longer screws and I’ll still have 20-25mm of thread holding the screws in place - that’s stronger than the original.  

To finish off the day, I spent three hours scraping the old sealant from the windscreen - a very tedious job.  I've done two of the three sides and will have to finish it off another day.  I've measured the size of the window, which has a curve on two of the sides, so I’m going to get Nai to make me a template in 4mm plywood, so that I can check it, before buying the Perspex.