Wednesday, December 4, 2013



Taking the boat out with Tina’s help had given me some confidence that I could take the boat out by myself. Langkawi has fairly benign sailing conditions, apart from the odd tropical thunderstorm, and the navigation is pretty straight forward. It isn’t like say Rottnest, or anywhere on the west coast of Australia where anchorages are often shallow and reef strewn. To be extra sure though, I did wait for my friends Ann and Steve on Recluse to act as my “buddy boat”.

We were out of the marina without a hitch and we rendezvoused with Recluse off Telaga Harbour, just a few miles away. As we motored (no wind) along the west coast of Langkawi it didn’t feel any different being on the boat alone. It just felt like Rob was down below reading or having a nap. I was surprised though at how busy the solo sailor is! The jobs aren’t shared so navigating, checking the engine and instruments, dropping the anchor, watching to see if it has taken, putting the anchor snubber on, recording the log, putting up the shades, launching the dinghy, fuelling up the outboard. It goes on and on. Motley is absolutely no help at all. If only she could take the wheel occasionally. She does love to be on anchor though and seems to rediscover her kitten ways, leaping from boom to bimini and back again. The first few days I was exhausted and collapsed in a heap at the end of each day. It was probably partly due to nervous energy too.

Teluk Datai

The first anchorage was Teluk Datai, a beautiful horse shoe shaped bay with a a long white sandy beach flanked on each end by Langkawi’s most exclusive resorts The Datai and The Andaman. Steve and I attempted yoga on their finely tended beach, but the sand was too wet after the evening’s rain. I need to talk to management about that.

One of the advantages of being on anchor is that you can get in the water and clean the water line from the muck and slime that tends to accumulate in marinas. Barnacles also affix themselves to the hull and propeller. I hate diving under the boat to clean the undersides and propeller. I get anxious about running out of air and getting stuck under there. I was determined to give it a go though, and managed with each dive to get perhaps one barnacle off, before launching myself back up to the surface, gasping for air. It was while I was hanging on to the side of the boat recovering between dives, when I felt a thump on my back. I turned to see a huge, ugly brown jelly fish drifting down with the tide. I panicked of course and tried to push it away with the paint scraper that I was using for the barnacles, but my arm disappeared up to my elbow in the glutinous mass. Ugh! I sprang back on the boat and radioed up Ann. “I’ve been stung by a jelly fish!” It had managed to sting me on the back right in the spot between my rashy and bikini bottom.  I actually did know that these jellyfish aren’t lethal, but it had given me such a scare. I decided then and there that the prop can keep its barnacles for all I care!

Kindly Greg and Ali on Rex radioed up with some advice on how to treat the sting. Ali had been stung the day before and after some internet research they had treated the sting with a vinegar soaked rag and scraped the stings out by coating the area with shaving cream and then used the flat of a knife to scrape out the barbs. These ugly monsters can grow to three metres across!

More pleasantly, I launched my surf ski early one morning and paddled around a small nearby island in the bay. The island is almost joined at low tide by a narrow coral isthmus. As I floated over the coral admiring the tropical fish, I stopped in my tracks as a family of a dozen monkeys lead by a large male carefully waded across in front of me to the small island. Some found the water too deep and swam, but mothers with babies clinging to their stomachs carefully stood on their hind legs and picked the shallow parts to spare their babes a dunking. They were completely unconcerned about my presence only 15 metres away. I was wary of the very large patriarch and made sure I knew where he was. I didn’t want to get on his bad side!

A pleasant few days passed and we only moved on as some heavy rain and associated winds were predicted. It was very comforting having Recluse along just in case something came up that I couldn’t deal with. But so far so good!


Sunday, December 1, 2013



With visa requirements taken care of my thoughts went to moving the boat out and in to fresh air and clean water. Marina life at Rebak Island is very comfortable with air con., active social life and easy trips by ferry to the main island of Langkawi. Many stay for months if not years, and it seems that the longer you stay the harder it is to leave. However the gypsy in me was yearning for a change of scene. I was considering taking the boat out by myself, something I had never done before, but as luck would have it my friend Tina arrived on the scene. She had just retired and was at a bit of a loss.  During my congratulatory call to her I said “Why not come over here? Start retirement with a bang, not a whimper!” Three days later, a tired and somewhat stressed Tina arrived at Langkawi Airport.

It was hard work preparing the boat after it had been laid up for  more than six months and we both sweated away removing covers , checking systems, topping up water and the myriad of jobs required before heading out. After a few days of preparing the boat, shopping and enjoying the marina resort’s facilities we were off.

Rob and I after all the years sailing together,  are a well oiled team, each with their own jobs and responsibilities but now I had to think of everything. Tina was a fantastic crew who despite being a novice at sailing, was prepared to give anything a go and best of all at least pretended that she had utmost faith in me!

First mate, Tina

We let off the lines and backed out of the pen without a hitch and my spirits soared as we headed for the open water.  We put up the sails for a much needed airing and we were pleasantly surprised that we could turn off the motor and get along at 3 knots. Any motor less sailing around here is a bonus. We dropped anchor in the spectacular Fiords anchorage safely sheltered on all sides by tall cliffs and mountains. Our days were spent watching with awe the antics of the eagles. They swooped for fish and sometimes, competing birds waged air battles, dive bombing and executing perfect barrel rolls.  Swimming and paddling the surf ski built up quite a thirst and quite a dent was made on the ship’s store of Sapphire. The sun over the yard arm rule was stretched somewhat now and then. Not completely idle, the inevitable boat jobs needed attending to, which although annoying, are part of the cruising life.

A long way from last week's office

More challenging was lifting the anchor, the chain inconveniently jammed in the hawse pipe (where the chain is fed into the boat). Pulling from one end or the other failed to budge it but I had one last trick up my sleeve and got Tina to reverse the boat using its weight and the engine to pull the chain free. The bow of the boat and I looked like a scene from mud wrestling Australia. But we were free and one more lesson was learnt. By the way, a big thank you goes out to the boat that motored on past smiling with obvious  Schadenfreude at our difficulties. (Not that I was anywhere near asking for help, but an “Are you OK?”  would have been neighbourly. )


A few days at anchor did us both so much good.  Tina visibly relaxed and left her stressful job behind her and apart from loving being on anchor again, my self confidence in managing the boat by myself, grew. Nine days went by in a flash and before we knew it Tina was back at the airport hopefully with a fresh start to retired life.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013



 Malaysia gives us foreigners a 90 day visa which has to be renewed by leaving the country for 72 hours. On your return you get another 90 days. Many make the trip to the southern Thai town of Satun, but having spent six weeks there having The doctor refitted, I couldn’t face another three days there by myself.

Yes I am alone here on The Doc, well not really alone, I have Motley the ship’s cat that needs constant grooming and stroking. Rob is Australia fulfilling a desire to have a good chunk of time off the boat to enjoy being in a house and to spend time with family. He has been busy getting our house in Busselton ready for short term rental and we Skype most days to share our news and progress regarding our respective projects. Living alone is an interesting experience, one that I haven’t done since I was 18 years old. There are plenty of people at the marina to talk to, share a drink or a meal, so I don't feel lonely.

Well back to the visa run. Where can I go that is out of the country, not too hard to get to and might be a bit interesting? I was keen to get out of the marina as I had been there since July and volunteer dog walking, daily yoga and jungle walking were wearing a bit thin. With a bit of on line research I found Island Yoga in Nature Lodge, a yoga retreat on the Thai island of Ko Yao Noi. Perfect. I had always wanted to do a yoga retreat and voila two birds with one stone!

Volunteer dog walking at the LASSIE animal shelter

One of Rebak Marina’s advantages is that is right near an international airport, so a quick taxi trip to the airport, an hour’s flight to Kuala Lumpur and another short flight to Phuket in Thailand and I had fulfilled my visa requirements already. Taxi to the fast but very packed  ferry to Yao Noi and I was at the retreat ready for my first yoga lesson at four thirty.

I had my own little bungalow complete with huge bed, bathroom and best of all a veranda complete with hammock. I could envisage whiling the hours between yoga classes reading a book or just staring towards the ocean framed by lush tropical gardens.

Basic but nice

There were 15 or so participants of all ages and from all over the world, couples, singles, backpackers and several business people working in Asia looking for some respite. As the group practised yoga together and ate together a bond was quickly established. There were two yoga teachers, Kai Lash and Kristie, each with a different style and approach. One was more considered and involved with correct technique and the other more ephemeral and more in to challenging meditation practises. The environment was perfect with beautiful glass panelled yoga room and an open air dining and meeting area where cheap and sumptuous meals were served by the Thai family who run the retreat.

The yoga room


My hopes of relaxing in my hammock soon vanished as first the rock climbing option came up, and then the Tai Chi option took the last of my free time. Rock climbing is often paired with yoga as the moves are similar and both requiring strength and flexibility. As probably the oldest of the group, I was not going to fail to climb the rock face! I didn’t feel any fear until I reached a part of the climb where I had to make a lunge for the next hand hold without really knowing if I could make it. It is really all about trusting your partner and the equipment. I made it to the top but was totally knackered for the next day! Tai Chi was a gentler option, challenging more to your coordination and grace!

Hugging the rock

I think I can....

Three days whizzed past and before I knew it I was fronting the airport counter in Phuket with the lady behind the counter  wanting to refuse me on the flight back to Malaysia. I couldn’t  produce my future flight details to prove that I had intentions of leaving Malaysia. Eventually she conceded that looking at my passport I had in fact come and gone from Malaysia many times and was likely to do so again. She warned me sternly that I may be refused entry into Malaysia and my anxiety about travelling with correct paper work continues to flourish.

Returning home to the boat and Motley was a joy. My job was done. Passport with correct stamps for another 90 days obtained.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013



Just about there

The last few days at the boat yard the pressure was really on to get jobs finished. Our carpenters, Sark , Pouw and Lon put on a spurt of speed and finished the head lining in the aft cabin, the replacement plexi glass in the dodger and re-seated the sloping stove that Rob and I had fitted years ago.  Of all our workers, and sometimes we had up to nine working at a time, they did the most outstanding work. They worked without stopping apart from lunch and were always on the lookout for ways to improve the boat. I miss their big white smiles. “Hello Madame!” and their patient endurance of my tortured Thai language. Rob was greeted “Hello Boss!” which pleased him no end. He was not so pleased when he heard that I was being greeted with “Madame Boss”!


The topsides paint job must have satisfied the head painter as we caught him admiring his handiwork. The stripes and new name went on over two days and between tropical down pours. We were very lucky that we got the boat painted when we did, because soon after the rains came and went on almost a daily basis. The Doctor has never had her name on the hull and we changed the colour scheme of stripes and name to dark gray. She looks quite modern and stylish now. The dodger posts we had painted flat black so the dodger now looks sleeker.

Name and stripes going on

The varnishing team finished on the second last day and their tireless days and days of sanding, sanding, sanding and layers of varnish on all the wood work down below brought The Doctor up to another standard. The soft satin varnish now glows gently. A thirty year old boat will never be perfect, but her imperfections have had the rough edges smoothed over.

Our super varnishing team

Our front hatch that has always leaked was an extra job that the carpenters tackled. No way did they want their new headliner compromised by a little drip. The hatch had the Sikaflex gouged out and replaced and the hatch cover was screwed in place on the morning of departure. Nothing like leaving things to the last minute!
Looking good with new head liner and fresh varnish
It is amazing how quickly we were made part of the PSS community and got in to the rhythm of life in the boat yard. Every lunch time a lady with a motor bike stall provided the yummiest papaya or chicken salad, served with sticky rice and a chicken stay or two. Alongside her was the fruit stall girl with freshly sliced water melon and pineapple. If that didn’t satisfy you completely the roti man arrived later in the afternoon serving thin rotis with egg, condensed milk and sugar. The cost was hardly worth the effort of going in to your pocket. Every morning and afternoon we served our workers with drinks of their choice. We stocked the fridge with Cokes and water but we also bought them plastic bags of iced tea or coffee which we bought from the little shop.

Papaya salad and chicken stayas to die for

and my favourite, the roti man!

At five o’clock the siren went for knock off and many of the yachties met outside the shop for beers with ice and the usual debrief. It was here that I celebrated a memorable birthday with my boat yard friends. We shared the brightest fluorescent yellow cake that Rob had found somewhere in Satun. I even got home made cards from a family of Canadian cruisers. Brilliant birthday.

This life became so much a part of us, that when it came time to go I felt quite sad. We gave our workers bonuses when we said goodbye and I felt like hugging them, but that wouldn’t have been the right thing. It certainly tugged at my heart strings to say good bye. On departure day all our friends and workers gathered along the slipway ready to wave us back into the water. It is an event that is celebrated with quite some ceremony and each boat is sent off with fan fare. The yard gave us a farewell gift of a beautiful serving platter and a long string of fire crackers for the launch. The firecrackers are attached to the bow and set alight before the boat hits the water. With a colossal bang, bang banging and a final boom, the evil spirits have been frightened away and the boat is ready for the water. All in all we had a great experience at the PSS boat yard and I would recommend it to anyone that wants good quality, cost effective work done on their boat. We would go back tomorrow to finish off our wish list of projects on the boat.
It is not the same as working in say an Australian yard. There is a way of working with Thai workers and it involves being calm and patient, letting go of our inbuilt western angst and allowing things to happen at their natural eastern pace. You are rewarded with a warmth and loyalty rarely seen elsewhere.
Back into the water. Goodbye Satun family!
We slipped into the murky waters of the river and wound our way through the seven miles of muddy shallows and out into clean water. It wasn’t quite as scary the second time as we stuck religiously to the way points on our chart plotter. We were comforted by the fact that we still had a rising tide if we did get stuck, but we didn’t even come close. With soaring spirits we motored into clear water and over to Ko Tarutao some fifteen miles away, making water and topping up the tanks. We were rewarded with several days anchored in beautiful clear water off stunning Thai islands.

Just reward after six weeks on the hard
Back at Rebak Marina we nearly despaired at finding someone to look after Motely Cat, but lovely Jan responded to the notice that we put up in the laundry and she and Motley are a perfect fit.
After 21 months with her boat on the hardstand she was looking forward to some quiet respite on The Doctor and Mots has someone to smooch up to. 

At time of writing we are back in Western Australia where we have enjoyed catching up with our families and spending  time with our beautiful grand children. I will be in Australia until July 22 when I will relieve Jan of her cat sitting duties and Rob will stay on until November with several house projects to look forward to.


Monday, May 13, 2013


A street name that doesn't really roll off the tongue!

Life in Satun

Before going into the final stages of our adventure at the boatyard I thought it might be interesting to describe our lives living in a Thai house. The street is quite small and narrow with single fronted terrace houses crowding closely on to the road and each other. The street is used as an extended living area and people have chairs and table permanently placed right on the road ready for sitting and socializing in the cool of the evening. The road is used as a playground for the mobs of children riding bikes, playing volley ball and generally yelling at the tops of their voices continually until 10 o’clock at night.

Our street


Most houses don’t have a garden apart from a small strip between the front fence and the road, but this is lovingly watered and trimmed every day. Our landlady lived right across the way and we felt that she was keeping a good watch on what we were up to, as were most of our neighbours, I bet. There was very little English spoken and our Thai despite my best efforts is woeful. It really puts into perspective how important language is and how helpless you feel in an environment where you can’t communicate on even the most basic level. I take my hat off to the migrants who come to our country for a new start and appreciate even more the hurdles that they have to overcome.

Our land lady tending her miniture garden.

The house itself had a small living room at front with a hard carved wooden lounge suite. You could be reasonable comfortable for say, five minutes. Then there was a long passage way with two bedrooms without windows off to the right. Some natural light comes via a sky light in the ceiling. The beds had mattresses made from coconut fibre and as hard as ...a coconut. There was air conditioning in the main bedroom and because of the heat and humidity that was where we spent the majority of our time, eating, watching movies and sleeping. Moving through the house there was a kitchen of sorts with two tables and a fridge, then an outer room or closed in veranda with a free standing sink. The bathroom has a pedestal toilet but no flush, so we used a scoop to flush. The hand held cold water shower was fine because a cool shower is all you ever wanted any way.

The kitchen sink

Out our back door you could step over the very smelly open drain or look out over a riot of creepers and banana palms, tropical paradise if you ignored the plastic and glass rubbish strewn everywhere.  The back yard was home to five or six semi feral cats and kittens, which soon discovered the cat lady in me. I fed them once a day and soon they were trying to find their way into the house. It took some time before they would be touched but by the end of our six week stay they were more affectionate and looking quite healthy. I left a bag of cat food hoping to pass the baton on to the next tenants. Poor Motley cat didn’t like the house at all. The strange noises from our very close neighbours, the wild cats out the back and the general heat of most of the house kept her under the bed for most of the six weeks. As soon as she was back on the boat you could almost see her smile!
Our cat family in the back yard

We hired a car and the house for about $500AU a month, and despite the standard of comfort compared to a house in Australia it was a whole lot better than trying to live in the chaos of saw dust and general upheaval on the boat.

House and car $500 a month

Cooking was not part of our lives for the six weeks in Satun. Apart from not having a stove, the food was fantastic and very cheap. We could both eat for only a few dollars so who needs to shop, cook, wash up and all that palaver when the options for almost free food were available. One of our favourites was from a road side stall selling only the best fried chicken and sticky rice in the world. KFC is not even in the running. If we were looking for a more healthy option the local mall called, strangely The Big C, had a food hall with yummy Thai soups and omelettes to name but a few. If we felt like we couldn’t face another spicy or rice meal there was always On’s Bar, an ex patriot hang out that serves pretty good western food. On can organize anything you need in Satun. She is a friendly person who can help out with accommodation, car and bike rental and good food.

So our days and weeks drifted past each of us taking turn and turn about driving to the boat yard to supervise work on the boat. Before we knew it we were packing up the house and moving back on board our newly painted and varnished Doctor. Where would I rather be?    I think you know.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Refit

recaulking the cockpit seats

Hard Stand Satun and the 6 week refit


I’m writing this sitting outside On’s Guest House and restaurant in downtown Satun. It’s Saturday the 13th of April and it’s water festival time in Thailand (Songkran). Ute loads of wet Thais pass by all armed with the weapons of water warfare. First you need a 44 for the ammo, an array of high power assault water pistols, ladles, buckets, basins and generally whatever you can get your hands on that is useful for collecting water and throwing it at anybody in the near vicinity. I rode around this morning on the bike and was completely drenched in no time. There is a unit camped just down the road and they have been at it since this morning. They are pretty wet. It’s all good fun and it’s great to see young and old alike scooting by on their scooters soaked to the skin with grins spread across their faces. It’s the only time I have seen cops on the road and it still doesn’t change the fact that traffic lights are optional here in Satun. Most people stop at a red, well cars do and they wait like everyone else does around the world but if that wait seems too long, well bugger it, just go through if it looks OK. I’m doing it now and it’s something I’ll have to work on when we are back in Perth. Anyway, it’s water festival day in Satun and everybody is wet and happy.
our carpenter Sark working in the V berth, note stripped head liner and watch out for the new one next blog

Now, let’s get back to boat repairs in Thailand and life on the hard stand at PSS Shipyard Satun. Having work done on your boat is never an easy thing. You need to have good tradies who communicate well and often, you need access to trades who are reliable, come when they say they will come, and don’t stuff up too often and you need it all done at bargain prices on time and on budget. Add to this the fact that the boat is sitting on its keel and access is via a ladder up to the swim platform, about 4m. The boat is a worksite and black feet marks cover the deck, sawdust and shaving litter the cabin sole, tools lay around everywhere, stuff is not where it normally is and your home is basically in a state of chaos. Imagine doing a renovation on your home and having to live right in the middle of it. Luckily we live in a rented house in the suburbs of Satun and have hired a car to go to and from the boatyard. House $65 a week car $70 a week. So it’s not as bad as it could be. There is one thing that adds to the stress and that’s no one speaks English. So describing complex welding jobs or woodwork tasks becomes a master class in acting. There are English speaking managers and they do a great job in translating but they are not always around when you need them.
painters using wet grinder on The Doc's topsides

We are just passed our 4th week of work and need to be back in the water around the 27th of April, about 12 days away. So far we have had the following work done:

·         Top sides filled faired and painted (no more unsightly raised planking on bow)

·         Dinghy likewise (thought that’d make you happy Ronny)

·         Old fabric headliner removed and solid white formica with teak trim installed

·         Aft window rot cut out and whole new section put in

·         Aft cabin teak panelling replaced where water damaged

·         New rails put on dodger to direct rain water away from cockpit

·         Cockpit seats routed for new black sikaflex caulking

·         Bow roller cheek plates raised 150 mm to stop anchor bouncing off and digging chunks out of bow (if this happens again on my new paint job expect to hear the howl in Perth)

·         Roller slot machined out to accommodate greater width of shank on delta anchor (probably the cause of anchor jumping off in the first place)

·         New stainless bracket (old one snapped in half and boom went through dodger window) built that holds solid boom vang to boom (a work of art)

·         New cupboards in aft and forward heads with sliding doors that actually work

·         Complete sand and revarnish from v berth through to galley ( and where needed in aft cabin)

·         Repair to hand rail on swim platform ( accidently bent when moving boat in charge)

·         Vberth lined with teak panelling (faultless wood work here)

·         Antifouling done prop bogged(again)

·         New stripes and name (dark grey this time and name on bow)

·         Gearbox partially removed (couldn’t budge it, maybe locktite used) put back and will consider at a later date, (leak has stopped anyway)


To Be done

·         Headliner to finish through to aft cabin

·         Similar cupboard to be built in forward head ( see comment on the aft head)

·         Stove surround to be fixed into a solid teak frame

·         Window on dodger replaced (smashed when aforementioned bracket on boom vang gave way)

  What we won’t get done but had thought we might

·         New upholstery and cushions (bloke never turned up and fabric choice limited to non- existent meant going to Langkawi.....all got too hard, a pity as it hurts to put shitty old stuff back into a new boat)

·         Cabin sole secured and dodgy hatches tidied up

·         Plate and pot rack in galley

·         Old water damaged veneer replaced in galley

·         And the list goes on and on and on....... maybe when we are back in Satun next year??????

Sorry about that, but it was worthwhile for my own sake. Jeez, we have done a lot in 4 weeks. Now I think about it, this is a pretty major refit we’ve got happening here.  12 days to go and we should have the last few items ticked off. Then she gets a wash, stainless polished rubbing strip likewise and we slide back down the rails and into the water. There is a Buddhist ceremony at the yard and that’s to light firecrackers off the bow as she slides into the water. It’s to scare off any negative thoughts and bring eternal good luck to all. It’s a real hoot, very loud and quite serious crackers.
those raised planks on the bow fading, fading,....... gone

The costs for all the above have yet to be announced.  We should come in well under 10000 AUS$ for a 6 week refit and when you reread the above list I think you’ll agree it’s a lot of stuff done for a very reasonable outlay.  It’s interesting to compare this refit to one done in back in Fremantle. Costs are about a third of what they are in Oz but everything takes longer up here. All teak has to be planed and shaped before it can be used, there’s no beading sitting on shelves at Bunnings. The boys work hard but they don’t exactly rush through the day.   WE have persevered with the team as is because they do beautiful work but it raises the question, is it any more economical to get work done here where it’s cheap but slow as compared to OZ where it’s expensive but fast. Umm, let’s go back to the above list one more time. Think Oz shipwright coming in at 120 bucks an hour doing the headliner from bow to stern on a 45 foot boat. There has to be at the very least 1 solid week of work there for a really skilled shipwright and that might be asking too much. 1 week at say 9 hours X 6 days= 54 hours X 120 = $6480. (not including materials which in Oz are outrageous) Hey, isn’t that what we have just paid out for most of the above the list?
antifouling is a dirty business..........

  Life on the hard develops its own social nuances with boats, families, couples coming and going and then there’s the interaction with the staff, the dog family and the new litter of kittens we have all been waiting on. You get to feel part of a family and it’s quite amazing. There’s not much we can do and whenever I pick up some sandpaper someone steps up to do it for you. Well, what can you do???  Ah well, back to that game of solitaire. Just let me know when you’re done. Cheers Rob
the varnishers working alongside Bouw, the other carpenter, who is fiting headliner

Update, 23rd of April: Well, we have 4 days to go before our Sunday slide back into the muddy waters of Satun river. Everything going pretty well. Stainless finished, painting finished apart from tidying up overspray, striping going on today, varnishing looking magnificent and headliner almost done. Waiting on more ply and formica and the plexiglass for dodger window yet to arrive. It will be down to the wire and some big days ahead of moving back on boat, cleaning, clearing out........note to self what are the 3 things you need to do when leaving a it. So, it’s all go and it’s all good here in Satun. Next blog will have finished photos and summary of these last few days. See you then if we are still in a reasonable mental state. Cheers Rob

you have to agree, the refit was a total success

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tales from the Hardstand Satun Thailand

Stories from the Hardstand  Satun Thailand March 13..............

Boat ownership is a funny thing. We buy these yachts to have fun with and to explore exotic parts of the world but it seems we spend equal amounts of time ( and money) fixing them, replacing items on them and generally upgrading the bloody things as if they are a work in progress with the completion date set somewhere around 2175. Nowhere better is this demonstrated than on the hardstand, that place of dread that all yachts must go to sooner or later. Some try to avoid the hardstand as you do the dentist. You may think you are getting away without forking out stacks of money and enduring significant discomfort but eventually it will catch up with you. You will either face total extraction of your uppers and lowers or your beloved yacht, once it rises from its watery haven, will be so riddled with rot, rust or osmosis that its only use will as a dive site in a bay of your choice.

looking from stern (back end) down into the mud bank Rudder was stuck in mud but keel in 3.4m note swim platform and mud bank
We must learn to embrace the hardstand; to see it as a kind of purgatory for all those idle hours we spend sipping G&Ts on the deck at sunset or whizzing along on a 15kt beam reach under sunny skies. (and which hours are they we sometimes ask) Our purgatory started on the morning we began our approach to the slipway here in Satun Thailand. You need a rising tide to get up the river to the boatyard and so we carefully timed our departure from the anchorage and made a beeline for the first of 30 waypoints we would need to pass. The depth dropped from a comfortable 5 m and sat around low 3 to high 2. We have post depth trauma syndrome( PDTS)  from our days on Norlee with her 2.3 m draft and so it was tense.  There were no real problems encountered apart from hitting a 1.9 when we drifted off a way point.

Mirage high and dry (mud as soft as powder so no damage)
We rounded the corner of the river and made our way up the reach to the slipway and there was Mirage anchored off about 500 m down from the boatyard. Their lift had been delayed a day and as they were going a day before us we had an awful suspicion we might be anchored off for a while longer. We dropped anchor and dinghied over for a chat with Jeff (Geoff) and Kathy, two delightful Americans. Jeff (Geoff) offered us some advice: Mossies are full of Dengue fever, watch your entrance into the slipway if a current is still flowing, some yachts have got into difficulties and you may be on the mud by morning.
salamanders covered the mud flats
It was a sombre team who headed off up to the slipway for a peak and it got more sombre the further we went. It was low tide and the scene was like something from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness as Marlow ploughed his way up the Congo River. Grey stinky mud, ruined boats lying like corpses in the shallows and ramshackle buildings clinging to the rubbish strewn sides of the river. My mind was saying if we have to wait more than a week we are OUT OF HERE. ASsit was we both went up the next day at 12 o’clock high tide without any dramas.
in the crtadle getting last minute adjustments before we go up..............

and up and up and up...................

So, here we are, sitting snugly in the steel arms of our cradle, perched about 3m above the paving. This slipway slides boats around via a series of train tracks which the cradles move along. They can slide you out and in as is required and in fact we are being moved tomorrow so that our neighbours, the NZ boat Dallandra can finally get back in the water after a 2 year haul out. (It’s a long story that Ron and Robin can tell you all about over a glass or two) We were booked to see the immigration man at 1 o’clock and after sorting out lines and ladders we made our way down and over to the coffee shop to do the check in thing. Well, were we in for a surprise.

a very relaxed Diana contemplates the infinite possibilities of life as we slide up the hill
We smiled and said hullo and handed over our passports and  paperwork and sat back as he perused said documents. It wasn’t so much as what he said, it was more his actions that began to raise a slight sweat on my forehead. He kept flicking through our passports obviously looking for something that was plainly not there. He picked up Diana’s passport and did the same thing, flick flick flick........... all the while his friendly disposition fading fast. Finally he announced, No exit stamp, no exit stamp, why no exit stamp...and you know what, it was a bloody good question. What morons would leave a country without visiting immigration and getting an exit stamp, I ask you......................I really do!!!!

Jeff(Geoff) and Kathy (Mirage)  and Claudia at coffee shop after knock off
We would. Well you can pin the blame on a few things if you’re desperate and we were. In the past, all this was done by rally organisers and we simply handed over the folder and got it all back signed sealed and delivered. Now we were on our own and it’s all a bit new to us like. Yeah, right! Maybe it’s what people call cruisenility, the slow rot of mental capacity from too many G&Ts and too many 15 kt beam reaches in sunny skies. Anyway, to cut a long story (it’s not over yet) short, we completely stuffed our departure from Kuah and all we had was a Port clearance form. You need 3 things people and let’s try not to forget them next time.

1.    Exit stamp in passport

2.    Port clearance

3.    Customs clearance

We had only one and it wasn’t quite enough. Our immigration man was looking very serious now and making comments like never being allowed back into Malaysia, never being allowed to leave Thailand,(ahhh a lifetime of purgatory on the hardstand) 20000 Baht fine, catching a long tail back into Malaysia in the dead of night and getting the exit stamp on the ferry back. We were really sweating now and feeling quite ill. Then we called Jia, the boatyard manager , and he diplomatically organised for a ferry trip back to Kuah that afternoon and a ferry trip back in the morning with all correct paperwork in hand. Certain sympathetic immigration officials at the Satun terminal and the Kuah terminal would escort us through and away from the general public and all would be fine. Diana raced up and grabbed some clothes, tooth brushes, fed Motley and together we bundled into the immigration officers ute and sped to the ferry hoping to catch the last ride out of town. It was kind of cool to be escorted through customs by a bloke with enough gold braid on his epaulet to decorate a Christmas tree. Yes people we are the famous drug runners from France who have been on the run for 10 years, or yes people, we are the famous movie stars from the small province of Fremantle who get royal treatment you plebs can only dream of, or yes people we are the morons from Australia who suffered the brain snap of the decade. You take your pick.

Well we were back in Satun the next day with all relevant paperwork in hand despite yet another brain snap minutes before the ferry departed. Suffice to say that deep embarrassment prevents me from telling that story and all you need to know dear reader is that we arrived back with 3, yes you heard correctly, 3 ticks on our MUST DO list before departing a country. And so we come to life on the hard stand and this is where it really starts to get interesting but that is for the next blog. See you then. Rob

 Update: On our last trip through immigration at Kuah ferry terminal we spied a sign on the desk saying attention sail boats, you need 3 documents before leaving, (see above) also noticed a sign saying no exit stamp = 20000 Baht fine or 2 years in a Thai prison.........phew!!!!!!!