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!!!!!!!


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