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.