19 January 2008

Ratanachai Slipways

On The Hard
Ratanachai Slipways
Phuket Town
Phuket Island

Altitude 25ft

Life sure has taken a change for Team Sandpiper.

Sandpiper was hauled out of the water at Ratanachai Slipways on Wednesday afternoon (check out the videos). We were not sure what to expect since we had not planned on hauling out before leaving Thailand to cross the Indian Ocean. But after noticing the sad shape of the waterline, and needing to do a few other projects, we decided to haul out before we left.

We anchored Sandpiper behind a small island at the entrance of the channel where the slipway is located to prepare for haul out the next morning.

One equipment failure we had back at Kata Beach was our much used and highly cherished electric anchor windless. It had failed. We removed the windless while at anchor and discovered that the problem was a pinched wire inside which we could not see until we got the windless off and was able to turn it upside down. This was a huge relief as we were afraid that we would have to buy a new windless. And that expense is really not in our budget. We decided to send it in anyway to have the motor serviced and have larger power cables installed.

At noon we slowly motored up the channel where the slipway is located. We discovered that this channel is where all the commercial fisherman dock their boats, offload their fish, and load up on ice. We arrived at 1pm, as instructed by the slipway, so we would arrive at hight tide.

As we arrived there were several other boats being launched. Once they were afloat, it was Sandpiper's turn to be hauled out. Sandpiper has been hauled many times in the past, but mostly by a boat lift with slings that go under the boat. Ratanachai Slipways uses boat cradles that are on train tracks. These tracks go all over the yard to move the boats, just like a puzzle. The yard mostly caterers to large commercial fishing boats and government ships. We had emailed the yard photos of Sandpiper's underwater hull a week before we arrived so they could have the boat cradle pre-rigged before we got there.

We drove Sandpiper into the cradle. Once she was stable, divers dove into the REALLY dirty water (dead fish, floating rats) and they secured the cradle arms to Sandpiper's hull. The yard foreman used his big Buddha necklace a plumb bob to ensure that Sandpiper was level. He gave the OK and Sandpiper was brought out of the water using a long drag cable to pull us up the train tracks. For the whole process the divers rode the cradle out of the water to make sure that we were level and secure.

Once clear of the water, the underwater hull was pressure washed clean and then Sandpiper was dragged through the yard on the train tracks to her new "berth".

As the sun set, we were gazing about our new view from 20 feet above ground, when we looked next door. There was a large chimney that had just started to bellow out a white cloud of steam which was heading rapidly towards us. It turns out that there is a fish processing plant upwind of us, just next door, that starts its operations at night. The smell it emits is quite unbelievable! This toxic cloud enveloped us and we both said "What is that awful smell?. As it got even worse we dove below to close all the portholes and hatches in order to keep the stench from getting inside the boat.

This lasted all night, every night, while we were hauled out. It made sleeping impossible since it was so hot inside while having the boat sealed up. This is something that our friends who hauled out before us failed to mention!

Also, being in the heart of the commercial fishing port within walking distance of the yard's gates is always interesting as we are not in the best part of town. The street is lined with small bars that cater to the fishermen when they are in port for a few days. At night they are all lit up with their bar girls all out front saying "Hello".

Amy dropped off our laundry. Later that day we walked into town and we saw our laundry hanging outside the shop. It was drying along the dirty road with cars passing just inches away from our "cleaned" clothes.

Early the next morning the workers started sanding the hull. In one day had the under hull sanded and painted with new anti-foul.

Sandpiper has really large fuel and water tanks. When they are filled, along with all the other stuff (booze) we have stored all over the boat, it makes her sit below her waterline. We should have done this years ago. We raised the waterline 3 inches in order to keep stuff from growing on the gel coat, as this required constant scrubbing.

One problem with scrubbing along the water line is that the bottom paint comes off. This then creates an unprotected area where barnacles will grow. A sailboats anti-foul bottom paint is soft. So when the boat is moving, anything that started to grow comes off. This also means that you really do not want to scrub the bottom as you end up scrubbing off your bottom paint.

We also had a welder come on board to fix the mainsail's boom bail that had snapped off during a bad jibe in Indonesia. We had jury rigged this with a bunch of rope tied to the end of the boom in order to hold the main sheet to the boom. He made a new one that is twice as thick as the old one. There is no way that this one will break!

Another problem that we were are having is where the main boom attaches to the mast. It was very weak with only 4 small bolts holding it to the mast. The bolts had come out before as they stripped their threads. If this happens at sea there could be big problems because there is no way to get the boom reattached unless you have a hidden machine shop below. The welder made a real beefy stainless brace that took 12 bolts instead of 4. I am sure we will lose the mast before the boom ever comes off again.

Amy finally had her cushions delivered and they look great! Only problem was that once we carried them up the 20ft ladder and got them on board we found that the zippers were on the wrong side. She went to the office and had the yard office girls call the upholstery guy back because the upholstery guy did not speak any English and we don't speak any Thai. He come back, picked them up, and said "I will have them back in 3 hours". Three hours later, at no additional cost, we got our new cushions back with the zippers on the correct side.

Another project we had was to have the cutlass bearing replaced. This has needed to be replaced since leaving California. But I had put this off as it involves pulling out the engine to pull the propeller shaft into the boat. We decided to do this since we were already lifting the engine to replace 2 of the engine's motor mounts that had been giving us some issues.

We found 2 new motor mounts at the Volvo Penta dealer. Then the machine shop at the slipway created a new cutlass bearing out of a some hardened plastic that we bought in town. I am very impressed with Thai machinists. They are able to create just about any part that we needed. And they looked better than the original.

We also took our anchor windless and sea/fresh water pump into a shop to be repaired. The motor in the anchor windless was taken apart and cleaned out. New heavier duty power wires installed. The sea/water pump came back rebuilt with all new gaskets, bearings, and impellers.

We also noticed that Sandpipers exhaust hose was almost completely worn through. I am not sure how we made it this far without it totally coming apart. This leads me to a very cool and convenient thing about Thailand... the 'Taxi Motorcycle'. I needed to get a ride into town to get a new exhaust hose. So I flagged down a taxi motorcycle.

Thailand is full of motorcycles. But you can tell it is a motorcycle taxi because the driver is wearing a red vest. I flagged one down and hopped on the back. It is kind of funny since Thai men are quite short and with me being tall, it is kind of like I am on parade while riding around.

Sandpiper's stern was also looking a bit rough. So we ripped off the old letters and repainted the stern a nice shiny white. Amy found a sticker guy and he made up new letters for the stern. He even came down and applied them to the stern for us.

As I write this, Sandpiper was just launched, and we were hoping to make a getaway from here and the stench. But we are having problems getting the engine aligned. So we will be here one more night. Tomorrow we are hoping to motor back to Kata Beach to see our friends Ben and Katie who are here on vacation from the states.

More later from a better smelling place,
Tom and Amy

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