Esper Refit 1 – an introduction to our boat refit

Removing our worldly possessions in boxes in PSS Boatyard

We will be running our refit updates concurrently with our normal sailing blog (which include a few spots around Langkawi and a sail to Penang). We aim to publish the refit updates every Sunday.

Introduction

Esper has been hauled out at PSS Boatyard in Thailand for an extensive refit. The work scheduled so far will include:

  • removal of masts and rigging
  • removal of teak deck
  • osmosis treatment to the hull
  • fill, fare and respray of topsides, deck, masts and booms
  • rebuilding of external storage boxes
  • fitting new navigation system

If the budget allows, we would also like to undertake some interior carpentry, including:

  • new sole boards
  • reveneering
  • repositioning of chart table
  • removal of forward heads
  • redesign of forepeak
  • resurfacing of galley and rear heads
  • engine service

Each week we plan to update followtheboat with a progress report of work done to the boat, including a number of photographs and video clips. This will culminate in an article for Sailing Today.

PSS Boatyard

Phithak Sinchai Shipyard, or Phithak Shipyard and Services to English-speaking mariners, is based in the village of Ban Chebilang, approx. 15km north-west of Satun, south Thailand.

It traditionally served the huge number of fishing boats in the area but in recent years has proved its mettle in providing services for the leisure industry. Wood, steel and fibreglass are all catered for. More details of the location can be found here.

Chebilang is a lively fishing village. The cafes immediately opposite the yard offer the workers excellent food. We can heartily recommend Dom’s place at the end. Her culinary skills deserve international recognition and she surprises us every day with a new dish.

Dom, who 'sings' you your bill. Thai food like you've never had it before, and all for a quid!

Dom, who ‘sings’ you your bill. Thai food like you’ve never had it before, and all for a quid!

A local cattle herder meandering past the cafes and boatyard

A local cattle herder meandering past the cafes and boatyard

Drop-off point for the fishing boats in Chebilang

Drop-off point for the fishing boats in Chebilang

Checking In

I mention checking-in since a few people asked about rumours circulating re bringing a boat in to Thailand. From what we understood at customs, we have a license to keep the boat in the yard for six months, which may be extended for a further four. Since we don’t intend to be here that long this isn’t relevant to us but we are sure the boatyard would be able to help and advise on this issue should it be required.

Local residents of Chebilang

Local residents of Chebilang

We were picked up by Moo the moment we could get off the boat who escorted us to immigration, customs and passport control. Note that in Satun these offices close by 4.30pm. Yes, his name really is Moo! Full Thai names are unpronounceable, so we’ve had to get used to abbreviations like Moo, Pon, Un, On, Ton…

Satun and Accommodation

Since the boat is being stripped we opted to find accommodation in Satun, the closest large town to PSS. I’m pleased to say that Satun is not your typical Thai tourist resort. It is predominantly Muslim and there is little for the passing traveller except the experience of an authentic Thai town. We love it here and it is one of the reasons why we chose PSS. Aside from the boatyard facilities, location was important to us since this will be our home for the next few months.

We checked out a couple of houses within the centre of Satun but found them to be dark and depressing. We were after two bedrooms, one to be used as storage, but stumbled upon a new build one-bedroomed joint with verandah in the north-east of Satun. Location was perfect and it’s off-road enough that we’ll be able to let Millie roam the enclosed garden! We’ve hired a scooter so getting around is easy enough.

According to the sign outside the gate, this is 'The Living @ Home - Comfortable and Relaxedly'!

According to the sign outside the gate, this is ‘The Living @ Home – Comfortable and Relaxedly’!

The commute to ‘work’ is an absolute joy. We’re quickly in the countryside where the main road to Chebilang takes us through rubber plantations and rivers.

A view from our daily commute from Satun to Chebilang

A view from our daily commute from Satun to Chebilang

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The journey back in the setting sun is even more beautiful, especially after an ‘end-of-work’ beer with fellow liveaboards.

Jeremy, Mark and Steve sink a few after another tough day at the office in PSS Boatyard, Satun

Jeremy, Mark and Steve sink a few after another tough day at the office in PSS Boatyard, Satun

Haul Out

PSS is located on an estuary, so there are tidal considerations for those with a significant draft (sail boats). We anchored outside the entrance to the estuary to the north (this avoids the many fishing boats that shoot up and down the estuary coming in and out of Chebilang) and spent a night listening to curious noises coming from the surrounding mangroves.

A pleasant night spent outside the estuary entrance

A pleasant night spent outside the estuary entrance

Catching a rising tide we anchored outside the slip until further notice. Jia, the boatyard manager, radioed through on VHF 16 to let us know they were launching a couple of fishing boats prior to our haul out.

If you’re used to lifting on a 150 ton travel lift, you’re in for a surprise. PSS still lifts and launches using a cradle on a slipway. It works well but it does involve a lot of splashing around in the water, including a diver who has to submerge into the brown, muddy river to ensure the cradles are set correctly. Unless you’re prepared to get wet you have no option but to stay on the boat as it’s hauled.

Here’s a clip (all our clips are now recorded in HD) of Esper being lifted out, and then a fishing boat being launched. If you haven’t seen anything like this before, it’s worth a peek. Click the bottom-right button to go full screen, change the playback quality and then ‘esc’ to exit.

[youtube id=”7kokb_vaXJk” width=”700″ height=”400″]

The turn-around of boats is quite impressive and this is clearly a practiced method of hauling and launching boats.

Two of the five lads who get wet in order to line up the cradle

Two of the five lads who get wet in order to line up the cradle

Pictured is the yard foreman in front of Esper, drying out in PSS Boatyard

Pictured is the yard foreman in front of Esper, drying out in PSS Boatyard

Project Management

Considering the array of work we’re planning, the different skill-sets required, the timing, the language barrier and issues sourcing materials and workers, we’ve employed a project manager. The yard itself has many experienced workers in fields such as mechanics, steel fabrication, carpentry and so on, but less experience in painting fibreglass.

Our project manager, Un, is able to source workers, materials and communicate with the relevant people.

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WEEK ONE UPDATE

Osmosis Treatment

Having discovered osmosis whilst hauled out in the Maldives last year, we chose to deal with it in PSS as we’d be on the hard for some months. It seemed like a sensible time to deal with the problem.

The first stage in treating our osmosis was to grind out the offending blisters. Although not large there were many, all over the hull and keel. Lek, a worker from the yard, spent three days grinding the blisters. After each day the blisters were left overnight to weep. The next day we were able to see whether the weeping came from the centre of the blister or elsewhere and to get an idea of how extensive the osmosis was.

Weeping of acetic acid is not necessarily from the centre of the osmosis bubble

Weeping of acetic acid is not necessarily from the centre of the osmosis bubble

Using a moisture metre we noticed that the moisture readings bore little relation to the blisters themselves, but proved how extensive the osmosis was. The gel-coat peeler came out and we’ll be removing the gelcoat altogether.

For more info on osmosis and its treatment, see here.

This is a shot looking into a cupboard with the light shining through four points where the hull has been ground away

This is a shot looking into a cupboard with the light shining through four points where the hull has been ground away

Removal and Storage of Gear

The first four days were spent removing our gear. I have to say I am flabbergasted at the amount of crap we have accumulated in the last eight years!

Removing our worldly possessions in boxes in PSS Boatyard

Removing our worldly possessions in boxes in PSS Boatyard

We have filled:

  • 40×50 litre boxes
  • A whole storage container
  • A one-bedroomed house

With both of us suffering from minor back problems we employed two lads to do the grunt work but make no mistake, removing gear from the boat from 8am to 5pm, in the tropics, down a ladder, is exhausting work!

Animated gif of our storage container in teh boatyard

The deck is now ready to have the fittings removed by the carpenter (overseen and photographed by yours truly).

Removal of Headboards and Portlight Fittings

In order to get to the electrical cables, deck fittings and leaks, two carpenters were employed to remove, mark and wrap the headboards.

Jamie unscrews the fittings and Ton removes the headboards in our cabin

Jamie unscrews the fittings and Ton removes the headboards in our cabin

Tui, Ton's brother, carefully wraps each headboard in clingfilm before storage

Tui, Ton’s brother, carefully wraps each headboard in clingfilm before storage

Disconnection of Mast Cables

The crane used to remove the two masts has been booked in for Tuesday, so the next job was to disconnect any cables running down the masts. Since I’d retrofitted a Navtex, AIS, VHF, Cat 5 and radar, I thought this was going to be a monumental task.

Oh, this is going to be fun!

Oh, this is going to be fun!

Indeed the snake’s pit of wires behind the control panel at the chart table (not created by me, I hasten to add), was a mess, but in the end the cables were quite easy to locate and disconnect.

Esper's interior being stripped - half way there

Esper’s interior being stripped – half way there

Summary

We’ve been pretty impressed with the speed at which work has been done so far.

Jia, the boatyard manager, over-saw our haul-out, which went smoothly.

The two lads who helped us remove the gear in boxes and transport them to the container and the house, Moo and Roodee, worked so fast we could barely keep up.

Roodee and Moo take a quick break outside our container. A rare moment of inactivity from these two lads

Roodee and Moo take a quick break outside our container. A rare moment of inactivity from these two lads

Lek has been working tirelessly on the hull, suited up to avoid breathing in the nasty glass fibre dust, whilst Ton and Tui, the two carpenter brothers, have been cracking on with removal of fittings. Check out this little clip of the grinding and the carpenters at work.

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Here’s a quick summary and walk-through, recorded on Saturday 8th Feb after the first five days of work.

[youtube id=”9RiC2bsE9TY” width=”650″ height=”400″]

What’s Next?

Next week we plan to remove the masts and the deck fittings. At some point we will be moved to the back of the yard to accommodate new arrivals, including our friends Maggie Drum.

Esper after her first week in PSS Boatyard

Esper after her first week in PSS Boatyard





11 Comments on “Esper Refit 1 – an introduction to our boat refit”

  1. Hi guys,
    wow impressive stuff! How long do you think it’s all going to take? We had the same experience moving off our boat; it was a wonder it still floated with all the stuff we’d accumulated!
    I hope you continue to make good progress and look forward to the next update
    jon

    1. Hi Jon, nice to hear from you. We’re estimating three months, but of course we’re doubling that for contingency. The amount of stuff that came of Esper though, it was shocking. We’ve had clear-outs before now but this was just silly. A container AND a one-bedroomed house? We hope you are keeping well.

  2. Hi, Guys,Great project and the result will be an almost new boat! Not easy, though.
    Best of Luck

    1. Hi Brian. You of all people know about refitting a 435! Any tips, other than not to attempt it in the first place?

  3. It’ll all be worth it in the end, and as post above says, you’ll have a new boat when you are finished. 
    Do you have a support under the bow? There isn’t one shown in the photo. 
    Good luck with everything!

    1. Hi Fiona. Yes, it seems most the boats here don’t have front support! We’re ‘clamped’ in instead. Hope all is well back home. xxx

  4. Hi Jamie, we have been up on the hard in Phuket for 2 extended refits – a word of advice.  Please put down excessive amounts of ant killer and rat poison – nothing is sacred to these pests – your cushions, sails and even the dinghy will not escape their viscous attention.  Glad you doubled your expected refit time….you need a fair bit of wriggle room with the wet season approaching.

  5. Hi guys

    Thanks for publishing your weekly videos, I have only just discovered them, watched the vast majority yesterday evening, finally went to bed after 01:30 hrs !

    I have gained lots of ideas for my motor cruiser refit which I have just started

    thanks and hope the remainder of the refit goes well

     

    Terry & Bev

    Cheshire UK

    1. Hi Terry and Bev. We’re really pleased that you found the clips useful, it makes it all the more worthwhile putting them together, knowing that someone, somewhere gets something out of them. Good luck with your own refit. Just remember to double everything: time, budget and patience 😉

  6. Hi Jamie,

    I just wonder about your budget for such a massive refit. Are you going to post refit expenses for any  particular job?

    Cheers,

    Paul

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