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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The journey back in the setting sun is even more beautiful, especially after an ‘end-of-work’ beer with fellow liveaboards.
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.
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.
The turn-around of boats is quite impressive and this is clearly a practiced method of hauling and launching boats.
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.[separator top=”40″ style=”shadow”]
WEEK ONE UPDATE
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a quick summary and walk-through, recorded on Saturday 8th Feb after the first five days of work.
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.
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