Esper Refit 4 – tent up; filling in a portlight

The yard workers at PSS Boatyard Satun erect the tent for our boat

During after-work beers this week a fellow yachtsman recounted the story of his first refit, many years ago. He was being filmed by a friend who was documenting our hero’s progress, who was explaining the many jobs still to do on the project. As he went through his list his face changed from joy to sadness and then horror as the realisation of the nightmare he had created for himself slowly dawned on him. He told the cameraman to go shove it as he buried his sobbing head in his arms. One month in, will it be the same for us?

Mey, Lek, Ton, Jamie, Un, the three painters who've just joined our team, Moo and Pong

Mey, Lek, Ton, Jamie, Un, Tui, the three painters who’ve just joined our team, Moo and Pong

Sorry to disappoint those who want to see us suffer, but so far we’re thoroughly enjoying our refit experience. It can be frustrating at times, especially when the boat is wallowing in micro particles of fibreglass and saw-dust, the noise is deafening and you’re constantly itching from all the crap in the air. Fortunately Liz and I are blessed with foresight and positivity: we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is rather dim…

Quick Summary Video

Not everyone wants to read. It’s a Sunday and you’ve got kids to feed and church to attend, so we’re moving our weekly summary video to the beginning of the post. After watching you can read in more detail below each job, along with lots of pics.

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Erection Of The Tent

Pole dancing

Pole dancing

Perhaps the biggest event of the week was the erection of Esper’s circus tent. It took the yard workers (all ten of them) two days to complete and would have had British Health and Safety officers produce litters of kittens.

Like Indian rope climbers, skinny Burmese lads shimmied up poles as their colleagues held on to the bases, mounted in concrete-filled tyres, so the frame could be lowered by the crane and slotted into position. Unfortunately for our trapeze artistes, the lads didn’t always remember to hold on to the poles! At one point one of the lads almost brought down the entire construction as he hoisted himself up an unsupported pole and brought the thing down horizontal to the boat.

Erection of the tent framwork in PSS Boatyard, Thailand

Erection of the tent framwork in PSS Boatyard, Thailand

The frame was pretty much in position by the end of the first day, so the second day was spent throwing heavy tarps over the framework.

The tent around Esper taking shape

The tent around Esper taking shape

The tent around Esper taking shape

Gotta say these boys, the same ones who fitted our cradle in the slip and hoisted us out, work as hard as anyone else, despite the fact they’re the ones working in midday heat. Needless to say they’re all pretty fit.

On-the-spot welding and cutting of poles to fit the frame. It's like a custom-fit big top!

On-the-spot welding and cutting of poles to fit the frame. It’s like a custom-fit big top!

Book-Keeping Thai-Style

One of the things we’ve really had to stay on top of is our budget-keeping. Un completes a weekly payroll spreadsheet every night but the costs for each job are less transparent. Since we’re dealing with estimates some costs are hard to predict, but one wonders how much of the grey areas of our budget are just down to the way ‘things are done in Thailand’. Liz has spent considerable time constructing a comprehensive spreadsheet that covers off both estimates and actuals of money spent, broken down by each job and every item of material purchases. Meanwhile we’ve pinned Un down and got him to take our budget-keeping as seriously as we do. Well, sort of! I’m happy to report that Thais, unlike Indians, are happy to strike a deal, shake on it and stick to it.

We’ve found that in some instances it is better to agree a price for a job rather than pay daily rates. This is not always the case but it’s worth while asking for the contractors to come up with two alternative cost options.

Painters Begin Faring

It’s quite disconcerting watching three grown men spray your top-sides with cans of black paint, but that’s how the team of painters begin their work. By spraying the top-sides and then sanding it back they expose the imperfections and dents in the surface.

What the flip are you doing to my boat? The painters get busy with a can of spraypaint

What the flip are you doing to my boat? The painters get busy with a can of spraypaint

We have three painters working with long-boards, which are planks of wood about a meter long, loaded with 120 sand-paper. This length allows the guys to move efficiently along the curvature of the boat, but on larger vessels it’s not uncommon to see 3-5m boards operated by three people.

Painters faring the boat

Painters faring the boat

This initial process of faring takes back the water-line and, of course, Esper’s lettering. Fortunately there is a place in town that does decals.

A Hole Is Filled

We’ve opted to fill in one of the portlights. Why? Because it sits above the chart-table and is never used. The curtain was always closed and I don’t ever remember a time opening the window. It’s drastic but what it does do is allows us extra space around the chart table for electronic installation.

Long-boarding. Sanding the top-sides of the boat

Hammering, grinding and filling the porthole

Pong, the head carpenter, placed a temporary piece of ply over the hole and Moo, Un’s brother, glass-fibred the gap. Layers of fibre were thoroughly rolled on with epoxy, and each session given time to cool down and cure. The ply was then taken away and it was glass-fibred from the inside, which has also been left to cure.

Moo grinds away at the inside of the portlight before glassing it in

Moo grinds away at the inside of the portlight before glassing it in

Chart Table Takes Shape

We have a new member of the team, and it is Ton and Tui’s father, Pong. He’s the ‘head’ carpenter on Thea, the large motorboat being refitted in the shed next door, and is a master craftsman. He has been tasked with rebuilding the chart table.

Un and Pong discuss the new chart table design

Un and Pong discuss the new chart table design

In simple terms, it involved taking a saw to the table and chopping it in half, and then throwing a seat together. Of course it’s far more involved than that. Fortunately Un is able to communicate to Pong the exact measurements, who uses existing cabinetry and follows the shape of the hull to build in a new seat.

The new chart table with seat frame

The new chart table with seat frame

Deck Is Removed

Nooooooo!!!!!!

Nooooooo!!!!!!

It’s taken three weeks of removing the deck fittings but finally we have three people smashing up our lovely teak and pulling out the screws like false teeth.

We’ve had a cursory look at the delamination of fibre-glass. Some of it peels off quite easily and a couple of screws have clearly leaked through the deck. Leaks down-below are quite apparent on deck, in particular the odd screw that has rusted or gone all the way through.

Ton removing the teak

Ton removing the teak

Ton has taken away most of the deck whilst Moo and Mey followed behind with hammer and chisel, removing the remainder of the epoxied wood.

Already we can visualise our deck without teak. Although it’s not white underneath, removing the wood has removed the obvious teak lines. We can get an idea of what Esper will look like and examine lines from an aestehtic perspective. For example, the edges of the deck to the top-sides, i.e. where the old tow-rail was mounted, are quite sharp. We’ll have to think about filling these in and smoothing them over to create rounded edges.

Ton removing the teak

Partial teak removal on the bow

Forward Heads Are Gone

In the video clip above I mention that the forward heads will now be known as Liz’s Study. You read it here first. Tui was tasked with removing all plumbing, toilets, cabinets and dividing walls in the forward heads and shower area. After some deliberation we decided to remove the watermaker as well and are now considering relocating it so that it runs backwards-forwards along the edge of the hull, as opposed to across the boat where it was previously.

B-Boying the forward heads. Tui removes the shower divide

B-Boying the forward heads. Tui removes the shower divide

Duncan from ‘Maggie Drum’ had described my watermaker installation as ‘higgledy piggledy’. I was rather offended by this since I thought my installation had used what little space we had rather successfully, with minimum pipe runs and utilising existing sea cocks. Still, moving it will allow me to reinstall it, this time with more space and better access to the filters. In fact we will be able to lose one seacock altogether (the toilet outlet pipe, a rather large and ancient Blakes seacock), and we’re moving another one forward so the watermaker can fit better. Duncan will be installing an engine-driven water-maker soon so I’ll be monitoring and critiquing his progress closely 😉

The old shower, now with dividing wall, shelves and watermaker removed

The old shower, now with dividing wall, shelves and watermaker removed

The watermaker will be boxed and becomes Liz’s seat, with shelving behind. The idea is to install a table, mounted to the wall, that she can pull up or drop down and use for either computer work, jewellery-making or sewing. So it seems we’re already diving the boat up into his and hers territory: I’ll take the chart table and Liz gets her own study!

Shopping Trip To Hat Yai

We had an exhausting day on Wednesday driving up to Hat Yai and spending too much money.

Hat Yai is a large industrial city about 1.5 hours away from Satun, but we had to drive via Chebilang first to pick up Me, Un’s driver. They were on a run for Thea, picking up glasswork and engine pumps for Jamie and Julie, who kindly allowed us to use their driver to help us shop for bits and pieces.

The first two stops were for upholstery and Formica. We’d already decided on the brushed aluminium Formica for the galley, but at the last moment we fell in love with a glossy orange Formica that we intend to stick on the end wall in the galley just for fun!

Liz helps roll up the Formica in Hat Yai

Liz helps roll up the Formica in Hat Yai

The upholstery, meanwhile, has been fun to choose but we think we’re going for a pale blue that’ll match our veneer (see below).

We spent much of our time in Homepro, which is like B&Q back at home. We bought a jet-wash, cupboard door handles and then spent about an hour looking for a tap for our rear heads. Don’t ask.

Also purchased that day was a compressor, which we’ll use for spray-painting the engine, varnishing and other small jobs that doesn’t require a bigger compressor (like painting the boat).

Veneer Is Chosen

It’s taken us four weeks but we’ve finally decided on the veneer. Funnily enough it was our first choice before we discovered another veneer that, in the end, wasn’t available. It’s called ‘white vine’, is light and has clear horizontal lines without too much in-your-face wood grain. It’ll certainly freshen up Esper’s interior. After much discussion with the carpenters we’ll be ordering pre-pressed 4mmm ply with the veneer on it, which will reduce massively the time it takes for the carpenters to fit it.

Meanwhile, we are considering a solid wood veneer for our floorboards, which we discuss in the video clip above.

One day this will all look new. One day!

One day this will all look new. One day!

A Pep Talk

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the pep talk we had with the staff this Thursday. With Un translating Liz and I made clear our satisfaction with all the workers on the team, from little Mey, the Burmese girl who has only just started talking in front of people, to our new team members, the painters. We encouraged them to take regular breaks from their work, and we’ll be finishing early on Saturdays to sink a few beers.

What’s Next?

Next week we’ll be ordering in our paint, veneer and upholstery, whilst the painters continue to fare the top sides of the boat. Meanwhile the rest of the team will be removing all screws and loose fibreglass from the deck so the painters can start on that too. Pong will hopefully complete the chart table area and move on to Liz’s study, which Tui is working on. There’s a couple of seacocks to sort out and that porthole to finish filling.

We’ve also got a few jobs that we’ve not even begun yet. There’s a small leak in the diesel tank, grease holes to tap into the prop, replacement of the cutlass bearing and there’s that damn foresail furler to sort out.





11 Comments on “Esper Refit 4 – tent up; filling in a portlight”

  1. How I love these instalments and I am sure I am the first to read the updates sitting at the computer waiting for the latest to come through – how sad!  What does Millie think of her bathroom being taken as a study for Liz?
     
     

    1. Hi Ma! Of course you understand that Millie’s toilet becomes the rear heads (ours) and we will just have to work around her. Right now she is on her throne looking out the patio window (it’s too hot outside) but it’s her one piece of home we’re brought with us. She’s going to be rather confounded with all the smells when we eventually move back on to Esper.

  2. I finally had the time to read and watch everything. This is amazing and traumatizing at the same time. I remember haul outs of our fishing trawler when I was younger. So much work yet worth the effort in the end. Thanks for the great updates.

  3. It’s been ok so far, Darlene, but I do await our first setback with much trepidation. A case of when is it going to happen, not if.

  4. Remarkable bravery. When all this is over you’ll be entitled to a breakdown. A comment from Billy Connolly comes to mind, “When everyone around you thinks you’re crazy but you’re having fun, then you are really living”. Bob + Maureen, Modus Vivendi, 435-25.

  5. That video was utterly, utterly excellent! I still find this all very uncomfortable viewing though. I see chaos and I see cost but I admire the hard work, the craftsmanship and your positive vision. Will Esper be branded with her logo at the end of it all?

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