Sunday, 14 September 2008

A Working Holiday In Phuket

Most people come to Phuket for a holiday, but we've come to work - Crystal Blues is here for a major refit. After arriving on August 18, we anchored in Chalong Bay and completed clearance with Immigration, Customs and the Port Captain. Now, four weeks later, that arrival seems like months ago - we've done so much in the past month it's scary. Ley says that it's beginning to feel like real work again - up at 5.30am, breakfast, drive to the boat yard. Of course the drive to work here is a little more interesting than at home in Australia - the local villages, caged monkeys, water buffalo and rubber plantations give this commute a different feel.

Two days after arrival we'd rented a car for six months and were on the road house hunting. Four days later we signed a lease for six months on a large three bedroom home (air conditioned & furnished throughout), in a quiet private estate. Then the fun began - how long would it take to empty the boat of everything ? The answer is forever - we're still not done, though I can say that 95% of the contents were removed in 25 car loads. Half those car loads were filled using the dinghy as transport to shore (it took 2 dinghy trips to fill the car). The rest happened after we moved into the Phuket Boat Lagoon 0n September 4th, where just 3 trolley loads could fill the car. It was messy, hot, sweaty work, but its done.

The ocean tides are big here, which is just as well, as the channel to the marina is dry on the lowest tides ... we motored in on a 3 metre tide but still saw less than 0.5 metres under the keel. They badly need a suction dredge.

We've been lucky with the rental house (check the photo's here)- besides being comfortable, nicely furnished and "homely", its got a SHED ! It also has shelves, a work bench and even a Gerni (high pressure water wash). So the 25 car loads became 1 house load, which we're still trying to sort out. Seriously though, the house is lovely. Lots of light, space and a garden. The neighbour's dogs have adopted us (Lucky, Blacky, Red and Grumpy), and the locals are friendly as well. There are several good restaurants within a 5 minute drive, all very economical. The boat yard is a 10 minute drive.

We've now started a Picassa Web photo album, so family and friends can see the refit as it progresses - you can view it here.

Crystal Blues was hauled from the water last Thursday, September 4. Prior to haulout we'd taken so much gear out of her she was riding over 100mm above her normal marks. The Boat Lagoon crew are really good at this work - Mr Sin runs a very tight ship. They held her in mid-air whilst we disconnected and dropped the rudder out, before expertly blocking her right in front of our contractors shed. Two days later, last Saturday morning, a huge crane truck arrived on schedule at 10.00am and lifted the mast out.

Within an hour the Pro Yachting team had moved a massive frame and tent into position and the boat was covered. Of course not everything went well - we were incredibly lucky that the monsoon rains held back whilst we emptied the boat contents, but the moment we were lifted the heavens opened, and they haven't closed yet. Its raining every day and night. Thank heavens we have that tent over the boat.

And just who ordered these political protests ? No sooner is the boat out of the water than suddenly there's talk of a people power revolution. Politics in Thailand is almost unfathomable - one side (the democratic party) is suggesting democracy be abandoned, whilst the other (the ruling coalition) is determined to re-nominate the prime minister who was sacked yesterday by the courts, basically for corruption. The coalition says he didn't do the country any harm - sure he did, he just stood up and lied in a court of law. Guess that doesn't count if you're a politician. The last prime minister, Mr Thaksin, is now exiled in London. When he was questioned about corruption (by the press) he basically said it was OK because it was everywhere. What a guy.

The political action in Bangkok has left Phuket quite untouched, except for a peaceful sit-in protest that shut down the airport. However last Friday a local friend called early and said he'd heard that the schools might close and that we may lose power if the government workers go on strike. In Phuket no power means no water, as almost all the water is sourced locally from wells. He recommended stocking up on drinking water, washing water and petrol for our portable
generator. So we rushed out and bought two 100 litre plastic containers for washing water, re-filled the water tanks on Crystal Blues, and moved our 200 litre Turtlepac water bladder to the back porch of the house. We now have 1400 litres of fresh water on hand plus 120 litres of petrol in jerry jugs in the shed. We're ready, though I doubt we'll need any of it. The Thai people are too smart to mess with the tourism cash-cow - I'm sure Phuket will remain peaceful.

Over the past 5 days we've stripped the deck of all fittings and have also stripped the winches, tracks and fittings from the mast, boom and spinnaker pole. Mr Sung, the stainless steel expert from Nop Stainless, has demolished our wooden transom fuel locker and re-built it in 316 stainless steel. Next he'll move onto the deck, where we're adding more stainless attachment points and some electrical and air penetrations. The staff at Pro Yachting have been very helpful, every request has been rapidly supported. Right now we're ahead of our program, and very happy with the service here. If only it would stop raining !

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