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Thursday, 21 January 2010

Time To Go ......

Our Iban friends waving goodbye on Sungai Tulai
Each departure has its own emotional signature - leaving Australia over 4 years ago was different to leaving Borneo 18 months ago.  In each case the lead-up is similar - prepare the vessel, stock up, share special moments with family and friends, then say goodbye. As cruisers (sea gypsies?) we soon learn to quickly look ahead to our next destination and to savour what it might offer - that is, after all, why we do this. When we departed Borneo last time the entire community was there to see us off, and many tears were shed on the dock and on board Crystal Blues.

Tomorrow, we depart Thailand after 15 months of serious refit work,  plus various part time employment in the region. We won't be shedding any tears.  Its not that we don't love the people (we do), and we have made some fabulous friends, its just that 15 months is too long - our sea gypsy blood requires us to move farther and more often than we have been able.

So the past week or so has seen a familiar tension re-enter our life, as Ley tries cutting the dock lines every day and I urge caution and point out the important jobs still on our to-do list.  This is a personal conflict we've waged many times.  Lately, with the boat looking so beautiful, its easy to feel like I should just roll over and agree. Each time I look at Crystal Blues she seems to want to move, so it feels like both the women in my life are ganging up on me.  Its difficult ....
Ready and waiting at Grand Ao Po Marina, Phuket
Yesterday we filled our tanks (fuel & water) and sea-trialled our re-commissioned auto-pilot system.  Everything worked, so I declared us OK to depart.  Ley baked more bread, the outboard motor disappeared into the forward hold, the dinghy was strapped into the davits and we requested yet another weather forecast.  Today we drove down to Ao Chalong and cleared both immigration and customs, so we're officially on our way at last.

On the way home we purchased our final stock of fresh produce and had dinner at a favourite local restaurant - steamed whole fish, three different varieties of mushrooms and lots of lovely stir fried local vegetables. When we explained to the restaurant owners that we were leaving they immediately showered us with gifts - fresh local fruits for our voyage - the Thai people can be so generous.

We launched on December 4, so it has taken almost six weeks to complete the necessary jobs on board, working 7 days a week.  Today we're sailing for Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, where we plan to spend a few weeks of well earned chill out, before returning to Thailand.  Fair winds all.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

A Buddhist Blessing

Back in October we decided that the boat simply HAD to be in the water by Christmas, so we made a plan to achieve this, which included a long, long, long check list of all the jobs that had to be completed.  This included building a new genoa furler and forestay, new backstays, installing the mast and rudder, antifoul painting, Propspeed on the running gear, and a million carpentry, painting and electrical jobs inside the cabin.  In the machinery space aft I needed to recomission the watermaker and the generator - not trivial exercises after 15 months. Then the washing machine died, never to be repaired, and we found ourselves building a new stainless steel frame and deck to support the air-con equipment and a new washing machine. Our rented storage shed was still full of posessions, and these were slowly moved back on board day by day. Our contractors caught the spirit, and work accelerated to meet out launching date of December 4th.

The night before launching we organised a small function to thank our friends and contractors and to bless the boat for her new life afloat.  A shy yet graceful Buddhist monk officiated, blessing the vessel and crew with sacred waters and scribing his blessings with finger paint on the new bow seat, with a crowd of friends and workers looking on.   
Partying hard the night before the launch
Not surprisingly, we all partied long and hard that night, with Thai food and drinks served under the boat on the hard stand area. The man with the thumb in this picture is Malek, from Pro Yachting, who graciously organised the temple monk. The man with the food is our good friend Yat, skilled carpenter and all round nice guy.  The cool dude in the black jacket is Lek, responsible for the better stainless steel work on the boat.  Oh, the girl is Lek's sister Nat of course !
Next day we literally staggered out of bed to prepare for the launching, with the travel lift scheduled for 11.00am.  This being Thailand, it arrived an hour early, as the yard guys wanted to be finished before lunch! It all worked out in the end, and a crazy procession of friends and workers followed the travel lift as it moved through the yard carrying Crystal Blues toward the water. So here we were launching the boat, still with a carpenter (Yat) and cleaner (Joy) working on board - for Joy it was her first boat trip - not very far!  You might feel that Crystal Blues is dwarfed by the huge travel lift in this image - but thats their small lifting machine - the really big one costs more.

As she was lowered into the water we checked every through-hull, the rudder seal and the shaft log, then signalled all clear to the guys on the travel-lift.

1000 fire crackers to launch Crystal Blues
The Cummins diesel started first touch and seemed keen to get a move on.  In traditional Thailand every new boat voyage is started with fireworks, to drive away the bad spirits.  Yat did the honours for us that day, setting off a massive string of 1000 fire crackers, all suspended from our boat hook on the bow as we moved out of the slip.

We motored away from the dock and moved down the creek to a new berth - but the channel there is so shallow we were led by a pilot boat, and we pushed through the mud for quite a while before finding deeper water at Royal Phuket Marina.

Of course putting the boat in the water didn't mean the end of work for us - in fact our job list seemed to grow, whilst the contractors were almost finished.   We spent three weeks in that marina, fitting sails, sheets, halyards, air conditioning (OK, don't laugh, its very cool), commissioning myriad electronic systems and even relaxing a little bit..... Christmas and New Year were approaching......