Sojourn in Thailand

January 20, 2006 We felt that it is time to touch base with all of you and hope that you have had a very happy holiday season. Ours was quiet except for a very short but pleasant visit from Sander’s sister, Violet, and her husband Rammy who live and work in Amsterdam, Holland. They joined us in Langkawi, Malaysia on the northern border of the country (west side). After exploring Langkawi a little, we sailed on south with them retracing our wake to the island of Penang. We had a wonderful day of sailing without the engine… quite a change of pace for us as we had motored hard all the way north from Singapore when we left Sebana Cove. The prevailing winds here during the winter season are NE and quite strong so as we are heading north it is usually into the wind.

One of the photos that accompany this letter was taken on the south end of Penang Island where we anchored for a night. As the tide was turning two fishing boats came very close to the boat dropping a net in a circle quite close to our boat. There are lots of guys on these relatively small boats and they all have their jobs to do in the process of dropping and retrieving these nets. Besides working the winches to pull in the substantial weight of the nets, several of the men work to flake the recovered net carefully on the deck. When the nets are thrown from the boat they must run true from the decks without any snagging. We watched the whole process on both boats and hoped that they would bring in a large catch. In the end it was disappointingly small, but we figure that is probably the case more often than not.

Being at anchor, the whole process was very entertaining to watch. When we are underway it is far less entertaining. Some of the boats are seiners…carrying their nets behind their boats in a long stream. Once in a while they have cruised right in front of Satori and dropped their nets in front of us. In that case we must dodge our course quickly to avoid being caught in those nets. Others have posted nets between bobbers marked only with small flags. When we spot one of the flags we must quickly look around for another bobber marking the other end of the net to decide which is the safe direction for us to take. Because of these floating hazards we have tried to avoid any night crossings in this area. Running across one of these nets would not damage anything, but could necessitate dropping the anchor until daylight in order to go into the water and unfoul our prop.

Since the end of the holidays, we have been very busy trying to determine our next course. Our plans, all along, had been to leave SE Asia for the long trip across the Indian Ocean to South Africa in February. In Durban or in Cape Town we would spend a year or more to provide Satori with a face-lift…new teak decks and a complete new paint job. In doing a little homework and talking with our friends, Nick and Helen who live in South Africa, we learned that the boat services of that country are no longer as reasonably priced as in the past. There is a 12% tax on goods and services there. With that we decided that we really did need to seek out some quotes on having the work done here in Malaysia or in Phuket, Thailand. If the quote was too good to be refused, we would stay here another year. The quote from an outfit in Malaysia was high - $40,000 US. That was pretty discouraging. Most cruisers and locals seemed to agree that Phuket, Thailand is the place to have the work done for the best price. You will probably remember that last year at Christmas time a huge Tsunami wake did a lot of damage in the Phuket and Langkawi area. As a result of the disaster many cruisers had to have their boats repainted. As we walked around the marinas we could see many new paint jobs. Talking with the skippers of the boats gave us a lot of food for thought as we viewed the results. One outfit, Pro Yachting, seemed to have a good reputation and their prices seemed very reasonable – so, off we went to Phuket to seek some quotes for ourselves.

Since arriving here in Phuket we rented a car for several days and visited two possible boat yards. The estimate for the teak deck replacement was promising, $9,700 for 12mm solid teak…that includes all the labor and materials! In order to get a quote for the repainting we had to take Satori to the marina so that Jill and Pro could evaluate the work involved. Getting into the Boat Lagoon Marina is no easy task. It involves a long winding channel through mud flats and then through the mangroves. The channel passage is possible only at high tide and we had the HIGHEST as the moon was full. Still we managed to go aground three times on the way in. Revving the engine sufficiently and churning up a lot of mud solved two of the groundings. The third required a push in the dinghy along side as well as revving the engine. Then we needed to get the “show and tell” out of the way and make it back out the channel before the tide turned. We had learned the tricks of the channel on the way in – where we need to stay on the left side and where on the right, where we need to just plow on through the muck etc. After the fact we were talking to one skipper who said that he would NEVER go into Boat Lagoon without a pilot aboard who knows the area. Oh well, ignorance is bliss!

We have the quote in hand now for the painting and have decided that the budget should be able to cover all the work. We will remove the old teak decks ourselves and will do a lot of the grunt work…in fact, we have already begun. The third picture shows Sander enlarging the drain passages in the deck.

We both plan to come home for a visit sometime in the next year. The times have not yet been decided. It would be great if we could also find the time and funds to make that trip (by air) to Australia. Time will tell.

The next group message is bound to be less romantic as it will be all tied up with work, sweating and messiness. That sounds quite negative; however, we actually look forward to getting many of these long-awaited tasks done.

Stay in touch with us, please. Remember that you can use our on board email at **** or the hotmail address at **** .

Jane and Sander