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Back in Indonesia, we discovered a leaking thru-hull. The water exhaust for the generator was leaking into our main cabin, and we needed to haul out to fix it. Shipyard options for a cruising boat are rather limited. We were working with a schedule; we wanted to haul out after our friends left us in Langkawi, but not too early that we had to make a visa run out of Thailand. The best option for this was Phithak Shipyard & Services (PSS) in Satun Thailand.
Our second choice option would have been Pangkor in Malaysia, where many of our friends from the rally hauled out. However, with our timing, that would have required us to backtrack south.
Navigating to Phithak Shipyard & Services
The channel navigating to Phithak Shipyard & Services is not marked at all. The shipyard (specifically, Julie in the office) had sent waypoints, which we followed through the shallows at the shore to the mouth of the river. The shallowest part was the mouth of the river, which read 6 feet under our keel.
Hauling out and launching at Phithak Shipyard & Services is very tide dependent. It’s a two-fold issue: there simply isn’t enough water to get on and off the ramp as low as it will go, and the river is too shallow to make it through anyway.
When we first booked, I told the yard that we would only be out for three days and we would be doing our own projects. No problem, they told me. As we were approaching the end of the project, I enquired about launching.
“The tide is too low. We can launch you in a week.”
Thus our 3-day haul out turned into a 10-day haul out. This really threw a wrench in things for us. Living off our batteries and water tanks for three days is no problem, but to live off those systems for ten days is a problem.
Phithak Shipyard & Services is pretty bare bones. The first three nights there, we were the only cruisers staying in the yard at night. Most cruisers book a room at the basic accommodations across the street. But also, most cruisers haul out for months at a time, undertaking big projects. We did have access to restrooms on shore, which we used to keep from filling up our holding tanks, and a shower, which we did not use. Another issue was the heat – being this far inland, the winds were very still, and being on the hard meant we couldn’t use our air conditioning. We were ok toughing out three nights sweating in bed, but beyond that was too much.
Julie really helped out coordinating the rest of the staff to get us comfortable. The yard covered us staying in a hotel in Satun and our hardstand costs for the unexpected seven days. Julie coordinated rides for us between our hotel and the yard so we could check on Starry Horizons. We even had the yard car for two days to run errands. A shore power cord was frankensteined for us to plug in and top up our batteries so the fridge and freezer would still run.
Haul Out by Rail
While we’ve hauled out five times before, this is the first time we’ve hauled out via a rail system. I don’t know if it was because it was a rail system or what, but the haul out was very, very jerky. Mechanically interesting, but very uncomfortable. It seems like an easy way to damage your boat, and we will never haul out by rail again.
The staff was not very gentle with the boat; a chunk of fiberglass was taken out at the minikeel, which we had them patch up. We couldn’t see much of what they were doing, but there was a lot of banging around. When we could finally get down, I looked at the supports and could see where the supports were damaging our bottom paint.
“We fix when we paint.” the yard manager told me.
“You aren’t painting,” I said.
He looked at the supports and then had the yard crew come and re-do them all with padding between the supports and the paint.
The rail system was really fascinating. There’s one main rail leading out of the water and multiple rails running perpendicular to the main rail. The staff maneuvered a cradle (a bunch of beams) on the rail system underneath Starry Horizons. The cable system pulls the cradle up to the cross rail we will go onto. A manual pump lifts the whole rail car (SH, cradle, and cart), one side at a time, and the staff rotates the rail and wheels 90 degrees. Then the staff adjusts the cable to pull from the side instead of up, and SH was pulled into her “parking spot”.
Our Project: Replace Thru-Hull & Valve
David immediately set to work pulling out the old thruhull and replacing it with a new Marlon thru-hull and valve.
- Remove old parts – this is by far the hardest part. The valve went in before the cabinets so David had to remove part of the cabinet to get it out.
- Hollow out the core around the hole
- Fill hole and hollow with epoxy
- Let epoxy dry
- Drill out excess epoxy
- Install new thru-hull with sealant
- Install new valve and replumb
About a week before our arrival, I emailed Julie and asked if they could do some fiberglass work for us too. We had three spots that needed to be repaired from various projects or boo-boos. Julie said yes, they could do that. While in the yard, we asked over and over again, nagging the staff to have someone come and start on the fiberglass work. Finally, we got the answer: they didn’t have any gel coat, so they wouldn’t be able to do the work. Thankfully none of those projects require us to be out of the water.
With our extra time, we asked the yard to apply Propspeed to our Flexofold props. As far as we can tell, the job was good and really cheap (yes, we checked, it’s name brand Propspeed).
We would have been very upset with how everything went if it weren’t for Julie. We felt she really made sure we were as happy as we could be given the circumstances. Most of our issues boiled down to poor communication between the office staff and the yard.
We have to haul out again (for a different reason) in Thailand so it will be interesting to compare the two experiences.
All Haul Outs
- Nanny Cay, BVIs
- Grenada Marine
- Norsand, Whangarei, New Zealand
- The Boat Yard, Vava’u, Tonga
- The Boat Works, Coomera, Australia
- Phithak Shipyard & Services, Satun, Thailand
- G&T Boat Yard, Phuket, Thailand