Phuket, Thailand

A lot has happened since our last “normal” blog last fall.  Time has just gotten away from us and I have been severely negligent in my writing.  I have received some emails from people who wondered if we were even cruising anymore!!  YIKES, that is REALLY bad!

We are alive and well and cruising Thailand, although without our good friends Braun and Tina because of the terrible loss of their boat, Grey Pearl, in December.  Our hope is that they jump back into the saddle again, get a boat and ship it to Phuket so that we can cruise together again!

After we arrived in Thailand, we checked in at the most southern point (Ao Chalong), which was fairly easy compared to other places we have done this.  We stayed there for a few days, and then set off to our winter home at Yacht Haven Marina, in northern Phuket. 

On the way to Yacht Haven, we stopped at a few islands along the way, the most notable being Phi Phi Island (pronounced Pee Pee).  It is a beautiful island, but simply loaded with tour boats and we had a hard time finding an anchorage.

The biggest problem was that all day and part of the night, the tour boats blasted by you at a distance of about 50 feet at full throttle, summoning up huge waves and we rocked until the wee hours of the evening.

Ashore on Phi Phi, it was crowded and busy with tourists, shops and restaurants, not to mention the “Fish Spas”.  What are they, you ask?  You probably have not seen this before……

It’s a “spa”, but what they specialize in is feet.  They first clean your feet several times, then, as you can see in the pictures, you sit on a bench with your feet in a tank full of small fish that proceed to eat whatever ails you feet (dead skin, calluses, etc).  I personally find it kind of gross but as you can see, Carol, Tina and Michelle sure enjoyed it!!  I heard they do complete body dips also but I shudder to think of what that would entail…..


Yacht Haven Marina

Yacht Haven Marina is at the northern end of Phuket up a long river of shallow water, which is typical of all Phuket.  Once we arrived, we were warmly welcomed by Nick and Zara, the managers of the marina.  YH is a cruisers marina.  What I mean by that is that unlike some of the places we have docked, most of the boats there are cruisers like us from all around the globe.  Nick and Zara do a great job running this place.  They really do care about their customers and their boats.

This is the only marina in Phuket that is both protected from weather and boat wake as well as being deep enough for megayachts and deep draft boats like Seabird.  The electricity is great and reliable and (most importantly and unique to this marina), the dock water is potable.

The docks and facilities here are first rate.  We chose the right home for our boat!

Carol and I got a good laugh on this one. Here is a sign we were greeted with in the parking lot…..perhaps it should have been posted on Phi Phi Island also ……….

Although we rented  a slip for six months, we planned on leaving the marina for most of December to have the hull on Seabird painted with Awlgrip, which is a super hard aircraft type paint.  Our boat is in good shape, but the hull was getting VERY dull, mostly from overzealous polishing!

Getting into Boat Lagoon was a challenge.  You have to do it at high tide, and even at that, you need to have a guy from the marina to guide you in.  Here is the channel at low tide (about 1 foot of water at center channel!)

 We contracted with Yacht Solutions and one of the owners, Gareth Twist, who made the process go very smoothly and for a fraction of the price of painting in the US.  Carol and I rented an apartment at Boat Lagoon Marina, where the work was being done so that we could monitor the progress on a daily basis.

Normally, in the US, at a great expense, they bring your boat into a specialized "clean room" shed to paint the boat, eliminating any chance of contaminants touching the wet paint.  Below is Seabird in a Thai "clean room", which is basically some tarps wrapped around the area to be painted.  The amazing thing about it is that it works just fine.  As with everything here, they make do with what they have.

One funny glitch is that they misspelled the port Mystic on the back of the boat, putting Mystio instead.  That was an easy fix.  They simply cut out a portion of the O, making it a C!

To make a long story short, the boat came out just SPECTACULAR!!!  While the boat was being painted, we had all the stainless steel removed and completely ground and polished like new, including our 300 lb anchor

While the boat was out of the water, we needed some other mechanical work done, such as new dry exhaust insulation.  While talking to the mechanic who does this, I mentioned to him, almost in passing, that one of the reasons I needed new wrapping was that my exhaust temperature was running several hundred degrees hotter than it should be, but I had all but given up after spending upwards of $15000 for various mechanics from the US, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore with no results.  He thought it had to be a simple problem and told me that it had to be the fuel injection pump timing.  After telling him the pump had been rebuilt twice and timed at least 4 times, he still had not changed his mind so I let him have a go at it.  An hour later, he proved that the timing was off.  The other mechanics had simply lined up the marks on the engine and the pump without actually looking to see if the pump was doing what it should.  It was a simple adjustment and now, the engine is running perfectly and there is positively NO SOOT coming from my stack to attack the boats around me (as in the past).  Thank you C and C Marine!!

I would also like to thank Bob Senter, a consultant at Lugger Marine.  He has maintained all along that it had to be the timing and they needed to “spill test “the pump, not  simply line up the marks like the Parts Changer mechanics did.

Marine supplies

Phuket is a virtual Treasure Trove of marine parts and services.  There are more marine stores and services just at Boat Lagoon Marina than we have seen in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Malaysia COMBINED!  The prices are not cheap, but you can find virtually any wax, cleaner, solvent, paint or electronics that you want here.

Thai Massage

One of the great pleasures of Thailand is the Thai Massage.  There are a few types and the businesses are virtually everywhere.  Walking down any street, it is not unusual to see 10 competing massage businesses with the girls, all in uniform of sorts, sitting out front.  I don’t particularly care for the classic “Thai Massage” because it is very aggressive and can hurt.  I prefer the “oil” or “aromatic” massage which is sort of like a Swedish massage.  An hour costs about 300 THB, which translates into about $9 US!!  There are two types of places:  The regular massage places and then “the other” type which offer “extended services” if you want. It is easy to tell the difference by the “uniforms” they are wearing!!!

I was relaxing at one massage place, lying on my stomach and the masseuse left the room for a moment, coming back and rolling on these rubber gloves, the type that a urologist would use.  She immediately noted the look of panic on my face and then smiled and told me that she used them only because she was allergic to something in the oil that I had chosen!!  Whew……

Thailand in General

We really love cruising in Thailand.  The views are spectacular and the people are wonderful.  Language is not much of an issue because there are so many foreigners here that almost everyone speaks at least a little English.

Driving, however, is a bit of a challenge.  Because of the remote location of the marina, we really did need to rent a car long term.  Aside from driving on the “other side of the road”, the drivers here, many of whom do not have a valid driver’s license, take lots of liberties on the road.  Passing in both lanes (including the pedestrian lane), going the wrong way down a one way street, speeding (and I mean REALLY speeding!) and cutting you off are commonplace.  Most traffic laws are merely a “suggestion”, including traffic lights!  One day, we were stopped at a red light and a police officer came to the driver’s window and shouted “don’t stop, GO!!”.  Well, Ok……

The other issue is perceived liability on traffic accidents.  If I am in an accident, it is MY fault, regardless of the facts involved.  A judge here would be the first to tell you that if you had not been in Thailand, the accident would not have happened!!  Needless to say, I drive very carefully here.

I hope that we can accomplish all we have planned while being here such a short time.  Cruising the islands and doing some scuba diving is on the top of our list.  Stay tuned…..

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