Going off to new territory in our boat always gives me the willies. It must come from a deeply seeded fear of the unknown. We have enjoyed Thailand so much and it was a big commitment to have her shipped to our next destination, Marmaris, Turkey. I hope we made the right decision.
I think I mentioned before that we had taken Seabird on her own bottom from Connecticut (Northeast USA), to Florida, to the Virgin Islands, Trinidad, through the Panama Canal and on to Alaska, Siberia, Japan, the Philippines and ending up in Thailand. To have her put on a ship to Turkey was against everything that our adventure had stood for. We would have done it except for a small area called Somalia, where pirates have, in the past years, preyed upon ships and yachts, and in several instances, killing the yacht owners and crew. No thank you.
Two years ago they even captured a ship from Sevenstar filled with yachts like ours. My understanding is that they party unlike civilized people would, trashing everything on the boats and somehow forgetting that there were toilets aboard the yachts. Get the picture?
There were three votes in the decision: Mine, Carols and my insurance company. The vote was 3-0 in favor of shipping the boat with a yacht carrier, which we did.
We had shipped only once before, when we first purchased the boat and our choice of a shipper was disastrous as they proved to be unreliable. After much research and advice from friends, we chose Sevenstar Yacht Transport. Ken Williams on Sans Souci had used them a few years ago when the GSSR (Great Siberian Sushi Run) officially disbanded. He shipped from Hong Kong to Marmaris and told me that they were professional and reliable.
There are two types of yacht carriers. One, where they actually partially submerge the ship and you drive your boat into it, where they then secure you and then refloat the ship. Dockwise Yacht Transport uses this method and it would have been my preferred method, but they do not ship from Thailand currently.
The other method is to actually lift your boat with straps using a huge crane and cables, then placing her on the deck for transport. This is what we ended up doing along with 16 other pleasure boats.
We received a call from Sevenstar telling us that we would be loaded on the ship Thorco Svendborg
at 6am on March 16th. The ship was to be anchored about 15 miles from our marina in Phuket, Yacht Haven Marina. As the water is shallow at the marina at low tide, we had to pick the optimal tide to leave, which occurred on the 15th, at 2pm, then anchoring near the ship for the night.
At 7am, their representative called us and told us to head over to the ship, which was about a mile away. We hauled anchor and got about halfway to the ship when he called us again and told us to hold off for another hour. Frustrated, we circled the ship and headed toward the anchorage again. 15 minutes later, another call: “ok, we are ready for you to be loaded”. Huh….what happened to another hour? Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, we scooted over to the ship at a blazing 8 knots and pulled aside her. The bad news was that the waves started picking up to the point where we had a two foot chop and a strong current as we pulled up to the ship. A two foot chop is not much for Seabird normally but combined with the wind, current and occasional 3-4 footer…….
……..I knew that this was not going to be fun. First of all, they notified us that they did not have lines big enough for us, so Carol had to scramble to dig out our long 1 ½ inch emergency lines, which are cumbersome, stiff and 100 feet long. After she got the 8 to 10 fenders attached to the starboard side, we crept up to the ship. I will tell you that it was not easy to maintain position next to the ship in those conditions. We were bouncing a bit and moving all over the place, trying to keep Seabirds’ pristine freshly painted hull and superstructure six feet away from the “not so freshly painted” steel hull of the ship. Looking back, I am lucky that I did not rip the handle off of the bow thruster handle as well and the throttle and gear shift trying to stay in place. It was definitely a “pee in the pants” moment (which, by the way, for the record, I avoided, thank you).
After the boat was secured, they proceeded to maneuver the cranes in position with the straps attached.
Unfortunately, at that point, they made us get off the boat. With only two lines securing her, I was very uncomfortable leaving the boat as I was still being forced to maneuver the boat away from the ship until that point and nothing had changed. Fortunately, the wind changed slightly and the boat was kept away from the ship enough to avoid damage until the lifting began. It only took about 15 minutes to lift the boat into place but it seemed like 3 hours, filled with the boat swaying in the wind and scary creaking and moaning noises as Seabird protested the dangling in the air on the way to the deck.
After placing Seabird on some wooden blocks, they put in place steel supports under various sections of the hull and welded them to the deck of the ship. There was a big sigh of relief from us at that point.
As you can see from the photo below, the boats are jammed in fairly tightly. It is hard to believe it fit, but not in the photo is the last boat to be loaded, a 70 foot steel trawler that was placed 3 inches from Seabird’s port side! I asked the load master how they planned the space and they showed us a diagram that they created from AutoCAD, a computer program used by many engineers. They had the exact dimensions of every boat on the ship long prior to the loading to create the drawing. I am assuming they got ours from the manufacturer.
I felt a lot better once she was strapped into place and we were once again allowed on board to shut all systems down. In the previous days we spent time emptying all refrigerators and freezers, placing clear plastic wrap over the Dorades (wind scoops) on the deck and securing anything that might move during the passage. I had a three page list of items to do before we left her to the care of our shippers.
Just as I was starting to feel comfortable, I had a conversation with the captain of the ship:
Steven: Well, this is great. I am glad to be shipping with such experienced yacht shippers!
Captain: er, well, thanks, but this is the first time we have ever done this……
Here is the thing: Sevenstar ships a LOT of yachts, most on their own fleet of ships. Periodically, they need extra capacity and so they charter vessels, which is what they did here with the Thorco Svendborg. The most important part of the process is the loading and unloading, where they use their own magnificent “Load Masters” who fly in from Holland just to oversea and manage the loading and unloading. They REALLY take control of the process! They are strong personalities and rule the process with an iron fist. I was happy to have them around as they did a great job. I recommend Sevenstar without hesitation.
I had made a shutdown list, which was, believe it or not, over two pages long consisting of things to do right before we left the boat on the ship. All of the items were of great importance if we did not want to retrieve her three weeks later with dead batteries, foul smells in the boat or broken items. Basically, the boat had to be completely electrically dead. I chose to leave on the engine room fire suppression system. It did not use much power and I felt it was a safety issue. I also had to climb up the mast and cover the exhaust pipes. If it rained a lot during the trip, we needed to make sure water did not enter the pipes. Had that happened, the startup would have been ugly, with greasy soot covering our boat and anyone near us.
After an hour aboard, we bid her goodbye and boarded the small inflatable tender to be ferried ashore. After spending a few days at a hotel in Phuket, we boarded a flight for Istanbul, Turkey to begin the new adventure.
A happy Carol to be finished
Next: Arrival in Marmaris