Warning! Technically Bloated Blog –Do not read any further if you don’t like this stuff!
Seriously, MOST of my blogs have been about our travels, sea conditions, local customs etc. I had to do this one because it took up nearly 4 months of our life abroad – and it IS boat related……
In my last blog (just last week) I mentioned at the end that we had decided to spend a few more months in Thailand to give the “old” Seabird a face lift of sorts. As with any project, we started last December by fixing our faded grey hull. We painted it with Awlgrip paint, which is a super hard, ultra glossy paint designed to last for many years. Unfortunately, when completed, the rest of the boat started looking a bit worn, which is understandable as she is nearly 15 years old and has almost 40,000 ocean miles under her keel.
We had been here nearly six months and we knew who the good guys were and who to stay away from. We received two bids for the project and chose Phuket Interwood Working Company, a firm based at Boat Lagoon here in Phuket and known for their superior woodworking capabilities. A little known secret is that they also do painting and from what I have heard from other customers, they do a GREAT job at that too. The owners, Nai and Toe, are a great team. Toe is an incredible carpenter and his wife, Nai, runs the show. In Thailand, it is not easy for a woman to be in that position, and she has earned it, along with a tremendous amount of respect from employees, customers and competitors. I enjoyed working with her. She is very honest and her word is like gold. It was a pleasure to work with her and her crew
They started the project the day after we were hauled at Boat Lagoon. The first thing they did was to remove all existing hardware from the boat including antennas, mounts, cleats, hawse pipes, rails, and most importantly, the dry exhaust stack, which I will get to later.
In April thru the summer months, it is the Southeast Monsoon, which means lots of rain. How they planned to paint outside during that time was a mystery to me, but they do it all the time. They start with a frame and cover over the boat.
We had also, as part of the contract, had the bottom stripped of all paint. It had never been done since new and it was due. In addition, the paint that was put on the bottom in Hong Kong just two years before was blistering and coming off.
Teak Decks Replacement
The teak deck on the lower level was getting thin in spots and also lifting off of the fiberglass. It looked ok, albeit very grainy, when clean, but the time had come and this is somewhat of a specialty with our contractor. Here is before, during and after:
The pictures do not do it justice. The carpenters were meticulous in their work and so worth having it done. I envisioned the boat at this point with the new paint complimenting the new decks. It would have been a shame not to do both!
The Ceiling project
I recalled the last time we painted a different boat, our Hatteras, in 1999. It seemed that the longer the project went on, the more the “little things” stood out. For instance, any rusty or corroded hardware that was there would stick out like a sore thumb after the paint job. I had anticipated that and almost all of it either polished or replaced during the project this time. One day I looked overhead and stuck my finger in the hole where one of the ceiling lights outside had been removed. I felt soft wood underneath the fiberglass. Damn….! Okay, since we could not in good conscience simply paint over that, I asked Nai to replace the entire ceiling outside on the lower deck.
After the old ceiling was removed
The new wood installed was all epoxied before installation and new fiberglass was installed over that. In addition, we found the original leak that caused it inside a cabinet and repaired that also.
Finished prior to fiberglassing and paint
.Dry exhaust system repair
On Seabird, unlike most power cruisers but very common in Nordhavns, we have a dry exhaust system, similar to what you would find on most commercial diesel trucks. As long as we were having it removed for the project (see pics above) I thought it prudent to have it completely disassembled and checked for cracks by Flourescent Penetrant Inspection. Removing the exhaust assembly is a major project requiring a crane, which is why it is not done very often. It would have been just plain silly not to do the inspection since it was off the boat already. The other issue is that we had a nagging leak that required an extensive repair at the joining of the pipe from the engine room to the upper deck. It could not be done unless it was off of the boat.
Stack prior to repair
Stack after repair (and painting!)
The two pipes had been joined by basically a huge wide hose clamp, which you can see the remains of in the first picture. The correct way to do it was to install a flange as you see in the second picture with proper gaskets in between the flanges joining each other. In Phuket, when you have a project like this, virtually EVERYONE recommends only one company, Luck Engineering, which is who we chose and they did a very good job.
We needed a place to store all of the hardware, fenders and other items removed from the boat. Seabird was sitting on land at Hardstand #51, so when I went to the office to rent a small shed, they gave me a key which opened a 10 x10 foot room. On the door it said “51” and after I looked inside I felt it appropriate to name it Area 51 because it looked like it could contain all kinds of alien critters, earthborn and otherwise.
The actual area 51 at Boat Lagoon
The Actual Area 51
Lewmar hatch repair
All that was left to do was to remove the 14 Lewmar hatches on the boat and they could begin sanding and grinding. We sent them over to Nai’s shop, where they commenced to replace all of the lexan inserts, as the old ones were faded and crazed. They come up with unique ways of doing stuff like holding the lexan down with rocks while the glue dries.
Now the fun began in earnest. For the better part of three months, the boat was engulfed in a constant cloud of sanding dust. We had as many as 20 people working on the boat at the same time. It became kind of amusing for Carol and me every morning, when we arrived at the marina. The boat was shrouded with canvas so you could not see who was on the boat. You could, however, count the number of pairs of shoes at the base of the ladder. No one was allowed on board with shoes on during the project.
While we were happy with the functionality of the boat, there was one area that was a constant irritation to us: the non skid portion of the deck. It was molded into the deck and was SO aggressive that it would hurt your feet stand on it and all but impossible to kneel on it. With bare feet, it felt like you were walking across semi dull broken glass. I guess the purpose was to insure that you would not slip in wet weather, but I think Nordhavn went overboard on it. I noticed that they never used it again on subsequent models. Dan Streech, president of Nordhavn, recommended that we simply “defang” it, as he put it. That would involve sanding about half of the 1/8” high teeth off of the deck and simply paint it. It sounded like a good idea, however, we also had some gelcoat cracks to deal with and some chipped “fangs” so we decided to sand it all the way off and paint it with Griptex, a course, sand-like product that you mix in with the paint before spraying it on. I liked the way it came out (see below).
During the masking process, the boy’s used some plastic sheet, which I convinced some people was our new “50’s style diner” look on the bow.
The Diner look
The Finished Product
After what seemed like forever, the boat was ready to paint. It took over three months to prepare it and only a few days to paint it. The transformation was startling. Once they pulled the wraps off, we were looking at a virually new boat. Every crack, ding and gouge was gone. The formerly black exhaust stack was now white as were the flopper stopper rigs. The hardware looked shiny and new. We ended up replacing every single exterior light including Navigation lights, courtesy lights and overhead lightswith new LED fixtures. It made a huge difference in how the boat looked. The pictures do not do it justice .
The last item was the bottom paint. Bottom paint in Thailand, because of shipping costs and taxes, is about double the US prices. In addition, when you are traveling in other parts of the world, it seems that you can never get the same paint, or even a compatible paint to match your old bottom paint. I was looking for a more permanent solution. I think I found it in a product called CopperCoat. It is a water based epoxy base with 95% copper powder that you mix in just prior to painting. It can be put on a bottom ONLY after all other anti fouling paints have been removed. You put 5 coats on. After much research and communicating with a dozen or so users, I decided to go with the product. It is legal nearly everywhere and, get this, it lasts from between 12 and 15 years! The entire project cost approximately 20% more than with conventional paint, but well worth it. You cannot, however, be fussy about the color as it comes in only one – Copper.
This was a long, and at times, frustrating project. Carol and I were there every day for the better part of four months. It is a complex project, and much can get lost in the translation because of us being in a foreign country. I think that Nai was very happy to have us there. She had lots of questions and so did we. In the end, it came out just beautiful. I recommend her company without hesitation. I should also mention that she installed all new granite counters in the galley and shower compartments while repairing localized cracking in the shower floors. She is also currently installing a new TV lift for our new, larger “smart TV” as well as redoing the adjacent woodwork to make it all fit right.
Some of you may recall that we had an overheating dry exhaust problem. I am happy to report that between the great work that Craig’s company (C&C Marine) did to fix the engine problem and a flawless CopperCoat bottom along with Propspeed propeller coating, my exhaust temp is nearly 50 degrees under what the manufacturer recommends!
So…our season ends here. In November, we plan on returning to Phuket for another cruising season. There are still a lot of places that we have not seen yet, and the places we have seen need more visiting!
We still need to make some decisions about what to do in the springtime. We have lots of choices but we have to decide “do we want to be warm, or do we want to be cold?” When we decide, you will be among the first to know!
More Misc pics
parking lot around our boat at high tide!
Another high tide pic!
Wing steering station preparing for paint