02 January, 2009

New Year in Phuket

Firstly, a Happy New Year to everyone. We hope that you all had a great festive season.

It has been an appallingly long time since we have updated the blog, so here we go…..

The last blog finished with us on our way to Penang. We both really like Penang, so we had another week there, doing a bit of sightseeing and shopping. Unfortunately the marina hasn’t got any better; there was still lots of rocking and rolling with all the ‘wash’ coming through from the ferry terminal right next door. Everyone sort of puts up with it though, as the marina is in a fantastic location, right on the doorstep of the centre of town.

After Penang we did a straight run through to Langkawi. As you can see, it was a hard trip for Shane!

Four days there were spent doing a bit of sightseeing, saying goodbye to friends we won’t see again as they are heading west, and also stopping up on duty-free refreshments!

We stopped at a couple of islands on our way north to Phuket – Ko Muk and Phi Phi Don. The islands were as beautiful as ever.

Then it was straight up to Phuket, and a booking we had at Ratanachai shipyard. Enzwell badly needed a paint, and we could no longer delay the inevitable…….

Ratanachai is a shipyard near Phuket town (the commercial part of Phuket, not where the tourists really hang out). The yard used to be solely for fishing boats, but has become popular for yachties over the last few years, as they were very reasonably priced. That was until this year, when they bumped their prices up 50 percent L . Unlike most modern shipyards – which lift boats out of the water using a travel-lift or sling – Ratanachai uses a frame on railway tracks. The railway track goes down in to the water, and the platform is put in to the water, under the boat, and then a strong steel pulley drags the platform out of the water, with Enzwell safely mounted in to place on the top.

As you can tell, the water near the entrance to the shipyard wasn’t overly clean (to put it mildly!). We watched from the boat, as yard employees jumped in the water to ensure that the frames on the side of the platform were correctly in place. They were just in their ordinary work clothes, and had basic breathing apparatus.

We don’t think this guy is long for this life……. He continued his nicotine fix right up until the eleventh hour, sucking away on his cigarette until the last available minute. The cigarette then got thrown in the water, he put on his mask, and was under ‘Enzwell’ diving in the swampy filthy water. Shane and I both decided – rather him than us!

And then the hard work began. We had five weeks until we were flying home to NZ for a visit, to get the boat painted and get it back in the water. We knew we should comfortably get the job done, but you never know in Thailand. Things happen – like the first day we were in the yard, another yachtie was complaining that workers hadn’t turned up for work. To which the reply from the yard supervisor was they were only doing half a day as it was ‘temple day’. Things like that just have to be factored in to the job….

The yard was like a trip back in time in some respects. All the workers clocked in. The ‘nearly start time’ siren went at 7.55 a.m., the ‘start’ siren went at 8 o’clock, and then again two hours later for smoko. The end of the day was at 5 pm, and when the siren went to signal that, there was a steady stream of workers heading out the yard gate. No overtime or extra work done here……

We had a few neighbours while we were in the yard. Roger Rat and his family were living in a nearby drain. We hadn’t even got the boat finally settled to it’s final place in our little part of the yard, when Roger stuck his head up from the drain to see what was going on…… Fortunately they decided their home in the drain was OK, and didn’t try to move on to Enzwell! There were quite a few rats in the yard, and also a few BIG cockroaches, so I always had my wits about me!

There was a lot of preparation work to be done before we could do the painting. Getting the old paint off, sanding, fairing, it all took time…. Just before we were about to start the painting, we had to get a big ten put up right around the boat, so that no over spray went on to nearby yachts.

This is what Enzwell looked like one she was ‘tented’. It was hot enough working on the boat before the tent went up, it was like a sauna with it! The temperature on the deck was over 45 degrees Celsius. The sweat was just dripping off us! The conditions were a bit trying, but as they say, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel as the job was not far off being done.

I had to leave Shane and the boat in the yard, and head home two weeks earlier than planned, as Mum passed away. In my absence, Shane got the work on the boat finished, and the boat was back in the water a week before he flew home.

Although the first part of my trip home was somewhat sad, we both had a good time in Wellington, catching up with friends. Shane was rapt to be in Wellington for the birth of his first grandchild Ethan.

On December 16th we were on the plane and heading back to Phuket, bringing a few goodies from NZ to enjoy back on the boat. We stayed in the marina for a couple of days to finish painting the deck, and then it was down to Panwa Bali at the south end of the island to celebrate my birthday.

Our Christmas Eve dinner was in a nearby bay – Nai Harn - with fellow Wellington Roger and Julie from the yacht ‘Tradition’.

The bay has a lovely big calm anchorage, and is a popular Christmas stopover for yachties.

Two nights later we went over to Tradition for dinner, and took over some of our ‘goodies’ – a pavlova all the way from NZ, topped with strawberries and whipped cream.

Every mouthful was savoured! All the sugar was a bit too much for Shane, who spent most of the next day in bed with a crook tummy…!

We headed around to Patong Beach for New Year. Patong is the tourist hub of Phuket, and is where all the bars and nightlife is. We had also heard that there was a great fireworks display at midnight.

We went ashore and had dinner, and then wandered down Bangla Road, the main area for nightlife. Past throbbing masses of tourists, jammed-packed bars, and lots of good-looking Thai ladies, who used to be men…….! A lot of the hotels put on beautiful dinners, and quite a few had beautiful ice carvings on display.

Later on in the evening, we headed down to Patong beach. The Thais have a tradition with lanterns, where you put all your worries and stresses in to the lantern, and float then float the lantern away, sending all your worries and stresses with it. It can be done either by sending your lantern in to the air, or floating it away on the sea.

These two lanterns are just about to be sent on their way. Hundreds and hundreds of these lanterns filled the sky on New Years Eve. It was quite a sight. We came back to Enzwell, and sat on the boat and watched the fireworks. There were fireworks going all night long, but the display at midnight was spectacular. Fireworks were going off not just in one place, but the whole length of the 2.5 kilometre beach!

And so to 2009. We are, as they say, “swallowing the anchor”, and the boat is on the market. We have enjoyed our travels around Australia and Asia, but late March will see us return to Wellington and head back to work. Hopefully we’ll get at least one more blog done, updating on our travels around Thai waters before we head home!

Heather and Shane

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great reading thanks, Heather and Shane, but what's this about swallowing the anchor? You haven't run out of that 'super' payout yet,I hope. It'll be a bit hard joining the workforce again but at least you'll be working in manageable temperatures. I think I would die in 45 degrees especially with high humidity!!
Anyhow, great reading, as I say, and may there be at least 1-2-3 more write ups!! Cheers and Beers to you both. The Pianoman (that used to be)