The combination of low costs and skilled labor makes Southeast Asia is an appealing region for boat refits. Phithak Shipyard was all that and more. We learned a few things, and will give ourselves a few pats on the back- but there are a couple of things we'd change if we could do it again.
With 20/20 hindsight, what did we do right?
- Doing prep work before arrival (could never have met our timeline otherwise)
- Having materials we’d need on board (less left to chance, no delays in sourcing)
- Clear expectations set with the yard for timing and needs (they were conscious and helpful with our desire to meet a deadline)
- Advance orientation to Thai haul outs in general, and Satun in particular (thanks to great info from the crews of Larissa and Infini, and Yawarra’s helpful notes on Noonsite)
- Working alongside hired staff (good teamwork, any questions quickly resolved)
What would we do differently?
- Take greater advantage of the craftsmen available (even on a tight timeline, we could have taken on more work: we underestimated the skill set and machinery at the yard)
- Get a better understanding in advance of materials was available at the shipyard or in Satun (we could have ordered more appropriate bottom paint through them at a fair price)
We were told that there would be good services and skills available in Satun, but we didn't fully appreciate it until we were there. If we had, we would have tackled more projects, even on a short timeline. As it was we added in pulling our propeller shaft for a check and replacing the cutlass bearing, but other wish list projects that could have been coordinated include replacing the old water tanks (fine, but aging, and prudent to deal with before they are an issue), possibly stainless work, even upholstery- something we’ll have to do soon anyway.
fiberglass roving, available by the meter
Just how much of a bargain is hauling in Thailand? Every yard is different, but for a general comparison, it was eye opening to share notes on costs with a friend in Australia. PSS posts current rates on their web site: for Totem, at 47’, the haul was about $350 two way plus about $17/day. Our haul plus hardstand fees totalled around $485. By comparison, for a similarly sized boat, our friend in Oz quoted haul/splash at $537, plus a whopping $80/day to be on the hardstand- if you want a ladder, that’s another $17.80/day (the trestle planks are extra, too). Add in a few levies and fees, and the basics that were $485 in Satun would run over $1700 in Australia.
That's all before we got to any material costs or hired labor, but this only widens the gap. Shipyard labor in Australia was quoted to start at $68/hour and increase sharply from there. The Thai shipyard charges $19/day for sanding assistance to prep the bottom. Skilled labor is more, but not that much more.
Cruisers on a budget, this economy arbitrage helps us get things done. We go without when costs are high, and do what we can when they're affordable- whether it's work on the boat, or a dinner on shore. Are we taking advantage or bringing opportunity?
Whatever it is, we're enjoying the ride. Besides, a great experience at PSS was about far more than just being a good value.
It was the mix of interesting, friendly, and colorful personalities that inhabited the yard: as varied as their boats, from the traditional Polynesian modeled catamaran to a glossy power cruiser.
It was a pretty riverfront, hiding behind the dusty main road and the hulks of ships in the yard.
It was the yard dogs that the kids couldn't love up enough.
OK, me too...
It was being well looked after by the staff and management, from making sure our arrival went smoothly to sending us off with a bang, literally, as yard-supplied firecrackers were lit to scared bad spirits off Totem as we slid down the slipway rails to the river.
One of our readers recently pointed me to the blog of a family who is taking a year off to travel by caravan around Europe. One of the authors themes is the kindness of strangers, and reading it today, I realize how much of our great experience at PSS was built on that same theme: open kindness, given without expectation. From the guys who wouldn't let us pay for beers as we chewed the shipyard fat that first night, to the office staff who offered to loan me their motorcycles to run errands in town (I declined, I'm a menace on the road), to the yard manager who ran around town to source the material for our cutlass bearing, to the slices of life shared with a radiant smile by the Burmese woman who cleaned up under Totem.
And, yes, to a shiny new bottom and some very solid new through hulls.