Saturday, May 21, 2011

More Boat Babble

Where else can you have dinner with intelligent, charming, well traveled, multinational, like minded friends and enjoy table conversation centered around the many faults associated with Fischer/ Panda gensets versus the virtues of the mighty Honda 2000? Where else but Boat Lagoon, Phuket, Thailand can you whine about, cry over or heap praise on  carpenters, painters, machinists, electricians, mechanics, inflatable boat repair persons, outboard shops, electronics shops, banks, grocers, patisseries, hotel staff, internet service, restauranteurs,  fork lift drivers and massage girls. Well, there may be a couple places but none to compare. As the case may be it can be educational, enlightening, frustrating, infuriating or pretty darn boring around this place but there's usually at least one event a day worth remembering. Lunch or dinner with the yachtie group is always a good thing.


Our boat is coming along very well. The 'eyebrow' type biminy is done and looks very good. The upholstery work is underway and should be done soon. It won't be installed until the other work is completed and the boat is cleaned. The old galley tile, sinks and fixtures have been removed. We're waiting for the new custom sink to be fabricated before the installation of the new counter material begins. The big job, the teak decks, is proceeding rapidly. As of today only the anchor locker hatch and a couple small areas aft the turning blocks have not yet been covered. And a large area of the decks has received a first caulking.

The process, even after the teak is down, involves a tremendous amount of hand work. Most of the boards are routed before installation so there are grooves between the boards but then the grooves, each and every inch, are gone over with a draw knife to remove adhesive and even the edges. All the straight grooves are gone over again with a hand router. Then the interior of each groove is sanded by hand with course sand paper wrapped around a hack saw blade.  Everything with sharper curves is grooved again by Phon himself with a wood chisel and sanded by hand. All grooves are exactly 4mm in width.
Areas where planks which are curved in three dimensions come together with other planks which are curved in at least two separate dimensions call for a little art and Phon is certainly an artist in teak. He brings things together very well. After the grooves are smoothed and trimmed each is primed and then Sikaflex caulk is applied with caulking guns. This goes on thick and heavy with little need for neatness because the next step is to sand it all down a millimeter and that will remove the slop.

Then the grooves are re-caulked. Phon will go over everything  very carefully with a wood chisel and sand paper and then it will receive a final millimeter of sanding. The final decks will be 12 mm thick. If it's as good as other work I've seen him finish off it will be a thing of beauty. I really kind of hate the idea of reinstalling  deck hardware over some of the loveliest areas of carpentry.  Oh well.

The immediate plan is for Janet to arrive the 5th of June. "D Day" eve. I've used her as the hammer to pressure people to get the job done by then. I'm the nice guy but I tell the contractors that if things aren't done by her arrival WE are in the hurt locker. Phon smiles and his wife, who works on the boat every day, speaks some English and is a kick, laughs and lays a little Thai abuse on everyone. Basically telling us we better  have the boat  ready for 'madame'.
Nuie, Phon's wife.

People have asked about the long term plan. We will cruise this area of SE Asia this summer and do some land travel up into Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam. We'll come home again in October and probably leave the boat in Langkawi, Malaysia. Come early next year the plan is to sail across the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and up the Red Sea and be in the Mediterranean by early summer. We'll see how it goes.

Love to all,
Bill & Janet
SV Airstream

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Can Watch These Guys Work All Day

Give them enough epoxy and some wedges and they'll glue  the world!

That the should be the motto of Phon Carpentering. What Phon and the crew can't do with teak, Sikaflex, some epoxy, a hammer and a wood chisel just doesn't need to be done. True, they use plenty of power tools. They have a power planer and  hand router and some Skil saws and electric drills and saber saws. But the real art in this job is the wood chisel and wedges. The dirty little secret weapon is Super Glue used here and there to hold things in place temporarily.

So allow me to explain the process as it is proceeding. There are a lot of things I'm still wondering about. As in, "Why do they do that?" . But all things are revealed as progress is made. It's probably best that Phon has not much English and I have a lot less Thai. I'm not bugging him with stupid questions. They seem to know exactly what they're doing.

After the deck hardware and the old teak decks were removed they glued down 1"X 2" wooden strips a few inches long all along the deck perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the boat. Then additional one by twos are screwed to the glued down strips so they can be rotated around. The deck area next to be covered with teak is thoroughly cleaned and then wiped with acetone, then Sikaflex primer and allowed to dry. Then Sikaflex adhesive is spread.

In the meantime the teak planks for the decking have been sawed out of teak boards and planed to exact dimension. They're one and half inches wide by 14mm thick. Except the ones that are two inches wide for trim. And that's the way the Thai's measure. They use a mixture of metric and Imperial as they feel is convenient. 

The teak is all high quality, dense and straight grained. People have asked whether it's 'plantation grown' or 'Burmese' teak and the answer is, it's from Myanmar, (Burma) wild, center cut teak.  Phon had rejected two different loads of teak before the job started and nothing which isn't really good is going on the boat. So every board is carefully prepped and matched with it's neighbors before being put into position on deck.

Of course the deck is curved both longitudinally and vertically. There are no straight lines. So the boards are bent into place and forced down onto the adhesive and the deck by wedges driven around the wood strips on the deck and the boat structures. 

If things are stubborn they're levered into place with a wood chisel and a hammer and secured with more wedges. It becomes very precise and a few taps here and there on the hundreds of wedges and the boards are beautifully aligned.

So that's what I've seen and  understand so far. I've got some questions about how it's all going to come together and how some curves will be merged into other curves. I'm kind of along for the ride and enjoying the show. I have a good feeling about what will become the finished product.

The stainless steel work for the new biminy is done and we'll have a final fitting tomorrow. The new upholstery is selected and ordered. The galley counter tops and fittings will be a Corian type product called "Lucrite" (not lucite) and the faucets, etc, will be brushed 304 stainless from VRH.

The hope is to get all this stuff completed by the first of June. Life here is OK. Phuket is not my cuppa tea. At least not what I've seen. But I had to make a visa run to Myanmar which was interesting and put another stamp in my passport. Two weeks later I made the major visa run down to Penang and enjoyed seeing Tim and Ruthie of "Victory Cat" for a couple evenings. Now my Thai visa should be good until late August. Don't ask about the Thai visa rules unless you really need to know. For a nice country they've got some weird ideas about visa regulation.

All the best to everyone. I hope this teak installation process isn't too boring to read about. It's pretty darn interesting to watch. Unless I hear, "Stop! Enough! No more!" I'll keep you updated.

Love to all,
Bill & Janet