Iva and I had decided to leave the boat in Phuket for a few months while we would spend sometime on land. We had to go to KL to make a few appearances related to Season 3 of The Apartment, the reality TV show we had won in 2012. We also wanted to edit a documentary about our trip to the Andamans and switch our blog to a self-hosted website with improvements to come. It seemed easier to do it on land, with unlimited access to power and a fast Internet connection. This was also an opportunity to spend some time promoting our website, in various publications, radio and TV shows. Then, in July we were going to head for Europe to celebrate my grandfather’s ninetieth birthday and visit my family and our friends for over a month. Dali had been afloat for a year and a half. These were all good reasons to lift the boat out of the water and give it a proper refit on our way back.
We were lucky enough to discover a new boatyard that just opened in the north of Phuket. There, we would be able to leave the boat out of the water for four to five months at a reasonable price.
This boatyard lies in the muddy passage at the northeast of Phuket. To enter, there is only a very small channel in between the mangrove trees. With Dali’s 1.85m draft, it is only possible to go through at very high tide, during three or four days, twice a month. We have no choice but to enter on the first of these days, since we have an obligation to be in KL the next day, with our flights already booked. The management of the boatyard tells me to enter at 10 am, when the tide is highest. Iva, Guy and I standby in front of the tiny channel, waiting for instructions to come in. But there is another boat before us. I call at 9:30, they tell me to wait. I call at 10:00, they tell me to keep on waiting. The tide’s going down, I tell them. It’s going to be fine, they answer. Finally at 10:40 the bow of the boat passes through two sad little sticks signaling the entrance. Pretty quickly we get stuck in the mud. I call for help, they take ages to come. The tide is still going down at an accelerating rate. A tiny dinghy with an 8hp engine comes and helps us push and pull, while I rev my engine to the max, nothing happens. A passing dinghy, this one with a 25hp engine starts pushing on the other side.
Finally we free ourselves from the mud. But as we exit and turn around we get stuck again. This time it’s even worse. My good friend Kosta, owner of Sheidegg and working on a powerboat nearby, comes with a large dinghy and a powerful engine. We try everything: tying a rope from the top of the mast to Kosta’s dinghy 100m away, to tilt Dali on it’s side and lift the keel over the mud, with Guy climbing to the tip of the boom to give the boat an even bigger angle. We push and we pull but there’s nothing to do. Dali is stuck in the mud for good. We’re not going to make it into the boatyard on that day.
Dali will have to spend the afternoon lying on it’s side, an usual sight that brings tears to Iva’s eyes, while Guy is trying to dig an exit way through the mud for the keel once the water will come back up. I’m not at my best, but have confidence in the strength of my 25mm. fiberglass hull. We’re just going to have to spend a very tilted afternoon. It feels strange to walk through the boat lying at a steady 45 degree angle. While gathering supplies from the inside, I fall many times, unsure of where to put my weight or hold on to. This is not how I wanted to spend my last afternoon on Dali.
The tide comes back with the dusk and slowly Dali starts floating again. What a sweet feeling to feel the boat moving with the tiny swell. We have dinner and wait for the tide to be highest, start the engine and anchor further away.
The next morning, again, is full of surprises. This time we are the first boat to come in, at high tide. This boatyard is a low budget one and there is no crane. It is a cradle that is placed under the boat and pulled out by a tractor. There is a little puddle of water where I have to wait while the staff places the cradle under the boat. As I enter, not a single staff member is there to catch my ropes!
I scream for help and even anchor in the small space trying to prevent the current from pushing Dali onto the rocks. Luckily Guy is on board with his two precious extra hands. We are able to guide the staff into catching our lines just in time before a crash, and to tie us up in a proper way. After a lot of screaming and sweating Dali is finally secure. It is now time to pull the cradle out of the water with the tractor.
Iva has never witnessed such an operation and loves the boat so much that she worries about it as if it were a child. But soon enough the worst is behind us, and Dali is finally resting safely on its stilts.
The next few hours are a blur. Guy, Iva and I go into frenzy mode so that we are able to prepare the boat for four months of loneliness in time to catch our flight. Somehow we manage.
Guy, you are obviously welcomed back on Dali anytime!