CHANGES the cultural gap took things south. After fiberglassing a hull, you trowel on a thick mixture of epoxy and fillers, and after it hardens, carefully sand it to a smooth surface. Migration is an old boat made of plywood and fiberglass, so she never looked like a boat out of a mold — nor did we want her to. However, the Thai contractors and workers are enamored with things that look smooth and shiny as opposed to being strong. So no matter how many times we said, "Too much filler!", we got the same reply: "Don't worry, boss, we sand it off." But they didn't sand it off, so it kept building up thicker and thicker. Not wanting a heavy and brittle hull finish, after weeks of arguing we called in a Thai friend who is also a contractor. She arranged a meeting with our contractor and explained the situation. "What do you want me to do?" he asked. "Sand it off," we replied. And they did. But overall, it was a waste of materials and several weeks of work. Oh, the little things that set so much in motion! Just as we were finishing the topsides, I decided I'd better investigate some peeling paint in the engine room. When I bought Migration in 1991, I found a leak in one of her two diesel tanks. I ended up removing one tank and replacing the other. She never smelled like diesel, so I thought everything was fine. We had found some diesel-smelling wood in the keel when we refiberglassed it in Mexico in 2007, but we sealed it and thought no more of it. Until one day on the hard in Thailand. The wood we tore out of Migration's hull was not rotten, and only some of it was damp. What we think happened is that the diesel had slowly migrated through the plywood, destroying the glue and delaminating the ply. We peeled lay-
It's an expensive and time-consuming bummer when your reﬁt has to be interrupted to rebuild much of one of the hulls. But it had to be done.
er after layer away until 80% of the main hull below the waterline was simply gone! Only frames and stringers remained. Luckily these frames are made of solid wood and most were in good shape. But we were not happy, as it was the rainy season and we needed to make sure the rest of the hull was dry and didn't absorb water from the humid air before we started rebuilding. So every night we baked Migration's underside with hot halogen lights. In our opinion, Thai food is the best thing about Thailand. After all those years of fairly mediocre cuisine in Central America, the South Pacific islands, and New Zealand, Thailand was food heaven. The food was exquisite, and the best of it often came from very inexpensive street vendors or local restaurants. One of the unexpected advantages of our hauling out at Ao Po was the nearby Hareefeen Restaurant. There were very few restaurants in our area, but we didn’t need anything besides Hareefeen. We ate there nearly every day. After about three weeks, we'd eaten everything on the menu. So we had a Thai friend tell Pon, the owner who spoke no English, she could make whatever she wanted for us. Even after two years she occasionally surprised us with new dishes. Pon was happy to expose us to interesting foods, and we were more than happy to eat them. Soups made of flowers; salads with tiny dried fish; noodles with curry sauce and served with five different raw vegetables, none of which we’d ever seen before. We spent so much time at Pon's that we'd help her out by serving water or passing out menus when she was busy. Half the Thai economy must be driven by street food. Everywhere there are stands and sam-loh stalls (moveable food carts built on a motorbike with a sidecar) selling food and drink. One of our all-time favorite meals in Thailand came from four different vendors. We don't love all Thai food. Thais are very fond of food on sticks — hot doggy-things, fish balls and squid — which are not to our taste. We tried the crickets, but abstained from the worms and grubs. The local markets are full of familiar and unfamiliar foods, and most of it is very inexpensive. Back to the boat. The
single diesel tank I installed to replace the original leaking one was now 20 years old. Since the boat was completely torn apart, it made sense to replace it. We designed a new one and had it fabricated. Then it was time to replank the hulls. With many hands helping, we fiberglassed the new planking and added a couple of coats of clear epoxy and a sealing barrier coat. The unexpected hull project — ripping apart the hull, drying everything, framing, planking, fiberglassing and barrier coats — took over three months, including many rain delays. But finally it was finished, so we moved on to the original project list. Dealing with the Thai workers was rarely easy. They spoke no English and monitoring their work was essential. Getting them to do things our way — "strong is more important than pretty" — on any given day was no guarantee that things would be done that way the next day. It was extremely frustrating. Still, we liked many of the workers.
The June 2016 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.