Ko Muk is the epitome of a dream tropical island. Palm trees, white sandy beaches, friendly locals. There are plenty of worse place to get stuck with major boat maintenance issues....the epitome of a dream tropical island. Palm trees, white sandy beaches, friendly locals. Click To Tweet
Ko Muk’s Boatman to the rescue
The drive shaft (which makes the engine turn the propeller which makes the boat move, to dumb it down if you don’t think like an engineer, dear), was kaput. We were at the wrong end of the sailing season so couldn’t rely on the wind to get us to our destination of Phuket.
We had to replace the drive shaft. A major job normally done when boats are out of the water. Not an option on the tiny paradise island of Ko Muk. What to do?
Boatman runs a longtail shuttle and charter service for the Sivalai five star resort. His friend Chai, came with him to look at our drive shaft to see if they could help fix it (it was always terminal) and decided we could take the drive shaft out, in the water, and get a replacement made in one day over on the mainland at Kantang.
Our much loved interpreter
We negotiated through one of the receptionists at the resort. (“Just call me Tammy, it’ll be easier for you than my Thai name”). Boatman insisted Tammy join us on Yana when he checked things out because he speaks no English. Tammy, now our much loved interpreter, told her manager she needed to spend the afternoon on our boat. (“These people come from the sea, we have to help them”). She is the ultimate compassionate Buddhist.Click To Tweet
Success number one
So Boatman and Chai freedived on Yana and took the shaft out that afternoon. Not exactly easy, but all done with lovely light humour and a lot of struggling on Tammy’s part to translate the names of the tools they were asking for during cigarette breaks between dives.
We ended up with wooden bungs in place of the of the broken drive shaft. Success number one.
The next day Boatman took me in his longtail to the pier on the mainland and Chai and I hired a driver to take us to Kantang, then Trang. It seemed we could get the replacement drive shaft made in Kantang.
I did my best at talking them into making a “copy” which I wanted, not a “fix” which they also talked about. I knew I definitely didn’t want a fix. (Think potential for broken welding as in the premise of The Finest Hours movie.)
Not that I know much about these things, I just took the calipers so I would look like I knew what was going on. (Pretend to look like an engineer, dear.) Unfortunately there was no stainless 30mm rod to be found. Anywhere. Not even the larger town of Trang. Verdict: only available in Phuket.
Success number two
Meanwhile the Chief Engineer (AKA The Other Captain) was manning the bilge pump, not letting Yana out of sight.
I was resigned to taking the six hour bus ride to Phuket the next day, perhaps staying overnight, when another of Boatman’s friends, Braxsir (“Just call me Sir”) offered to drive me to Phuket, pick up the “spare part” and be back on Ko Muk in one day. Stuff the 6000 baht ($200) expense I thought, and yes I said – pick me up at 6:00 am and we’ll do it.
Now that road trip was an adventure in itself, and it was success number two. I talked a manufacturing operation into selling me the stainless steel bar we needed. Yay.
The Chief Engineer spent the day working the bilge pump, not letting Yana out of sight.
Success number three
I set off again in the longtail with my new driver to pick up the drive shaft “copy” in Kantang the next afternoon. Success number three! The Chief Engineer was getting a bit stir crazy by then, what with me off gallivanting all over the country with the Thai boys, and him getting rather bored with the bilge pump.
Anyway, the new shaft was installed. It didn’t leak and appeared to work fine. It cost 4000 baht for the stainless steel rod and precision engineering. I spent another 13,000 in transport to get it to Ko Muk, go figure.
Boatman absolutely refused payment. He said, through Tammy, he’d never worked on a boat like ours and did it for curiosity and pleasure. We plied him with gifts of cigarettes, whiskey, stainless steel bolts and simple heartfelt gratitude.
The Chief Engineer was delighted not to be manning the bilge pump anymore.
We celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary with cocktails and the most expensive item on the menu for dinner at the Sivalai Resort. Our TripAdvisor review might have gone something like “Strange Pina Coladas, Weird Barracuda”. But we were still thrilled to be leaving the next day.
Then we discovered why the drive shaft had failed in the first place: a broken engine mount bolt.
Read how our adventure continued in Still Stranded in Paradise.