A couple weeks in the boatyard and around Langkawi

After a little over a week back in Singapore to rest and work after reaching Langkawi, I flew back up for a couple weeks to spend some time working on the boat.  It was really busy with lots of things underway and accomplished.  We took quite a few photos; here are some.

When I left for Singapore (in a hurry) the boat was on stands right next to the wharf.  It had since been Travelifted into the yard with all the other boats:

Here’s a partial overview of the boatyard — it’s packed pretty tight, with quite a number of steel boats (mostly European):

While I was in Singapore, the engineer, Pete — an Australian — had gotten right down to business with the repower job.  By the time I got back to the boat he’d already dismantled the old engine and moved it out into the cockpit, and started cleaning up the bilge.  First thing I saw when I climbed aboard in the yard:

Actually, just as I was arriving some of the yard workers were finishing cutting the old cockpit roof off and tossing it over the side.  That left things pretty open:

Barry, the South African who owns the yard, had left a little more material behind than I was originally intending.  I’d originally planned to scrap the panel with the two crappy little “tank windows” and just leave a small lip to keep out the rain.  He had some interesting alternative ideas and ran them by me.  The plan has now morphed to replacing the little tank windows with big slabs of polycarbonate (I’ve got lots) for maximum visibility; then extending the roof at the original height back a foot or two to protect the helm.  No extra support will be needed to do that.  Then he’ll make me a nice bimini frame to fold forward from my solar panel rack, at pretty much the same height as the hard roof.  I spoke to a canvas maker named Wendy who will be making the bimini top, along with some removable flaps similar in some ways to what I had before so the entire cockpit can be enclosed in colder climates.

It actually didn’t take long at all to get used to the missing roof.  I think it looks a lot better:

Inside the boat the bilge was empty and pretty ugly looking, and the galley was slightly dismantled to improve access:

The prop shaft was in pretty good shape:

The old engine, less so:

The first day there was mostly spent taking stock of the boat and the yard, and cleaning up some of the mess I left when I had rushed off.  I had a really crappy rental car, an old Proton, and stayed in a decent little hotel in Kuah — the boat was not in a very livable state.

The new engine was still in its shipping crate in the yard.  We opened it up and it was lovely:

The yard used a crane to lift the old engine out of the cockpit and the new engine into it.  Here’s the tired old 4-107 flying through the air and actually not looking too shabby.  One of the more prominent features on this specific engine is the custom-built aft engine mounts; you can see they had the transmission sitting well below the engine bearers.  In fact the installation was so tight the starter motor had been resting on the actual hull.  Pete pointed out that my gearbox failure en route to Langkawi was caused by a sheared part in the gearbox flange — nothing I could have dealt with (or even really diagnosed) at sea.

The shiny new Beta 38 traded places with the 4-107.  The most obvious physical difference between the two engines is the size of the gearbox.  The old Paragon P-220 was really long and narrow; the new TMC-60P is a lot shorter but a bit fatter.  This made the installation fairly difficult and in the end, the engine needed to rest forward a bit, and required a new prop shaft since the old one was too short.

Before we moved the Beta 38 down to the engine bed I had one of the yard workers (who are all much smaller guys than I) crawl down in the bilge and give it a thorough cleaning with paint thinner, bilge cleaner, etc.

Then I had him sand and lay on a couple coats of chemical and fuel resistant paint.  There was no bright white available so I opted for a light grey.  What a difference some new paint makes (here after most of the first coat):

The old engine was down on the ground and in semi-decent shape, aside from the gearbox, a newly broken fuel line, and a few other minor things:

Within a couple days one of the yard workers approached me and asked for a price for the engine; he wanted to fix it up and sell it for use in a fishing boat.  In the end I sold it to him for US$800 cash and he and some buddies loaded it up into a truck.  Ciao, 4-107: you were a good engine.

While Pete worked on the engine installation I tackled a zillion other tasks.

I dumped all my anchor chain out of the chain locker and measured it.  Turns out it was 90m with markings every 15m, not every 10m as I’d guessed, so all along I’ve been letting out way more chain than necessary.  I cleaned the chain and repainted all the markings:

I also put some cable ties on each marking to indicate length; these work pretty well and don’t interfere with (or break because of) the windlass:

On my way out the other day I did notice a few weak links in the chain; will probably have to remove them and join with some connecting links.

I also worked on putting together a nice plexiglass cover for the electrical panel.  One of the unanticipated side effects of relocating the switch panel to the front of the electrical cabinet has been that when you lean over to grab stuff from the top-loading fridge, you tend to bump into electrical switches.  Not so great when you inadvertently switch off the autopilot.  I glued up, filed, sanded, and varnished some nice teak standoffs, got a 4mm piece of acrylic cut, and installed it all with some nice SS hinges and a latch.  Works great.

One of the two remaining old hatches in the boat (both in the dodger) had been leaking.  The acrylic had come unsealed and unseated.  Doug had repaired the other dodger hatch, which had a similar issue, about a year ago.  I’m getting pretty good with sealant, so I was able to repair this one in about 10 minutes.  I realized in making the electrical panel cover that acrylic is really cheap, so maybe one of these days I’ll remove the (horribly crazed and mostly opaque) glass again from these two old hatches and put some new glass in.

I went back to Singapore for a couple days for work.  Luckily flights are cheap.

At the boatyard, Charlene conquered the precarious boarding ladder to come take a look at the new engine (which was dangling from a chain block in midair at the time):

She wasn’t quite as impressed with the state of the cabin:

And she waited patiently while I failed at repairing the bilge pump pressure switch.  That engine compartment is pretty tight:

During the weekend we moved from Kuah to a new hotel in Cenang Beach, which is a bit more touristy and hence has more stuff to do, and we took some time to do a little sightseeing around Langkawi together.  I’ve been back and forth to Langkawi a bunch of times, but I’ve always been busy with boat stuff, so it was nice to take some time to see the island.

I’d gotten a new rental car — a Perodua Myvi, which seems kind of like a pseudo-ripoff of the Mini Cooper but was actually quite nice — and within a few days we covered most of the roads in Langkawi.

One of my favorite things we did was go for a ride in the Langkawi cable car.  Langkawi is a very vertical island.  The cable car ascends the highest peak, Gunung Machincang, which rises to 2300 ft just a couple kilometers from the ocean.  There are great views all around of Langkawi, the Andaman Sea, and on a clear day, Thailand to the north.

Here’s my lovely fiancée atop Gunung Machincang:

From the peak we had a nice view of the anchorage outside Telaga Harbour, the marina where I first took possession of Oia.  It’s pretty full — peak season in Langkawi and Phuket is underway.

Here I am enjoying the view from the cable car:

There’s a precarious looking suspension bridge between a couple of the peaks, up in the clouds:

We enjoyed a refreshing beverage at the top of Gunung Machincang:

And then we marched across the bridge:

Back at sea level, we ran across a rabbit farm.  MYR 1 (US$0.31) to feed the rabbits was a no-brainer:

They seemed to like me kind of a lot:

Langkawi is pretty tropical.  There are a lot of coconut trees:

We watched a worker shimmy his way up to the top of one, no rope, occasionally hacking out a foothold with a machete, to harvest some coconuts.  North of Cenang, near the airport, we came across a quiet little beach with a few small laksa stands and locals lounging around.  The laksa was so-so — kind of fishy — but the setting sure was nice.

The little old lady running the laksa stand was really skillful in hacking apart a coconut for us with a heavy sharp knife — very instructive, and very tasty.

Langkawi is a duty free island and there are tons of duty free shops all over the place.  The big product categories: alcohol, kitchenware, and chocolate.

But instead of visiting the duty free shops, which are all the same, it’s a lot more fun to track down the daily night market, which is in a different spot on the island every night.  It’s mostly full of street food, really cheap and decently good.  You can put a pretty big meal together for about US$2-5.  On a rainy day, like the night we visited the market in Kedawang near Cenang, the market is kind of a sloppy, muddy affair — but still busy and fun.

Back at the boatyard, where half our time was still being spent, lots of stuff was underway.  The yard began preparing the topsides, filleting out scratches for fairing, and sanding the paint to prepare for overcoating.

Once that was done, the next step was some fairing, then masking and spraying on some epoxy primer.

The guys spent a day or two wet sanding the epoxy to a smooth finish.  On our way out Sunday, they were in the middle of spraying on three coats of topcoat.  I went with CMP, a Japanese brand, for all the paint and epoxy for this refit.  It’s at least as good as International or Awlgrip (paint) and West System (epoxies), and has a great reputation, but is quite a bit cheaper since it’s sold mainly to the shipping industry rather than to the yachting crowd.

Barry just sent me a couple photos today of the finished and polished topsides, which look great:

The next big paint job will be the deck, including some nice gritty nonskid; but first a bunch of glasswork needs to get done.  The antifouling is actually still in decent shape so we’ll do that last, cleaning up the surface and then just painting on one or two new coats.

While all that was going on I was working on some smaller tasks.  I removed all the old solar panels and got a welder to grind off some of the mounting tabs and re-weld them to fit the new panels; then got the new panels all wired up.  They’re working well so far.

I also dismantled the old pedestal guard, drilled and epoxy-sealed a through-deck hole to run wiring, and mounted the new pedestal guard I’d had fabricated in Singapore.  Forgot to get a photo of that.  The hardest part of the job was running all the chartplotter wiring — mostly data cables with fat connectors, so I had to cut the cables, run them through, and re-solder all the conductors.  I still have one more to go — a VHF remote mic I just picked up in Singapore — before I can reseal and bolt down the pedestal guard.

I handed off all my teak to the yard’s carpenter, who is pretty well equipped and will make a nice finger-jointed enclosure for the chartplotter.  I was struggling to make any progress on that myself.  Some of the rest of the teak will go toward steps on a new folding boarding ladder.

I took stock of my deck level nav lights, which are really power hungry, to see if I could convert them to LEDs like I did with the anchor and tricolor lights.  I found the fittings — from Peters+Bey — were in pretty bad shape, so I’ll probably just replace them with all-new LED lights.

I also brought the outboard to the local Mercury shop for general servicing.  That entailed a fun drive out to a little kampung well away from town.  Turns out I had been right in my fuel leak diagnosis originally: the fuel tank was cracked and leaking.  They ordered a new one for me and now the outboard’s in good shape.

I spent an hour or two with my head in the chain locker.  Since the chain was out it seemed like a good opportunity to clean up, and I scooped out a bunch of dried up mud.  I also better cable-tied some of the windlass wiring.  One of the projects I had been pondering was installing a strong point in the chain locker for the bitter end of the anchor rode.  Right now, there’s a length of nylon bent on to the end of the rode, and spliced around a chunk of teak, which acts as a shock absorber and stopper to keep the bitter end from running out.  The teak and nylon were actually in better shape than I remembered and don’t need replacement.  Since this is generally accepted as a kosher way to secure the bitter end, and I don’t have anywhere except a bulkhead that goes through to the V-berth (right where my head usually rests when I’m sleeping there) to attach a strong point, I think I’m going to stick with it for now.

Meanwhile, Pete got the new engine down in the engine bed and started fitting it to the bearers.

After some tweaking he ended up fabricating some new mounts in his shop.  He gave them to me to paint fire-engine red with some Hammerite:

As I mentioned before, the new gearbox was a lot shorter than the old one and there was no good way to place the engine such that the old prop shaft was long enough.  C’est la vie.  Pete had a new one machined, almost exactly the same as the old one but 6 or 7 inches longer:

The prop also needed to be changed since my old engine was left-handed and the new engine is right-handed in ahead.  Turns out Pete had an almost exact mirror of my old 3-bladed fixed pitch manganese bronze prop in his shop; he had a machine shop remove a bit of material to reduce the diameter and pitch a little per my prop calculations, and cleaned it up — looks pretty nice.

I heard from Pete the other day that the engine installation is now all but finished: just a couple more minor tasks like tweaking the shift and throttle cables, replacing the cutless bearing, etc.  He powered up the engine for the first time and it ran smoothly.  The one remaining question is whether we can install a waterlock box, which protects the engine from flooding through the exhaust.  For some strange reason there is not currently one in the exhaust system.  The space constraints make installing one a little hard but we may be able to custom-make something.

Before we left for Singapore I went over a bunch of other random jobs with Barry so he can proceed with them over the next couple weeks.  There are a couple big ones, especially some fiberglassing and fairing around the cockpit, re-working the dodger, building the bimini, and painting the deck.  And there are a lot of small jobs: replacing a through-hull for the watermaker intake, moving the anti-siphon outlet to a more sane spot, cutting holes in the water and fuel tanks to install senders for gauges, dropping out the rudder to replace the bearings, etc.

I’m planning to head back to Langkawi for a few days in another couple of weeks to do some work and check up on things.  So far though, it’s all looking great.


Filed under deck, electrical, electronics, hull, maintenance, mechanical, photos, planning, plumbing, shopping, trips

4 Responses to A couple weeks in the boatyard and around Langkawi

  1. Darren Ho

    Hi Kris,

    looks like you’ve spent a lot of work on Oia! I’m considering living on a boat as well, any advice you can offer me will be great! How do I go about finding a reliable boat and how much should I expect to pay for one?


  2. Chadel

    Great story! very inspiring!
    You mentioned you went with CMP for all the paint and epoxy for the refit. May i know where u can get them? Or better still, do u know where i can get West System in Malaysia? I’m making my first canoe, and its really hard to find West Systems in Malaysia. Any clues? Closest i got was from Singapore.


    • Hi Chadel,

      The CMP I got through my boatyard (B&V Marine in Langkawi) — not sure who their supplier is. West System is probably difficult. I ordered epoxy related stuff from Marintech in Singapore, never really looked in Malaysia. Your best bet is probably to look for marine suppliers. Langkawi has a couple. You might also consider hopping up to Phuket. But elsewhere in Malaysia I’m not so sure.

      Best of luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *