March 2017

From March 2013 to March 2015 we did an extensive refit of Migration in Phuket, Thailand. (Here is our report about that.) We would never recommend anyone do extensive boat work in Thailand. 

Hereís an update on some of the work we had done.

Topside Paint: The paint is doing all right. Of course, it has lost some of its shine after 2 years and 8,000 miles. It has some chips out of it as well; most notably one from a Malaysian Coast Guard boat hitting the port ama bow in the Rajang River in Borneo.

Unfortunately, there is one obvious problem. In about 10 spots around the boat, what once was a perfectly smooth surface has become wavy. This isnít just an imperfection in the paint, because you can feel it with your hand. Itís like the boat is developing wrinkles about ľĒ deep. Our best guess is that this is from improper filling before the primer went on. There is nothing to do except hope it doesnít get worse.

Hard to see in the photos, but you sure can feel it when you run your hand across the hull.


Deck Paint: So far, so good. A few cracks here and there that we've repaired. The Alexseal paint seems like a good choice.


Interior Paint: What we thought was a bad paint job has turned awful. Though we asked Nhoon Carpenter to fix all the problems and repaint the parts that looked worse than when he started, we still ended up with a crap job. The biggest problem is that the filler they used on nail holes seems to never have dried, so we get mildew there constantly. We should have left it alone and done it ourselves.

Terrible mildew problems in many places we didn't have problems before.

We're not sure why, but some of the paint Nhoon used never dried properly. Perhaps too much thinner. In several spots, when we have started cleaning, the paint simply comes off with a wet sponge.

Here's a bucket with the water I was using for cleaning. Notice the paint just coming right off near the sponge.


Varnish: This is one of our biggest surprises, because we had heard the Thais were experts at varnishing. Much of what was done looks good but, as so often seems to be the case, you cannot count on everything being of the same quality.

Salon Table: Again, another terrible job by Nhoon. The finish is failing already. These are opposite corners of the table.

Aft Cabin Doors: While the other doors are all looking good, one door is failing. These doors are not in the sun, so it clearly shows bad workmanship.

A good door.

The bad door.  



Everything done by Tu-Ton is still in great shape. Obviously, they know what they are doing and use good quality materials. On the other hand, most everything done by AME is showing signs of rust. Their welds are definitely not the same quality as Tu-Ton, nor is the quality of some of the stainless they use. The galvanizing they did for us on our Manson anchor lasted about 5 anchorings. Terrible.


Other Works:

A mixed bag here. Some is doing all right and some not so good.

Stainless? Why Use Stainless?: It's a given that you should use stainless fasteners on a boat. Especially when attaching bulkheads to frames. The Thais know this. They used lots of stainless. But not here...



Side Curtains: The biggest problem is that we had the clear vinyl replaced in the side curtains for the pilothouse. This should have been a very straightforward job, but they either cut the vinyl too small or did not account for shrinkage, because the seams began to rip out after only one year. This work was done by Pla who received good reports from many other cruisers. Itís a good example of the problem with boat work in Thailand; a thinking and experienced canvas shop would know about clear vinyl shrinkage and allow the extra few millimeters to deal with it. Now we are having the zippers replaced in Japan.

Sewing: This isn't a new development, but I thought I'd put it here as an example of some of the things that go wrong with projects in Thailand. You might have something very simple -- like replacing the velcro on the curtains. However, some of the pieces came back with the loop side of the velcro on both sides of the curtain.

... or they come back with white velcro, even when we provided the seamstress with pieces of black velcro cut & pinned to the fabric. By the time you unstitch it and sew it yourself, you would have been better off doing the project yourself in the first place.


Fiddly Bits: Some of our cabinet doors didn't close properly after they were varnished and reinstalled. Further examination revealed the problem. Again, not a big deal except for the wasted time it takes to correct it yourself. If it were just one thing, it wouldn't matter. But these kind of time-consuming chores start adding up fast.


Tape: We still find tape here and there. Despite the fact that we hired two people to go through the boat for 2 days to peel the tape they had missed the first time, it continues to show up. Not a big deal, of course, (except for the crappy tape that becomes a gooey mess), but just another sign of little pride in completing a job properly. Note: You may be thinking we are rich, lazy boat owners who donít work on our own boat and canít pull the tape ourselves --- however, we worked alongside our laborers every single day. (See our other reports on the refit.) So that we could dedicate our time to complex jobs, we were always on the lookout for jobs that we could have less-experienced workers do -- pulling tape seemed like one of thoseÖ)

There are also problems with lack of tape. Here's an example of a mess made of newly varnished wood because it wasn't covered when they painted.


A Final Note: Time heals all wounds. It also seems to make bad decisions good again. Weíve heard of a number of boats that we know had poor experiences in Thailand who now recommend having work done there. Why is this? My theory is that none of us wants to admit we were idiots. And time does make things seem Ďless badí. Itís also easy to blame something that failed on the current conditions (i.e., that was a nasty storm that took off that bit of paint) rather than blaming the original work.

 As I said in my original update, we do NOT recommended having boat work done in Thailand.

Bruce Balan & Alene D. Rice
March 2017

This site was last updated 04/07/17