Our Similan liveaboard’s first trip is scheduled for 1 December 2013. Before that our Similan liveaboard has to be removed from the water into the ship yard for necessary repairs and maintenance. Thailand Dive and Sail and Andaman Scuba have a lot to do before the boat is ship-shape and ready for her Similan diving season.

Here’s our guide to how to get a Similan liveaboard out of the water and into the ship yard.

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When to put a Similan Liveaboard in the Ship Yard

Timing is very important when planning when to remove your liveaboard from the water. Before the start of the Similan diving season ship yards in Phuket and Tab Lamu, near Khao Lak, get very busy. Removing the boat at high tide is essential to the entire operation. We had booked our Similan liveaboard to be taken out of the water on 31st October 2013 during the high tide at around 8:00am in the morning.

So with a fair amount of excitement we left Khao Lak early in the morning to head to Sikit Ship Yard in Phuket Town.

The rail dolly slides into the water
The rail dolly slides into the water

Preparations were well underway when we arrived. The rail dolly was ready at the top of the slip way and our Similan liveaboard, the MY Bunmee 2, was moored nearby. The rail dolly is a large concrete frame on rollers which slides into the water and is the cradle that the boat sits on as it is pulled out of the water.

After a few commands issued in Thai, the rail dolly was released and it rolled down into the water with it it’s cargo of wooden blocks that would be used to wedge the boat to hold an upright position. The rail dolly entered the water with a satisfying splash and was submerged at the end of the slip way. Then using a combination of the ship’s engine and ropes attached to the starboard and port stern from the shore, the MY Bunmee 2 was positioned facing straight up the slipway above the rail dolly.

Bunmee lines up on the slipway
Bunmee lines up on the slipway

Two ship yard workers had the unfortunate task of diving down into the murky, smelly waters of the canal that leads to the ship yard. Their job was to place the wooden chocks between the liveaboard hull and the rail dolly. Then, as the tide began to fall, the boat was gently lowered onto the rail dolly. When the workers were sure the boat was properly balanced and secure on the chocks, a metal cable attached to the rail dolly slowly pulled the boat up the slipway out of the water. Phase one complete.

Positioning the Similan Liveaboard in the Ship Yard

Once the boat had reached the top of the slipway, the rollers on the rail dolly had to be turned 90 degrees to allow the dolly to be slid into the boat’s alloted space for work. This was done with portable bottle jacks which were placed near the rollers under the rail dolly. As the weight of the boat was taken up by the jacks, the rollers could be turned along with a small section of the rails. When completed, all rollers now ran on a set of rails than ran perpendicular to the main slipway rails.

Port side of our Similan Liveaboard

After repositioning the cable the boat was then pulled into her space and further pieces of wood were used to prop up the hull and keep the boat in place.

The ship yard workers completed the task in a well practised and efficient manner. They made removing a 90 tonne Similan liveaboard from the water look relatively easy.

Scrapping work starts immediately
Scrapping work starts immediately

With water still dripping from the hull, work commenced straight away. Large scrapers appeared and the crew set about removing the barnacles that had made the ship’s hull their home during the months of low season inactivity. There was a small crab still clinging to the hull which Clive removed and placed near the water’s edge. The crab seemed reluctant to enter the murky water, but eventually it scuttled off preferring water to the noisy air of the ship yard.

Lining up the boat to the slip way is the first step
Lining up the boat to the slip way is the first step
The bow of Bunmee II Similan liveaboard before work begins
The bow of Bunmee II Similan liveaboard before work begins
Checking all chocks are in place
Checking all chocks are in place
Checking everything is in line
Checking everything is in line
Taking the ship’s weight on the bottle jack
Taking the ship’s weight on the bottle jack
Bunmee lines up on the slipway
Bunmee lines up on the slipway
moving-on-up
Port side of our Similan Liveaboard
Port side of our Similan Liveaboard
sikit-ship-yard
Bunmee reaches her alloted work space
Bunmee reaches her alloted work space
Plenty of barnacles on the hull, Darwin would have a field day
Plenty of barnacles on the hull, Darwin would have a field day
The MY Bunmee II
The MY Bunmee II
Checking out the hull
Checking out the hull
Everything is looking good so far
Everything is looking good so far
job-done
The dolly slides down
The dolly slides down
Nearly out of the water
Nearly out of the water
The dolly which will support the boat once she comes out of the water
The dolly which will support the boat once she comes out of the water
Starboard side of the MY Bunmee II
Starboard side of the MY Bunmee II
Bunmee II begins her approach to the ship yard slipway
Bunmee II begins her approach to the ship yard slipway
Making sure everything goes to plan
Making sure everything goes to plan
The rail dolly slides into the water
The rail dolly slides into the water
Working the bottle jack
Working the bottle jack
Just about out of the water
Just about out of the water
MY Bunmee heads into the shipyard
MY Bunmee heads into the shipyard
port-hull
Scrapping work starts immediately
Scrapping work starts immediately
Turining the rollers for the final phase
Turining the rollers for the final phase