launch day and other excitement...
Bangkok Travel Blog› entry 35 of 49 › view all entries
April 22nd, 2006 – by: bede17
Wow... what a week! Or I guess the end of the week was when the real excitement began. When we arrived to work on thursday morning the yard was already in full preparation mode for launch. The straps had been put on the night before and all the workers were busy taking the scaffolding down. A table of offerings for Buddha was set up near the bow and people were going up to light incense and pray. Just before launch I was asked to go up to the bow to complete the final blessing. So along with Sanpope (our project manager) and another worker, I sat up on the bosprit and tied on some colored cloth and draped flower garlands. According to Sanpope I was supposed to "make the boat beautiful." After this was done I saw that he had arranged two long sets of firecrackers on the bow, and he asked me to light them.I thought it was an interesting Buddhist tradition, but if that's what is supposed to happen then ok. He said not to light them with the match, but with the incense stick that he handed me. He also said not to light the little piece of cloth at the bottom, to just go straight for the firecracker part. I don't think I've ever lit firecrackers before, and certainly not with an incense stick, so I didn't know how long to hold it there. Well, I found out. About .2 seconds is all it takes! As I'm sure you all can imagine, the firecrackers went off quite loudly and well, explosively. Pieces were hitting me in the face and there was smoke everywhere and finally after a second's delayed reaction from the shock I decided I'd better move out of the way! So while covering my ears I took a huge leap across the deck and watched the rest of them go off from a bit farther away.It totalllllly scared the crap out of me! I didn't even realize I was still holding the incense stick for another minute or so, and my ears were still ringing when I made it down the steps to the dock. Sanpope said that I must be very powerful because I only lit one set of firecrackers and both went off. That completed the Buddhist blessing ceremony and as soon as the steps were taken away from the side the cranes went into action. Slowly they lifted Argo out of her cradle and moved her over the water in the slip, and then lowered her down. Before they took the pressure off the straps a bunch of workers and Travis scurried down below to make sure that no water was entering the boat, which it wasn't. So she was lowered completely into the water, the straps were removed, and she was floating!! A big cheer went up from all the yard workers that had gathered around to watch.But only a few moments for celebration and pictures, then it was back to work. Over the course of the day both masts were put up and most of the wires were installed. This involved a huge crane that lifted the masts from the dock, like the last time. All the workers were in teams holding a string attached to the wires from the rigging, so together they all walked and turned until the mast was facing the proper direction and could be lowered onto the boat. The first snag we hit was when putting the main mast in. Because of the crane's height (or lack of it) and the high tide level, the mast was going to hit the deckhouses as it was lowered before the hole in which it was supposed to go. The crane didn't have maneuverability to get it's hook higher or move itself, so the only direction it could go was moving it's arm down (or swinging in an arc but that didn't help us much).After much debate we solved this by pulling the boat forward in the slip, so that the bowsprit was over the dock, and the hole in the deck was much closer to the end of the mast that was dangling. It ended up just barely working, probably by less than a foot! But it did fit, so that was great. Unfortunately, the base of the mast was off by just a little bit, so after lunch we had to pick it up enough for the workers to adjust it and weld it back in place. This took a while, but eventually it was all set and we could move onto the foremast. Winston and Kevin spent most of the afternoon up in the masts, fighting with heavy wires and small pins. One of the most challenging parts was the language barrier between us, the workers, and the crane operator.They needed the huge hook on the crane (holding the mast or the various wires) to be adjusted by several inches at a time, and this had to be relayed to our crew on the ground, then to a Thai translator with a megaphone, and then to the crane operator. But with so many workers out watching and wanting to help it became a free- for- all at a couple points, with various Thai workers shouting out instructions to the crane operator for what they thought should happen. But eventually we got a better system going and they were able to install almost all the wires. We ended up leaving the yard around 7:30 at night, when the crane finally said that they were quitting for the day. After a quick group meal at JJ's downstairs we all hit the sack.Friday morning started off with finishing the rigging in the masts, but this time there was no crane so the wires were lifted by rope up to the top of the masts, just like the people. Almost all the guys had a chance to go up the rigging in some form, whether attaching wires or removing padding that had been put in place to prevent scraping things on the way up. In the afternoon the booms were attached, and that went really quickly. The only sketchy moments were when everyone lined up with the boom on their shoulder and walked along the very narrow and very shaky wooden plank of a gangway, but luckily it worked out fine and no one fell in! I spent the morning doing spreadsheet stuff on the computer, and then in the afternoon Travis asked me to try to get some good pictures of the boat from a bunch of different angles.After walking around on the ground for a while and exhausting my options there, I thought that the crane might have a height advantage. So I climbed up a few rungs and took some pictures from there. When I was standing there I noticed a platform just a little ways up, so I said well why not climb up there and get some from there. And when I looked up from there I saw the crane driver's hut, and figured while I was already up that far I might as well go to the top. Meanwhile the crane driver has been pointing and gesturing to me, and I finally realized when I got up there that he was trying to tell me that there was a good view of the boat from where he was. So I went in his little hut, which is really quite cute and cozy, and took some pictures.And I wondered where he had gone to, so when I stuck my head out I was surprised to see him even higher up and motioning to me. I figured what the heck, I'm already here, so I went up to the very top level, which is just a walkway with a rail around the whole top of the structure. It was so cool out there! As soon as I looked around I realized that I was looking at open ocean! It was so cool! And so close! I walked around (very carefully Mom, don't worry) the top level for a while, taking pictures from all the different corners and enjoying the view and the breeze. Then one of the other guys up there said that they could move the crane so I could get a full shot of the boat, as it was I couldn't quite see to the end of the bowsprit when looking down.I didn't really neeeed to see the whole thing, but they had asked me several times and seemed to really want to, so I was like ok. The guy up there with me was like "hold on," and after a minute we were moving backwards along the track until the full boat was in sight. It wasn't as shaky up there as I had imagined, but I was glad I was holding on. It was so cool to be up there and have the whole new perspective on the yard, the boat, and the whole area. After I got down I did a little bit of sewing webbing before we left at the end of the day, and of course took some more pictures. Meanwhile the guys were having a bit of a fight with the bobstay, a big metal piece that is attached to the bow and provides a lot of tension for the rigging.Several of them had to get in a slightly suspect small boat that Marsun uses as a little barge and try to put this piece in place, not drop anything, and of course not to fall in. The were eventually successful and it looks great. My mission for that evening was to pick out some good shots of the boat (from the hundreds on all the cameras) to put online and send out to people. I spent a while with Travis going through lots of photos and then updated the Seamester blog before going to bed. This morning was another exciting day. We got to work at the normal time and did some general cleaning of the deck and other small projects before the christening ceremony at 11:30. The boat had it's Buddhist blessing on thursday, and today was the American version.A couple tents were set up on the dock for shade and there was a stereo system and microphone in front. I had been asked to smash the champagne bottle on the bow, which was a great honor, but also scared the absolute crap out of me. I was at the bowsprit (the boat had been pulled forward so it was hanging over the edge of the dock) with Travis coaching me through some practice swings with my water bottle, and when I turned around after a few minutes there were easily over a hundred people lined up under the tents staring at me! The whole yard had come out to see our christening. Jim spoke for a few minutes with a friend translating, and said some really nice things about the yard, thanking everyone and most of all Travis for making it all happen.Of course I was in tears by the end of his short speech, but all of a sudden I was up! I was sooo scared, and everyone was cheering at me and Jim was yelling "you're gonna miss!!" in the background, which didn't help! But earlier we were laughing over some funny christenings gone wrong stories, so I knew it wasn't the end of the world if I made a mistake. So after placing some more flower garlands on the bow and sprinkling some flower petals (again, to "make her beautiful), I took a swing. And missed! Well, I didn't miss, but the bottle made this loud clunk and bounced off! I was mortified. But everyone started cheering in the background and Travis, who was standing next to me, was laughing. So I took another big swing, and it clunked again!! Now I was mad, and when he said third time's a charm I knew I had to get it.So I took a huuge swing and wailed it against the bosprit, and sure enough, it exloded all over me! Everyone started cheering and the music came on and everybody rushed up to the bow and started throwing flower petals, and there I am over to the side still holding the end of the bottle with my huge work gloves, soaked in champagne, and shaking like a leaf. But nobody really seemed to mind, I think the workers probably thought that was how it was supposed to go. I think I only stopped shaking about ten minutes later when the adrenaline finally wore off. Of course all of this made for good photo opportunities, and we spent almost the next hour having our picture taken with various groups of workers. It was all really fun and really nice to celebrate such a momentous occasion.After we finally tore ourselves away from the pictures our crew all went out to lunch with Jim at one of his favorite Thai restaurants. He had gone ahead a little bit earlier and ordered a bunch of food for everyone. This is pretty typical of dining in Thailand, all the dishes are to share and everyone just passes them around. Well the food kept coming, and coming, and coming!! We could barely eat the stuff on our plates before the next dish was placed in front of us. It was like a feast! It was all sooo good. My favorite was the shrimp cakes, which I dipped in the chili oil sauce and ate with rice. But I also tried the sea bass and soft shell crab. For desert they brought out four huge plates of sticky rice and mango, a traditional desert.The rice was green, and apparently you can only get naturally colored green rice at a couple places and this is one of them. Everyone else just colors theirs. The rice was sooo good, drenched in a sugar sauce and sprinkled with little crispy bits. I even tried the mango, which had the texture of butter practically and melted in your mouth. Finally we rolled ourselves out the door and headed back to the apartment. Our internet had been down yesterday so we all caught up, showered, watched a DVD, and now people are hanging out or napping. I'm going to head out soon and run some errands and try to think of things to do tonight/tomorrow. I wonder what I'll cross off my list next? So that has been our busy and exciting three days, I apologize in advance for the huge amount of pictures that I'm about to upload, but I just can't narrow it down!
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!