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The Horrible Truth About Hauling Malaysia Style

I often have to scold my wife Carolyn for being too distrustful. “Gee, honey, isn’t it swell the local shipyard is having a super-duper special on hauling this month?”

“…sounds suspicious to me,” she huffed. “There’s no free lunch, Fatty. There must be a reason…”

“…don’t be so jaded,” I chided her. “Maybe these marvelous Malays just love us yachties so much… they want us to save our Yankee dollars!”

Thus, begins the woeful tale of our recent haul-out—at the height of rainy season.

Actually, rainy season is misnamed. It should be “flood season” or “deluge days” or “inundation interval” or “downpour delight” or something equally extreme. To say that “it rains a lot” hardly describes it. This is a monsoonal-type aquatic vomiting—where the sky opens up and multi-ton blocks of water crash down relentlessly for days.

…picture a vengeful God, with only water to punish his evil transgressors with… and you are close to the damn, damp reality of it.

Of course, I should have known. “…bring your dinghy, as it is the best way to get from your ladder’s base to the marine store or Mosque,” one departing shipyard user told me—but I thought he was pulling my leg. Plus, the brochure was a dead give-away: what other yard has beautiful color pictures of smiling people painting their yachts while holding open, dripping umbrellas?

Another tip-off was the travel lift operator wearing a mask and snorkel—and all the other shipyard workers in wet suits. Plus, the yard’s female office workers all wore hip boots to compliment their scarves. Ditto, barnacles on the jack-stand bases. And the fact they always block up your vessel three feet high in the air—so the daily mud slides can ooze almost harmlessly under your oft-splattered keel.

The last time we hauled in Malaysia was about seven years ago—when we hauled during Ramadan. This, too, was a mistake—as both the yard workers and the travel lift were weak from fasting. Thus, we naively believed that anytime would be better. Boy, were we wrong. Rainy season is far worse. I mean—during lunch breaks (which last from 10 to 3) yard workers wind surf around the yard!

Of course, the yard manager puts a bright face on it as he wades around the yard in galoshes while reassuring his forlorn customers that it ain’t so bad by saying encouraging stuff like, “…only an inch of rain today!” Or, “Three days from now the weather forecast calls for brief periods of sunshine between the heavy squalls.”  

Occasionally, it stops. Paled-skinned boaters slowly emerge from their mildewy, mushroom-blossoming vessels—and stare weakly at the almost-visible golden orb. “…it is a hard-rain on the hard,” sobbed one sailor as yet-another dark cloud slid in front of the sun.

It isn’t just painting that’s the problem—it rains too much for prep work too. In addition, Carolyn uses the situation as an excuse to weasel out of her wifely sanding duties. “I am not going to stand in six inches of flowing water and hold a 220 volt power tool,” she says grimly.

“…hey, take a chance, babe,” I plead. “I’ll be right here by the circuit breaker—if I see your Italian hair start to uncurl—I’ll flip off the power!”

Despite such loving reassurances, she refuses to do her fair share. Damn! If my own wife won’t do it—who else is left… save, er, upper management?

It does, of course, occasionally stop for longer than a moment. We frantically wipe down the hull, mix our paints, and attempt to quickly toss some epoxy on the boat. Needless to say, the topside two-part paint we use is very expensive and shipped in. We didn’t buy any extra—not at today’s prices. Thus, we were not happy to get only three-quarters of the hull done when the sky opened up yet again. Not only can you see every rain drop in our topsides—in the middle of the squall was a wind shift and that, too, was recorded for posterity.

Worse, we had to keep the paint ‘alive’ by stirring and adding thinner during the deluge. When it was finally over and Carolyn had hastily wiped down the hull—I had to almost trowel it on it was so thick.

Let’s just say the topside job this year wasn’t up to our usual Helen-Keller standards. Of course, my “Famous Fat Solution” is to lower my standards yet-again. “…it’s good enough for those it’s for,” I say. “There’s nothing wrong with my topside finish that 200 yards, bad eyesight, and a dark night won’t cure.”

Not everyone agrees. “There are limits to shoddy, Fatty,” said one anal-retentive Kiwi guy as he strolled by, “and you obviously don’t know where they are.”
A passing Aussie agreed. “I’m not sure that Frisbeeing 36 grit grinding discs at the hull qualifies as ‘yacht-quality prep-work,’ Fat Mon.”

To hell with prep work, I say. Prep work is for people who don’t enjoy drugs, sex and rock & roll. I mean, really—what sort of a sick-puppy wants his topsides to look the same on both sides? Isn’t that unimaginative? Boring? Might not I be better able to confuse Somali pirates with a more… creative finish… during evasive maneuvers?

And, when you come right down to it, there are some good aspects to hauling during rainy season. You don’t need to get out your hose to use your wet & dry. Dust removal isn’t a problem. And you can shower afterwards in place simply by dropping your clothes and soaping up.

The rain doesn’t seem to bother the Malay yard workers. They amble in, suit up, gather their tools together—and break for lunch. In the afternoon—exhausted from the morning—they get even less done. Of course, I do all my own work—as it is difficult to train a knowledgeable marine expert on the exact degree of shoddiness required.

“Beat it to fit and paint it to match,” I sing out proudly. “…just good enough is far too good for me!’

One South African sailor asked, after watching me work for a while, “…what you do for a living, Fatty?”

“Oh,” I said with a professorial sigh, “I’m a marine writer who, in part, makes his living by advising people on how to maintain their vessel.”

The Cape Town yachtie bent double with laughter. Finally, when he could regain his breath he straightened, slapped me on the back, and said, “…they told me you were funny!”

It isn’t easy being me. You have to have a tough skin. For example, while Wild Card was hanging in the slings, a friend came up and said, “…well, it will take a lot of TLC but, eventually, you’ll get Wild Card back to where she should be… how many weeks do you plan being out?”

“Actually,” I whispered in shame, “we’re re-launching now.”

Culturally I’m learning a lot. For instance, we were recently anchored off Kuah and were spinning around in circles on our anchor because the wind and the current were opposing. There was a local yacht next to me—with a strange-hatted sailor aboard who seemed to be frantically inspecting his deck seams numerous times a day. I thought perhaps his vessel had dry rot in the planking and he had exceptionally bad eyes—thus his need to inspect every inch of his planking so thoroughly.

Carolyn, of course, read it perfectly—“Don’t be an idiot, Fatty,” she said. “He’s a Muslim and praying to Mecca. The only problem is that Mecca keeps moving!”
No wonder not many of them live-aboard.

So that’s the water-soaked, rain-damaged story. I’m hauled out in the same rain Noah put to sea in. I don’t have any money because I spent it all of my ringgits on the various congealed chemicals which are now glopped haphazardly on my streaked hull. This is the world’s most expensive cheap place to haul. The only good news: my oversized cockpit scuppers are keeping up with the downpour!

Editor’s note: if the rain ever stops, Fatty and Carolyn will be heading westward across the Indian Ocean. Cap’n Fatty Goodlander lives aboard Wild Card with his wife Carolyn and cruises throughout the world. He is the author of “Chasing the Horizon” by American Paradise Publishing, “Seadogs, Clowns and Gypsies” and “The Collected Fat.”  For more Fat-flashes, see fattygoodlander.com.

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