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February 12, 2006

Pakarang Boatyard Update

The heat hasn't been too bad, on a relative Thailand scale. I was dripping sweat before 8am, but I balanced it out with a lemon shake (like a frozen lemonade, they come in all fresh-fruit flavors).

I met Scott for breakfast before the boatyard crew went out, then decided to tag along to see what it was like, now that they are 47 boats into the project. Scott came to Khao Lak to help out for a few weeks in January 2005, and he's stayed ever since.

Six of us and Lucky, a stray dog with a gentle personality Scott adopted piled into the back of the silver pickup for the ride to Cape Pakarang. One of the loveliest feelings on earth is riding free in the back of a truck, air-cooled watching the lush green countryside go by. It's the definition for me of going places, of moving through adventure.

The first view of the boatyard was breathtaking. Saws buzzing, hammering, music playing. There were at least four boats in production, and two more that needed names of donors painted on the bow. I wandered around, taking photos, overwhelmed. When I left last spring, the crew had just started the roof, and the first tsunami boat to be repaired had been delivered.

Last Thursday, the crew celebrated delivery of its 47th boat to Thai fishermen...and boat number 58 is under construction. They are finishing a boat about every five days, and are looking for sponsorship for at least 8 more boats. The boathouse was built almost entirely by volunteers. The managment of the project and the boatbuilders have been the same for the last year. Only one man has quit.

I decided to stay for a while, and helped paint some names on the bow of a boat until the rain began. The volunteer team at the moment is entirely from Melbourne, Australia. And, thanks to Scott's mom, the audio system has been upgraded from cassettes played on the car stereo to an iPod with portable speakers. Scott also asked me to put together a photo album for a group from the Royal Thames Yacht Club, who had donated five boats (it costs about $3,000 US to build a boat from the keel up). I might do some more photo editing for him later, since I suggested setting up a "standard" photo album for donors, using a certain number of process pictures for each one, then adding in photos specific to that donation. This way, each book doesn't need to be started from scratch. We'll see if it's worth doing...most groups aren't concerned with the photos in that way.

The rain has come early this year. When it comes, it pours like a solid wall of water in a way you've only seen in movies before. Or in Florida. Muddy rivers form, and you can get soaked in a matter of seconds. Which made for a lovely ride back to Khao Lak from the cape, in the back of Scott's pickup truck. We were soaked before the car even moved. Especially the volunteer sitting by the gate, who got an assful of muddy water everytime the truck accelerated. Even Lucky found a way to squeeze into the cab to avoid the rain.

But we didn't have it as bad as the kid who was riding in the cart of his dad's motorbike, even though he had the same grimace on his face that we all did, facing the driving rain.

After a cool shower and some dry clothes, I met my friend Saundra for dinner, then she showed me around the D-Trac offices (new). Their first priority is helping out with the tsunami early warning system. I was disappointed that an idea to broadcast warnings via SMS on cell phones was for some reason turned down at the governmental level. I have always thought this would be highly effective.

Saundra was very appreciative of the copy of the new Yvon Chouinard book and the 500 pens I donated to the group (thanks Jenny!), which offers conference space and training to NGOs in the area. She suggested some groups that would love the paints and colored pencils my friends donated, as well (Thanks Alissa, Jennie and Grace!). The paintbrushes will go to the boatyard, for sealing the boats with linseed oil (Thanks Jennie!).

Tomorrow it looks like I'll be back to the boatyard, since there is more painting to do, and I'm not sure when Moira arrives from Beijing with her mom.

Posted by sedda at February 12, 2006 05:47 PM