wingssail image-fredrick roswoldMali
My fingertips smell of teak wood and varnish after my visit this morning to Mali’s Woodshop. I must have picked up some shavings while I was there though I don’t remember it. It is a good smell; better to my nose than a fine perfume or a hot apple pie; I hold my hands to my face and I savor it. Wood chips. Ahh!
Maybe I should have become a wood worker.
Maybe I still can.
We came to Phuket this weekend to do some boat projects one of which was to pick up the last set of cabin sole boards that Mali refinished for us.
Boat ownership means maintenance. If you own a boat you are either working on it, paying somebody to work on it, or it is deteriorating. We’ve been in all three of those spaces at one time or another. Right now we are paying people to do some things while we earn the money to pay for it in Bangkok. Thailand is a popular place for boat work; many cruisers have boat work done here. I’m not sure why that is, but probably it is a confluence of factors: boaters collect here in Phuket pausing before the next big jump off across the Indian ocean so there are a number of boats with work to be done, the labor rates were once cheap here and though that is changing it is still thought to be a cheap place to get work done so customers are eager and because of all this demand an industry sprang up. These factors feed on each other; there are now many boat workers and businesses here and they are busy. I haven’t seen as active a marine industry anywhere since New Zealand.
But it isn’t always cheap or high quality. We’ve heard as many complaints as kudos. One thing we’ve learned is that you often have to supervise the work in order to put a stop to it when the worker heads down the wrong path. You can’t leave your boat in the hands of some guy and go home for a few months expecting to come back and find the job finished and done to your satisfaction. There are few places anywhere in the world where I think you could do that and Thailand is not one of them. You check what they are doing each day or you’ll get a disappointment. This is true even if the guy you hired is responsible and knowledgeable because what happens is that if he is good he is also in demand. After you hire him another boat owner will come along and hire him too. To handle both jobs maybe he’ll put his brother in charge of your job. Maybe the brother is good, maybe not. So you better stay on top of it yourself.
In our case we have had no problems. It’s Mali I guess; he’s great. I suppose we’ve been lucky. For the past two months each time we went to Bangkok we left a few pieces of our boat with Mali and his workers so they can redo the varnish. When we came back the work was always ready and the quality good. Not cheap, but good. We’re satisfied.
Next we are going to ask him to do a major project inside Wings. It involves replacing a cockpit skylight and building a new ring frame support for it. It will clean up one messy portion of our salon which we’ve been trying to decide what to do about for a long time, 20 years I guess. Now we have a plan.
Can we trust Mali? Well the first good sign is that he said he won’t take the job for two months because he is too busy. And of course the track record with him has also been pretty good. Will it work out? We just don’t know, but I guess we’ll take a chance. After all, if we don’t do it ourselves (we can’t right now) or pay him (we can, luckily), the boat just gets a little older and a little more run down (and we don’t want to let that happen).
Meanwhile, I can look forward to some more of that sweet wood chip aroma when we visit Wings to supervise the project.
to see another view of Mali's Wood Shop.
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Phuket