With no time schedule or commitments, Frank & I decided to check out our options for hauling ‘Stars End 2’ out of the water here in Sabah, on the north west coast of Borneo. We needed to redo the anti fouling as well as paint her topsides which had deteriorated after 9 years of owning the yacht.
Hauling out the yacht is always an expensive project involving several thousand dollars with hardstand, preparation and labour costs, epoxies, undercoats and paints for the various areas, plus this time, extra work and costs involved in replacing cutlass bushings that support the propeller shaft and re galvanizing the anchor chain. That’s not to mention the need for accommodation as we were unable to live on board the yacht.
We did a lot of research, weighing up each shipyards’ merits and costs and comparing costs for apartments in the area.
I made a spreadsheet comparing costs & facilities in different shipyards both here in Kota Kinabalu and across in East Malaysia in case it worked out as the better alternative.
In the end, we chose a shipyard here in Kota Kinabalu. Our main motivation was our preference not to sail south against adverse winds and currents. Also, the shipyard here offered reasonable costs and the flexibility to work with us, and in all reality we simply liked the thought of staying around Sabah with its lively ambience and friendly people.
Kinabalu North Shipyard & Maritime (KNSM) is located at Sepangar Bay, 20 kms north of the city of KK. They deal mainly with commercial & government vessels, and the large oil & gas sector.
Although they do not have facilities yet ready for ‘white’ boats, KNSM was making plans to branch out so they could haul out smaller vessels and yachts at their facility.
They were keen to make our stay a positive experience, realizing our vote of confidence could be their greatest advertisement for future business, especially as the cruising community is so active on social networks where valuable advice and information based on personal experience is shared on a global scale.
The shipyard boasts an enormous 56 meter floating dry dock facility named ’Titan’ that lift tugs and small ships up to 6000 tons out of the water before transferring them to land.
However, with their travel lift still a few months from delivery, and ‘Stars End 2’ weighing just 12 tons, she was destined to be lifted by their crane out of the water onto the hard stand.
Before this could happen we had to wait for unseasonable weather to pass, as daily storms were bringing fierce winds and squalls.
We didn’t mind the break as we enjoyed time anchored at Pulau Gaya with our friends on ‘Xamala’ until we were called by the shipyard to come 10 days later.
We were tied up to the floating dry dock waiting to be lifted the next day, when the shipyard foreman informed us that the dock master was not confident in the state of the cables that would lift ‘Stars End 2’ out of the water and would need to order a new set. Then, an hour later, we were told they were worried about damaging the front mast during the lift, and then we were told they were worried at the age of the yacht! They felt they couldn’t lift our yacht with any confidence, and this worried us as much as it obviously concerned them.
Feeling rather frustrated at this turn of events, it was then suggested that Stars End would be safer lifted out of the water by Titan, at no extra cost.
As KNSM had another ship due into the dry dock a couple of days later, we would need to wait for further 6 days before being hauled out by Titan and transported across to land the same day. We were not happy at yet another delay. We contemplated abandoning this shipyard altogether and going elsewhere, but after all the time and effort to get to this point, we felt it made more sense to persist rather than starting all over again. Besides which, we had already paid for a shipment of paint to be delivered to the contractor who had a team of workers booked to help Frank sand, prepare and paint the yacht.
Slipping ‘Stars End 2’ on the Titan was certainly over the top but we didn’t want to take any risks with our yacht. Even so, accustomed to lifting large tugs and ships with flat bottoms, we needed to make sure the shipyard had the chocks and hardware to allow the yacht’s narrow keel to sit safely on the girders that would be dragged along rails across to land.
The shipyard’s engineer and the dock master convened to the office and came up with a plan that reassured Frank that this would work.
So we anchored in the bay close to Titan for the next few days patiently biding our time, watching the tug boats berthed nearby going about their business day and night towing ships into the harbour.
Finally it was our turn! ‘Stars End 2’ motored past the shipyard’s tug ‘Jasmine’ that was using lines to haul Titan into deeper water.
We maneuvered around to the back of the dry dock which was at a 15 degree incline so that the front of the keel would be the first part of the boat to touch the dock and be propped up with steel supports.
Three dock workers were allocated to our yacht to take the heavy ropes attached from the sides of the Titan onto SE2. Used for the larger tugs and ships, they were so thick, we couldn’t even pull them through our cleats so we quickly replaced them with our own ropes.
As the yacht was positioned over the center of the dock, divers with scuba tanks worked under water, moving the girders, wooden chocks and sand bags into place around the keel. Frank was not happy at the position of the girders, and tried to explain how one needed to be placed just 300 ml from either end of the keel.
He even jumped into the water to show them what he meant, but nobody seemed to understand English sufficiently well or they ignored his comments and did their own thing.
As the Titan pumped out its ballast tanks over the next few hours, ‘Stars End 2’ slowly emerged from the water. As we feared, the supports under our keel were not positioned correctly. Inside the yacht, we were sloping down to the bow and the floorboards inside the yacht were bowed where they had braced the main girder under the center of the keel.
Once Titan was floating high enough to be pushed by the tug boat towards the shoreline, the crane dropped down a massive walkway across to Titan and a stepladder was placed against the yachts’ hull so we were able to climb down.
At this point we were told that SE2 would need to stay on Titan for the next two days, to wait for a suitably high tide of at least 1.8 meters which would raise the dry dock to slide us across to land. More delays!
However, it was probably just as well because when Frank expressed his concerns about the girders under the keel, the shipyard manager agreed to get his men to do some adjustments.
That night, Frank & I stayed on board the yacht, and I packed our bags for moving into our new accommodation the following day.
Over the next two days the crane lifted two extra girders across to Titan as well as the forklift which was needed to position the heavy girders into place and slide them under SE2.
The men pulled and pushed, and worked so hard to achieve the same result that in all honesty could have been done correctly in the first place whilst the yacht was still in the water. They also welded four supports, two on each side of the hull, onto the girders that held the yacht in place on the supporting framework.
I had booked an apartment through Airbnb for the next month. The apartment was on the top floor of One Borneo, a vast complex with hotels, two apartment towers and a huge shopping mall underneath that had seen better days, as more modern and upmarket malls have been built closer to the city.
If I wanted to explore more exciting areas and shops, I could just take a Grab car to the city, but most of the time I could find the basics I needed in the supermarket below.
However, I chose this location as it was conveniently halfway between KK and the shipyard, and Frank was able to catch a lift each day with one of the men working on ‘Stars End 2’ as he drove past.
We settled into our new home which had the luxury of 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, lounge, kitchen, and air conditioning and washing machine. With no head for heights, I wasn’t so fussed at the 25th floor balcony, but it provided space for Frank to rig up a washing line.
Very early next morning we took a Grab car to the shipyard to watch ‘Stars End 2’ being moved ashore on the high tide. Our friends, Anita & Pierre had stayed overnight and came along, intrigued to watch the process after all the hype to reach this stage.
Over the previous few hours the dry dock had lifted with the rise of the tide, so by the time we arrived at the shipyard, Titan was level with the ship yard and the dockworkers were fixing rails in place to join the two tracks and slide ‘Stars End 2’ across.
It was a surprisingly fast and smooth transition once the crane attached a line to the front girder and men were staged at each support on the yacht. The entire framework moved slowly across to the shore and into place within a couple of minutes.
A shed was raised and welded onto metal blocks to provide a tall enough shelter over the back area of the yacht so the workers would be protected from the weather.
For all that we were frustrated with delays and the miscommunication, we must say that for such a modest haul out job as ours, the shipyard spent a huge amount of time, effort and manpower to please us and fulfill our needs, and maintain the safety of ‘Stars End 2’.
Now comes the hard work of transforming ‘Stars End 2’ over the next month. Frank goes most days to the shipyard, where he has been helping the workers, and attending to various jobs of his own.
I am enjoying more domestic chores in the apartment. After 4 years of living on board I am thoroughly enjoying having a washing machine at my disposal rather than hand washing or launderettes so I am soaking, bleaching and cleaning every fabric item I can bring from the yacht. I’ve also had time to update my blog!
We catch up with our friends and sometimes eat out at the cheap restaurants around town. Once the work is completed on the yacht, we hope to rent a car and explore further afield.