And now for something completely different to make up for an extended absence from writing posts for the blog. We have just finished building a boat and created a docking area to go with it so I thought you might like to join me on this watery journey.
Now you might be asking how come a boat when we’re hundreds of km from the sea and where did the motivation and energy come from? All will be answered if you stay with me on this nautical adventure.
It really started about 18 months ago when we added 600 fish to the family’s farm pond. They are growing nicely and while the Isaan way of fishing is with a net, which isn’t very sporting, I thought that fishing = boat and rod, so an idea was born.
The timing for the build, which I wanted to do myself, had to coincide with the cool season starting December, as I am hopeless at working in the heat these days. I had seen a couple of barrel rafts locally so got online to research them and designed a decent sized one 3 x 3 meters so that a few people could enjoy the experience.
The stages of the project were:
- Sourcing barrels, building the framework to keep them in place and completing the decking;
- Building the frame for the sala (a hut);
- Roofing the sala;
- Fitting out;
- Landscaping the dock area;
- Constructing the dock and
- Providing power to the boat and dock.
The barrels were sourced at a farm store in Si Bun Ruang, our local town, and by Thai standards reasonably expensive at 520 baht each (A$20.00).
In retrospect I think the raft could have done with a couple more barrels as the sala, the hut that sits on it, ended up being a lot heavier than I thought. I may retrofit some more but getting them in place now that it is a done deal wouldn’t be easy.
Step two was a visit to Thai Watsadu, a DIY store in Nong Bua Lamphu, a larger place 30 minutes drive from home to buy more exotic supplies in a Thai sense like timber and screws. Everything here is made from concrete and metal, neither of which float too well, and the range of items available in hardware stores reflects this. Lots of drill bits and screws for concrete and steel for example but not much for wood.
For the decking I bought several rolls of bamboo matting at a cost of 160 baht each for two square meters. These are made locally from bamboo that is split and then woven together with string. They are surprisingly strong and give a interesting and natural look to the finished product. The internet has timber being used for the deck of course but I wanted the raft to look “Isaan” rather than farang.
By the next day the raft was ready for a test voyage and it coped with everything the pond could throw at it!
Stage two involved build a sala, an open hut structure on the deck to provide protection from the elements. In the cool season December – February it is easy to forget just how fierce the heat is during the hot season April/May where last year we had 6 weeks over 40 degrees. Come July the temperatures drop into the 30’s but the rainy season arrives.
Normally a traditional sala is made with a bamboo frame like the one that sits under mango trees in our garden. However we didn’t have any large bamboo to form the main uprights so we used eucalyptus instead, which was a nice incorporation of Australia but heavier.
I moved the boat from its original position at the far end of the pond to be close to the farmhouse and power and this is where it has ended up permanently. I will cover the landscaping of this “docking” area later.
All the bamboo was cut by Gaun on a neighbours farm and transported harbour-side by Lud’s trusty pick-up. My little Mazda 2 gives up on tasks like this! Gaun got totally involved at this stage of the project as it moved into the area where Isaan skills were useful. She also has double the energy levels that I have and I would probably still be going if I had to do it alone.
Stage three, the roofing, has us once again in Lud’s pick-up and at Gaun’s uncle’s place in the village next to ours. He hand weaves the reed roofing panels you see being used all over Thailand.
I think we ended up with 90 of these panels each one to be wired onto the bamboo roofing frame and overlapped to give a thick end result.
Stage four involved building comfortable seating, a couple of tables and a adding a few decorating touches but Christmas got in the way of a smooth workflow 🙂
Post celebrations and hangover it was back into action:
With the boat, now christened Isaan Grace, completed except for power attention was turned to the area between the farmhouse and the dock to make it more attractive and accessible. As usual I provided the money and Gaun did the hard work when it came to the landscaping. Seven meters of gravel was delivered to both refresh the driveway and build new paths. Lots of new plants were bought as well as sourced from cuttings and local donations.
The final construction phase was to add steps down to the boat and a small dock over the water to provide easy access. Previously getting to the raft involved some rough dirt steps cut into the side of the bank. A bench had been built a while back and it was now in the way too.
AND finally the electrician arrived this week to provide power to the area. In the cool season it gets dark by 6 pm and I have had floodlights installed to light up coconut and mango trees on the shore as well as powerpoints for lighting and fans (come the hotter periods) on the boat itself. The final result looks like this:
Our project isn’t quite finished as we are adding pressured water to the farm, upgrading the toilet, installing a hand basin and building a full kitchen washing up area.
The improvements to the farm are an indulgence on my part but I justify the effort and expense (not that i need to) because I enjoy it as much as our wonderful garden at home and we are there most days.
We also have regular visitors flowing from the writing I do on the blog and of course friends and family who equally enjoy experiencing something pretty unique in this part of the world.
Gaun sometimes worries that I will get bored with life in a small rural village. Not much chance of that so far!
Thanks for reading.