Tenaya’s Journey from Thailand to Turkey by Ship

US Cruisers Jim and Katie Thomsen left the Netherlands eight years ago and planned to just sail to the Mediterranean Sea. They spent two years in the Med and then went to the Caribbean for two years. After talking to others who had been in the Pacific, they changed their plans and headed through the Panama Canal. After the South Pacific and SE Asia, they decided to ship their yacht, SY Tenaya, back to Europe from Phuket, Thailand.

Published 9 years ago, updated 4 years ago

This is Jim and Katie’s report of their experience from their website http://www.tenayatravels.com/. See this article on their website for photographs.

First attempt: Thailand to Antwerp

It was an April Fools’ joke, we just didn’t know it yet. The big ship swept Tenaya off her keel and promised to take her back to Antwerp if she could get to Phuket by April 1. Somali pirates threatened the Red Sea route and we didn’t really want to sail around South Africa, so this was the ideal solution. Although we were two-thirds of the way around, we had not set out to circumnavigate the globe.

We left Palau, blasted through the Philippines, spent two weeks exploring primary rainforests in Borneo, picked our way through the coral-strewn Sulu Sea, marvelled at the number of ships in Singapore and sailed four days non-stop up the Malacca Strait to arrive on time.

In searing heat under the blazing sun, Jim and I pickled the watermaker, took off the wind vane, packed up the jib, stored the inflatable kayak, took out the log and gave away our four jugs of diesel and all of our petrol.

With a load date of April 15, Tenaya was ready 10 days early. We notified Michael, the Peters and May shipping company rep, that we were going to Angkor Wat for a few days. He said not to leave; the load date had been pushed up and we might load as early as April 10. So, we stayed. And waited.

On April 29 we received an apologetic message, this time from Simon. Peters and May had nominated a different vessel which would leave May 28-30. They offered a full refund if we wanted to jump ship, but we stuck with them because we wanted to go to Antwerp. Sevenstar, the alternative, was only going as far as Turkey. Jim repaired the air conditioner and we settled in.

No biggie. Other yachties’ blogs had warned of delays. We were making friends, hanging out with Bruce and Alene who were refitting Migration, working out in the gym, learning to prepare Thai meals and having fun. We were not prepared for the message we received from Simon on May 7:

Jim, Thanks for your commitment, however, we have recently had a further two cancellations including the largest of the yachts. With this in mind, we no longer have sufficient revenue to make the sailing a reality and rather than drag our remaining clients through another embarrassing period of uncertainty we would rather simply cut our losses, refund all monies and allow you to make alternative arrangements.

They bailed, just like that.

Neal and Ruthie aboard Rutea suggested they be renamed Peters and Maybe not.

Second attempt: Thailand to Turkey

Sevenstar had already approached us and we had turned them down. Now, the only space available was below deck. Not wanting to remove the mast, we declined again. Perhaps we would stay in Thailand and ship the following year. That would be pretty cool.

A few days later Sevenstar offered space on deck aboard the last of three means of transport from Thailand to Turkey. We accepted and Tenaya was booked to Istanbul.

Chris, who works for the Sevenstar agent in Thailand, owns a charter business in Phuket. He has a knowledgeable crew of captains, divers, and helpers. He said to be out at the big ship, anchored three miles from Ao Po Marina, at 0800 on May 29.

We milled about for half an hour while they built the cradle on deck to hold Tenaya. Two men came aboard and, with the help of two divers, positioned two large, orange straps around the hull. The current would have made this job impossible had we been tied to the big ship.

Once the straps were in place, Jim steered Tenaya over and we tied up to the Da Cui Yun homeport: Hong Kong. This vessel is different than most bulk carriers because it has its own cranes.

The backstay and topping lift had to be removed so the crane’s crossbar, which would attach to each side of the strap closest to the stern, could reach the proper position near the mast.

The divers went back in the water to be sure the straps were set properly before the crane lifted Tenaya out of the water.

The higher Tenaya rose, the stranger I felt. We are supposed to look up at her keel and see fish, not birds. We were confident all would go well. From the beginning, Chris and Marieke answered all our questions and explained what to expect and how to prepare. The ship’s crew had been working together longer than most, Chris said on loading day, and Sevenstar had flown in their own rigger and loadmasters. Tenaya would be fine.

We were confident all would go well. From the beginning, Chris and Marieke answered all our questions and explained what to expect and how to prepare. The ship’s crew had been working together longer than most, Chris said on loading day, and Sevenstar had flown in their own rigger and loadmasters. Tenaya would be fine.

We were confident all would go well. From the beginning, Chris and Marieke answered all our questions and explained what to expect and how to prepare. The ship’s crew had been working together longer than most, Chris said on loading day, and Sevenstar had flown in their own rigger and loadmasters. Tenaya would be fine.

Two yachts ended up being transported inside the big ship. Maggie Drum and a 46′ Najad. That was a first for Chris and a lot more work. The owners of Maggie Drum had left Phuket for England after Peters and May assured them they would take care of getting the yacht on the transport ship. When they bailed, Duncan and Caroline were left high and dry.

Sevenstar came to their rescue as well. Chris had his guys take Maggie Drum to another marina, unstep the mast, package it up, and return it to Ao Po. In the end, it worked out fine. Maggie Drum and the Najad had their masts stepped together at Atakoy Marina in Istanbul. Two days later, they were on their way south.

Tenaya’s solo voyage, in company with ten other boats on the Da Cui Yun, was scheduled to take three weeks. Jim and I spent a few more days in Phuket before taking off on land travel in Laos, Vietnam and Hong Kong.

Arrival in Turkey

We caught a glimpse of Tenaya coming up the Bosphorus on the Da Cui Yun. Boy did she look small? We were on a hotel rooftop terrace with Malcolm and Bev whose boat, Chappie, was also aboard. The date was May 29, one month to the day since we’d last seen our floating home.

The agent drove us to the dock where we waited with the crews of Chappie, Maggie Drum, Diesel Duck, the Najad and one other boat until they allowed us to board. Up the fixed stairway we went. I grabbed a wireline instead of the handrail and a thick coating of grease squeezed between my fingers. A Chinese crewman chuckled and gave me a cloth glove. Not sure if I was meant to wear it or clean with it, I spent the next 15 minutes wiping.

Tenaya sat snugly between Chappie and another small sailboat, behind a large powerboat. Cradles were welded to the deck, chains kept them in place.  Six straps on each side connected each boat to the deck. Aside from a dusting of dirt and barnacles baked on her bottom, Tenaya looked fine and quite secure.

Chappie was unloaded first, then Tenaya. We were told to go aboard and undo the backstay. Jim and I were excited to climb over the lifelines after so much time away from her.

The poor thing, now she looked weary and bedraggled. My emotions swung like a pendulum. First, she was absolutely filthy with red dirt everywhere. Bad. The dodger was still intact. Good. I couldn’t see out of the windows. Bad. Her fenders were tied nicely in the cockpit. Good. The outboard was still attached. Good. As I was assessing it all, Jim pointed to the aft deck, “Yuck, what is that?”

Big blogs of black grease had oozed from the crane and splattered like massive bird droppings across the deck, soiling both the fibreglass and the teak. Whoever is in charge of greasing the big ship – I do not like you.

When it was Tenaya’s turn, the loadmaster told us to get off of her. We watched from the big ship’s deck as the crane brought the two large, orange straps to her stern. Workers on both decks positioned and fastened them.  They released the chains and straps, and in no time, she was airborne.

She settled into the water next to the agent boat which is very much like a pilot boat, red and stout with tires all around.  It acted like a giant fender between the big ship and us. Good thing, too, because when ferries went by, which was often, they kicked up a steep chop that sent us each bouncing in different directions.

Climbing down off the Da Cui Yun was more exciting than coming up. I would have jumped in a heartbeat. Seriously. That would have been fun. The rope ladder wasn’t. It was scary, like the first step when rappelling off a rock face. “Just hang onto that post as you go over,” said the Kiwi loadmaster.  Right.  It wobbled like crazy.  “Try the other one,” he suggested. It wobbled too. “Ah, you’ll be all right,” were his final words.

To sail in Turkish waters, the captain must produce a Certificate of Competency (Europe) or your country’s equivalent. Ours are stored Tenaya.  In eight years of sailing, nobody has ever asked to see them.

So when the agent wanted them, we explained our predicament. He needed to show customs that someone was certified before we were allowed to board.  That meant we had to hire a skipper to go with us to the marina 20 miles away. This guy did nothing for the US$200 we paid except track grease around the deck and re-tie my tidy docklines into a jumbled, overdone mess once we were berthed.

But we are finally back on Tenaya and, I must say, it’s really nice to sleep in our own bed. I’ve washed down the deck twice. Soft Scrub with bleach got the grease off pretty well, but I can’t imagine it was good for the teak.

We are hoping like mad for it to rain buckets and rinse the rigging.  The water pressure on the dock is astounding so hauling up a two-part hose will only succeed in blowing out the joints and sending our expensive, non-potable water everywhere. It already shot the nozzle overboard.

There must have been some big waves and high winds during Tenaya’s trip because there were snail trails of salt down the mast support, aka the stripper pole. When Jim opened up the ceiling, all the wires for the electronics on the mast were covered in salt.

It took a week of leisurely cleaning to make Tenaya presentable again.  Not just from her trip up the Red Sea, but from her mad dash from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah on Borneo, as well.  The weather was too hot and humid in Phuket for either of us to spend time on deck cleaning and polishing.

Would we recommend Peters and May? No, but you’ve probably figured that out.

Would we recommend Sevenstar? Absolutely.

Jim and Kate Thomsen

SY Tenaya

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