The boat’s owner, who goes only by the name Sando, told The Phuket News this afternoon, “We had 32 people on board from five Muay Thai gyms – we do a lot of Muay Thai training off the back of the boat.
“We realised we were in trouble when the pumps couldn’t keep up with the water coming in.”
The sinking is not just a disaster for the boat. It is also a disaster for his business, he said. “We had a B2 million [Muay Thai] competition coming up on the boat.”
That contract looks to be as thoroughly sunk as the boat, which is sitting on the bottom, its hull and lower deck underwater.
Sando is now waiting for the insurance company to survey the damage but, he said, “They’ve told us we can’t move the boat. It’s sitting on the bottom and while we’re waiting more damage is being done. I think it’s going to be a write-off.”
What makes things worse, he said, is that he had just spent B1.5 million on the second refurbishment of the Lady Andaman in two years. “People said the boat looked really great.”
The sinking echoes that of the “booze cruise” boat, which sank in February last year after hitting the same concrete block.
The block is one of some 200 planted by the Harbour Master’s Office around Chalong Bay about 18 months ago. These were intended to be anchors for channel marker buoys, or for boat moorings.
But the mooring lines between the blocks and the buoys have in most cases failed. As a result, the blocks, far from being navigation aids, have become navigation hazards, lurking on the seabed, ready to rip the bottoms out of unwary boats.
At low water, the block that caused the damage yesterday is in just two metres of water.
Another boat owner, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Phuket News, “The sinkings are only part of the story. Every captain is totally paranoid about hitting [the blocks]. Almost every boat operator in Chalong has hit the blocks causing untold damage, lost business and near-sinking.
“The solution is simple. Bring back the same barge that put them in and haul them out.”
The Director of the Phuket Marine Department, Puriphat Teerakulpisut, blamed theft for creating the hazard, “The mooring was damaged because the buoy was cut off and sold by selfish fishermen, so people on boats could not see the block and crashed into it.”
He added that the storm of December 23 had moved some blocks out of the position, so that GPS bearings for them are now wrong.
“We have to take responsibility, together with Chalong Municipality. We will go the crash site on the first of next month [February] to try to solve the problem.”
Until then, at least, boat owners will still have to contend with a hazard that, even if they are aware of it, may not be in the position they think it is in.
Asked if he would be moving the block he said, “No way. It’s much too heavy.”
UPDATE: In the evening Mr Puriphat called The Phuket News to say he would be visiting the crash site tomorrow (January 21).