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8 February, 2008

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and as I look upon the the beginnings of the hull for our boat I know that she will grow into a beauty. Sure, there's not much to see right now unless you're in love, but just wait a few more weeks as the hull is finished and the cabin and the fly-bridge are built up.

PA Bergstrom of Sweline Boats,our boat builder and the hull of the Lakeship TLC. Friend Tasha on the left.

Yesterday my friends; Rick Lennert, Adrienne Dartnall, of KIDS, and Tasha Dreger, all from Canada, joined me on a memorable road trip from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh where we paid a visit to PA Bergstrom and the boatyard of Sweline Boats on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

In so many ways that journey began months ago.

The realities of The Lake Clinic's funding demanded that our fiery ambitions for a floating poly-clinic be quelled for now and I began looking at designs of a more affordable nature as well as looking for someone who could build it. That search required numerous trips up and down the Tonle Sap; down alleyways and into some pretty "interesting" quarters of Phnom Penh. Nowhere did I find boat builders who really seemed to know what they were doing. The quality ranged from poor right on down to dangerous.

I gave up the search for a builder and decided to build the boat myself along with the help of Judy Larkin (Women's Resource Center), and other friends. That decision led to yet another search. This time for building materials and supplies. Again I found myself revisiting the boat builders I had seen on previous trips--with further confirmation of my assessment that their poor building techniques were matched by the materials they use.

Emails went out to friends in Singapore and Thailand. "Help!" Then Dr. Paul Richards replied from Phuket and sent me an email that pointed to Sweline Boats and PA Bergstrom. I found my way to his boatyard, expecting to negotiate for the building materials (plywood, resin, fiberglass, etc), but as soon as I walked in I gave up the idea of a "do-it-yourself" project, and we began talking about our boat. Sweline Boats had the right "feel"...it even had the right smell if you've ever worked with fiberglass.

With major support from Dr. Sriram Shankar, Drs. Caroline and Walter Dueger, as well as the incredible efforts of Dr. Hal Kussick (www.hal.lakeclinic.org) I was able to sit with PA and come up with a design and a contract that will be just what we need in these first few years of developing TLC.

The Lakeship TLC will be 9 meters long and a bit over 3 meters wide. She'll sleep 5, three forward and two amidship, and have a toilet, shower and a small cooking/pantry area. She'll be able to navigate in shallow water--about 25-30cm--and has plenty of storage space.

This will allow us to remain on-site for up to three days when providing services to the people of the Tonle Sap (http://www.lakeclinic.org/2007/05/photo-album.html).

Hopefully its configuration will also help with our cost-recovery schemes as we can rent the boat to other organizations and institutions during "down periods" for such divergent activities as bird watching to water quality studies. Already three such projects are being designed by individuals and researches who have seen the plans.

Hurdles remain. A new search for the engine(s) that will power our boat is beginning. Thanks to Angkors Kinder e.V., Ralf Regitz of ewerk, Michael Owen of Baystrategy and particularly to Rick and Adrienne we have the money to proceed in a timely manner.

We hope to have the boat and its engine in the water by the end of March.

With a physical "asset" finally able to be put on the table, we can begin to look for funding from foundations and other grant providers.

We will soon have the boat. Now we need the staff, and the money to pay them.

I promise to keep you up to date.