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The water depth levels of the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap Lake are at record lows and the TLC team is utilizing local "rent-a-boats" (like the one pictured below) to keep our clinical program running. I do believe that the two young American medical students who are with us this month will be providing and update for "Out on the Lake" in a couple of weeks.

This blog is not about that work, but about this season's latest adventure of "Living with the Charming Duckling".

Next to the ship's cook, strong rope is the most valuable asset on board.

In late February our 200 horsepower Yamaha engine simply quit on us, and we had to tow the TLC-1 from our usual port of call in Kompong Khleang to Chong K'neas, a tourist port just a short 30 minute drive from the TLC office, and that much closer to a mechanic with "some experience" working with outboard engines.

TLC-1 under tow across the Tonle Sap Lake

It was a clear, calm and very hot day that we chose for the towing, but aside from the boredom of sitting alone in the pilot's seat for 5 hours the day passed without incident and we settled the TLC-1 into a space along the shore next to a floating police station in Chong K'neas.

Some days later the mechanic arrived and began taking apart our engine.

The prognosis was grim, so Sakhem and I decided that only first-aid measures should be provided--just enough to get the engine running so that we could sell it "as is" as we began the process of planning to convert our Charming Duckling to diesel power. This move will hopefully improve fuel-efficiency and reduce the running costs associated with our weekly clinical missions.

The next decision wasn't so easy. Would it be better to tow the Duckling down to Phnom Penh; lift her out of the water and transport her to her place of birth--Sweline Boats--or to try the "Cambodian method" and pull her ashore down in Chong K'neas.

As with many of decisions it is The Bottom Line that determines what we do.

Sakhem hired a group of local laborers, who led by the chief builder from Sweline (Mr. Yet) harnessed the TLC-1 and prepared her for a manual pull out.

A truck full of banana trees had to be purchased, and then laid out along the path that the Duckling would need to travel.

And a tug-of-war with gravity and resistance was soon engaged.

Step by step and centimeter by centimeter the TLC-1 was lifted off the bed of bananas.

Here she sits, awaiting a good sanding and repainting.

And looking a bit tired and worn.

Presently we are working with our friends at Sweline Boats (aka "Camboats" and "Southeast Asian Composites", or SEAC) to come up with a design and engineering that will convert the TLC-1 to an inboard diesel engine. We now have approximately $12,000.00 dedicated to this project. It might be "just enough", but with some additional funds we can be assured of a better quality diesel and gearing as well as better quality controls.

As always we look to our friends.