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Normally everything goes fine....
But you should go for your visa run 2 or 3 days before the visa expires.
The Ferry you want to take might have technical problems and not run at all, it might be full and you don't get a seat, or the weather might be so bad, the sea so rough, that you definitively prefer not to be on a ferry at all.
Or the morning you have to go - you got the flu . . .
There are normally 2 ferries you can take, if you want to come back the same day: one in the morning at 9.30 and one at 13.30. If you take the one in the morning you will have to wait for 3 hrs in Satun for the next ferry to return back. If you take the one at 13.00 you only wait 2 and 1/2 hr - officially - but the ferry can have quite some delay....
(Note: It is NOT recommended to come back before 72 hrs, if you want to get a new visa).
So - once you have a place in the ferry - you have to wait for it to leave. Patiently please. It might well be about 30 minutes late - this is still considered 'normal', which is fine, once you know it.
On holidays and Monday mornings the ferries are very full. And if the ferries are very full, the luggage gets stacked in such an uncontrolled and strategically catastrophic way, that it is nearly impossible to get through or out again. If you want to feel comfortable during the journey, don't start to imagine what would happen in the case of an emergency (soory - but taht is the truth).
Often the aircon is turned very high - which results in 'much too cold'. Whenever I go on a ferry, I make sure I have long pants on, socks in my bag, a pullover and and/or a blanket.
And in most ferries it is possible to go outside through the back and on top of the roof....
Once everything is fine, comes the torture called TV.
Although we are just leaving a beautiful tropical Island - outside is normally blue sea and sunny sky - the ones who have the say in the 'Ferry TV Program' on the Thai Ferries have the worst taste you can imagine. The cheapest 'gangster and brutality films' are played in full power - the English is mostly not understandable (due to the poor quality of the surely illegally copied CD's and of the TV loudspeaker) and the writing in Thai script will not help you much. This plays relentlessly in front of many families and little children to the bitter end - or the arrival of the ferry...
So don't place yourself too close to the TV. But if the ferry is full - you can not choose your seat.....
One hour later you are at the ferry terminal in Satun, called Tammalang. You can now - if you have enough time - go to Satun on the back of a motorcycle - which costs you 50 Baht = RM 5, and e.g. head for a massage.
In the terminal itself you have at the moment 2 restaurants and a few little shops. One restaurant - the smaller one - has good coffee! Otherwise nothing special. An Internet cafe with 2 computers - mostly closed . . .
If you want to wait in the terminal for the next ferry back - take a good book with you or whatever to spend your time with. The ferry back is normally not crowded - but sometimes they have only one ferry in service - and so the delays over the day accumulate.
Just today (27th of February 08) I came back from Satun with the last ferry - scheduled to leave Tammalang at 16.00 (Thai time). At 17.15 the ferry came and another 15 minutes later we left port. With a delay of 1hr 30min - something all the people around me took as perfectly normal and I tried to hide my frustration.
Back at Langkawi - the immigration department is king ...