Monday, 21 July 2014

Episode 28 - The Philippines Part 1

Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures

At the end of Episode 27 we had completed our 3 month stay in Palau and were looking for a weather window to sail to Philippines (PI).
We had had a fantastic 8 months in Micronesia but now it was time to head to SE Asia.
Malakal Harbour
Thursday morning 19th June we contacted the Palau Authorities to give 24 hours’ notice of our intention to leave Palau. By mid arvo it was terrible weather and the forecast certainly had changed for the worse so we cancelled and re-scheduled for Monday 10am.
We were ready to go with nothing to do so over the weekend we relaxed for one day and re-did all the stitching on our sun canopy the other day.
It turned into a mission of a job and took two of us to feed the heavy material through the sewing machine.

Monday morning we cleared out at 10am. It was pretty straight forward, more fees and a farewell to all the staff at Sam’s Tours. Sam came to say goodbye also and was genuinely sad to see us go.
Hopefully he may come and visit us somewhere sometime…
With a forecast for a week of nothing over 8 knots and 0.6m (2ft) seas, we were in for a flat and calm trip across – or so we thought…..

The Crossing – Palau to The Philippines
Our 684nm route which we covered in just over 4 days

We transited the 16nm out through The Pincers and north to West Passage. On the way we went past this amazing house that had been built in a carved out piece in a mountain. The owner owns many things in Palau including an excavation business.

Exiting through West Passage and Lisa using the last of our phone credit to call her family in Aust.

There was no wind and the seas were flat so we trolled all arvo until dusk.

The Storm Clouds that started to form around 4pm

The Sunset that night was great.

Around dusk the storm clouds had started to form and that night we got belted with a lot of heavy rain and gusts from the north up to 30 knots. Fortunately it was reaching conditions so we put a small amount of sail out and speed along through the night.
By 4am it was calm again and we motored all day on day 2 until 4pm when the storms started again. This time the wind was more consistent and we were sailing along nicely.
At 9pm it all went downhill. The wind built and swung onto the nose, the seas rose and became short and sharp and it became really rough.
We were sailing fine but smashing into the waves pushing large walls of water over the bow, into and over the canopy. Water came in through our usually waterproof dorade vents and the kayaks were straining on their webbing straps. For 1 hour we battled trying to double rope down things all the while being thrown around with the water, wind and roll.
Inside looked like a bomb had gone off.
All in all we were caught a little unprepared. We were ready for a light wind ocean passage, not a belting from hell…
By daybreak on day 3 the storms and seas had subsided a little but the wind was still up so we sailed on to windward on a rough rollercoaster ride to the west but we were going further north than we had liked.

Note the absence of our blue sun covers on the hatches which were removed at 9pm the night before as they were letting water in.
That proved to be a fun job….NOT!

That night the wind shifted and we tack over and sailed SW which was perfect. The current had picked up in our favour and we screamed south averaging over 8.5knots.

Sailing along at 8.5 knots at daybreak

Still going at 9am

Day 4. The wind had died mid-morning and we motored for a few hours to keep moving. We were 124nm from land when out of nowhere we see these 3 tiny little boats racing towards us. It was 3 Filipino fisherman. We stopped for a chat and gave them some water and a snack. They were very thankful. When we asked where their big boat was, one guy stands up scans the horizon and not seeing anything, pulls out a small compass, scans around with it and points back to the north. We looked through the binoculars and couldn’t see a thing. Amazing.

On the side of their boats they had written “In God We Trust”. Well they would certainly have some strong faith to be fishing out there in those little machines so far from land and their Mother Ship.

That arvo the wind switched again and we were sailing closed hauled again but this time just north of the rhumb line and flying with a 3 knot current pushing us along. We just crossed our fingers it would last though the night. It did and we made land fall and about 3am, however we were 15nm north of the entrance to the Davao Gulf so we tacked to head south for 2 hours before tacking again and entered the gulf on daybreak Friday 27th, Day5.

The Gulf of Davao
Once inside the Gulf the wind died and with over 65nm to go to the Marina, we knew we were not going to make it before dark so we motored up the gulf planning to stop at a nice anchorage we had researched on the southern side of Samal Island, 50nm away.
Thank goodness we transited the gulf during daylight hours. The place is filled with small unlit fishing boats, loads of FAD’s and stacks of debris, logs and big rafts of foliage. 

Yachties reading this – don’t even think about transiting the Davao Gulf in the dark.

Just one of the scores of FAD’s we saw in the Gulf 

There were large rafts of Debris like this all though the Gulf

On the way we saw some Tuna Schools on the surface and a fishing boat came in and dropped a net around one of the schools. We sat off and watched them lay the net and haul it back in. They were working so hard and even had 3 guys in the water assisting with the net.
We were giving them the strongman sign and they were all laughing at us.

The Tuna Schools the boats were chasing 

After 30 minutes the net was in. It was great to watch and we gave them a cold bottle of Coke and a box of Chocy Bars for their hard work.

Finally we pulled into the safe anchorage in a bay that had a little fishing village and a small Resort/Camping Park with some nice bungalows for hire.
Overall the trip was much rougher than forecasted & expected and certainly a lot windier. It was the longest passage we have done to windward (winds on the nose) and most of the time sailing we were tight on and 50 degrees to the wind. The upside was it was a quick trip. We sailed fast and the current certainly helped. We used only a third of the diesel we thought we would use.
We used the Radar more on this trip than any other passage we have done outside Australian Waters.
We really pushed Lorelei hard on this passage and once again she came though just fine. Only a few distorted snap shackles and a small rub/tear in our canopy where the boom accidently hit it.
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a 100 times – we love our big, strong, steel boat.
We sail/motored 684nm in 4 days and 2 hours.

Samal Island

Before motoring the last 22nm to the marina, Paul got up early and went for a paddle in the bay and a walk around the shoreline and resort.

Transiting up the East Coast of Samal was amazing.
There were beautiful houses one minute and a shanty town the next. There were also loads of resorts both large and small.

At Midday we arrived at the Marina but we had to wait a few minutes for them to open the boom gate to let us in.

We made it ! The Oceanview Marina Complex

Opening the boom gate to let us in

Once inside, there straight in front of us was Munyana.  Charles and Maureen were our next door neighbours in Cairns for many years and it was great to see them. They we standing on the dock waiting for our lines, along with Michael (Shayler), Pete (Downtime), JP (Alya) and a stack of others. Talk about a warm reception!!
Well what a treat this was – for both us and Lorelei. It was the first Marina berth we had been in since Port Douglas, Aust back in Nov 2011. 
With unlimited water and power, we treated Lorelei to a full wash down with a stack of water and half a bottle of Truck Wash. After 3 hours of scrubbing she looked great and sparkling.

Scrubbed clean, covers on and all tidy - Lorelei at night in her Marina Berth
Sadly the next day Charles and Maureen off Munyana left as they had already cleared and were heading to Raja Ampat in Indonesia. They had just spent 5 years cruising in SE Asia and we learnt so much from them in the short time we had together. Hopefully we will catch up with them sometime soon.

Davao City

On the Monday, Pete took us into Davao City and played tour guide for us for the day. Thank goodness he did. It made life so much easier.
The Marina Complex has a shuttle that runs to the Samal Island Ferry Terminal a few times daily. Its free along with the ferries and the Holiday Resort facilities as the whole lot is owned by the same person who owns the Marina.

The Shuttle Bus from the Marina along with an Aussie - Bob off Chakira 

That’s one packed ferry!
When we landed at Davao City we were shocked at the super high level of security.
Davao City certainly has a chequered past. It is on the large Island of Mindanao which is a predominately Muslim area and has some powerful extremist groups in the Island’s South. Davao used to have a terrible reputation and was one of the roughest cities in all of SE Asia. Then a new Mayor was elected and he vowed to clean up the city, the drugs, thugs and extremists. He has done a fantastic job and the city now has a mostly peaceful Christian population.
Sadly though raids are still carried out into the city from the south and people are regularly abducted or killed. A bombing in a popular shopping mall cinema just last year made headline news.
Well as bad luck would have it, the Mayor got word of a major terrorist attack in the planning 3 days before we arrived and the city was put on high security alert. They did discover a series of large bombs being constructed in the CBD only the day before we arrived but its only 1 of a series of offensives apparently planned.
So we were a little cautious.
The Army had checkpoints into the city from both the land and sea.
The city has a Police force but it has very little presence so most companies have their own security team.
Take a standard shopping mall for instance –
Coming into the carpark the car is searched inside, in the boot/trunk and underneath.
Walking into the main doors you are split into male/female rows and bags are checked and you are patted down.
Each department store and most speciality stores have guards both inside and at the door and check you also. They are armed with large powerful hand guns and the men have a machine gun or shotgun slung across their chest.

Checking under a customer’s car with mirrors 

The traffic was also nothing short of chaotic!
The 4 lanes into the city weren’t really lanes, just a mixed group of vehicles of all sizes weaving around each other to keep moving.
The CBD was nuts. Red lights don’t mean stop and pedestrian crossings don’t mean anything!!! Chaos, but somewhat controlled chaos because no-one speeds excessively and no-one is over aggressive.
Beeping horns is something that happens every few seconds just to let someone else know you are next to them if they are merging.

Note the Pink Jeepnee on the left going through a red light…

We did see some wildly painted Jeepnee’s which act as the local buses.

Note the fresh produce on the roof going to market

We saw this lady out the front of the Immigration Building selling fresh honey. Note the Bees on the block she is holding.

After we had cleared in we went to explore the city, having a look at the malls, the main CBD area and do some other running around.

Well we had to take this shot in a mall….. 

Paul managed to find a Nikon camera service place and dropped off some lenses to be cleaned and we picked up some parts for Pete. 
We went to an engineering shop in the back streets.
It had 30 guys working in what we would call appalling conditions.
We dropped in 3 dead alternators, 1 large desal motorised pump and one other motor.
In one day they stripped them down, changed the bearings, re-did the windings, serviced, tested, cleaned and repainted them.
One even had a sheared off mount and they got another and welded it back on.
It was finished in one day and the cost was under $100 Aus for all of them!!!
They did an incredible job that was way less than 1/10th of the price it would have been back home.
And yes Pete bolted them back in on Downtime, tested them and they are working perfectly.

By 4pm we were stuffed so we headed home….

The entry onto Samal Island at the Ferry Terminal

We had a giggle at the obvious disregard for the rules at the terminal…..

Babak – Samal Island

The next day Lisa and Pete jumped on Pete’s Bike and they rode into Babak which is the town situated halfway between the Ferry Terminal and the Marina.
It has some small stores and some excellent local food stalls overflowing with quality fresh fruit and veg, fish, meat and the best stuffed BBQ chickens we have ever eaten. At 150 pesos each ($3.75) they are a bargain.
Lisa and Pete certainly get lots of on-lookers when they walk thru Babak. They are both tanned, blonde, solid build and well over 6ft tall – a stark contrast to the tiny, short and dark haired Filipinos.
They certainly look like brother and sister and everyone (even the westerners) asks the question.

To give you an idea of just how cheap (exchange $1Aus = 40 Pesos)
Pineapples – 20 pesos. Avos – 10 pesos. Mangoes –  8 pesos.
Bananas – 50 pesos for the bunch. Watermelon – 70 pesos

The bakery is the same – they brought 6 large Choc Chip cookies and 6 other items like chocy eclairs, fudge brownies, etc. and paid 75 pesos for the lot….
That arvo we had an amazing storm come in over the Marina. We could see it from over 30 minutes away and watched in fascination as it closed over us. Just amazing!

Davao City part 2 

We also went back into Davao once more that week.
I was just the 2 of us and we decided to walk around rather than catching cabs just to get our bearings.
Lisa with some friendly Army Checkpoint Guys.
Checkout the size of the scope on the guy’s machine gun on the right…..

After picking up Paul’s cleaned camera lenses near the Town Hall, we decided to walk out of town towards the biggest mall. We had to walk through the Muslim district. It was a bit un-nerving – we were the only westerners we saw and got a lot of odd looks. Paul had to be very careful when and where he pulled his camera out.

A typical street in the area and the street where they found the Terrorist’s building the bombs.

Further down the road was a gridlock at the intersections.
Note the mangled mess of power lines above and below. The whole city is like that – and worse in some spots…

Jeepnee’s and Cab’s as far as we could see

The less glamorous areas of the Muslim precinct. Note the Mosque Dome to the right

The Davao River – not recommended for a swim.
Although the Kids below didn’t seem to care.

Inside the main Mall, we decided to check out the massive grocery store inside. As we were walking around, midday came and a loud prayer came over the loudspeaker. Everybody stopped, bowed their heads and joined in the prayer.
One minute after the prayer, this crazy boot scooting song comes on and all the staff (100’s of them) come running smiling and happy and do this sort of a line dance style thing in the middle of the store for a few minutes. They loved it and all had the moves in perfect time. Paul just had to snap a quick photo.

We had lunch at a great place down the road called the Swiss Deli.
Paul just had to have a pic with a few of the girls in their cute little outfits.
Looked on by the 2 smiling guards but with shotguns in hand.
Lucky Paul said “take a picture instead of take a shot…”

Babak part 2
On the Friday Paul and Pete went into Babak for Paul’s first experience there. We were the only Westerners in the whole place. We got asked about 20 times for a trike hire and the young girls at the markets asked a few times if we were married….
It certainly was a fun and interesting experience.

Waiting for a fare in the main street

A typical street in Babak

The meat section of the local market

No they are not robbing the place – the Filipinos have a social structure where it is considered lower class to have tanned skin as it indicates you work outside as a commoner. You will see many women walking around completely covered up and with an umbrella.
Lighter skin = a possible higher social standing in others eyes…

No refrigeration here – just ice – and lots of it…

Our favourite Mango lady - Vini. She knows us by name now and picks the best ones out for us. The older lady to the right (granny) sells the best Avocados in town.

The Fish Markets - unlike the Solomon Islands, there were no fish over 300mm/12" long.

Our favourite F&V stall.
Note the small single serve clear plastic bags hanging at the top filled with things like Oil, Soy Sauce, flavours, etc...
Each time we stop and buy from here we get about 20-30 people gather and stand around in an arc watching on. It was a little unnerving at first but they are just genuinely interested to see what the Whities buy to eat.

There are stacks of dried fish stalls

Choose your rice – lots of options….

Chickens anyone?

On the way home we stopped to see a local farmer ploughing his field with a manual plough and buffalo.

Oceanview Marina

The Marina has a very social scene and a few nights a week things are planned.
On Wednesday night a local Filipino couple come into the Marina and cooks a fresh local meal. At 150 pesos p/p it’s a bargain.
On our first Wednesday night, after the meal they had a shooting competition – with rifles and real bullets!
On Friday nights, the Marina staff set up a BBQ and everyone brings their own meat and a plate of food to share. The yachties call it Pot-Luck. With 20-30 people attending of all nationalities, the food is diverse, plentiful and fantastic. Many of the Western Yachtsmen have young Filipino partners who can whip up some fantastic food and deserts.

Dusk over the Marina

Lisa and Pete cooking up a storm

Farewell Lisa and Pete
When we got to the Philippines we got word of some issues at home in Australia. Lisa’s family was really missing her which we already knew but then we got news of health issues with one of Paul’s family members and news of a very sick young friend in Brisbane who Lisa is very fond of.
So the decision was made to get Lisa on a plane ASAP and get back to Australia.
Pete from Downtime was also leaving to go home so they booked flights on the same day (to opposite corners of the world…) and we all went to the Airport together.
On the way we stopped at Swiss Deli for breaky and a few silly photos…

Pete owns a few Dairy Farms in the USA so he got the milking job…

BYE!!!!  Lisa and Pete at Departures, Davao International Airport. 

On the way home Paul stopped at a school at took some photos of the kids during lunch break – at their request!

Lorelei’s Refit

With Lisa gone, Paul got stuck into the work on Lorelei. Lisa is allergic to the Polyurethane Varnish used on Lorelei’s interior so the decision was made to completely re-do the entire varnishing while she was away. Normally for Paul it would be a mammoth job requiring many weeks (even months) of prep, sanding and varnishing but with a little help it could be done a lot faster.
Paul consulted Kjarten, the marina manager who came and looked at the project. He is just awesome and got the job underway immediately. He put 3 experienced Filipino painters onto it. We decided to tackle the job in 3 sections.
At just 500 pesos for each tradesman per day
(that’s $12 Aus per person per day) why wouldn’t you.

The boys (L-R. Mike, Nit Nit & Tata) sanding the timber trim which Paul removed from inside Lorelei’s 3 front rooms.

Our V-Berth which is usually the packed toy room, stripped, masked and ready for varnishing.

Kjarten even organised 2 of the carpenters to come in and plug all the exposed screw holes in the glued in timber trim. Paul didn’t even ask for it but Kjarten just saw it and thought it would look heaps better – and it does. Now that’s attention to detail!!

Alfredo and Gilbert – 2 excellent Timber Craftsmen.

Lorelei’s Slipping - Take 1
Whilst at Oceanview Marina we really wanted to haul Lorelei out on the hardstand and re-do the Antifoul.
For Kjarten and his team it was to be a big exercise as they had never hauled a boat of Lorelei’s size at the marina before and there were doubts as to whether it could be done.
After much discussion, measuring and looking at prior slipping photos it seemed feasible. The only issue was that we could only come out right on the highest tide of the month which meant we would have to stay on the hard stand for a whole month until the next Full Moon tide.
We only really needed a week but with all the extra time we decided we could also paint the hull and a few other things.
So we agreed and on the Monday 14th July we attempted to slip Lorelei. Paul had many helpers and on-lookers interested to see if it could be done.

Sadly after much pushing and pulling and dives down to check and align the keel on the centre strip, we just could not get far enough up on the cradle due to Lorelei’s size, weight and keel depth. We fell short by about 1.2m which was a lot. So with the tide turning we had no choice to abort and reverse Lorelei out and back into her berth.
Paul was pretty disappointed but understood there was a chance it wouldn’t happen.
So now we have to use the massive ferry slipway on the other side of the island. Fortunately it is owned by the same guy who owns the marina.
The downside is its industrial, busy and dusty and whilst antifouling will be fine, repainting the hull with a gloss white paint just won’t be a good result there so it won’t be done. But that's Ok. It was a luxury add-on and not a necessity.
OH Well!!! We had to try….

Lee’s Birthday

One weeknight was Lee off Chakira’s birthday party. It was a big event and practically everybody from the marina turned up.
Thank goodness they have a big boat!
Well talk about a multi-cultural turnout! There were people from about a dozen different countries. But drinking and dancing is still the same no matter who you are or where you are from and we all had a blast.

At first we were having drinks around the cockpit table

The local girls, most of whom have male yachtie partners.
Now they know how to party – and cook!!!

As the night progressed we all found ourselves on Chakira’s front deck dancing.

Tsk, Tsk - Partying on a week night !
Oh that’s right, nobody has to go to work the next day…or the next….

Note sure what happened in this photo but it accurately describes some people later that evening – messy….

When Paul got home (next door) he set the camera up on Lorelei’s sail bag and took this 20 second shot. Note the Lightning in the background and the Aeroplane’s light trail on the right.

Sadly the jovial mood did not last:
The next morning a typhoon hit Manila, the capital of The Philippines and 40 people were killed. Then the next morning we woke to the news of the Malaysian Airlines Disaster. It wasn’t a good 48 hours…

Lisa back in Terrigal, NSW, Australia

Meanwhile – Lisa had made it safely back to Australia after a brief stopover in Singapore.
She spent a great first week visiting her family in Terrigal, checking our house in Terrigal was OK and catching up with a few friends.

Lisa with her parents, Jack and Carol

During the second week she went over to Paul’s dad’s place and had a great week there. On the weekend they had a big family get together and celebrated the 3 birthday’s that had happened that week.

Paul's step brothers Paul & Matt and dad George all had birthday’s that week.

George having a beer at home with the family on his birthday.

Paul’s brother Rod and his wife Hayley

4 of the 5 wives that have to put up with the Hogger/Gaha boys! 
Megsie where were you?

George and Chez with their new van which they picked up only the week before.

Lisa also visited family friends Gordon and Bev at their new house.

The biggest surprise was for family friends Keith and Barb Guthrie who came for dinner one night and there was Lisa waiting for them.
Keith and George spent 6 weeks on-board Lorelei with us back in Nov/Dec 2011 and had a blast (see episodes 2 and 3 of our blog)

Lisa also went up to Lake Macquarie to visit her sister Sue & husband Ken, along with niece Sarah and her 2 young girls.
It was Sarah's 30th birthday and they had a great day!

Lisa with her niece Sarah.

Sarah 2 girl's Maddie & Jassie

Sarah and fiancé Mark

Lisa's elder sister Sue and granddaughter Jassie

One night Lisa went to Avoca to have dinner with friends The Johnston Family.
Rod, Mel, Claudia and Hunter cruised with us back in 2011 on their beautiful 48ft cat "Heartbeat 2" . We miss not having them cruising with us as they are great fun and keen divers, kiters and surfers - just like us.
For Lisa, it was fantastic to catch up with them.

L-R - Mel, Hunter, Lisa, Rod and Claudia

Claudia is surf mad and surfs every day. Her dad tries to get in the water everyday....putting a new board together while Lisa was there

Lorelei’s Refit Week 2

With the first week completed, all the varnishing done and trim replaced in the front 3 rooms, Paul was able to start disassembling the main Saloon area and the engine room/workshop. It was to be the most difficult part and took 3 days to strip and mask. It then took the boys a further 4 days to sand and do 6 coats of varnish.(2 sealer coats and 4 top coats)

No stairs but not really messy – just stripped!!!

The navigation area all masked up and the first coat of sealer applied.

The workshop – tools packed away and all the doors & trim up in the marina workshop being varnished.

What’s on for the next few weeks

So for the next 2 weeks its completing section 2, painting the ceiling and putting it all back together before moving onto to Section 3 – the galley, our master bedroom and the laundry. Paul will probably move onto Downtime next door while that Section is being done.
Hopefully in 2 weeks it will all be completed and then he can started putting things away properly, re-packing our toy room and getting back to some sense of normality. 
Then there’s the outside to start on and the antifouling….

It has all got to be completed before the 15th August which is when the Kadayawan Festival in Davao starts and the Yacht Rally to Raja Ampat in Indonesia is set for 2nd September.

For Lisa, she is going to enjoy 1 more week on the Central Coast before flying to Brisbane, Queensland to catch up with a lot of people including the Baddiley’s & Di Betta’s and going up to see Paul’s Mum and Ron in Kingaroy
(3 hours NW of Brisbane).
She will be returning home to Lorelei and Paul (if he hasn’t shacked up with a young Filipino girl by then…) in the 1st week of August.

So that’s it from a VERY, VERY different blog posting.
WOW – NO Scuba Diving, Surfing, Kiteboarding, Kayaking, Spearfishing, Wakeboarding or Mountain Biking.
Actually it’s the first ever blog post without at least one of these things in it.
Probably a nice change to read something a little different.

However we have found an awesome cable ski/wakeboard park here in Davao that has some sick looking sliders, jumps, rails and ramps that Paul & Pete from Downtime are itching to get stuck into.
 It will be in Episode 29 along with the rest of the re-fit, Lisa’s Brisbane adventure and the Kadayawan Festival here in August.
Hopefully we will also get some time in for a dive or two...

Lookout for Episode 29 around the last week in August 2014.

Paul in The Philippines
Lisa in Australia

OK – I’ll relent - Here’s a couple of Surfing Shots…..
For the Surf Season at P-Pass, Pohnpei, Micronesia this year, there was a pro photographer, Hayden, in the water for the days that it was pumping.
These photos below of Paul were taken by Hayden – then given to our friend James who runs the surf charter company – who then put them onto a USB stick when he got back to Aus and sent them to George and Chez who gave them to Lisa who emailed them to Paul.  5 months later and going half way around the world, Paul finally got hold of them….  Yippee - very happy!!!

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