Friday, 24 October 2014

Episode 30 The Philippines to Northern Indonesia

Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures

At the end of Episode 29 we had finished 90% of the work on Lorelei and had slipped her to apply new antifoul paint.
We were at Oceanview Marina on Samal Island, Davao making our final preparations to leave The Philippines for Indonesia.

Our sailing route for this episode

Final Re-provisioning in Davao

The first 8 weeks of Lorelei’s refit and the slipping had gone so smoothly and pretty much without incident.
We certainly couldn’t say that about our last 2 weeks in Davao.
It was a case of 2 steps forward and one back as we tackled problem after problem, minor breakages and having a hard time sourcing parts and certain things we required when reprovisioning.
We spent days walking the streets in search of different items.
Refuelling had to be done by jerry cans and each morning for a week, Paul would take 6 in the van to the local gas station for filling up.
What a mission!!!

The galvanising of our anchors and chain also turned into a major saga.
They didn’t replace a worn pin in our main anchor as requested, the anchor shackles all came back seized closed and the chain was a pretty poor result. We spent so much time going back and forth trying to sort out the problems. In the end we received a big discount but still would never go there again or recommend the place.
Unfortunately it’s the only company in The Philippines that does it.

Paul re-tagging the anchor chain

Moutainbiking Samal Island

There were certainly a few upsides and during our last few weeks we did some awesome mountain biking, riding over 250klms in just 5 rides.

One Sunday we tackled our biggest ride during our stay and rode down the East coast of Samal Island to Balet. It was dirt all the way.
From Balet we followed the coast road which was a constant up and down with some quite steep sections. The view out over the water was fantastic.

We then had to tackle a huge meandering rough dirt hill that climbed steeply for over 7klm.
Abeth (Kjarten the Marina Manager’s partner) knew the hill and bailed out. She paid a motor bike to carry her and the bike up to the top. She did that once again during the ride…

We elected to ride/walk to the top but it was hot and the trip up was brutal. We had to stop over a dozen times and at one stage Paul and Kjarten were nearly passed out in the drainage ditch on the side sweating profusely and close to exhaustion.
The 5klm downhill into Peneplata was really intense though!!

By the time we reached Peneplata we were all cramping up and pretty fatigued. We had lunch at the Bahay Kubo restaurant and caught a lift ½ way home in the back of a ute and then rode the rest of the way.

One day we found a colourful insect crawling around inside Lorelei’s saloon.
We broke out Lisa’s new Nikon macro lens and had a chance to test it before putting it in the UW housing.

We also took a shot of our friendly Jacks that lived under our boat at the marina.

On our last Thursday at the marina, we linked up with JP & Dideth off Alya and the 4 of us threw a late lunch/small party for all the marina staff just to say thanks. We set up the marina’s club house, had the food catered and brought a stack of beer, rum & cola and sodas. It was a great arvo for all and apparently the first time anybody had done anything like this for the local staff.
For the fantastic work they did on Alya and Lorelei, it was the least the 4 of us could do…

Leaving Davao

After 2 weeks we were ready to go.
In reality were much better prepared than we have ever been when leaving port.
Lorelei was fully serviced, cleaned, painted and was looking her best ever and we had A LOT of food and supplies onboard.
After our 6 month stay in the Solomon’s last year we had a pretty good idea of what and what not to take into Indonesia as far as western goods.
The water and diesel tanks were all full and we had over 300 litres of Gasoline for our Outboards & Scuba Compressor which is the most we have ever carried.

The biggest issue with being at a Marina is finally letting the lines go and actually leaving.  With unlimited water, power, internet and food nearby it’s all too easy just to stay “one more day”. That combined with 2 typhoons going through The Philippines north of us (in which many people died due to flooding and mudslides) and the daily afternoon squally thunderstorms which all added to the “lets stay” argument.

Just one of the arvo storms we encountered at the marina

It rained so hard one arvo, the hill behind the
Marina turned into a waterfall!!

Finally on Monday 29th Sept we cleared out and started heading south towards Indonesia.
It was a bitter sweet day for the cruising yacht community.

7 months ago a German couple were taken from their yacht by Muslim Terrorists whilst sailing in the Western Philippines and they were being held in the mountains on Mindanao. Their be-heading/execution was set for the day we left. 
Fortunately we learnt that they are still alive at the time of posting this blog.

We used the current and went down the western side of Samal Island and past Davao city.

Further south we saw a stack of FAD’s and lots of fishing boats tied to them and fishing around them.

We found these 2 dive tourist boats swapping passengers
in the middle of the bay

We motored for 7 hours down the Mindanao coastline before finding a picturesque bay to anchor for the night. 1 hour after we were settled in, the daily arvo thunderstorm whacked us for an hour or 2.

The anchorage before the storm and below is 1 hour later…

We experienced wind from every direction that evening before it dropped out to a quiet night.

The trip down the Mindanao coast the next day was fantastic as we stayed only 400m offshore to avoid the current. We went past loads of small villages with many colourful fishing boats (bankas) pulled up on the beach.

We only got 20nm before being hit with un-forecasted SE winds so we stopped in a protected little bay where we were warmly welcomed.

We had a great sunset that evening.

We were up at 4am the next morning for a 60nm run to the Philippines southern most islands and our anchorage, Port Patuco at Saranghani Island.
On the way we past some huge coconut plantations and stunning landscape.

The massive coconut plantations offset by large land slippages
from the heavy rain during the monsoon season.

We stuck close to the coast for the first half but then had to head offshore to do the crossing to the island. The further out we headed the stronger the wind and the larger the swell got until we were bashing into 25+ knots under heavily reefed main, mizzen and storm jib. It was a very wet trip across.

Heading towards the Island with its extinct volcano high up in the clouds

Port Patuco – Saranghani Island

The passage into Port Patuco faced the west and had big waves across it. It was a wild ride surfing Lorelei’s 28 tons over the bar and into the channel.

Once inside, the anchorage has 360 degree protection and is a great storm anchorage. We spent a total of 9 days there and did a stack of activities.

The first full day we went to meet  Bernard the Barangany Port Captain and his family who welcomed us, invited us for morning tea and assured us Lorelei and her crew would be very safe.

Kayaking around the port was fun with many smiling happy people of all ages waving and saying hello.

In the arvo we visited a local lady named Mari-bel who’s family (and 6 kids…) manage a large fish farm. They raise approx. 10 ton of fish a year.
Their house was the closest to where Lorelei was anchored.

The inlet on one side of the man made wall and the fish farm on the other

2 of the 3 resident pigs that follow you around like a dog…

How do we know we are back cruising??
When the locals paddle out to sell you cheap big-ass Muddies…!!!

On the weekend Mari-Bel and her family came out for a picnic on Lorelei and spent the arvo swimming off the duckboard and having a blast.
The SUP got a big workout as the kids played on it for ages.

On the Sunday the local Church had its annual Thanksgiving Day with a morning service followed by a huge lunch and fun arvo.
Everyone brought food and we made 2 big chocolate cakes which were a hit.
Mari-Bel and her family partied the night before and at 2am killed a pig and roasted it. It was ready by 8am. Many of the women stayed up all night preparing the food.

This man sat and rotated the pig for the entire time it roasted.

When we got to the church we found out we were the first non Filipinos ever to have come to a service (and the church is over 40 years old…).
We were treated like royalty and were given front row seats.
The fact that all the local officials (who were only there for Thanksgiving Day as it is not their regular church) sat in the row behind us certainly said something.
We were welcomed in English by every speaker and were even invited up to make a speech about our travels.
It was a very charismatic service with lots of rocking songs with an electric guitar, people up singing and everybody dancing around with each other. A heap of fun.

The day certainly had a lot of firsts for us and it was the first time we have been to a service with 4 roasted pigs (still steaming hot) and crates of food and drink stacked at the base of the alter.

Lisa with Edgar the local Minister and all round great guy.

We were amazing at the participation of the local people.
Heaps of people led songs, did speeches and even the kids did 1 song.

Lisa with (L-R) Daisy from Gen-San, Lynn (our host and Mari-bel’s daughter who is studying to be a church minister) and Benny, also a local Minister.

After the service the hall was cleared, a stack of tables were brought in and the food was prepared. We were seated at the table up on the stage with all the VIP’s and ministers.
Paul was made to sit at the head of the table!!!!

Now that’s a lot of food and drink….

Mari-bel and the end-of-lunch antics….

Paul with Edgar after lunch

Lisa playing 1-on-1 basketball with virtually everybody watching on

Just as we were thinking of leaving we were told about some horse fighting that was about to take place. We had no idea what to expect but it was definitely an eye-opener.
Firstly they cleared the field and brought out a small mare that was on heat. Then they brought stallions 2 at a time to fight over the mare. It was pretty brutal with the crowd really cheering on the 2 battling stallions.
We saw 4 rounds of fights.
Paul was shooting with a 12-24mm lens and had to get real close to the action and a few times had to run for safety. Intense stuff!!!

Note the pig to the right which walked right through the middle of the action without a care in the world

Many times the mare got angry and kicked out at the stallions
Once it landed a really hard kick that connected to a stallion’s nose which drew a lot of blood

Paul nearly got hit about 2 seconds after this shot was taken

We wanted to find out a little more info on the tradition of Horse Fighting and found this interesting bit of info.

On the Monday we linked up with Mari-bel’s family and a few of her friends and loaded up the boats for a trip to the beach for a swim and a picnic.
We left at 7am to try and beat the wind but it was already 15+ knots so we found a small rocky beach in the main channel out of the wind and hung there for most of the day.
We flew our large 10m long octopus kite for the kids and had a great day.

Mari-bels youngest son Brenth helping Paul with starfish to photograph

On the first night that we had left the marina we went to turn on the anchor light and both the anchor & Nav light LED’s illuminated on the switch panel but the actual lights didn’t work. Not happy!!
So when it was calm enough, Paul went up the mast and spent over 90 minutes trying to work out the problem.
Eventually we found a loose wire at the base of the mast in the roof lining of the guest’s bedroom.
Oh well at least he had a camera up the mast with him and got some photos….

Can you spot Lisa in the photo?

For the next few days Typhoon Vongfong ( an intense category 5 cyclone) tracked north of us and was heading towards Japan. It brought unsettled weather and it was very windy with lots of squally rain storms.
Thank goodness we were in a secure anchorage.
Paul really wanted to try to kite but all the surrounding beaches had onshore winds and it was too rough to venture up the coastline to the top of the island in search of a cross-shore beach. It simply wasn’t safe for any of the options. Bummer!!!

With the beaches effectively closed, Mari-bel and her famly would come out and have picnics and swim off Lorelei’s duckboard.
We broke out the blow up toys for the kids to play with.
One day for lunch they had condensed milk sandwiches and wondered why we declined on lunch that day…!!!??

After 4 days the wind had died but the swell was still up and Paul found a fun 2ft right hand wave peeling off a small reef patch just north of the main channel.
Paul would paddle out in the mornings and ride it on his paddleboard.
Heaps of locals in boats stopped to watch him.
After talking to the older locals, we think he is the first person to ever have surfed on the island.

Paul taking surfing selfies with the camera mounted to his paddle

On the way home one morning this guy jokingly yelled out from his home that he wanted a go. So much to his surprise Paul paddled over and offered but he shyly declined until his family and Paul ribbed him pretty badly so he had no option but to try.

When the swell died we explored the inlet and up & down the coastline.

They love comic heroes! Note the Power Ranger painted on the side

Paul with some of the local kids

Lisa was so desperate for surf – even a shore dump will do….

Tsunami!!! – Nah only kidding, just Paul getting camera creative….

and then getting dumped!!
On our second last day there, the wind dropped right out and the swell was flat so we loaded up the RIB for spear fishing and left at 6am for a run north to a small island called Olanivan Island which is only a mile or so north of the main island.
The current was flying along the drop-off’s and we drift speared in the clear blue water. There was not a lot of reef fish and only a few small pelagics but we did manage to spear some medium sized Trevally for
Mari-Bel and her family as it was the weekend she had a lot of people staying at their house.
Later we found out that they are a rarely caught, prized and very expensive fish to buy here (much more than tuna) and many people were amazed we just “gave them away”.

We kept one and turned it into thai fish cakes and went to their house for dinner that night. They cooked their fish in coconut milk and wrapped
in banana leaves.
It was a fantastic night and a farewell party for so many people.
Mari-Bel’s relatives were going back to Mindanao the next day after a two week visit, eldest daughter Lyn was going back to college and we were leaving.  We ate, danced and partied well into the night.

Lisa and the girls. Note Lorelei in the background

One of our fav foods was coconut rice wrapped in banana leaves and  stuffed into a bamboo tube for cooking. When ready the tube is split open and the wrapped rice is then cut sushi style and eaten. YUM!!

A fun feast with friends

Everyone was dancing – even the kids….

An 11pm reflection shot when we returned to Lorelei.
Note the lights onshore from the dancing partygoers

Monday morning we left at 6am to scores of people waving frantically from their houses along the water’s edge. Mari-Bel and her family were crying.

With only a little wind we motor-sailed for 50nm down to 2 small islands joined by a shoaling reef. It was very open but just fine in the calm conditions. The water was so blue and we could see the anchor and chain clearly on the bottom in 22m of water.
The sunset was spectacular and a deep pink colour.

The next day was a final 65nm run to Sangihe, Indonesia.
We trolled the whole way but for 2 days didn’t turn a reel.
The one highlight was a Blue Marlin that came right up to the side of Lorelei and did 3 big vertical jumps clear out and landing on its side each time to create a big splash.
Awesome – but all too quick for a photo…

It is the first time ever that we have transited from one country to the next without having to do an overnight sail and were very fortunate to have so many anchorages to stop at on the way.

Sangihe – Indonesia

Finally!!!! We had Sangihe in sight.
From 10nm out the island looked massive with its high active volcano hidden up in the clouds.

As if to welcome us, 2nm out we hear a huge series of booms that sounded like long & loud thunder. To our amazement we discover it is the volcano as 30 seconds later we could see dozens of steam vents on the side of the mountain become active. They only lasted a few minutes and were gone again.
The volcano’s last major eruption was in 1963 and over 1800 people perished.

As we transited down the coast we sailed past some amazing coastline.
Underwater was the same and many times the sounder went from 60m down to 300m+ and back to 60m in the space of only a few hundred meters.

Paul raising the Indonesian and Quarantine Flags

The capital of Sangihe is Tahuna. It has a very deep harbour and is too deep for anchoring so mooring buoys have been installed for visiting vessels.

Our view of the foreshore and some of the town of Tahuna from Lorelei

The next morning we were woken at 4am by the Mosque (which is only 150m from Lorelei) calling all followers to prayer.

We went in to clear with the officials and Paul got grilled over coming in with a yacht rally visa and being nearly a month later and well after the rally participants had already left.
We expected the worst but 20 minutes later the same guy is laughing and joking with us and gave us a full 60 days on the visa. So happy as technically he could have backdated the 60 days to the rally start, leaving us with only about 30 days left on that visa.
As we waited for the paperwork to be processed we watch in horror at the live TV coverage of the Volcano eruption in Northern Sumatra.
And to think we were only talking over breakfast about how excited we were about maybe visiting the local active volcano here and were planning to be in the erupted volcano’s location in about 9 months time.

We walked into town and were just blown away at how friendly the people are. Everyone was waving from bikes, cars, house doorways and shopfronts.
Talk about rock star treatment….!!!
We had been studying the Indonesian language for a few weeks (the Ipad apps are really helpful) so it was great to put it into practice.

The busy yet colourful waterfront

Our first Indo bakery experience

One of the local Mosques. Note the huge speakers facing out on each spire.

Our first meal had to be one of our favourites – Indonesian Satay Chicken (Sate Ayam). We pigged out on it with rice, stuffed tofu squares and bottled drinks all for less than A$2.50 each.
Guess we will be eating-out a lot here – we cannot make it for that price.

We stopped at the local markets and had a look at what was available.

Well at least we know we can get eggs….

For our first scuba dive in Indo and Sengihe, we dived a Japanese WW2 shipwreck which was located in the harbour.
By fluke rather than good management, the wreck was right next to Lorelei’s mooring. We simply jumped off the aft swim platform and descend onto the wreck.
We took our camera’s complete with new arms, floats, strobes for Paul and port, lens and modelling light for Lisa.
Exciting but a little nervous at the same time…

However we have no photos of the wreck!!!
We had heard that the wreck and the black sand around it is teaming
with macro life so we set both cameras up for macro.
Of the 300 photos between us, we culled it to 45 before editing them
and picking a final 14 for the blog.
Lisa was pretty chuffed to get 8 in while Paul only got 6.
Beginners luck!!!!
Actually Lisa had spent the 3 weeks prior studying UW photography guides and reading UW photo books and actually even taught Paul
a thing or two about settings.
Paul is very happy Lisa is really getting hooked on it and has
made the switch from video to photo.

Paul’s Photos….

Tassled Scorpionfish

Broad Club Cuttlefish

Brownblotch Jawfish spitting out sand from his burrow

Many Toothed Garden Eel
A new variation of Garden Eel for us

Pygmy Lionfish
A new variation for us and only found in SE Asia

Squat Shrimp – less than 5mm long

Lisa’s Photos…..

Tassled Scorpionfish

Yellow Barred Jawfish
Only found in Indo, Borneo and The Philippines. A first for us…

Tassled Scorpionfish

Ringed Pipefish


Nudibranch – Colourful Hypselodoris


Mantis Shrimp

We enjoyed the dive so much and particularly with so many new things for us that we dived it again the next day on the top of the high tide.

Paul’s Photos….

Peacock Mantis Shrimp

Yellow Spotted Anemone Shrimp


Holthuis Anemone Shrimp

Spotted Porcelain Crab - Notice the eggs under the crab’s body

Lisa’s Photos….

Nudibrach – Swollen Phyllidia  -
It was laying eggs which are at the front on the right

Yellow Spotted Anemone Shrimp

Spotted Porcelain Crab

L: Anker’s Whip Coral Shrimp (only 4mm long)   R: Spotted Porcelain Crab

Unusual Radiant Sea Urchin

We orgainised an around island tour by car. We linked up with Nirwan who works at the local tourism office and he arranged for his friend Armin to drive his small taxi bus for the day.
We were picked up at 8am and got home after 6pm.
Talk about an action packed day!!!

Firstly we climb high into the mountains. The roads were steep with many tight corners and hair pin bends. Sounding the horn at each corner was a must.

We went to a small mountain village and saw the old king’s house and visited a workshop where the men were making traditional bamboo furniture.

In the mountains Nutmeg is grown in large quantities and is handpicked.
They dry the nutmeg in the sun and it needs about 4 days so the best place to do it – on the flat hot tarred road of course…!!

Local School Girls and a typical house in the mountains

The road back down to the eastern coastline was also steep and tight but the view through the trees was amazing.
We stopped at one black-sand beach side village for a walk around.

Dried and Salted Fish at the local markets

These trikes are awesome and there are so many.
Most have thumping sound systems with large sub woofers under or behind the seats (or both).
A stark contrast to the old beat up things from The Philippines.

The white sand beaches on the eastern coastline were stunning with small islands offshore, amazing coral reefs and even a few potential surf breaks.

After lunch we went back into the hills to visit a waterfall.
The 20 minute hike up the watercourse was stunning.

With Nirwan our fantastic tour guide

On the way back down we had to re-cross a log over a deep pool with steep vertical rock sides.
Paul had his tripod out with a camera attached (and 2 more cameras and a flash unit in his backpack.
When he got 4 steps across – disaster – the log broke and Paul was thrown into the water. Instinctively he thrust the tripod into the air and the camera and lens surprisingly stayed dry. The backpack was not so lucky. He quickly gave Lisa the camera and backpack and we emptied the contents to find the backpack soaked. The camera cases inside were a little wet on the outside but the cameras and flash unit were all dry.
Whew!!! Talk about lucky….
The issue though was finding a new way to get down.
Fortunately Nirwan had already crossed and managed to find a new log (although a lot smaller) and held it in place while we scurried across.

In the afternoon we went to the base of the volcano and had a look at the area of the lost city.
The lost city was the capital of Palau Sangihe that completely disappeared when the tectonic plates moved violently during the last major eruption causing the entire town to sink into the sea. Many lives were lost. The village now rests under the ocean at depths down to as deep as 100m. We had heard about it before as a dive site and Nirwan confirmed this.

During the last eruption the lava cut huge tracks into the land as it made its way to the sea. They now have become natural watercourses but are deep and filled with black soil and heavy ash. Road bridges have been constructed to get across them.

Washing day in the watercourse with The Volcano –
Mount Awu in the background

There are no roads up to the volcano but you can hike it. It is however a minimum 2 day hike from the closest car drop-off point.

For our last stop we went up to a lookout. It was so high up and we could only just see Lorelei. It was late arvo and the sun was low in the sky lighting up all the west coast. Just amazing!

A 180 degree stitched panoramic looking west and down to
Tahuna and the bay Lorelei is moored in

A 180 degree stitched panoramic looking east and out to the
surrounding islands.

Amazing view!!!!!

All in all it was a perfect day. Nirwan is a great guide and Armin a careful and considerate driver.
And the cost for the day all inclusive - $350 000 rupeh or about $30 aus...

2 days later Nirwan wasn’t able to find us a boat to take us up to The Lost City. Instead we loaded up our RIB with our dive gear and headed north along the western coast of the island to a location we thought may be The Lost City.
It was a small bay 6nm north of Tahuna and we scuba dived the northern end and wall of the bay for the morning but no luck in finding the ruins.
It was still an interesting dive though.
Lisa shot macro while Paul went with wide angle for the photos.
It was Pauls first time with the new arms using the 10-17 fish eye lens and he struggled getting the correct strobe placement for many of the photos.

Banded Coral Shrimp

Large Whip Goby

L: Bubble Coral Shrimp   R: Deceptive Brittle Star

Spotted Sandperch

At first we thought this was a Nudibranch but then realised
it was a juvenile Black Spotted Sea Cucumber

For our picnic lunch we found a great fresh water stream that was pouring out into the sea on a black sand beach.

For the arvo dive we did the southern area and wall. The wall was amazing and obviously was created from where the tectonic plates had moved.
The topography was made up of perfect terraces all the way to 40m depth.

Long Nosed Hawk Fish

Nubibranch – Siboga Glossodoris

A pair of Pixy Hawkfish

L: Nudibranch - unsure - maybe Geometric Chromodoris???  
R: Soft Coral Ghost Goby

Flat Rock Crab – type unknown

After the dive we went back to the fresh water stream and washed all our scuba gear, the cameras and us. Perfect!
On the way home the setting sun was illuminating the coastline.
What little wind there was had died and the seas glassed off for a perfect run home.

The sun was just setting over the point of the bay as we made it back to Lorelei.

Oh well, we didn’t find the lost city but it was a fantastic day and beaut weather. We are still determined to find it though…

So that’s going to be it for this episode of our blog.
We were going to extend it a bit further but the internet is so fickle here and finally we have a good signal – if only for a short time, so it’s time to post.

Future Plans in Northern Indo

After our little “Work-on-Lorelei” stint at Davao it is just great to be out cruising again and it only gets more action packed from here!!

We are planning to stay a little longer here in Sangihe.
The original plan was to only stay a few days and do a straight-line 100nm run to Lembeh in Sulawesi but the more research we do, the more exciting things we find in the area.

In Sangihe we plan to do some more diving, find the lost city and hang out with our friends Pete and Deb on Downtime who just showed up 5 minutes before pressing the “post-this-blog” button.

Additionally there is a big Paragliding festival here in Sangihe that starts on the 30th Oct (1 weeks time). Over 150 people are flying in for the big event and they will be launching of the lookout where we took the photos from on our day trip around the island.  It’s something that we have never experienced or done before and there are opportunities to do tandem flights so we are very keen for that.

From Sangihe we will spend a week or two transiting south through the islands to Sulawesi.
High on the list to do is a diveable underwater active volcano (one of only a few in the world) with its claim to fame of having the world’s best underwater visibility. We have the location and contacts so it should be fun.
Additionally there are some other great dives and reports of virgin surf breaks.

With Downtime with us it will also allow us to transit around the top of Lembeh to Manado and dive in the Bunaken Marine Park which is also a world class dive destination offering a wide variety of diving including some big wall drift dives.
We will link up and dive with them like we did in Palau.

Either before or after Bunaken we will spend a few weeks at the famous Lembeh Straights – the world’s best macro dive location offering over 60 dive sites. Lisa is so excited for this part of the journey.

Look out for a jam packed Episode 31 from Northern Indonesia in about
4-5 weeks time.

Thanks for spending the time to follow our adventures.

Yacht Lorelei
Paul and Lisa Hogger
 (Happily married for 19 years as of yesterday - Oct 21st)

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