Posted by: catamarantwooceans | February 4, 2012

Sailing Palau Rock Islands

30.1.12 – Monday – Before you can sail the Palau Rock Islands you have to get a few permits and licenses. First you must have a valid cruising permit (50$ for a month); next comes the Rock Island permit (25$ for 10 days) and since you want to fish – a non commercial fishing license (20$ for each fisherman). The last two are obtainable from Koror State Rangers who will also give you a map of the restricted areas as well as a set of rules sand regulations regarding the place.

We did all that and then left our mooring by the Fish N’ fins, went out of the west entrance of Malakal harbor and motored southwest to Ulong island. We entered a bay situated on the southeast, giving perfect protection from the northeasterly wind and simply beautiful.

31.1.12 – Tuesday – First thing in the morning – a swim to the big rock on the west side of the bay. We saw some coral, fish and the resident black tip shark.

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We then went out and sailed the boat, practicing reefing the sail as well as some other maneuvers, in order to get Dany acquainted with "Two Oceans". After a while we turned south and sailed to Babelomekang, a trio of islands where we could find a good anchorage for the night.

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No luck in the fishing department (again). Although the dive sites are full of edible fish, none of them was tempted by our lures.

A thing to remember when sailing the Rock Islands: watch the water surface and read the bottom! Reefs and shallows do not always conform to the chart.

1.2.12 – Wednesday – We decided to go into the Macherechar island, which is actually a lagoon full of those Rocky islands. It was midway between low and high water and we passed a few places where the depth meter showed a minimum of 1.8 meters, 90 cm below our keels. Meandering between those islands was a fantastic experience.

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We tried to anchor in a bay on the southwest but gave up when we saw we were going to damage the corals; so we went out to the north and found refuge in Ngchelobel (how do you pronounce this?) in – yet again – beautiful surroundings.

2.2.12 – Thursday – Since both of us crave fish, we decided to go out to the open ocean and troll a few hours. Nice sailing in about 20 knots wind but NO FISH!

Back into the Rock Islands lagoon we wanted to spend the night in a bay called Soft Coral Arch, which is one of the many unnamed islands, at least on our charts, nestled between the "arms" of the big island of Ngeruktabel. On the way to that Softy bay we passed an island that looked on the chart like a worm eating a bug.

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The bay inside the "mouth" lured us in. It was a real beauty, but we wanted to see the soft corals, so I turned to go out. "I think you can go out through the channel on the right" said Dany. It seemed quite narrow but we did it just for fun.

Reaching the area of our target we saw that there was no real anchorage there so we decided to go back to the "worm".  By that time the wind, funneled by the many islets, became stronger and was coming from different directions. We went back through the narrows, this time with camera ready

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The "Worm’s mouth" was quite small. I dropped the anchor in a position that I thought will give me free swinging in all directions. After we had lunch I saw that we were coming too close to the wall on our right. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night in such a close proximity, especially when the winds were coming in from all directions attaining considerable velocities. We tried putting a stern anchor but it did not really help.

At 1600 I had enough. Anchors up, we motored out into the wind, which came up to 30 knots for a while, opened the sails with a deep reef and had a wild ride to Ulong, to the bay we visited on Monday. Excellently protected we had peace and quiet once again.

3.2.12 – Friday – Another "Fish run" and this time successful. We went along the reef on the east side of the Rock islands and landed a two feet barracuda. This is a first for this trip and also for my new Omoto Poseidon reel that some of our kids bought me for my birthday.

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According to plan we aimed to go to a bay called "Milky way" but on the way there Dany noticed another bay, hidden behind a line of small rocky isles. We went in and anchored in 3 meters on a turquois patch, opposite a sandy beach adorned by a few coconut trees.

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I started calculating the effect of the tide in the hours to come and found out that sometime around 2200 we will dry out and touch the bottom. The prudent thing was to go elsewhere! Just around the corner, another part or the bay beckoned. We had  to pass a bar with only 2 meters of water at high tide, to enter an anchorage with a view to all those marvelous islands Palau is famous for.

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This is only a part of the chain, there were about eight of them on the horizon.

Later, comparing the Palau tide tables to the those I have on my computer, I discovered that the former are in FEET! I could have easily stayed at the first anchorage.

4.2.12 – Saturday – Another go at fishing and this time Dany is on the rod and reel. First fish, a longish one with what looked like a bill escaped less than 5 meters form the stern. Another one, a biggie, just broke away with the line and the lure. Dany, being a positive man by nature, is taking all this in his stride; no frustration, no anger, he is happy with anything that comes along.

Back to Koror via the main entry channel, we motored to the Royal Belau Yacht Club and filled our fuel and water tanks. Tomorrow we’ll go diving and on Monday we will set sail to the Philippines. Our next post will probably be published in a week’s time.

Until then – Adios from Dany and Miki on "Two Oceans".

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