Posted by: catamarantwooceans | March 17, 2012

Sailing to Palawan

12.3.12 – Monday – We had a shitty start in the morning when Yaron discovered that the starboard head was blocked. There are no shortcuts around a thing like that and we all spent two hours doing a thorough, dirty, job.

That finished, I canceled my diving plans having hurt my back during the above mentioned operation and while Dany did go with the "Dive Guru" club for an interesting 35 meters dive, Yaron and I strolled along the Boracay beach, marveling at the touristic and commercial activity all around. Many resorts, from economy to first class abound as well as shops, vendors and many dive clubs.

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On the water there is continuous action of sailing "Bancas", those fast local trimarans, glass bottom boats, banana boats and parasailing boats. At noon we were the sole customers in one of the Pizzerias, each of us devouring a 12" portion. Surely an afternoon nap was on the agenda!

At 1700 the couple from "Mango Moon", Lisa and Frank came over for happy hour. They told us about their Corsair 50 catamaran, which was built in Vietnam. They lived  there for 6 month with Frank working in the boatyard alongside the Vietnamese laborers, finishing the boat and sailing away just before the company was taken over by an Australian boat builder. They hinted that they had quite a lot of problems with the quality of the work.  

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Having sailed in Palawan and Busuanga, they gave us a lot of information and good ideas, some of which we immediately adopted, like not stopping at Semirara as the harbor was full of Cobalt ore barges and most importantly – go to the west of Palawan and avoid the numerous pearl  farms that are a real danger to navigation on the east shore. "Go to El Nido" they said.

Just a few minutes later the phone rang. This was Oren Mosensohn, from whom I recently got an e mail. What a coincidence! He, with another Israeli guy are on a boat called "Chasamba", which is the name of a very famous children adventure book series of the last century. Oren is related to the author of those books, which I read enthusiastically as a boy. Anyway, they are in El Nido right now and suggested that we meet.

After our guests left, we discussed our options and decided to go tomorrow straight to Busuanga and then to west Palawan.

13.3.12 – Tuesday – We left around noon. For some reason I was not relaxed, probably because I did not trust the weather forecast. Our first leg was to a point to the north of Semirara. Very quickly the wind and sea became higher. The speed through the water dial was acting strangely, showing values higher by 4-5 knots than the ones the GPs showed.

We put the sails at first reef and sailed fast, reaching the north side of the island an hour before sunset. We could see the mining activity on shore, huge trucks running to and fro making a lot of dust, three big ships anchoring in the bay, not our kind of place.

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Once we left Semirara and turned some 20 degrees to port, bringing the wind and seas to our quarter the ride became much easier. We also came under the lee of Mindoro, so the wind abated and sailing was simply perfect. The sun set, painting the sky dramatic red; a beautiful scene!

We started our watch system at 2100, Yaron taking the first one. Right then we saw the lights of a vessel converging from port. We saw red and green at the same time, signifying that it was coming straight at us, although the red was strangely elevated. The ship, which turned out to be a sort of ferry, came very close and we had a sort of a "Dog-fight" in which I maneuvered to its stern. Only then it turned to starboard and assumed a course that took her away from us.

14.3.12 – Wednesday – Morning found us to the north of Busuanga island. We circled it and entered the bay where Busuanga old town was marked on the chart. This is the information we had on the place:" A good anchorage and pleasant place to visit for a while. Some stay a month or more. There are several European run resorts, good to hang out in and good Euro food". That was just right for us.

Two miles away we still couldn’t see a thing. We approached the shore where the coordinates of the place lay – NOTHING! Finally we spotted some structure hiding among the palms and anchored opposite it at 2.5 meters on what turned to be coral rubble. This did not look right at all! A quick glance at the chart showed the location of the Busuanga yacht club in the Puerto Del Sol resort to be some 9 mils away. "Let’s go guys!".

We motored down there and found our Shangri-La. An old Catalina airplane was moored at the entrance to the bay.

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On one of the hills an interesting tower was the hub of a resort. Puerto Del Sol was on the other side of the bay and had what we were looking for: moorings, a restaurant, water and internet.

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In the evening we went for dinner (John Dory fish was the day’s special) and met the owner, Mike, who sat with us for a while and gave us a lot of information about the area and our next destination – Linapacan island.

15.3.12 – Thursday – Before departure we filled our empty starboard water tank. The filling station is actually one of the moorings that has a pipe of pure spring water connected to it. We motored out and set a course that will take us out of the bay and into the open ocean. Immediately we ran into a string of pearl farms. The first sign you see is an innocent looking rectangular platform about 3×3 meters. Then appears a field of black buoys interconnected by a thick rope. Just imagine running into one of those at night!

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According to the forecast this was supposed to be the windiest day of the week. I decided to keep the main in first reef. We had great sailing in the lee of Culian island, wind gusting up to 25 knots on flat sea. When we left the cover of Culian we experienced small steep waves and had to reef even more in order to avoid bashing into them.

This was spicy sailing and we arrived at the northwest corner of Linapacan at 1400, covering 42 miles in 6 hours. The recommended west bay turned out to be quite big. We circled around it to find the best spot and ended up anchoring in 14 meters. Too deep for my taste, especially now that the windlass became temperamental, refusing to work under load. I need an electrician!

15.3.12 – Friday – The windlass did not cooperate again and we had to pull the chain and anchor by hand, which was not so good for my lower back. Going out we narrowly escaped getting ourselves snared in more of those pearl farms. They are simply everywhere!

Sailing to El Nido, Palawan was really pleasant. Yaron adopted Dany’s method of positive thoughts influencing reality and declared that today a fish will be caught. As we got closer to El Nido the scenery became spectacular. Huge rocky islands were all around us.

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As we turned to our last leg the wind gusted, the boat surged forward and at the same time the reel sang. We quickly slowed down while Yaron put in a lot of effort to bring the fish to our stern.

I was standing by with  the gaff and with a quick heave brought the big one aboard. It was a 10kg Spanish- mackerel and it made Yaron a happy man.

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After a hasty photo session we redirected our concentration to navigating to El Nido. One mile to go and we still did not see the village or the yachts that were supposed to be there. Are we going to see them behind that impressive rock ahead or did we make a mistake when entering the coordinates into the plotter?

Seeing the first mast appear from behind that rock was a relief; we came by "Chasamba" to say hello, show off our big fish, then anchor, with Oren, skipper of that boat, coming over to assist. He then came aboard, we had a chat and invited him and his partner Lesley for fish dinner.

It took a long time to organize the fish and store the 22 man – meals it gave in the freezer.Lesley and Oren came by in the evening, bringing the local Rum, Tanduay, which was surprisingly mellow.

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We had a nice dinner and swapped stories and information. Their cruising style is, of course, very different from mine. When they get to a place they stay much longer and soak it in. I, as you know, am a fast moving bloke and having to keep my crew’s schedule I rush between destinations, getting only fleeting tastes, smells and impressions. 

17.3.12 – Saturday – First thing in the morning we went to the colorful local market for fruit and veg.

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We also arranged places on the bus going to Puerto Princessa on Monday morning. Yaron is flying back home and we will do the checkout with customs and immigrations. We may even find an electrician to fix our windlass.

By the way, we decided not to go to the underground river, which has just attained the status of one of the world’s great wonders. Too much of an effort and we gather it’s just a lot of hype.

Next we took a tricycle to town. El Nido seems to be a fun place with a lot of guest-houses and eateries.

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The view from the northern beach is great.

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We’ll go again later for internet.

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