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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

March 1, 2006-Toothless In Manila


Well, this bufalo is not exactly toothless. But Judy did lose one tooth here, or had it extracted to be more precise, and I am happy to report that everything came out OK.

Judy’s tooth flared up in Borocay and she suspected she needed this extraction, (the tooth had a bit of a history).

Our problem was that we weren’t in Manila, where most of the big hospitals and care centers are, as well as the best dentists and oral surgeons. Finding a safe place to leave the boat and a way to get to Manila was a little tricky. It took us over a week to get the boat situated and get here.

But we are here. The boat is in a safe and secure anchorage in Coron, in Palawan province, near an air strip where flights to and from Manila can be had, and we are in our favorite cheap hotel in Manila.

Makati District

We’ll go back to Coron tomorrow, as soon as she has one more check-up to make sure there are not complications; after all, its a long trip to come to the dentist.

Click here to see the airstrip and plane on Busuangs Island.
Click here to see Busanga from the air.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Manila

More Photos taken on our trip to Coron:

Ambulong Beach

House on the beach

Busuanga Island

Coron Passage


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

February 22, 2006-Semirara Island, Columbus Cove

Fisherman at Semirara

The cove on Semirara has no name that I know of. Hell, it isn't even on the chart, or my chart anyhow. But it is a cove nevertheless, and a calm and peaceful one at that. From here, peaceful and calm as it is, we can look past the point which forms the western end of this cove, call it Columbus Cove after the boat which reported it to us, and see rough ocean outside. Today the white horses galloped by all day outside Columbus Cove, so we're glad to be in here.

Yet here in Columbus Cove it was quiet. We heard not even the putt putt of a banca to disturb us more than once or twice. Both times a banca came by it was the same one and it was towing another banca. Evidently there is only one banca hereabouts with a motor. We know there is a house around the corner to the west, and maybe a few on the beach around to the east, and the traffic between the two is what we've seen going by twice a day. It's a two day sail to a town where we think we can do internet, so we are out in the boonies.

We worked on the boat all day. I fixed the starter which was getting slow, plugged some leaks in the deck which showed up on the way over here, and we fixed the mainsail where the luff rope had shrunk up so far that it came out of the feeder and made it tough to take down. Yeah, and I fixed a broken bracket for the fore peak bunk, so it was a busy day, even if I did get a late start (at noon, well, we're cruising).

Tonight I sat outside in the cockpit and watched darkness fall, then watched the stars come out. There are a lot of stars here and it is cool outside in the evening air, but not cold, and no bugs bother us. This is what I wanted to come to the Philippines for; cool air and starry nights. Nothing like the muggy and smoggy Hong Kong skies.

Tomorrow we'll either sail on, or, more likely, we'll launch the dingy and explore this cove and this end of Semirara Island. Maybe we'll go ashore and meet the people who might live here, around the corner.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Semirara Island, The Philippines

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Febuary 21, 2006-Sailing to Semirara

Monitor Steering

A huge flood swept into the Tablas Straits into the teeth of a 30 knot Nor’easterly and we charged at 7.8 knots under main alone through the resulting maelstrom knocking aside all manner of seas and water. The windvane steered us straight along the rhumb line to the west, towards Semirara Island, 36 miles distant.

It was a close reach and a wet one; Wings’ head was perpetually lost in a cloud of spray, and her decks constantly awash.

Judy stood watch for the first two hours and I stripped down and went forward to secure the jib, which wasn’t going to see any use on that day. I got drenched, but it was not cold work, the water being warm and all that.

B&G Instuments tell the story

At 11:00 I took over the watch and Judy went below for a nap, but she didn’t sleep. Instead she watched our progress across the chart and listened to the sounds of the boat and sea outside.

Green water

Never slowing a knot, we wove our way between the windward end of Semirara and offlying shoals, into shallower water and even bigger waves and closer to the lee shore than either of us liked, but we cleared the point and bore off downwind.

Finally we jibed towards a small bay, which isn't on the chart but a friend said it was there. Now we were screaming towards uncharted land at 8 knots and no sign of the wind lessening. Judy asked, “What did we get ourselves into?” and then she added, “You know, I think I’ve lost my love of sailing.”

But there was shelter on that corner of Semirara, and when we dropped the sail and came into the little bay, we found it to be a pleasant spot.

Maybe we’ll sit here a day or three and plug some leaks that appeared in the deck.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Semirara Island, The Philippines

And for you map readers: N12 degree 05.086 minutes Latitude, E121 degrees 20.628 minutes Longitude

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Monday, February 20, 2006

February 20, 2006-Borocay

Borocay Beach

The white sand beach at Borocay Island: several miles long, beautiful, famous, crowded, touristy. From offshore you see this beach, like others in these islands, blinding white in the sunshine with the green palm trees waving behind and clear blue and aquamarine water off shore, and you just want to go in there. It allures.


But actually it gets mixed reviews as a cruising destination. That’s the best I can say.

We did go to Borocay, and we spent a week there. We hated the place for three days, but it grew on us as the week went on. Now we’re ready to go from here, but we do have a better feeling about it.

We spent most of our time ashore, and it turned into to kind of a holiday.

Here’s the bad news about Borocay:

The bancas which I liked so much in Puerto Galera have evolved here into a different beast. They are crude, with plywood cabins and bad, flaking paint jobs, and sound like old Mexican buses. They roar by every 30 seconds with their unruffled diesel engines belching black smoke and throwing up wakes that rock you almost to beam ends. Add a few dozen dive boats, hundreds of small bancas taking passengers for joy rides, the speed boats towing “banana rides”, bouncing along in all their yellow glory with half a dozen Japanese tourists yelling as loud as they can to prove how good a time they are having, and you get the picture. The water is rough here.

The beach is a hard one for dingy landings, lots of green algae to wade through that clings to your feet like angle hair, big tidal ranges, and waves, lots of waves. We struggled with anchoring the dingy off the beach and wading in but eventually we gave up and put the wheels on. That made it lots better. So we were learning.

We moved the boat a couple of times and possibly the traffic was less where we ended up.

Sailing Bancas

On the good side, we loved seeing the sailing bancas, those slender hulls with large colorful sails and bamboo outriggers barely keeping them upright. They look a bit like daddy long legs spiders, with their wide curved crossbars, quietly racing past with tourists making up the needed ballast.

Welcome to Borocay

And we found that life was better ashore than on the boat. The boat was rocky and the bancas noisy, but ashore we found a little bit peace and quiet. Away from the bustle of the shops and vendors along the beach, we found quiet lounges with ocean views where we could sip mai tai’s and relax, while the sailing bancas plied the water and tourists strolled the beach in front of us. We stayed ashore most of the days, and we did no cooking aboard.



Judy had one day, one unpleasant day, longer in Borocay than I did. We arrived on Tuesday night and at 06:00 Wednesday morning I caught a banca to Caticlan and then a domestic flight to Manila to join the crew of FreeFire,


Sam Chan’s 70 foot flyer, for the Manila to Borocay Race. While I was gone Judy got her head banged a good one by the solar panel, developed a bad tooth ache, and generally was miserable. But she had enough spirit to come out in the dingy to greet us as we crossed the finish line Thursday morning, and she tied the dingy behind and came aboard for a beer and a tour when we anchored FreeFire. I was gone only 28 hours, including the ferry, flight, breakfast at Manila Yacht Club, helping prep the boat, and the 205 mile race.

Racing to Borocay

Riding The Rail



Pretty fast trip in all and there is little finer than gliding along on a moonlit night at 15 knots with the pole on the headstay, the “monster” kite up, not making a sound. We startled more than one fisherman as we flew by their bancas, coming out of the darkness like an apparition.


Chaos Below

FreeFire finished second but corrected out to fourth. That was bad enough to take, but then the Yacht Club gave us a first place trophy for “Cruising Class” which irked each and every one of us.

Awards Party

The awards party on the beach at Borocay was outstanding, surreal even, with a fully catered meal and tables covered with linen clothes and set with fine silver, waiters everywhere, and surrounded with a Stonehenge circle of sponsor’s banners flying, all under ten million stars and breathed upon by the soft & warm Borocay wind. Some local Filipino native dancers put black war paint on our cheeks when we went to stage to collect our trophies.

Wing’s own trip down to Borocay was not nearly so fast and included some unwanted drama. Coming into the anchorage at Meastro de Campo Island we turned up wind to drop the main but it refused to come down. We let it luff and flag and tried everything but it wouldn’t budge. Meanwhile darkness arrived. We had to anchor, with the main still flagging furiously, and Judy ran me up the mast on the anchor windlass and I banged the top slug back into the track with a ball-peen hammer and then it fell down. We stayed another day at Meastro and I modified the top of the main so that wouldn't happen again, hopefully.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Borocay

Borocay Island is located at: N11 degree 56.040 minutes Latitude, E121 degrees 55.000 minutes Longitude

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Febuary 11, 2006-Last Boat from Batangas

Arriving at Nightfall

I sat outside as darkness enveloped Puerto Galera and watched the last boat from Batangas come in from the Verde Island Passage and cross the bay to the pier. The banca’s navigation light was a golden dot moving in the fading light and I watched it slow as it approached the pier. I was sitting there drinking my rum and listening to Cat Power on the speakers and I thought about the passengers on that big native boat, those souls I couldn’t see in the darkness and distance but who must have been feeling thankful that they were in, having just experienced a tense and rough crossing.

More than rough, it had to have been unsettling out there in the gathering darkness with the grey seas and fading light, listening to the engine surge in the swells and hearing the crack of the bamboo outriggers as they smacked into the waves. One of the guys at the yacht club bar said that they lose one or two of these boats each year, and I am sure most of those passengers have heard the stories too.

Inside the banca

I took the trip across the passage to Batangas myself a few times in recent days, since the wind has kicked up, and these bancas, which are just a big plywood canoes with a diesel engine and flimsy outriggers to keep them upright, are a bit scary as they plow through the crossing seas and the leeward outrigger buries itself in a trough and the whole boat shakes and swerves off course Looking aft you can see the captain grimace as he tries to cope with the conditions when a bad one hits, and looking forward you can see the right hand of the bow lookout signaling “down, down, slow down!” as he scans the seas ahead.


You hope it isn’t your time yet: You say, “God, just get me into the harbor just this one more time.”

Then the banca roars through the entrance channel and into calm waters of Puerto Galera, and you are relieved and you relax a little and you don’t think about the next trip you know you will be taking, maybe tomorrow; you are just happy to be in and you are thinking about getting home and what’s going to be cooking for dinner tonight.


I admire the bancas. Yes, they are plywood and bamboo, and they are held together with monofilament fishing line, but they are highly evolved craft, well suited for the conditions. Take the Verde Island Passage for example. When the banca hits the rough water out there the narrow hull cuts cleanly and efficiently through the waves, and those flimsy-looking bamboo outriggers act like independent suspension systems, flexing and working in the heavy seas, as they keep the main hull upright. The one banca I like to ride often carries 100 passengers, has a crew of about eight, twin engines, and they make six crossings a day, starting before daylight each morning. That’s pretty good for a modified dugout canoe. When they arrive in port the horns are blowing and the shore crew mobilizes to tie them and get the passengers off like the workers at any airport.

Disembarking at Sabang Beach


I talked to an Aussie guy named Tony today who had his own close call with the Verde Island Passage. He set out on his 50’ power boat with is wife and one crew member, headed for Apo Reef for some diving, and 40 miles down the Passage his engine quit.

There isn’t much down there but ocean and waves and rocky shores. No towns.

He had cell phone coverage though and when the engine quit he called the Philippine Coast Guard and a few of his friends; then he passed out of range. It took five days for the coast guard to find him and get a cutter along side, and then tow him back to port. He was getting closer to Viet Nam than he was to the Philippines. He just had a broken down engine, but if his boat had been taking on water…well, I guess we can figure out the probable outcome.

As for me, I am just glad to be sitting on Wings tonight drinking my rum. We moved across the bay to the shelter of the hill where it is calm, rather than over on the lee shore at Boquette, where we spent the last few nights in the bucking roadstead listening to the wind howl. When the moorings are full in Puerto Galera most people anchor in Boquette, but when it is windy it is unpleasant there. Here, it is calmer, and very nice. Being here rather than Boquette so improves my attitude that it makes our whole stay in Puerto Galera that much better.

In this little cove we are surrounded by islands with their jungle covered hills, can only see a few villages across they way, and the place has a very natural feeling. Off to the left the mountain of Mindoro, with its’ permanent cap of angry gray clouds, stands guard over the surrounding countryside. It reminds us how small we are…and how small humans are in the overall scheme of things. .

Tomorrow we’ll take the dingy back to Boquette and pick up our laundry, which we left with a guy named Jun, who lives there, and whose wife will wash and dry and fold it for 50 Pesos a kilo. We’ll take the dingy over and we’ll expect to get wet. Since I’ll be wet anyhow, maybe I’ll do some windsurfing while I am there; Boguette’s exposed beach is good for that at least. Then we have to go to the yacht club and check to see if the new propeller for the dingy is in, and check at FedEx for our mail package. And after we put some water on board, we’ll be ready to go to Borocay.



Oh, we’ll go to Bad Ladz restaurant for burritos tomorrow night.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Puerto Galera

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