Saturday, April 28, 2012

WEEK 16 – Puerto Princesa

Sat 21 – Fri 27 April
We had a communal breakfast at the Club on Anzac Day and on Friday we checked out of the Philippines meaning to leave on the 28th. They ended up not charging us anything to check in or check out but if we had extended our visas as Braveheart have it costs 3,300 pesos ($75) each.

I think I have mentioned the main mode of transport is the trike and they can actually carry five people. Four in the cabin and one sidesaddle on the back behind the rider. You stand at the side of the road and hail them. They all have names on the front, some religious – examples are: Christ the King, God’s Gift, Carlo-Jessica, 5 Sisters, 3 Brothers, Aries, Virgo, Survivor, Superman and for the couth and cultured- Fart. There are white trikes and blue trikes and they work alternate days but after8pm they can both work.

On Tuesday evening we walked a kilometre or so to a restaurant we had been told about in the mangroves. We had fantastic food and they were playing great music and the setting was wonderful. So Friday night we went there with Cilantro and Braveheart to celebrate Sandra’s birthday – which was actually on Saturday but we were supposed to leave that day. We had the best night and we all enjoyed Sandra’s birthday immensely. In fact we enjoyed it so much we decided to stay another day and go there again tomorrow night!

So hard to leave Puerto Princesa. The people here are so gorgeous. They are so friendly and despite their poverty seem so happy. The children swim off a brick wall by the Yacht Club every day and all greet us as we walk up the road. When we come out of the supermarkets now all the trikes know where we are going and don’t try to rip us off. Of course we pay a bit more than the locals but its never more than $2 - $3. They are just the loveliest people.

For those of you in or near Brisbane, check out the following site: Sorry I dont know how to link it and they have "improved" the blog site- dont you hate that!!!!
Our daughter Amy has organised a show at the Tivoli Theatre on 28th July. All for a good cause – the Ride for Cancer in which Amy is participating.

We may be out of email range in the next week as we slowly head south towards Borneo. My computer's hard drive has finally died so am doing this on Peter's and I am not allowed to touch anything so no photos this week!

Take care, much love
Dell and Peter

Monday, April 23, 2012

WEEK 15–Puerto Princesa

Saturday 14 April
The skipper got all the old batteries out and with the help of Chris got them into Bob – two of them weigh 60 kg each! They took them in and the new batteries were delivered and they got them, back to the boat and put in their place – at last! We have 300 amps instead of 400 but at least they work! The skipper had been very grateful to Andy for making him get a generator before we left Darwin as he had used it a lot to charge the old batteries. Had a clean up on the boat then Cilantro, Braveheart and we all went to Kaluis, the special restaurant, for dinner – we had to book and used our ‘winnings’ from Melbourne Cup to pay for the meal. I say ‘winnings’ when in actual fact we halved our money but as we had a bet on every horse it was winnings! Had a wonderful meal with a lovely bottle of wine which was called Tall Horse and it had a picture of a giraffe on it!

Monday 16 April
We walked down to the big blue church we had seen when we came in and notice a park across the road with an ancient entry and discovered it had been a US POW camp and on 15 December 1943 143 Americans had been ordered into the air raid shelters and had kerosene and hand grenades thrown down on them and were burnt to death – only 11 survived. We haven’t seen a lot of American cemeteries or camps before and it brings home their part in the war too.

Wednesday 18 April
We were picked up at 8am by bus and headed to Sabang. The lady sitting in front of us held up one peanut and with a mouthful of nuts asked if we would like a nut – we declined. She must have thought we looked really strange (or hairy!!) as she stared at me for a good part of the way. One thing we have noticed with Asian women is they have a lack of body hair on their arms. We had two stops along the way – one for souvenirs and the other to take photos of the spectacular karsts with rice paddies around them. The scenery was quite stunning and two hours later we pulled up at Sabang and the sea was as flat as and such a beautiful colour – shades of aqua. Such a difference to when we were last there! We had a very early lunch then went to the Bangka stop and our guide got us on the 12.30 bangka with the rest of our group. It was a 10 minute Bangka ride across to the beach then a short walk through the jungle where the smaller bangkas collected us after we had donned life jackets and helmets. There were lots of swiftlets flying around in front of and in the cave and heaps of bats in the cave. The river is an 8.2km long underground river which flows directly to the sea and is visited by 700 – 1,000 people a day so we only went 1.2km in. Unfortunately our guide wasn’t terribly interested in explaining things to us and stayed very close to the noisy boat in front of us so we couldn’t hear him anyway which kind of detracted from the granduer of the place. And they give the one torch to the person at the front. It was wonderful but over too soon. I think one of the special tours to go 4km would be good but knowing how hard it was to get permits for this far we wouldn’t have even attempted it. We walked back and saw a couple of rather large monitor lizards – they really are like small komodo dragons – and some monkeys who were intent on grabbing people’s bags. Then it was back on the bus and we were back at the Yacht Club by 5pm. It was a good day out.

The rest of the week has been taken up by walking around he town, shopping and eating!

We have checked out the pearls here and found them to be expensive – I am not sure how much pearls usually cost but these are hugely more expensive than we paid in the Bandas. Mind you, nicer pearls if you like them big. Filippino pearls are a yellowy or ebony colour and are very big – about three times bigger than the pearls we normally see. We have seen one necklace for 60,000 pesos ($1,428) and another for 120,000 pesos ($2,857). A single pearl depending on its quality is $50 - $70.

Anyway we are now starting to do some timings and passage planning and will head south back towards Miri towards the end of next week.

Hope you are all well. Missing you.
Love Dell and Peter

Monday, April 16, 2012

WEEK 14–North Verde Island to Puerto Princesa

Saturday 7 April – North Verde – Arrecife Island
Happy Birthday Pete
09°54.632N / 118°52.306E
It was so calm. The skipper got up at midnight again to run the motor to charge the batteries. We followed our track out and the tide was a bit higher so it wasn’t so bad going out. We motor sailed over some pretty deep water and then shallow. At one stage where the deep water met the shallow water we had some breaking waves. We came into Arrecife Island which apparently some years ago had hostages taken from the resort. Braveheart had some notes which said the resort welcomed yachties but obviously that has now changed. We had been looking forward to going ashore and doing some snorkelling. There was a navy boat anchored there with 4 big guns on it. The resort people came out in their boat and said Braveheart and Cilantro had to move as they were too close to the reef. Cilantro headed for Puerto Princesa (4 hrs away) and Braveheart reanchored. Cilantro came back shortly after as it was a bit rough out there. Then the resort told us we could stay the night but could not go ashore! Then at 5pm they came and told Cilantro we were a security risk so we had to go. Cilantro said it was too late for us to leave and they haven’t come back. The skipper made hot cross buns and Cilantro gave us some little chocolates for Easter and we gave them some fish. We are now below the 10° mark which is supposed to be out of the cyclone belt.
Miles: 32 TTT: 1542

Sunday 8 April – Arrecife Island – Puerto Princesa
Happy Birthday Katie
09°45.917N / 118°43.746E
We had an early start and after a whileBraveheart called us up to tell us we were heading for a reef and sure enough our depth was dropping so we made a sharp turn out of there – our charts are way out. As we approached Puerta Princesa the seas really kicked up and it was like crossing a bar. It was where the sea went from 1,000m to 95m depth and we were getting badly thrown around from side to side and took a couple of nasty knocks to the side. It was horrible and we could see the waves breaking all around. Braveheart had got in closer and were in calm water. Seemed to take ages for us to get in there! We came up the channel to Puerta Princesa past the city and as we approached the Yacht Club a boat came out to lead us all in and told us where to anchor. We went ashore for a lovely welcome and some celebratory drinks – the first time on land for nine days!! Had a tasty meal for dinner.
Miles: 19 TTT: 1561

Monday 9 April – Puerto Princesa
We all went to town separately by trike and went to the supermarket. Four people can fit in a trike – one on the seat behind the driver and three in the cabin. We ran into Braveheart so we all went to lunch at Kaluis which is a really special place and we had the most amazing meal. Walking back we stopped and watched a parade which included bands of school children in their marching costumes. We managed to get a new starter motor battery and the skipper is testing our batteries to see which ones are cactus.

Tuesday 10 April – Peurto Princesa
We caught a trike to town with Cilantro and went to Immigration to finally check into the country! We were thinking we might get into trouble but we got 21 day visas and were told we would be charged 500 pesos ($12) when we check out. We walked to town and went to a travel agent to book our tour to the underground river at Sebang (which had been too rough to get into when we went up the coast) only to be told that it was booked out for the entire month of April!!! But if we did a walk in at the permit booking office we might get a permit. We went to lunch – great value and then Sandra and I waited for the 1pm opening of the office which opened at 1.20 and then we went in a huge crowd shoved along to a counter with four people sitting there but apparently we had to see the last person. Someone finally felt sorry for us and gave us a form to fill out – we had no idea what was going on or what we had to do. Then we waited and waited until we could give the form to the girl and she told us to sit down and wait. After a while Sandra went to see how long we had to wait cause I couldn’t sit in that crush any longer so the girl then said come back before 4pm which we did and we waited some more. I think one of the locals told the girl to process ours cause after half an hour or more Sandra suddenly had our four permits!! I was sitting out of the crowd – too claustrophobic for me! She was told she had done really well as most people there had been waiting since early morning The worst run office I have ever seen and the crush and the wait totally unnecessary! Would have loved to be able to sort that office out!!. Anyway we came back exhausted and had dinner on board.

Wednesday 11 April – Peurto Princesa
The boys went shopping (fishing lures) while we went to a travel agent and were told the underground river is booked out but when we said we had permits she phoned around to get us a tour and deducted the price of the permits from the tour. It was such a relief to know that we hadn’t got the permits in vain! So we are booked for next Wednesday. She also told us that whale sharks should start appearing near here next full moon. They haven’t sighted any yet. We met the boys and had lunch then did some shopping and had dinner at the yacht club.

Thursday 12 April – Peurto Princesa
Had a boat day while the skipper isolated four crook batteries and then went to the yacht club for dinner.

Friday 13 April – Peurto Princesa
Peter and Chris went to the battery place to see about getting new batteries. I continued into town and had a lovely time walking up and down every aisle in the two department stores and one supermarket. Met the skipper back at the Yacht Club then we went back in for dinner in the evening. Rubicon Star came in today.

Its nice to finally be able to buy what we need and have some down time. Braveheart will be here till their daughter flies in at the end of the month. We will stay until we wake up one day and know its time to go. Meanwhile we have exploring to do. Cant believe it is halfway through April already.
Love to you all.
Dell and Peter

Monday, April 9, 2012

WEEK 13–Balalacao Island to North Verde Island

Saturday 31 March – Bulalacao Isle – Nth Bay Linapacan Isle
11°27.506N / 119°48.307
Dawn is just breaking and we can hear music from the only hut we can see on the shore, the roosters are going off and we can hear the birds chirping. It is oh so still and there is a lone gecko calling. Our batteries are really fading – they cant hold the charge through the night and the fridge/freezer has to be turned off. We left at 7 and headed towards the bay reputed to have a Spanish fort. We went into the bay past the pearl farms and could see the reef on the port side but the sun was in the wrong place to see the starboard side. We went over a few shallow patches (!) and anchored in 17m but suddenly we were in 5m and could see bommies out the back of the boat so had to reanchor! Judy and Chris came to visit in the late afternoon. We didn’t see the Spanish fort!
Miles: 34 TTT: 1314

Sunday 1 April – Linapacan Island – Shark Fin Bay, Palawan Island
11°09.717N / 119°32.346E
Bravehart called up early to say they could see whale sharks outside and we were about to race up to see them when Cilantro came back and said the April fool didn’t fool them – sure fooled us but! We left about 7.15 and went over a very shallow patch which was a bit daunting and headed down to Calayanlayan Bay which we had heard was the pick of the bunch – which it was. Stunning islands with stunning beaches BUT either way too deep or reef – there was no in between. Such a shame as we could have spent a few days there. We left and went up the sheltered side of the islands but we could see a huge storm cell ahead and could see it on the radar. We went hell for leather up around the top of the island and headed away from it. We could see lightning striking the water 1 ½ miles away. We met up with Cilantro and Braveheart again and went slowly so the storm passed. We came into the only likely place we could see on the chart with depths to anchor. Were a bit nervous as there was reef and rocks marked on the chart and it was late in the afternoon but we could see the reef off the starboard side and had good depths all the way in and anchored beside a huge limestone karst just like in Thailand. Absolutely stunning. We could see a cave 1/3 of the way up the cliff with a tent and hammock in it and a little hut perched on the side of the cliff just over from where we are anchored. We suspect they are guarding the birds nests. We can also see a few eagles. There is a white patch on the rock just over from us which looks like a Sarawak warrior face and above it is another face. Check the photos out and see if you can see both. A truly stunning spot.
Miles: 42 TTT: 1356

Monday 2 April – Shark Fin Bay
The wind just blew all day and it was overcast so we had a boat day and Peter baked some bread. Just on dusk Braveheart called us to look at the bats and there was a great ribbon of bats leaving the island – Brilliant.

Tuesday 3 April – Shark Fin Bay – Maytigud Island
11°09.717N / 119°32.346E
It was a very calm morning so we took Bob and circumnavigated the island. There was quite a bit of coral on our side which looked really nice and on the other side the channel was very shallow with coral and weed. There were a few little huts scattered around the cliffs, some occupied, some old. We saw a really cool cave but there were oysters and not quite wide enough to get inside. Peter and Chris went to talk to the men on the birds nest platform – they were a bit reticent aft first – probably thought we were after the birds nests. Also they didn’t have much English. Its funny when you come in to anchor we sometimes think later maybe we could have gone in a bit closer but when the sun came out this morning and we could see the reef we knew we had been in the perfect position! There are lots of butterflies around the place again. We came out around some gorgeous islands with reef all around the loveliest emerald to aqua colour – beautiful. We then found ourselves among the pearl farms which were all higgledy piggledy. Two security guards in a boat came out and led Braveheart through and we all followed which was just as well as we didn’t know which way to go. Shortly after this just as we got to the last pearl farm raft Braveheart caught a net around their prop and Chris had to dive to get it off but it is damaged – will go forward but cant reverse. We came around some large karsts and into a sheltered bay. Its funny with reef – it just seems to pop up all over the place. There were lots of fish farm nets around but we all managed to find a spot to anchor in 17m. Chris towed one of the locals whose boat had broken down to shore. A quiet night.
Miles: 42 TTT: 1398

Wednesday 4 April – Maytigud Isl – Icadambanaun Isl
10°49.437N / 119°37.439E
We left at 8.15 and went past beautiful Apulit Island which had a resort on it and reef all around. It had a large cross on the cliff above it. Saw some scuba divers surface. We followed the shipping lane in towards Tay Tay hoping to get ashore. Tay Tay has a HUGE sign on the hill above the town saying – TAY TAY – of course! It was a bit rough and the channel a bit narrow so we chose not to try it and headed out to Icadambanauan Island. It was mid morning so we could clearly see all the beautiful reef – a very pretty island. We headed to the third bay which said 8m on the chart but we found 33m at that spot and the shallowest we found was 24m which was such a shame as it was a stunning bay. We then went through a channel between reef in the second bay and went through more reef into a duckpond with little houses all round. We did a circle and had just enough room to anchor but there was no room for error so we decided not to risk it and went to the fist bay where Cilantro were anchored in 19.8m. Four girls came by so we invited them on to see the boat, which they thought was pretty exciting. Could hear a pig screaming – had to block my ears – so awful! Later a man came by with his two young daughters and at first we thought he was trying to give them to us! Then we worked out he wanted us to give some bread for his daughters – to eat! Whew! Saw the fruit bats leave in the evening – a lovely calm anchorage.
Miles: 24 TTT: 1440

Thursday 5 April – Icadambanauan Island - Capayas nr Domaran Channel
10°29.426N / 119°41.528E
Saw the fruit bats return then left at 7am. Braveheart had left some time before us and they called up to say they couldn’t find a way through the pearl farms so we all had to go miles out and around a huge shallow patch and another island heading into quite a swell. Braveheart called again and said they had come across more pearl farms and were heading back and around where they had seen some local boats go. As we headed down there were pearl farms on both sides. Braveheart gave us a couple of way points to follow and also the lowest depth as our depth sounder had stopped working again. We came down between Palawan and an island, round the reef and more pearl farms then round another point with more pearl farms through some driving rain and anchored not far from a town with a very big church. The skipper is charging up our spare battery and the old starter battery with the generator - unfortunately the old starter battery is stuffed so that was a good idea which didn’t work out – oh well! A very tiring and slightly stressful day today – but at least it wasn’t boring! There is a bit of a swell coming in and we are rolling.
Miles: 28 TTT: 1468

Friday 6 April – Capayas – Nth Verde Island
10°07.201N 119°13.815E
The roll settled down and we had a surprisingly good night. We left around 7 and headed through the shallows and reef of Green Island Bay. We saw two dolphins ahead of us and they came and played around the bow of the boat for a while. We haven’t had that for such a long time. We caught a mackerel just as we were going past a lovely island. Our depth sounder stopped working after that so we followed Cilantro through the shallows. Our chart plotter was out as it showed we were on the island! Reef island had a resort on it. Braveheart dived on their prop but we misunderstood them and thought we couldnt stay so kept going - apparently we could have stayed so that was disappointing. We went over a couple of shallow patches – the depth sounder was working at this point – so headed to deeper water further off shore. It was getting late so headed in to the North Verde Island which is across the channel from Palawan main island. A big fish took the line but ended up breaking it off so there went another lure! Braveheart went in first and gave a coordinate to stay on the port side of as there was a sandbar to the right and fishtraps built on reef to the left and it was low tide!! If we’d had a choice at that point I don’t think we would have gone in but Bravehart were already in and waiting for us. Cilantro followed us in but what they didnt know was that to keep our depth sounder working we had to keep going into neutral then slow forward then neutral so they ended up very close behind us. The skipper kept the waypoint to starboard but all I could see on the port side as we went in were rocks right beside the boat – exhilarating to say the least!!! We then followed Cilantro up the channel as the depth sounder had stopped working. We anchored at 4.15 in 13m – it was so beautifully calm. Oh and just in case you think we are wimps I must explain that Braveheart have a google earth capacity on their chart plotter so even when the charts are out they can still see the lay of the land and reef so to speak. There was a small bat flying around the boat in the evening and it seems that one may have found its way into Braveheart – they are not sure but the haven’t found Count Basil yet!!!
Miles: 42 TTT: 1510

One thing I forgot to tell you after we got back from dinner at the resort at Puerto Del Sol last week was that the skipper dropped the rope to Bob before he could tie it off and of course Bob immediately started drifting away so it was a dark late night swim for the skipper to retrieve him!!

Hope you all have a Happy and Blessed Easter. Missing you
Dell and Peter

Monday, April 2, 2012

WEEK 12- Halsey Harbour to Bulalacao Island

Saturday 24 March - Halsey Harbour to Salvacion Town
12°08.448N / 119°55.092E
The morning was very still. We still had some hopes that we would get our Halsey Harbour prawns but it was not to be! We followed our track out - its interesting that Cilantro and we both have Navionics Gold charts but Cilantro's showed land through the channel whereas ours showed the channel - weird. We had a bit of heavy rain along the way but the sea was calm and we anchored off Salvacion Town at 2.30 in 6m. We phoned Ruth after 8 (Aus time) and were thrilled to hear the results of the election - well done Queensland! Lets hope things improve now.
Miles: 32 TTT: 1220

Sunday 25 March - Salvacion Town
We went ashore around 10. You cant actually see the town until you round the cement jetty and head circuitously around to the next jetty (shallow). The little town was extremely tidy with footpath like roads and little sari sari stores. It had a nice school and a big flash municipal building. The skipper bought a bush knife to replace the one he gave away. It poured rain in the afternoon but had cleared by 4 so we took the dinghies up the river. It was very pretty and looked as though it should have had crocs but I think they ate them all years ago! In fact there were no animals. We did see 2 young caucasion ladies paddling on the river bank in the mud with two Filippino ladies so we stopped to see what they were doing. One of the girls was so excited to see us as she was a fellow Aussie from Coffs Harbour. They were catching crabs and mussels for their dinner. They were there doing some environmental work. We continued up the river under a bridge where a car driving across stopped and backed up to wave and get a better look. It was getting late and started to rain so we returned up the river under big brollies. There are dugongs around the boats. We had been hearing them breath and seeing the splash when they dived. We finally caught a glimpse of one when it surfaced just off the back of the boat and we saw a large pink and white body diving down.

Monday 26 March - Salvacion Town
We went ashore at 11 and walked to where the girls were staying but didn't find them so went back to a little bamboo hut restaurant and had lunch. The table decorations were pineapples which they grow so we all bought two. James and Chris took a trike to get some beer and as it had come up windy we went back to the boat. It was a long wet trip out. The wind really came up through the night.

Tuesday 27 March Salvacion Town - Peurto del Sol - Happy Birthday Debbie
We left after we called Debbie for her birthday and went through all the pretty islands heading for Coral Bay. We had to go through some pearl farms and we weren't entirely sure we could get through and our charts were out. But we made it through and took a buoy at Coral Bay and went in and bought our crab ashtray we wanted. We left straight away as the wind was coming up and we headed in to wind and current and were only doing 3.5 knots so decided to come in to Peurto Del Sol and took up a mooring. We ate ashore in the restaurant.
Miles: 20 TTT: 1240

Wednesday 28 March - Peurto del Sol - Coron Town
11°59.703N / 120°11.668E
Dan the American looking after his boss's rather large stink boat wanted moral support to take the boat around to get water so the skipper obliged and went with him. It was the first time Dan had handled the boat on his own. And the payment was seven cans of beer!! We left at 9 just as Dan and his crew left in the smaller motor boat. It was a lovely day - what a difference a day makes! As we came into the channel we saw a huge turtle - really clean - and it had two yellow fish with it. We arrived at Coron town (3 hours) just as Dan and his crew were leaving. They had been in and got their supplies while we were still coming! We anchored behind Cilantro and Braveheart who had struggled up in the bad weather yesterday. We went ashore to shop and had lunch at the Coron Bistro - Italian sausages - yum! We were back on board late in the afternoon when the Skipper thought he saw a shark's fin off our starboard bow. We went forward for a look and it turned out to be five white-spotted Eagle Rays all around 1 ½ - 2 metres across. They were gorgeous and we pointed them out to a local bangka hurrying past and they slowed to see what we were pointing at and they were so excited when they saw them. One of those magic moments.
Miles: 17 TTT: 1257

Thursday 29 March - Coron Town
Went to the market early and got provisions then the boys took the jerries to get the diesel. We all then went to the Coron Bistro for - you guessed it - sausages!! It was late by the time we got back and it was a quiet night on board.

Friday 30 March - Coron Town - Bulalacao Island
11°45.604N / 120°10.877E
We waited for Braveheart to get back with their engine parts then we left at 10. We headed up to Coron Island and motored along the side of the island. Its a most unusual island - big with limestone cliffs and jungly and really pretty. On the inside of it are a few lagoons and a large lake. Apparently one of the lagoons is good for diving.(scuba). There were the odd little narrow beaches, the odd fishermen's huts and it was lovely. Then we headed across to Bulalacao Island. We are finally heading south. We know there is a typhoon in the South China sea heading towards Vietnam but that wont affect us. We go down the East coast of Palawan. Didnt mention last time we were here the crew hooked a rather large stingray - luckily it broke the line. Today is was sunny coming in and we could see all the reef and it was really pretty. It was too early to go to bed so we watched a movie and when we came up at 9pm it was so still you could see the hills reflected in the water - so lovely - we could also hear the geckos calling - they are the big variety and they really do call out ge-cko. A squall hit us through the night but didn't last long.
Miles: 23 TTT: 1280

At last it feels like we are on the move again - heading south down the East coast of Palawan this time. Hope all is well with you.

Miss you
Dell and Peter

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