Thursday, February 20, 2014

Moving Right Along

We continue to make our way northwest towards Puerto Galera. It's been a fascinating tour so far. Our original plans were to head west across the Visyas towards Dumaguete. We read a lot about this little college town and it sounded like a place we would like. Not to mention, it had lots of hikes and tours in the surrounding towns and a pretty good anchorage just a few hours south.

Another destination on our list was Puerto Galera. We quickly realized that if we were going to go to Puerto Galera and then head south to the Palawan Islands, Dumaguete might not be the best choice. Winds are coming out of the north (sort of) and we were going to have to pay the man sooner or later and head straight into them. If we paid the man now, we would have less time against the wind…so we changed our plans. We turned north into territory we have little information about. Thank goodness for the Lonely Planet guide.

Since making that decision, we have seen some really neat little towns and some very diverse areas. We've seen entire villages of corrugated metal lining the beach, medium sized towns with tasty restaurants, and what we thought was an isolated beach but ended up being inhabited by two families living in caves.

Andy has swam with the thresher sharks, we've witnessed the horrible practice of dynamite fishing and we've gotten to give a little back in the way of kids clothes, books and toys to one community hit by the typhoon.

We're still 150 miles away from Puerto Galera and traveling only in the daytime. This place is littered with fish traps marked by nothing more than a coconut leaf, fishing boats (without lights) and who knows what else. Traveling at night just doesn't seem worth the time we would make up.

Tomorrow we make our way towards a little island known for it's flora and fauna….said to be the "Galapagos" of the Philippines….we'll see.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Our first day ashore

Well, that was different.  It was time to try and get some pesos.  The only place to do that here is in the city of Surigao.  We’re anchored in a small town west of Surigao called Ipil.  On the weekends, this place is rockin’.  There were at least a thousand people on the beach and 50 or so fishing canoes…and I’m being conservative.  The canoes are painted colorfully and sport some sort of inboard motor sounding remarkably like a motorcycle engine.  For a while there, we thought we had stumbled upon a biker’s rally.

Monday morning we decided to venture in and see what we could do about getting some money.  We saw a “resort” through our binoculars so we started there.  The young girl there was extremely nice and turned out to be very helpful.  We were trying to catch a trike into town, the common means of transportation here (a motorized tricycle with a few extended seats on the back), and when she discovered all we had were dollars, she gave us 50 pesos of her own to get us into town.  Who does that?  Anyway, another employee pulled up on the back of a motorbike, also a common means of transportation.  After a lengthy discussion in Tagalog, they decided that since they didn’t know any of the trike drivers passing by, that we should go on the motorbike.  There were two bikes there and they both set off to get a helmet.  We assumed the helmet would be for Jake and we would split our little family between bikes.  A few minutes later, one driver returned with a helmet and a small basketball.

This is the main mode of transportation around here.

Hmmmm……  I was still confused.  Thinking maybe they thought just Andy would go into town. 
“you all go on this…yes?”


It turns out the helmet was for the driver (I’m assuming there is some sort of law in the city about helmets for the drivers) and the basketball was for Jake.  The driver wedged the ball in front of him and made a makeshift seat.  Jake sat on that, then the driver, then me, then Andy.  There was some haggling by the nice ladies about our price and off we went….

Oh my goodness…..I prayed a variation of prayers constantly for the twenty minute ride into Surigao….
“Please Lord, don’t let us die.”
“Please Lord, take care of my baby.”
“Please Lord, keep us safe.”
You get the picture.

We went through some beautiful countryside (“Please Lord, let me relax so I can enjoy this view.”),  we passed a truck full of pigs and several cows on the side of the road (“If I weren’t terrified, this would be funny.”), and we passed some of the poorest shanty towns I’ve ever seen (“Please Lord, how in the world can we help these people?”).   There were beautiful rice patties, steep hills overlooking the bay, and entire villages built over the water.   Nothing prepared us for Surigao.  It was busy, chaotic , loud, chaotic, crowded, dirty, chaotic.  But so cool! 

We finally found an ATM (guarded by the nice officer with a shotgun…”Please Lord, don’t let us die.”) and a McDonald’s (also guarded by a nice officer, sans shotgun).  We had to dip into McDonald’s to make change for our driver and to get my heartbeat back to normal ( by the way, Jake did pretty good, although he did say he needed to pass out for a minute).  While Andy was getting us drinks, the driver tried to relay to me in his broken English that we weren’t very safe there.  Lots of “how do you say?  Kidnapping?  Robbing?  No good for Americans.”  If we didn’t have Jake and/or it was not our first rodeo in the PI, I think we might have stuck it out.  As it went, we decided not to push our luck.  One thing I’ve learned in cruising is to trust the locals.  If they don’t think it’s safe, it probably isn’t.  So we hopped back on the motorbike (the driver sat on the ball this time) and headed back to Ipil.  A bit more relaxed this time, I managed to take in some sights, Andy took some selfies and Jake chatted away (an old salt by now).

Back in Ipil, we shopped at their little store and bought some eggs, soda, rum and beer (for less than a meal at the Drop Off bar in Palau) and made our way back to the resort to pay our new friend back.  It turns out they had a fabulous little restaurant and we enjoyed a great meal and had a few “Serbesa’s” to calm our nerves. 

Trying to get the net off of Savannah.
Today, we sit on the boat waiting out the weather before we continue west.  We had an exciting afternoon watching the local fisherman catch Savannah in their nets.  Don’t ask me how they did it, but it was entertaining to say the least.  We’re going to finish our day with a homemade pizza and wake up tomorrow to blue skies and wind….we hope.  And off we go…

Jake, swimming through the cave at Bucas Grande, PI

Sunday, February 9, 2014

We're here!

We arrived in the Philippines safe and sound on Friday morning. After an extremely squally night, we made our way to a nice little cove to wait on the tides. Moving through the Hinatuan Passage requires a bit of planning as the currents can get up to 8 knots through there. If we hit it at the wrong time, we could be moving backwards. So, after four days at sea, we decided to drop the hook and spend a day catching up on some rest. We also took this time to celebrate my birthday (maybe a little bit too much). We found a really cool cave that we took the dinghy through (pictures to come when we get the internet) and got a big kick out of the drastic differences in local boats here.

Today, we pulled the hook and made our way past Surigao to a little cove on the north side of Mindanao. We expected a sleepy little village and instead were greeted with a strange Asian version of Cabo San Lucas. Not really, only in the sense that there must have been a thousand people on the beach. Little thatched huts run up and down the coast with hundreds of outrigger canoes pulled up on the beaches. Motor bikes rev up and down the street, kids are heard all around while playing in the water, and noisy inboard motors on these fishing bangkas drown out all the other sounds. We're thinking this is some sort of weekend get away for the folks in and around Surigao. We'll see what happens on a Monday when we wake up in the morning.

Overall, the consensus is that we're really going to like it here. It's so different from what we're used to. I think it's the change we all needed. As soon as we figure out the internet here, we'll post some pictures from the passage and our first few days.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Half way there!

Today is my 40th birthday. Instead of diamond or pearls, my husband gave me an exotic live aboard cruise, complete with deep sea fishing out here in the Pacific Ocean. Wasn't he sweet?

All kidding aside, we are having a fantastic passage to the Philippines. After checking out of Palau, we headed out to light and variable winds, which caused us to motor for the first day and a half. Now we have 15-20 knots on our beam and we are scooting right along, averaging about 7 knots (my perfect speed). I think we're going to actually have to slow down in order to arrive in day light.

I would like to thank Dr. What's his name in Norfolk . What he lacked in bedside manner was more than made up for with his generous prescription of sea sick medicine. I've been hanging in there with the best of them and even enjoying myself a bit. Jake thinks he was born for the sea and keeps telling me he's "back where I belong…on the open ocean. Isn't this wonderful, mommy?" Andy is wishing for a longer passage…

So there you have it. Moral is up, the autopilot is working great, and we just caught a huge mahi mahi…looks like my birthday dinner is going to be sushi!

By the way, who won the Super Bowl?

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Oh, This Exotic Life

As we were sitting here covered in sweat and deet the other night watching a movie, Andy and I were laughing about how “exoctic” our life is.  I know everyone at home thinks we sit around on beaches and drink margaritas all day (and sometimes we do), but the last few weeks have been some of the most un-romantic days we’ve had in a while.  So, just for fun, I thought I would share some pictures of some random things that drive me crazy about this little boat life.  I hope it makes you chuckle a little bit.

This is our mosquito scorecard.  At the time of the picture, we were 12-0 with the mosquitos and still going hard.  And for all you cruisers out there….yes, we had our screens up.

Have you ever seen those yachts that are all shiny and covered with beautiful teak, everything in it’s place, stowed away properly, tidy and neat?  Yeah, that’s not us…

This is where we go to the bathroom.  Our boat has lots of room.  Unfortunately, it’s all out in the open.  Very little space to “hide” our junk.  So, we pee and poo with our generator, compressor, vacuum cleaner and scuba tanks.  The garbage bags are temporary.  They’re full of a bunch of stuff we cleaned out of Jake’s room to give to kids in the Philippines.  We just didn’t have anywhere else to put it.  Under all that stuff is one of our engines.  Makes for an interesting time when we’re underway and you gotta go.

This is Andy’s space.  I just don’t even know what to say about this….

Welcome to our “garage.”  Here’s the other engine along with any bags we have, food stuff, extra scuba gear, rope locker, trash can.  Again, lots of room, I’m not complaining, just no doors to shut so I don’t have to look at it.

This is our power station.  That’s what you have to do when you have 2 computers, 3 iPads and a few thousand camera batteries always needing to be charged.  Too bad it sits on my “sofa.”

This is where we keep our  ????  I really don’t know what’s in there.   But it all used to be housed in four boxes and now it’s just one, so I think that’s probably the best we can do.  I do have a small iPod shuffle missing…it may be in there.

We spent a gazillion dollars replacing our battery bank.  After almost dropping one of these 150 lb babies in the water, we finally got them on board (by “we” I mean Andy and our friend Chuck), installed and jam packed with juice.  We’re reaping the benefits now, but what a pain.   AND I had to give up three full bins of storage for them.

I don’t have a picture of this one, because he’s too fast, but about once a week, I get surprised by a tiny little gecko that has taken up residence in and around my galley.  I know they’re good for bugs, but they are bad for my heart.

This has nothing to do with the boat, but bugs me every time I look at it.  You see those two big mugs on the outside?  We got those about 6 years ago at the Annapolis boat show when we bought a few “pain killers.”  See that little one in the middle?  I went to the boat show this year while I was in VA and got another one.  I paid MORE for that than we did for the big ones 6 years ago.   Irritating.

This is Jake’s latest selfie.  Well, I said I was going to show you some pictures of things that drove me crazy, right?  This little guy has days when he’s at the top of the list!

To be fair, I’m going to post this picture… probably something that would be at the top of Jake’s list of things that drive him crazy.  When mom and dad are too lazy to come look at the battle he’s having with his little men, he has to take a picture of it and bring the camera to  our room to show us.  Because those 20 steps it would take for us to go look, just seems so hard sometimes.

And the most un-exotic job of the week is being completed right now by the greatest man in the world….he’s scrubbing the barnacles and crap off the bottom of the boat.  When he comes up, our cockpit will be covered in scuba gear and Andy will be covered in tiny little shrimp.  They will die on his BCD (because they’re impossible to get off) and will stink.  His wet suit will smell equally bad and take a week to dry because well, it’s going to rain.  It always rains.

Enough whining for now…I thought you guys at home might appreciate that we have the same types of issues that you do.... things get dirty, we collect crap, boys don’t pick up after themselves, mom’s don’t always feel like cleaning, etc.  But after all of our cleaning today, we’re going to reward ourselves with some paddleboard jousting (don’t ask me) and a nice last dinner at Kramer’s with our buddy Bob.

Yep, I said ‘last dinner’...after a full month of waiting, we have finally received our parts for the autopilot.  They’ve been installed and Savannah is ready to go.  We’re going to provision up tomorrow and check out Monday morning.  So as you sit down to watch the Super Bowl Sunday night,  we’ll be dropping our mooring ball and heading out the west pass , starting our long awaited 520ish mile journey to the Philippines.