Sunday, August 30, 2015

Goodbye Again

One of the reasons we had hurried back to Davao after purchasing the new cat, was to get back before all our friends left on the Indonesia Rally. And we did manage to get back in time to have a little fun with the rally group before everyone pulled out on Aug 29th.

We had great fun at the marina-sponsored Rally Dinner

Philip and Leslie, s/v Carina

David and Suzi, s/v Sidewinder

Dave Looking Pretty Spiffy in a Collared Shirt and Fake Lei

The Appetizer Buffet Was Awesome--Fresh Sushi!

Of course there was an open bar, and some fire dancing, and really nice native drummers. Then after dinner, the music switched to dance music and we all got a little crazy.

All The Girls Dancing

David Showing Off His Pole Dancing Technique

The last week, everyone going on the rally was frantically doing last minute preparations. The marina shuttle bus was crowded every day with people provisioning, looking for parts, or working on checkout formalities. We were actually thankful we weren't going!

One of the Frigoboat units we had bought in Singapore was for Mind the Gap. They didn't have time to install the whole thing before they left, but James wanted Dave's help in bending the evaporator plate. So the night before they left, after a few drinks, the guys did the job.

Dave, James and a Few Helpers Bending the Evaporator Plate

Finally departure day arrived... we walked around the docks and said goodbye to everyone going on the rally, and then watched as they filed out of the narrow marina entrance, one by one.

Saying Goodbye

Glenda on Helena doing a Goodbye Dance on the Bow

Mind the Gap Leaving

Carina Leaving

It was very bittersweet. We had been sharing the docks with most of these boats for the past year. And a few of them, we had been friends with for a long time. We first met Carina on a beach in Panama in 2009--after talking with them on the radio for the year prior. We finally caught up with them again in Pohnpei February last year, and hopscotched together through Micronesia to the Philippines. Sidewinder we had met on the radio in 2010, when we were in the Galapagos and they were in a remote anchorage in Costa Rica with a flooded engine. Dave talked David through getting the engine going again. We didn't meet face to face until they caught up with us in Fiji in 2013. Helena we first met in Suwarrow in 2011. They were off their boat in Fiji in 2013 when we saw it right after Cyclone Evan went through. We were happy then to be able to tell Eddy that Helena was fine. And we ran into them in Pohnpei early last year. Mind the Gap are relatively new friends from last year's rally.

None of us had planned to be in the marina this long. This is a very "sticky" place. Inexpensive living, very cruiser-friendly marina, nice social activity, and a good place to get the boat fixed up after the long haul across the Pacific.

Everyone seems to be going different directions--some west, and some east, some who weren't so sure where they'd end up after Indonesia. Most said "But not back here!" We made jokes over the radio about what life on the other side of the wall was like.

Of course we followed the rally boats to their first stop in Indonesia by SSB. But radio is difficult here on the equator, and living in the noisy marina. It's not like being out in an anchorage. And of course we are still in contact by email and Facebook (thank God for Facebook!!). We all said "Keep in touch, we'll see you somewhere!" ...but only half believing it. But that's the nature of actually getting out and going cruising.

Meantime, with all the rally boats gone, we've met a few other people in the marina we hadn't had a chance to get to know before. And life goes on...

Friday, August 28, 2015

Our New Spinnaker

Our new boat came with a 1,830 sq ft spinnaker. That's huge, to us at least.

We should have used our big spinnaker on the trip from Borneo. It would have been perfect in the light air astern. But we were lazy, and a bit apprehensive. Having cruised with a spinnaker on Island Time, and raced with one on Fast Lane, I felt comfortable sorting it out. But we were on passage, and tired, and there were always iffy-looking clouds somewhere on the horizon. So it was so easy just cranking our cute little Yanmars up when the wind went light astern. We should have also practiced with the spinnaker before while Kevin was aboard, to help us figure out how to set it up and fly it, but we never got to it.

Spinnaker Lessons

So once at the dock in Davao, we enlisted our friends James and Lorna on s/v Mind the Gap to come over and show us how it should be done. They had sailed a number of times in Malaysia with Blue Moon, and had been the ones to move Blue Moon from Miri Marina in western Borneo to Pangkor where we bought her. James was also the one that convinced Dave that this was a very good boat for sale for a very good price. (And it was James and Lorna's being good friends with each of us, and having recently sailed on Blue Moon, that made our crazy hurry-up remote purchase work with not very much anxiety or risk).

Fortunately, we usually have a light breeze from astern in the mornings in the marina. In about 10 minutes, James and Lorna had showed us how easy it was to raise, deploy, douse, and lower the huge spinnaker (at least in light winds in the marina!). On a catamaran, no poles are needed!! We figured out that rather than lugging the big thing up on deck, we can raise it directly from the bathtub in the starboard hull--there's a hatch conveniently set up right over the bathtub. (One wonders if this was a design feature not in the manufacturer's literature!). It's a big asymetric with a sock, so when it's time to douse, just sock it, and drop it back down the hatch. Easy peasy!!

Now that we understand how to set it up and deploy it, we are looking forward to doing some light air sailing on our next trip. (Of course, the way Neptune works, we won't see light air again for YEARS!)

We kinda feel like the boat is under-winched. Only one cockpit winch on each side for the genoa. We could make do, as the previous owners have. But we'd feel more comfortable having another winch on each side--especially in heavy air when you might need help in a squall cranking in the genoa furling while still keeping control of the genoa sheet, and no time to play with stoppers. So two (hopefully used) Lewmar 42's are on our shopping list.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Almost Back in the Philippines

Those of you watching our blog have been disappointed, I know, that there have been no updates in the last month. This was for two reasons--intermittent internet and a very busy schedule when we did get internet, and because of "security issues".

We have just finished transitting the north coast of Borneo. This area has been plagued in the last couple of years (actually, the last hundred years) with Philippine rebels (Muslim separatists) who kidnap rich people for ransom to fund their rebel activity. It got really bad last year when they kidnapped a German couple off their sailboat in southern Palawan (the SW most Philippine Island). They did a number of audacious kidnappings last summer. Then in May of this year, they kidnapped 2 people out of a waterfront restaurant in Sandakan, the big city on the north coast of Borneo. If you want to know more, Google "Abu Sayeff, kidnap" and that will get you started.

Most boats these days transit this area in a gaggle, with protection from local maritime authorities. The Sail Malaysia Rally people organize a Sail Malaysia Rally to the East every year. This year there were 40 boats signed up, though I think not that many made the whole rally (for updates on this Rally, this year, see Tropical Soul's blog posts, linked in the Cruising Blogs area to the left on my blog).

Unfortunately, due to timing, we couldn't make it in time to join up with the Rally...we ended up a couple of weeks behind. This is a shame, because in addition to the protection offered by local authorities, they do a lot of neat touristy things, facilitated by the Sail Malaysia people.

So once we realized we were not going to make the Rally, we started asking for information on security issues from the Sail Malaysia organizer. He passed us some phone numbers and email contacts for Malaysian security forces, called ESSCom (Eastern Security Sector Command) and MMEA (Maritime Malaysia __ Authority). A few phone calls and emails later, we finally got a coherent response from someone in ESSCom, who actually looked at our transit plan and made a few suggestions, which was what we were looking for. He also confirmed a list of email and contact phone numbers for the various ESSCom/MMEA posts along our route.

Our route plan was GREATLY facilitated by the Sail Malaysia Rally PDF file, and an associated GPX file (waypoint list for OpenCPN), plus a few years worth of tracks from boats who had gone through the same area. So we knew where it was possible to stop, we just didn't know where it was SAFE to stop. That's where ESSCom's advice was helpful.

Once we got underway from Kota Kinabalu, as asked, we emailed daily position reports to the ESSCom contact list. We also advised our friends associated with the Navy in the Philippines (whom we had contacted asking for the same sort of advice). Once we got to Kudat (the NW corner of Borneo), we were surprised that ESSCom offered an escort boat. This was the beginning of the dicey area. So at 11 am when we departed Kudat, we were joined by the first escort boat, who idled around within visual range all day, and spent the night at our first anchorage. The next morning, they handed us off to a different boat. And we were relayed along the coast for about 200 miles that way, by a string of MMEA patrol boats.

It felt really decadent having an escort for only one cruising boat. We had never asked for such service--just to help us stay away from known bad areas. But I guess the tourism impact of having even one tourist get kidnapped would shut down Borneo's second largest industry--tourism (behind Palm Oil production).

It was ironic that the only place that the escort service broke down was the night we spent in Dent Haven, all alone. This is the closest anchorage to where the bad guys are known to hang out!! However, at this point, our Philippine contacts, who had been monitoring our progress by email, took over. We got a nice email from the primary Philippine Navy contact and we were emailed some contacts at the Philippine Navy Base on Tawi Tawi island. In our anchorage at Dent Haven, we could hear the Philippine Navy contacting passing merchant ships for information on their ships, cargos, and destinations. So we survived the night at Dent Haven, and the next morning, with a sigh of relief, we exited a pass between Philippine and Malaysian islands, and headed east for the Gulf of Davao.

We enjoyed Malaysia, and hope we can do it again sometime when we have a bit more time to cruise vs. deliver. However, we are REALLY looking forward to getting back to the Philippines. There's something really different about the Philippine people that we didn't find in Malaysia.

We expect to arrive at the Sarangani Islands, at the SW corner of the Gulf of Davao, in the middle of the night tonight, and head out at the crack of dawn tomorrow to head towards Samal. We've been in these waters before, and will probably go in to a previous anchor spot and anchor for a little sleep before heading out in the early morning.

I do plan to back-fill a bunch of experiences we've had over the last month, including our week-long whirlwind land excursion in northern Borneo. So keep watching the blog!
Sherry & Dave
Delivering the new Soggy Paws from Malaysia to Philippines

At 8/16/2015 11:00 PM (utc) our position was 05°16.20'N 123°39.30'E