Monday, December 3, 2018

Around the World in 68 Days

If you can't accomplish your goal one way, try a different way! We just flew completely around the world! (Note: This is not to imply that we aren't still planning to SAIL around the world.)

Hauling Out at Oceanview Marina for a Couple of Months


We decided to do something different for our trip home to Florida this year--fly west instead of east. We stopped for an overnight in Singapore, then 4 days in London and 2 days in Edinburgh, Scotland, before flying across the pond to the USA.

Heading Out on Our Round-the-World Adventure

The Final Third of Our Flight from Singapore to London

We spent our first day in London in the Greenwich Area.
Our Ferry from Downtown London to Greenwich, on the Thames River
The Cutty Sark (Clipper Ship) Museum

Visiting the Royal Observatory in Greenwich

The Royal Observatory

The History of Keeping Accurate Time on a Ship

Sherry Straddles the International Dateline
(We were amazed to find that 0 degrees Longitude on the cell phone put us about 100 meters to the east in the park.)

Lunch at Greenwich Market

We Spent the Afternoon at the National Maritime Museum

Day Two was spent at the Imperial War Museum and the Churchill War Rooms.

Big Guns at the Imperial War Museum

Old Photos of Bomb Production During WWII

London Taxis

Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England during World War II, spent most of his time during World War II in the Churchill War Rooms, an underground bunker built specifically to house critical government functions in a bomb-proof location.

Churchill War Rooms

The Communications Center and Map Room

After the War Rooms tour, we had an hour and a half to spend before we boarded our "Sunset Cruise on the Thames". So we hoofed it up through the Buckingham Palace Gardens to get a look at Buckingham Palace, and then down to Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. With our compressed schedule, there was no time to do more than take a few pictures of the outside of the buildings.
Bobbies on Horses in the Park

The Queen of England's Royal Residence

The Crests on the Gate to Buckingham Palace

Westminster Abbey

Big Ben is Getting a Facelift

We had a lovely time on our sunset cruise. A couple of glasses of wine, some hors d'ouvres, a nice sunset, and a guy with an acoustic guitar singing popular songs...

Our Cruise Ship Arrives
(London Eye in the Background)

The Tower Bridge (aka London Bridge) at Sunset

Relaxing after a Long Day Touring

On Day 3, we checked out of our AirBNB and drove our rental car south to see Stonehenge, and visit our friends from s/v Dreamaway in Southampton. Driving on the the left, and negotiating the roundabouts was challenging. Thankfully, Google Maps made it easy to anticipate each roundabout.

Iconic Stonehenge

A Replica of one of the Stonehenge Standing Stones (BIG!)

We had a lovely evening with Graham and Avril of s/v Dreamaway. We first met them in the Tuamotus in 2011. We have cruised off an on together in Samoa, Nuie and Fiji in 2013. We've also met them twice in exotic locations--NZ in 2015 and the UK this year.

On Day 4, Graham and Avril were off early on a prior obligation, and we headed off in the car on our own to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. We only had a few hours, as we had to get back to Gatwick and dump the car, before taking an evening flight to Edinburgh, Scotland.

We could easily have spent 2 days seeing everything there is to see at the Dockyard, but had to choose only one exhibit to see on this visit. On Graham's advice, we chose to visit the Mary Rose. The Mary Rose was Henry the 8th's flagship, which sank in Portsmouth in 1545. From Wikipedia:

The Mary Rose is a carrack-type warship of the English Tudor navy of King Henry VIII. After serving for 33 years in several wars against France, Scotland, and Brittany and after being substantially rebuilt in 1536, she saw her last action on 19 July 1545. While leading the attack on the galleys of a French invasion fleet, she sank in the Solent, the straits north of the Isle of Wight.

The wreck of the Mary Rose was rediscovered in 1971. It was raised on 11 October 1982 by the Mary Rose Trust, in one of the most complex and expensive projects in the history of maritime archaeology. The surviving section of the ship and thousands of recovered artifacts are of immeasurable value as a Tudor-era time capsule. The excavation and raising of the Mary Rose was a milestone in the field of maritime archaeology, comparable in complexity and cost only to the raising of the Swedish 17th-century warship Vasa in 1961.



A Painting of the Mary Rose Going Over

The outside of the ship isn't really visible (there are other ships at the Dockside for that)--it is the inside that is the museum. Only half of the ship was salveagable--the part that was in the mud. The other half was eaten away by time and ship worms. So the museum presentation is an elaborate cutaway of the ship, with displays of various features at either end. We really enjoyed the visit and could easily have spent several more hours there.

Historical Statistics

A Mock-Up of the Exhibit

The Actual Exhibit
(Kept Dark to Inhibit Further Deterioration)
The Cook's Exhibit,
With Actual Artifacts Recovered from the Wreck


Coming Next - Part 2 of 3 - 2 Days in Scotland.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Air Travel in the Modern Age

We have just completed the air portion of our trip home from the Philippines to the USA. We flew approx 13,200 miles, in 5 legs, stopping in 6 intermediate cities (Singapore, London, Southampton/Portsmouth (by car), Edinburgh, Reykjavik, and Annapolis). The total cost, per person, of our airfare was $1,140 USD, including tax, airport fee, and bag and seat selection costs.

Beginning our Journey in Davao

We are now pretty much halfway around the world from where we started, and do plan to continue flying west on our return trip to the Philippines. So this year's home trip will end up being "Around the World in 80 Days".

In London, the Cutty Sark Museum

For this part of the trip, we picked mostly budget airlines: Silk (Singapore Air budget subsidiary), Norwegian UK, easyJet, Wow, and Southwest. It was quite an effort booking the flights (all online) and trying to maximize comfort while minimizing expense. And getting the airports sorted out, as there are about 4 airports around London, 2 in Scotland, and 3 around Washington DC. Most budget airlines do not fly in and out of "primary" airports, due to the cost.

Flight Costs, one way, per person including seat selection and 1 checked bag and 1 carry-on:

Davao-Singapore - Silk Air - $154 USD
Singapore-London - Norwegian UK - $235 USD
London-Edinburgh - easyJet - $239 USD
Edinburgh-Baltimore - Wow - $410 USD
Washington DC-Atlanta - Southwest - $100

As our trip is for 2 months and several different climates, plus we had a few boat parts to bring home, we chose to travel with one checked bag each, and one smaller "rollie" bag as a carry-on. The budget airlines all have different rules about what is included or excluded in the price of that amazingly-priced ticket, so you have to research the policies on EACH AIRLINE carefully to make sure you don't get any surprises on check-in.

Outside London, we visited Stonehenge

For example, if you pre-book "checked luggage", it may cost only $25 per bag. But wait until you check in at the counter at the airport, and that SAME bag will cost you $75. And usually the second checked bag costs more. And on some airlines (Wow, for example), if you don't also book and pay for a carry-on, they will force you to check the carry-on, at a substantial cost.

An Airport Transit in Iceland

The worst airline, in my opinion, was WOW, based in Iceland. We flew Wow from Edinburgh, Scotland, via Reykjavik, Iceland, to Baltimore Washington in the USA. The price of the ticket shown online included a seat (you can't pick the seat, however), and a "personal item" (small backpack, purse, briefcase), and nothing else. The service on the plane was ALL "pay for", even water (and we forgot to refill our water bottle before we boarded the plane). We pre-paid for a $15 sandwich on each leg, and they wouldn't even serve us a free cup of water to go with it (but you could buy a $3 bottle of water if you wanted). I was really surprised that there wasn't a coin slot on the toilet! The base cost of the flight is very very cheap, but beware the cost of add-ons, most of which you don't find out about until you are most of the way through the booking process AND reading the fine print.

We did, for most bookings, have to pay for our 1 checked bag, and on some airlines, for our small carry-on (specifically size and weight limited on most legs). Most of the budget airlines also make you pay if you want to select a seat. And the price of the seat selection varies by how comfy it was expected to be. Since Dave has such long legs, I usually chose to book a slightly upgraded seat (exit row, or similar). But on short legs, I just booked aisles across. One airline, Norwegian, which I booked through Expedia, I didn't make a seat selection at booking, and I could never figure out how to make a seat selection afterward, even after I created an account on their system. And even if I was willing to pay for it. However, the seats assigned by the system were fine, and that flight actually turned out to be a nice one (new airplane with built-in free entertainment, as long as you brought your own headphones).

One airline I would stay away from, even though they had an amazingly cheap flight for London to Dulles (Washington, DC) is Primera Air. We booked what we thought was a great flight from London Gatwick to Dulles, and then made all our arrangements for places to stay, rental cars, etc around that booking. A week later, Primera emailed me and said that that flight was cancelled, and I could either get a refund, or rebook on the next available flight (2 days later). So then I had to scramble to find an alternate budget booking to/from the same airports.


We ended up opting instead to take a short side trip to Scotland on easyJet, and flying from Scotland on Wow into a different airport in DC. Fortunately I was able to change my (pre-paid, budget) car rental reservation to fly into BWI without additional cost, but I had to pay an additional $90 one-way fee to pick up our rental at BWI and drop it off at Dulles (Alamo via RentalCars.com). Subsequently, on a travel Facebook group, several other people mentioned getting cancelled by Primera. I suspect this airline is running on very thin margins, and if they have problems with only one airplane, they have to cancel a bunch of flights.

At least they warned us ahead of time, rather than cancelling at the last minute, as they did to others about 6 months ago!! Note, I was trying to pull the logo off the Primera Air website, but it won't come up! Maybe we are lucky we got cancelled in advance as the airline may have tanked in the last few weeks.

The booking site I used for airfare mostly was Skyscanner.com. I hear good things about Scott's Cheap Flights, but that's a whole nother way to book budget travel, so I haven't used SCF myself. We also got some amazing car rental deals on RentalCars.com, almost to the too-good-to-be-true stage. (Late Nov 2018 note: Alamo refused my pre-paid rental through RentalCars.com on 11/27 at LAX because of the fact that I am a US citizen with a US driver's license, but I got a full refund from RentalCars.com and a good deal on a rental at the desk at Alamo.)

My still-most-favorite American airline is Southwest. Budget prices, no charge for checked bags or carry-ons, a cheap way to get a good seat (Early Check-in), very friendly crew, and free bring-your-own-device TV on some flights. I ALWAYS check for US flights on Southwest before I check anywhere else.


Our flight home from Tampa to Davao is already booked. Southwest to San Diego to visit family, then LAX to Davao on Philippine Airlines. We have flown Philippine Airlines before and know them to be a good long haul carrier, with 2 bags and seat selection included in the price. The one-way cost per person is right around $1,000 USD for the total trip. It is $100 higher than normal because our flight from Tampa to Davao is right after Thanksgiving. We're set to get back to Davao on Dec 1, so we get going on next year's adventure to Papua New Guinea, on the favorable winter winds.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Day Hopping Up the Coast of Mindanao

March 20-April 1, 2018

We did our last trip to Davao for shopping and to renew our visas (good for another 2 months) on the morning of Tuesday March 20. By 1:30pm we were ready to blast out of the marina and start cruising again. I thought we'd never make that schedule, but Dave is relentless once he sets a schedule.

We had waited out the stronger "winter winds" (northeasterlies) that would have made hopping north up the east coast of Mindanao more difficult. All the important repairs were done, engines back together, boat full of fuel, water, food, and essential supplies (beer, rum, and wine!).

I had been watching the weather, and doing a bunch of planning, making GoogleEarth charts, looking at anchorages, and reading up on others' passage up and down the east coast. I had to laugh when I saw the result of my favorite weather routing program's result for sailing up the coast offshore, against both wind and current.

Pink Line = Routing Solution

Zoomed In on the Hardest Section

This is why our plan was to do day hops, taking advantage of the early morning light winds, and hugging the coast, staying out of the south-bound current.

Our first hop was across the bay to the east side of the Gulf of Davao...16 miles. We experienced a few "minor" problems that first day, including the starboard engine shutting down due to overheating (solved within a few days), port engine muffler leaking salt water into the galley bilge (still not completely fixed, months later) and a too-big (new) shackle on the anchor swivel causing problems with anchoring (solved on site). Our first night's stop was on the south side of Piso Point in the Gulf of Davao, where a prior cruiser had an anchor waypoint that said "Goes from 20 meters to Oops in a boatlength". He was right! We ended up anchoring in about 70-75 ft, with our stern in 20 ft and shallow reef about half a boatlength behind us. By the time we finally got the swivel issue fixed and the anchor down, it was darn near full dark.

Good Bye, Holiday Oceanview Marina! See You in September!
A Squid Boat Heading Out For Overnight Fishing

This began a series of very early morning starts to go as far as possible in the lighter morning winds, as generally we were making long day hops and going against the wind. Why? Against our better judgement, we were on a schedule. Last fall we booked an expensive diving workshop in the Puerto Galera area at the end of April, so we had to get the 700+ miles there in time for that. We had thought when booking that we'd be launched and underway by 1 March, and have time to cruise north and explore. For an ocean-crossing cruising boat, 700 miles isn't far--could be done in about 4-5 days. However, it's not really advisable to do overnights in the Philippines due to the proliferation of unlighted fishing boats, FADs, nets, and not to mention quite a few reefs.

A Typical Filipino Fish Aggregating Device (FAD)
Near Shore Version
The Offshore Versions are often large steel cylinders the size of a VW!

Even though we had a fairly long slog ahead of us, we were super-excited to be out of the marina and underway again.

Finally At Sea Again!

Super Excited and Loving Our New Helm Chair!

Our first day hop was 48 miles to Lima Point, as far south in the Gulf of Davao we could get, so the next day we could round San Agustin point and get up into protected Pujada Bay for our next anchorage. 06-18.39N / 126-11.06E dropped in 25 feet, hanging in 70ft. OK anchorage for light wind conditions.

Beautiful Mindanao Early in the Morning

The next morning we were underway at dawn (0530 in the Philippines) and by 6:15 had rounded the point and headed up the east coast of Mindanao, against wind, waves, and current. Due to good planning (good weather window and early start), this was a long but easy motorsail. We stayed as close in to the coast as we dared to stay out of the current. The wind was under 10 kts and due to several days of light winds, the swell coming all the way from Hawaii was down. We used other cruisers tracks and GoogleEarth charts to make sure we didn't have any nasty surprises. By 2pm we were inside Pujada Bay, and spent an hour or so exploring and choosing an anchorage. We ended up off the Blue Bess Resort on the advice of another cruiser. It is quite far inside Pujada Bay, with internet coverage and road access to the rest of Mindanao. 06-52.33N / 126-17.31E

Because the wind forecast was up for the next couple of days, we decided to take a lay day or two to rest up and do inevitable boat chores. One of the first things Dave worked on was the Starboard engine cooling problem (we'd been motoring on Port engine only for the past 3 days). Dave had rebuilt both waterpumps while we were hauled out. After making sure there were no clogs or obstructions, he finally took the starboard engine water pump apart and compared it to the port engine, and discovered that the starboard raw water pump had been re-mounted backwards. No wonder the cooling water wasn't flowing!! New lesson #235 on the new boat...

At the end of the day, we moved out to a beautiful beach near the entrance of the bay. Great location where we had a much better feel for what the weather was doing offshore. 06-48.02N / 126-19.25E Anchored in great sand in 25ft, hanging in 42 ft. Only problem was, we were in a location with no cell coverage... :(

Next day (March 24), with calm winds and most of our chores done, we decided to motor around in the bay a little bit, making water, and exploring possible anchorage, with intentions to eventually return to our nice anchor spot on the point. However, just as we headed back, a squall came up with 25-30 kt winds out of the NNE. So we thought better of returning to our more exposed location, headed back in the bay a few miles to a more protected location. Ended up anchoring at 06-49.51N / 126-17.17E in 25 ft sand. Here we waited another couple of days for the offshore weather to calm down.

(Note, all our anchor waypoints and comments about them have been edited into the Philippines Compendium, which can be downloaded from http://svsoggypaws.com/files/index.htm, and they have been provided to Terry on Valhalla and are included in his Philippines Anchorage Waypoints downloadable from http://yachtvalhalla.net/navigation/terrystopics.htm )

Finally, on Tuesday Mar 27, the weather was good enough to venture out, and we set off at 6am for another hop up the coast. For awhile we had sailable wind and a following current and were making 7.5 knots! Woo hoo! But that didn't last long. Our first possible anchor location was about 25 miles away, and the next possible one was another 25 miles further on. By 9am we had no wind, both engines going, and motorsailing with one foot on the beach, almost no current. At 10:30, with favorable conditions, we were almost to the first anchor spot, and decided we had time to make the next one, so we kept going. Big mistake!

At First We Could Sail

At 1:45pm we were rounding Pusan Point, motoring with both engines and a reefed mainsail, against 20-30 knots of apparent wind in a (thankfully brief) squall, and about 1.5 knots of current. For awhile we were only making about 2 knots and had an ETA of 8pm! We almost turned around and went back to the anchorage we'd passed a few hours before.

Fortunately, once we got around the point and could tack into the next bay, we got out of the wind and current, our speed picked up, and the conditions got better.

We ended up anchoring near a bunch of fishing boats off the tiny town of Baculit in a nice sand spot in 35-40 ft. Though the wind offshore was blowing 25 kts NNE, we only had about 10 kts and no swell in the anchorage. After we got settled, one of the small boats from a big fishing boat nearby came by to ask about the weather. We told them the storm had gone and the wind and seas were laying down, and the forecast for the next few days was for good weather. They thanked us and gave us a fish... all the fishing boats were gone by sundown. Anchorage position 07-26.75N / 126-34.37E.

Iconic Filipino Fishing Boat

Note the Row of Smaller Boats on Deck

These Boats Venture Far Offshore

And Launch Individual Fishermen in the Small Boats
to Hand-Line for Fish


Having learned our lesson the day before, we got going even earlier the next day, to take advantage of the calmer morning winds. (Dave is NOT a morning person, so getting him up while it's still dark out is near impossible.)

We had almost no wind but almost 1 kt of current against us, as we were rounding the outermost point on the east coast. Later in the day, the wind pulled to the east a little, so we could put the sails out and get some drive out of them. We got up to 7knots at one point, and then of course the wind went too high and we had to reef down!! But we actually got one who hour of "pure sailing" in this day.

By 3:30pm we were tucked into another small harbor (Barcelona) on the coast. 08-09.64N / 126-26.61E in 18 ft. This harbor was filled with "squid boats". They go out a little ways--still staying within the shelter of the reef--and put out bright lights, and jig for squid. There were hundreds of bright lights in the bay all night long.

Next day, March 29, another early start and another long day of mostly motorsailing in mostly light wind. We actually turned both engines off for 15 minutes, but the wind shifted again and we had to turn one engine on to keep our speed up. Around 1pm a big wind came up on our nose, so decided to tuck in at Aninan Island. There's a karaoke bar ashore and a bunch of surfers near the anchorage, plus a daytripper place on the point. We managed to find a not-too-swelly anchorage 08-46.74N / 126-17.99E.

We are now close enough to the Surigao Strait area that we started looking at tides, to make sure we had a favorable tide to go through the narrow passage. Based on where we were and the tide schedule, we decided to go through the worst part of the strait on Sunday, April 1. We were also now heading NNW and expected to actually be able to sail some rather than motoring into the wind.

As we set out the next day, I had picked an anchorage at Cortez Bay only 32 nm up the coast. The wind forecast for the afternoon was predicted to be a bit higher than normal and I wanted to be tucked in for that. But around our decision point, conditions looked OK, and Dave wanted to push on to the next anchorage at General Island, 15 miles further north. About 1:30 the wind came up from a sailable direction, and we had an exhilarating 2 hrs of sailing in 25-30 kts of wind, but slight seas. We even tacked a couple of times (can't motor straight into that much wind!). Once we got in the lee of the island we could motor up OK. But what looked like a secluded anchorage on Google Earth turned into a bay full of fishing boats and the shore was lined with fishing shacks.

It's now 4pm, the wind is up, and there are no good looking nearby anchorages. Sunset is an hour and a half away. I'm frantically looking at the chart, GoogleEarth images, and other cruisers' waypoints to try to find an alternate anchorage we can reach before dark. One anchor spot we had on our chart was obviously mis-plotted, when I double-checked it on GoogleEarth. The next spot was too far to reach before dark. We finally anchored in a deep bay off a tiny fishing town at 09-26.59N / 125-56.43E. As in many anchorages in this part of the world, it went from too deep to too shallow too fast. We finally found a spot on the slope in "only" 70 ft. It was closer to the village than we would normally anchor, but it was all we could find, good enough for the night.

Saturday March 31, another 5am reville, and it was pouring rain. I let Dave sleep in while I collected weather. It looked like the day would be decent, so we finally got the anchor up about 6:30. We had mild conditions all day, and anchored on the south side of Talavera Island, just shy of the Hinatuan Passage, in the early afternoon. 09-44.15N / 125-42.16E in 30 ft mostly sand, off a nice sand beach. We had made it up the long east Mindanao Coast!!

High tide on Sunday was about 11:45am, and our cruiser notes said to start through the passage about 3 and a half hours before high tide. So our target "underway" time was 0815.

We had a wonderful transit through the "dreaded" Hinatuan Passage, starting out with 1kt of current behind us and going up to a max of 4.5 knots in the narrowest spot. Lots of swirls and overfalls in the strait at the worst part, but easily managable with our boat. We made such good time that rather than stopping in Surigao, we carried on to an anchorage called Sonok at the south end of Leyte Island.

Ferry Terminal at the Town of Surigao, Top of Mindanao

A Philippine Navy Ship Checks Us Out

We still had 6 weeks to get to Puerto Galara, and for the rest of our way up to Puerto Galera, we would be inside the Visayas area of the Philippines, with expected milder winds and seas. In retrospect, this trip up the coast was a fairly pleasant experience, except the part about getting up at 5am every day. You just have to pay attention to the weather forecast, and wait until conditions are right.

The Red Line Shows Our Actual Track Up the Coast