Thursday, November 6, 2014

Taal Lake and Volcano, near Manila

We are finally in the U.S. and I'm trying to catch up!!

October 14, 2014 - Sightseeing Manila

Another thing we did while in Manila was hike up to the top of the Taal volcano. Taal is on an island in a lake. And it has a lake at the top with an island in it. Island-lake-island-lake-island. Pretty cool.

A Google Earth View of Taal Lake and Volcano

We opted out of taking public transportation, because our friend John had already booked a car and driver, and invited us to share the ride (and expenses). For 4400 pesos (about $100) for the two of us, we got door-to-door service and no hassle, and we did the whole trip in one day. I'm sure we could have done it for much less--probably a few dollars, but it would have taken a lot more research, planning, and anxiety, plus probably an overnight hotel stay in Tagaytay, the town next to Taal.

View from Starbucks

Taal Lake is about 2 hrs drive south of Manila. So we left Manila around 8am and arrived around 10am. Dave's friend Roy had told us to make sure we first went to the Starbucks Coffee overlooking the lake, and enjoy a good cup of coffee. It is on the ridge high over the lake, and has a beautiful view.

Dave and John Admire a Harley Outside Starbucks

We had booked a Banka + Guide ahead of time via the Taal Lake Yacht Club ( You can wait til you get there to arrange something, but then you get besieged by people trying to sell you their services.

Checking in at TLYC

A Typical Filipino Banka Boat

Our Boat Driver and Our Guide

If you're ever there on a weekend, Taal Lake Yacht Club looked like a pretty little yacht club, with a fleet of Hobie Cats. They race every weekend there.

The TLYC Grounds from the Water

All the Hobies at TLYC

Approaching the Island

We had a great trip up the mountain, but we were the only ones walking--everyone else had booked a horse to take them up. It's only about an hour's walk, not very strenuous, and was a cloudy day. Easy peasy.

Many Tourist Banka's on the Beach

A Steam Vent Reminds Us This Is/Was a Volcano

We Take a Break Halfway Up

The Island in the Lake in the Island

A Rare Photo of Dave Smiling

The Trail Down the Mountain

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Manilla, Philippines, October 12, 2014

No visit to Manila for a World War 2 buff would be complete without a trip to Corregidor.

A short history lesson... The same day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, they also attacked the Philippines. At that time, the Philippines were a U.S. Territory. The poorly prepared Philippine and American forces on the "mainland Philippines" were overrun by overwhelming Japanese forces, in a few weeks. All the remaining troops were evacuated to Corregidor Island, out in the middle of Manila Bay. Corregidor was heavily fortified and manned, and they were prepared for a long hold-out. But after 4 months of relentless bombardment by Japanese airplanes, ships, and the abandoned American coastal guns on the mainland, and as supplies started running out, it became apparent that further resistance would be pretty pointless. General Wainwright surrendered on May 6, 1942.

Want more fascinating details?

Corregidor is also the location from which General MacArthur left the Philippines (after being ordered to leave by President Roosevelt)... he left in March 1942 on a PT Boat in the middle of the night. He went first to Mindanao, and eventually was flown to Australia. It was from Sydney, Australia that General MacArthur made that famous proclamation "I shall return." (to the Philippines).

The Corregidor Ferry

It is possible to just visit Corregidor by paying only for the ferry, but it turned out to be a big island, and it would be difficult to get around to many of the sights without having at least a bicycle (and they don't rent them on the island). You can also stay overnight in a small hotel there, for a more leisurely approach to seeing the sights.
Our Tour Bus

We also feel that a good tour guide is usually worth the extra cost. Unless we had done a lot more research, we would have missed a lot had we been walking around on our own.
Our Tour Guide

The Japanese Memorial on Corregidor

Next we visited the large underground tunnel that was built prior to the war, to provide a secure bunker for men and materiel, as well as a hospital.

About the Corregidor Tunnel

The Tunnel Complex as Designed

They took us in to the darkened tunnel, and then moved us through the tunnel, stopping at a number of "re-enactment spots" where we saw a mock-up of a World War II scene, and some voice-overs describing the action.

We Enter the Darkened Tunnel

Depiction of General MacArthur and an Aide

General Wainright Making the Difficult Decision to Surrender

I can't imagine spending 4 months in that tunnel, with the Japanese bombing heck out of you. Running out of food, water, fuel, medical supplies, men, and ammunition!

After the tunnel, we went to see the gun emplacements that defended the island. They were constantly under heavy attack. The guns were put out of commission one-by-one, by Japanese bombing. The very last heavy mortar cracked from heat of constant firing, as the Japanese were coming ashore on Corregidor.

Long Guns

Next we went up on the hill to see the buildings and structures that had housed the American and Filipino forces that manned Corregidor during peacetime.

The Signs Were Everywhere!

Broken Barracks

The Lighthouse and the Lighthouse View

No memorial to the heroism on Corregidor would be complete without a special memorial to the Filipino soldiers who fought alongside the Americans.
A Special Memorial for the Filipinos

And our final stop was at the Pacific War Memorial (and Museum).

The Pacific War Memorial

Saturday, October 11, 2014

In Manila for a Week

After a hectic last week at the marina, punctuated with Dave getting hit with a very nasty stomach flu, we are in Manila. Packing to leave was a zoo--with Dave lying on the couch groaning, and me trying to think for both of us. I am so thankful I didn't catch whatever he had. It just totally knocked him out for 3 days. We considered putting off our departure for a few days to let him recuperate, but we already had made a bunch of prepaid reservations. So we flew to Manila on Tuesday as planned.

A Volcanic Crater on the Approach to Manila

We decided a couple of months ago to break our trip home with a week in Manila. The original plan was to pack every day with sightseeing in this region, and maybe even taking a couple of 2-day trips...the usual stuff... volcanoes, waterfalls, hiking, diving, adventure. However, Dave is still recovering from his bout with whatever nasty bug he got. So we've scaled things back a bit, and have been only doing half-days of local sightseeing.

So far we've walked down to Rizal Park, seen the National Museum of the Filipino People, and taken a taxi down to the old city area (Intramuros).

Dave at One of the Many Monuments at Rizal Park

A Nice Display of Canons from Spanish Times in the Museum

Visiting Old Ft. Santiago

We were accosted at the entrance to Ft. Santiago by a feisty guy named George (aka Georgie Porgie), who offered to be our guide. He spoke good English and was a funny guy. Typical tourist hustler kind of guy.

Our Tour Guide George

Our Tour Buggy

George Made Us Do This

Dave Checking Out a Spanish-era Anchor

And Of Course No Old Spanish Town Is Complete Without
a Big Church!

Taxi's are cheap in Manila, but the daytime traffic is absolutely horrific. So we haven't ventured very far. There is public transportation... jeepneys, buses, route vans, and even a Light Rail system. But we haven't yet had the energy to suss out the transport options--and a cheap air conditioned taxi is just so easy.

One of the Streets with Less Traffic in Downtown Manila

We are staying in a fairly decent hotel in the older part of the city--the Park Plaza Hotel on Pedro Gil ($53/night for a private room with hot water, A/C, and TV). Across the street is an incredible mall (Robinson's Mall). It is one block wide and 3 blocks long, 4 stories high. Easy to get lost! And it's rather small in comparison to at least two other mall complexes in Manila (Mall of Asia, Greenbelt).

One Entrance to Robinson's Mall

We had a nice dinner with an old Naval Academy classmate of Dave's, Rolio Golez, who is now a prominent politician in Manila.

Dave and I with Roy Golez

We have booked an all-day tour for tomorrow, to go see Corregidor--the island from which MacArthur left as the Japanese took over the Philippines.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Vavau Tonga Yacht Services Update

I've been contacted by Joe Caesar of Vava'u Shipwrights in Tonga to let me know that my Tonga Compendium is behind the times, regarding yacht services in Vava'u. I'll get the Compendium updated soon, but in the meantime, here's an update on yacht services in Vavau, straight from the horse's mouth:

In terms of services offered, James the Welder is no longer here, but Ian Cox still is, he runs Trouble In Paradise. Here's what we have (provided by Joe Caeser of Vava'u Shipwrights):

Vava'u Shipwrights - Joe Caesar and Alan Morey.
We've been working in this field together for many years, first in the Caribbean (SXM) and for the past 2 years here in Vava'u. We focus on: fibre glassing, resins, woodwork and carpentry, electronics, refrigeration, some rigging work, spray painting and most other things yachty. We also keep a stock of epoxy resin that we sell by the liter (+676 7516854)

The Boatyard - Al and I are in the construction phase of a haul out and storage boatyard in Vava'u. Using a hydraulic trailer we will be able to lift mono and multi hull boats with a max length of 58ft, tonnage of 28 tonne and draft of 8ft. The yard is close to the main harbour and will be open in April 2015.

Trouble In Paradise - Ian Cox and Andrew run this shop, still at the fisheries wharf (next door to us) and they focus on all types of engine repair, welding and some fabrication

Seahorse Power - Also at the fisheries wharf, Kevin is a diesel mechanic and a BETA Marine Dealer. Kevin also welds and does fabrication. Kevin also has a small stock of engine parts for sale

Canvas and Sail Repair - We have 2 canvas and sail repair companies: Seams To Me (Laurie) and Vava'u Canvas Repair (Phillip)

We all have pretty good links for importing parts so we can get most things in for any big jobs.

We are all contactable on VHF26 - its a small place, everyone knows us!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Back from Indonesia

Soggy Paws, Mind the Gap, and Outstripp are back at the Holiday Ocean View Marina on Samal (near Davao, Philippines). Here's a recap of our trip back from Sangihe Indonesia.

Motoring Away from Sangihe

We motored the entire way on nearly glassy seas from Sangihe to Sarangani--120 miles, one easy overnight in those conditions. If we could have left Sangihe on Monday, we would have had some wind, but by the time we got cleared out at 7pm on Monday when the Customs guy finally got back, there was not much wind.

Beautiful but Glassy Sunset

We first stopped at the outside anchorage at Sarangani Islands N05°24.12' E125°25.61'(first stop in the Philippines) and spent a whole day surfing the internet on blazing Globe--I think it was the fastest internet I've had outside the U.S. ever. I had bought 1000 pesos worth of Globe cards before I left, so just added the loads and signed up for another 1 month unlimited data. This anchorage was nice and calm (the winds and seas in general were low), unlike the rolly conditions when we stopped there on the way down when the winds and seas were pretty high.

A Fishing Boat Checking Us Out

I did have a bit of trouble getting online at first. Apparently, I had my Globe sim in my phone for a few minutes while in Indonesia, and Globe automatically set my sim to "international roaming" which turns data off. After a bunch of poking around on the phone on my own, I called the Customer Support number for Globe and in 5 minutes I was online.

The second night we spent up inside the protected anchorage. To get in, you have to wind your way in past a fishing village.

Small Fishing Village in Port Patuco, Sarangani

A Larger "Mothership" Fishing Boat With Nesting "Dinghies"

We left Sarangani at 0500, with 65 miles to go to the protected anchorage at Tubalan ~40 miles S of Davao. Again we motored out on glassy seas.

Mind the Gap Beside Us in the Morning Calm

By 0830 we were along the coast on west side of the Gulf of Davao, and the wind was starting to pick up.

The Sun Rising Over the Coast

By the time we rounded Calilidan Point around noon, we had winds from SSE at 15 knots (again a big bend and pickup in the wind in the afternoons along that coast). All morning about a half mile off the coast, we had current WITH us. We managed to sail for 2 hrs at 8 knots sustained!

Outstripp in the Windy Weather

When we rounded the Calilidan Point, the wind bent a little bit with us, and the seas did too. We lost the current then, but didn't seem to get any adverse current. We drifted at 4 knots for about an hour or so wing on wing, before we gave up and turned on the engine as the wind continued to die.

Finally Downwind!! Soggy Paws Wing-on-Wing

We had good Globe coverage leaving Sarangani, right around the southern tip of the mainland, and then no more until after we rounded the knob in the coast. We 3 boats found so-so anchorage (because too deep or too shallow) in the SE corner of the bay. We arrived late and tired and didn't look around much. Decent Globe (and Smart maybe too) in Tubalan Bay. Our anchorage was approximately at N06°31.85' E125°31.29', but there are likely better spots in that bay if you look around more.

Next morning we left Tubalan at 0600 and made it all the way into the marina at Samal by 3pm. The winds didn't pick up much from the morning calm, so we had to motorsail the whole way.

Mind The Gap Even Put Up A Spinnaker

After a discussion among the 3 boats, and a phone call to Kjartan at the marina for advice, we ended up going up the Davao side of Samal. Even though we made the passage on a good INCOMING tide, we had mild current against us the whole day (0-.5 kts) except for a short time in the slot off Davao, then 1.5 kts against us. Kjartan told us via phone that the current is always running south on the Davao side. It's ~5 miles longer to go around the east side of Samal, so at least with an incoming tide, it's a tossup as to which way you go.

We motored up the narrow slot between Talikud and Samal and enjoyed the sightseeing.

We saw lots of fishing boats and FADs along the Samal coast between Talikud and Samal, and north of Talikud. This would not be a good stretch to traverse at night.

We are already missing all our friends who are in Indonesia. The marina is pretty quiet now, with only a few occupied boats.