Friday, August 8, 2014

Marina Bums!

We are all tucked up in a nice marina...Holiday Ocean View Marina on the garden island of Samal, off the coast of Davao in Mindanao in the Philippines.

We got checked in yesterday...Thanks to Stephen on Westward II spending all day with us yesterday taking us through the process.

To get from the marina to downtown, we have to take a free shuttle bus, a free ferry, and then a jeepney ride to town. It takes about an hour. And then "whoosh!" first world madness with the Philippine chaos thrown in (similar to the big cities we have been to in South and Central America). One whole floor of the huge mall was only electronics gadgets.

We got simmed yesterday... sims for our two phones and one for the internet onboard. Hopefully I'll get a chance to get everything updated soon... but there's a lot going on--hard to find time.

We are officially shopping for an air conditioner and maybe a used motorcycle.

At 08/05/2014 10:28 PM (utc) our position was 07°11.84'N 125°42.64'E

Monday, August 4, 2014

My Computer Lives!

Yesterday afternoon in a particularly "boisterous" patch of weather, my ASUS Eee PC (which was not properly secured) launched itself off the nav station onto the floor, with a few pieces flying. It was not on, thank god. But Dave, who picked up the pieces, was sure it was toast.

The little blinking light that indicates "standby mode" was still blinking, so I was hopeful that it might still be alive. When I first tried to start it up, I got a scary disk error (OH CRAP!). But after re-seating the disk drive in it's socket, it started up. Thank God for small favors!!

I am well prepared for disaster recovery--you absolutely have to be on a boat. Just the salt air will kill a computer in a year or two--one little teeny salt water drip can be fatal--not to mention hauling the computer all over creation in a backpack, and the "at sea" encounters like yesterday.

I keep pretty good back-ups, and I have a spare computer I could migrate to, but the last time I backed up was about a week ago. And who has time to re-create one's life on different computer, no matter how good your back up is??

This little cheapo ($350) computer that I bought in 2009 has been such an incredible buy. I wish I'd bought 2 or 3 of them. We have bought 2 of its successors, also called Eee PC's, but not nearly as well built. I'd like the same case, same keyboard with a faster processor, more memory (mine is limited to 2GB) and a bigger HD... for the same $300 price range. Too bad the company has "upgraded" their PC line.

In the Philippines

We are happy to report that we rounded Cape San Augustine this morning at 0845 and we are officially in Philippine waters.

The marina we are headed for (Holiday Ocean View in Samal, near Davao) is too far away to reach in one day, so we needed to find a stopping place overnight. You don't sail at night in coastal waters in the Philippines--too many FADs, fishermen, nets, etc.

With S-SW winds, none of the anchorages we had marked along the west coast of the SE peninsula in Mindenao were looking very good. We picked out one--at Sigaboy Island--that looked like it might work, but the wind was too far south. The only spot where there were anchoring depths was not behind the island with the south-ish winds we had. And about the time we were looking, the winds had picked up and were howling through the area, with a bit of a venturi effect near the island. So we moved on.

A few miles north, Dave picked out a decent anchorage in a big cove, I think called something like Baksal Cove. We anchored at 06-40.6N / 126-04.9E, in about 25 feet of water, off a fishing village. "Off a fishing village" is an interesting term in the Philippines, as pretty much every bay we went by on our 25 miles up the coast, had a fishing village. Basically a row of shacks along the beach with 20-40 motorized outrigger canoes pulled up on the beach.

The Filipinos are incredible. It's hard to convey their fishing-ness. Several hundred miles off the coast of Mindanao, in very deep water, our friends on Carina passed a "FAD" with a medium-sized (say, 30-40') fishing boat accompanied by a number of outrigger canoes. And we saw them in all shapes and sizes today...anything from a one-man canoe to a giant community-sized fishing or transport vessel. Here they are called "bancas" (bong-kas)...outlandish looking trimaran things with motorized propulsion (pictures to follow).

We are getting up at the crack of dawn tomorrow (even Dave!) to make the last 40 miles to the marina.
At 08/04/2014 12:40 PM (utc) our position was 06°40.60'N 126°04.90'E

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Bashing the House to Weather

For you non-sailors, the term "To Weather" means to go into the wind and waves.

Here we are enroute to the Philippines now on Day 4. This is definitely getting old. We have finally reached the "favorable" current (south-bound), which makes it easier to make the heading we need to get around the point. But the southbound current against the northbound wind has made the seas really short and steep. So we are bashing and crashing--big sheets of salt water coming over the bow. My tomato plants are definitely NOT happy. And neither are we.

Fortunately, we made the right decision in motorsailing further south to reach lighter winds. We have better weather here, while two of the purist-sailor boats that left with us were "hove to" this morning in 20-30 knots (temporary squall conditions). While they sneer at our wimpy-ness, we know they are wishing they were where we are.

There is a typhoon that was just forming as we left Palau, and was supposed to track off to the northwest and not be a factor. It has stalled about 600 miles north of us and turned into a "Super Typhoon". This is making what looked like an ideal weather window... 12-15 knots... into a less than ideal window. We've had 15-20 all day and it's clocked a little to be more on our nose, and the forecast is for it to continue like this for at least another day.

But because we've been motorsailing for two days now, we are now less than 24 hours from rounding the point (God willin' and the creek don't rise), and then we'll be in more protected waters and going with the wind and the current--and only 60 miles from our destination. We probably won't make it all the way into the marina tomorrow, but will likely stop somewhere to rest up and make it into the marina on an easy day on Tuesday.

We spotted our first FAD this morning. It was a large day-glo orange cylinder in 6,000 METERS of water (~18,000 feet). We can't imagine them being anchored... they MUST be just launched and floating. But what a hazard to navigation! They are typically made out of steel and are roughly the size of a refrigerator. In calm weather with a good radar, you might be able to pick them up on radar, but not in these seas (and not with our tired old radar mounted on the arch).

We're in no danger, just discomfort. We have 3 other boats out here with us to commiserate with, and a number of boats waiting for us at the marina in Samal with a cold beer. We're just ready for it to be over.
At 08/03/2014 12:24 AM (utc) our position was 06°51.15'N 127°55.53'E

Saturday, August 2, 2014

On the Way to Philippines - Day 3

We were having a great sail, but going slowly in the wrong direction, and Dave just wants to "Get 'er done" and get there.

So yesterday afternoon, after a long discussion between Dave (the motorhead) and me (the sailor) we cranked the engine up and started motorsailing directly toward Cabo San Augustine, the SE point of land on Mindenao that we have to round to get up into the Gulf of Davao.

Also, the best wisdom in strong current is to make all speed directly across the current, to get out of it sooner, so that's what we're doing. Our current plan is to keep heading WSW until we strike the favorable southbound current, and then tack over and head south in the favorable current. But the plan changes with every new forecast.

There's another typhoon brewing well to the north of us, and what looked like a nice settled weather window is looking less settled as the typhoon spins us. So Dave's "let's quit playing around out here and get there" is somewhat justified.

Also, we got wind of an anchor-chain re-galvinizing expedition in Davao, our destination. To get in on that, we have to be at the marina by Tuesday evening. If we keep motorsailing we'll just barely make it. (saving lots of money on chain/re-galvanizing but spending about $3/hr on diesel fuel).

One other factor out here I forgot to mention. The Filipino fisherman fish offshore in small boats up to 180 nm from the coast. So once we get that close to shore, we have to keep watch for possibly unlit/unmarked FAD's (fish aggregating devices). They can be anything from a wooden raft to large metal cylinders, and anchored out in deep water. We have waypoints for ones that have been spotted by others, so we know about where they start appearing.

The fishermen are also out fishing at night along the coast in small unlit boats, often with nets. So you can't do coastal passages around here at night--another reason why we decided to stay offshore, rather than head for the coast and then creep along in the protection of the coast.

We're using RTOFS requests from Saildocs to get the current information. Last time I tried it (about 6 years ago), I didn't get anything, but now I do--a 3-day forecast for what they expect the current to do. It is a GRIB file just like the GFS forecast gribs, and can be viewed in OpenCPN or ViewFax.

Anyway, all is well out here, and we're "only" 215 nm from rounding Cabo San Augustine, and then it's 60 miles or so to the marina.
Sherry & Dave
Heading west across Micronesia in 2014

At 08/02/2014 1:07 AM (utc) our position was 07°10.44'N 129°38.39'E

Friday, August 1, 2014

Off We Go to The Philippines

We had originally planned to stay in Palau until September, but the weather in the last month has really been poor. We haven't had one chance in 4-5 weeks to get out and go diving. The "Monsoon Winds" have arrived, and the Monsoon Trough has sat over Palau for weeks, bringing SW winds, rain and squally weather. The monsoon wind blows primarily from the SW--directly on the best part of the reef.

We have also tired of being cooped up in the one anchorage we are permitted to stay in without paying $100 for a 10-day cruising permit.

Anyway, after yet another bout of crappy weather, we have decided to cut our stay short and leave when our friends leave on this weather window. (one boat has been trying to leave for a month, and this is the first good window) We didn't want to take the chance of getting stuck for another month.

The flip side is, we'll be in Davao for their big festival in mid-August, and we have signed up to participate in the first part of the Indonesia Rally leaving from Davao around the 1st of September.

There's a lot of stuff we did in Palau that was blog-worthy. The internet is just so slow and expensive that I never got to it. Hopefully we'll get a chance to back-post, at least with some highlights.

We left Palau 2 days ago, and are now about 290 miles from the easternmost point of Mindenao, the biggest island on the SE side of the Philippines. We are trying to get to a place on the N end of the small island of Samal, off the big city of Davao, in southern Mindenao. There is a marina there called the Holiday Ocean View Marina at approx 07-11.87 N / 125-42.62 E. This is where we plan to leave Soggy Paws for our next trip home.

We are hard on the wind in 10-12 knots of wind, and bucking a .5kt current right now. There is a bigger current coming--the current running south along the coast of Mindenao peaks at 2.8kts!! (Think Gulfstream). To complicate our weather routing situation, just about the time we get to the strong current, we will have almost 20kts of opposing winds. This is not a good situation. So we are looking at t-t-t-tacking around a bit trying to balance staying out of the strong adverse current and the strong adverse winds--and especially out of the strong-current-against-strong-winds situation. (Think Gulfstream in a Cold Front).

So far it's been a very nice sail. But the next few days are going to get rough. Though it's only 295 miles straight to the coast, it's nearly 400 miles to the point we have to round to get up into the Gulf of Davao. And we won't be able to do it in a straight line.

Fortunately the weather in general is pretty settled, so at least we don't have to worry about 30 kt squalls in the mix.

We are in loose company with 3 other boats who left at the same time--Carina, Helena, and La Gitana. Westward II left for Davao a couple of weeks ago, and Challenger is stored in Palau, with Jerry in NC for a little while longer. New friends on Miss Behave set out the day before we did, on their way back to Australia via PNG and Vanuatu.

P.S. Our website was down for a couple of days--we apparently got hacked--but it should be back up now. Also, I think I fixed the position report widget on the blog--so that should be working again.
At 08/01/2014 1:45 AM (utc) our position was 07°26.12'N 131°21.37'E