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.

Festival Sangihe 2014

We didn't really know what to expect. This was our first ever Rally and our first experience with Indonesia. Since we were going with the Rally, and since we were only staying in Indonesia for about 10 days, we didn't really do our normal research work when heading for a new country. So I felt a bit behind the game (language-wise) when we arrived.

Apparently the Indonesia Tourism Department sponsors these rallies. The tourism departments of the various districts "bid" for the money to hold a festival, and it rotates around somewhat. Last year the big festival was in Morotai (the second stop on this year's rally). But for the first time, Sangihe got the nod, and in my opinion they outdid themselves.

We were not the only featured guests, but we were the most numerous, and definitely the focus of the event. We ended up with 17 sailboats in the harbor--a record for Sangihe. Some of the things that the Sangihe Tourism Department and the town of Sangihe, and their associated sponsors did for us are:

- Processed our paperwork, so the CAIT (Cruising Permit) and Social Visas (for stays up to 3 months) in advance, for free.
- Sent a representative to the marina to give us a personal briefing on Indonesia and the rally.
- Put in 20 deep-water moorings (60-100 feet deep)
- Put in a custom-made floating dinghy dock
- Provided an english-speaking agent to handle all our paperwork on arrival
- Had all the check-in officials standing by all week long to process the boats as they arrived
- Built a festival area along the waterfront, with stage, eating tents, small business booths, etc.
- Put on a week-long festival with nightly cultural events--singing, dancing, bamboo orchestra, and even a rock concert.
- Gave every boat 2 free sim cards for our phones and internet devices
- Made available a free wifi hotspot just for our use
- Loaded us up on a Coast Guard boat and took us to a "typical village" at the southern end of the island, where we were feted and taken out to see a "traditional fishing" demonstration
- Did two all-day tours by bus to see various features, including a waterfall hike, a beach visit, the mountain lookout point, a museum, and a "sago factory".
- Took us on a walking tour of the Bamboo Instrument Factory.
- Gave us free 100 liters of diesel fuel
- Fed us 2 dinners, 3 lunches, and breakfast every day... all for free
- Brought a water truck down to the dinghy dock so we could fill water jugs
- Handled numerous personal requests (help with arranging drinking water, laundry, etc etc).

And on top of all that, we were treated like Rock Stars by the officials and all the people in the town. Every time we came ashore, there were kids and adults hanging around near the dinghy dock, waiting to get their pictures taken with us--we were even giving autographs at one point! Every night at the festivities, we were invite to sit up on stage in the "guest of honor" seats (which made it hard to sneak out for a beer or a pee). As we traveled through small towns in our tourist bus, people came out of their houses to smile and wave at us.

The only negative experience we had all week was the swell in the bay. Though the weather itself was great, every third day or so the wind from the SW would whip up and push a big swell into the west-facing bay. That, combined with the nearly 6-ft tide always made things interesting. During the day, the wind would point us mostly into the swell. But at night, the wind died and the currents swirled us around, setting us sideways (sometimes) to a pretty nasty swell. And we had trouble at night with boats drifting too close to each other--the long mooring lines combined with swirly currents caused a couple of of bumper boats in the middle of the night (us included). We ended up having to move to a different mooring at 2am one night.

One particularly bad night the, the tide was very low and the swells were crashing in, and the dinghy dock nearly got destroyed. But within a few hours the next day, the officials had rebuilt it and resecured it. Meanwhile, they arranged for a local boat to pick us up from our boats that day, so we wouldn't have to leave our dinghies at the dock in those conditions.

In addition to the Rally boats, there was a small group of scuba divers, a group of paragliders, and a bunch of tourism-related people from Jakarta.

Sangihe is an incredibly beautiful island, and as a non-tourist destination, it is completely unspoiled. We hope they are successful in developing a tourism business that creates jobs and some needed cash flow, without ruining the local people.

We can't wait to go back to Indonesia and experience it more on our own. And we will be sure to visit Sangihe again.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Some Info About Sangihe

I do promise to fill in with text and pictures about our own (wonderful) time at Sangihe. But in the meantime, here are some links and local websites:

Marsello (left) and Friends/Guides (still under construction)

If you are a diver or an adventurer and you are tired of all the crowded touristy (Bali-like) places in Southeast Asia and want to go someplace that is unique and unspoiled, come to Sangihe. By sailboat, it's only 200 miles south of Davao in the Philippines, and from Manado Indonesia, it is only a day trip by ferry.

My best advice is to contact Marsello at Cell # +62-821-9475-5831 (from outside Indonesia) or 0821-9475-5831 (from an Indo cell phone).

Marsello speaks good English and has recently returned to his native island to start a tour company. He can help you with whatever you need here--from hiking to diving to day-to-day things.

And you will LOVE Sangihe. One cruiser from Australia who has been in and out of Indonesia and Malaysia for 30 years said this was the best place he had visited.

Sadly, we are leaving Sangihe today to head back to the Philippines to get ready for our journey back to the U.S. in October.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sarangani to Sangihe Indonesia

Saturday August 6, 2014

We had heavy rain all morning--a welcome rinse and top-up of our water tanks. We had enough internet (via Globe) to get a satellite picture and it showed clearing weather. The GRIB files also showed the winds easing a bit.

So the fleet that was holed up in Port Patuco (Mind the Gap, Heather May, Outstripp, Sloepmouche) all left Sarangani about 1pm. The current was variable and the wave action "confused" in the first 2 hours. At about 4pm we were contemplating turning back, as we were in "washing machine" conditions and the wind was up to about 15 knots dead on the nose. At one point we were only making about 3 knots. But we kept at it, and we finally got the favorable current we'd been expecting, and the wind eased and the wave action calmed down to normal.

We ended up having a pleasant motor sail under a nearly full moon, making much better time than we originally thought. We ended up right off the northern tip of Sangihe at about 8am. We were already planning a pre-lunchtime arrival in the anchorage, when we hit both wind and current on the nose as we rounded the NW point of Sangihe. The wind went from near zero to 15 kts in a boatlength! Fortunately the boat ahead of us had called back, so we were ready for the wind.

We all ended up short-tacking down the west coast of Sangihe, motorsailing against about 20 knots of wind and 1-2 knots of current. We didn't get into the harbor until nearly 3pm.

The Tourism Department of Sangihe had put out nearly 20 moorings for the visiting yachts to use. Unfortunately, we were about 12th into the bay--the fleet joining us that was part of the Malaysia Rally had arrived earlier than us and had taken all the best moorings. So it took some wandering around to find a mooring that looked good. But we finally grabbed one. We have since moved twice, trying to get on a good mooring with appropriate swinging room, out of the swell.

More on Festival Sangihe 2014 in the next post.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Made it to Sarangani Island

Friday, Sept 5

We continued on down the coast on Weds, and by mid-afternoon we were rounding Calian Point--the easternmost point on the west side of the Gulf of Davao. Up until then, we had gotten some protection by staying close in to the coast.

But once we rounded that point, two things happened--the coast slopes away to the SW, and we no longer had much protection. And the Katabatic wind (afternoon sea breeze) kicked in and started blowing like stink out of the SSE instead of the SW--leaving us on a lee shore with 20 kts of relative wind.

We ended up short tacking down the coast at fairly high RPM and making only about 2-3 knots toward our destination--hand steering and bashing into the waves.

We had planned to make it all the way down to Sarangani Islands (2 small islands 5 miles off the southern tip of Mindanao), but as our progress slowed, we started reviewing our options. None of the intermediate bays looked very good with a SSE breeze. Fortunately, we got close enough to Sarangani to be in VHF contact with our friends on Brick House, who told us we could probably get into their (open roadstead) anchorage at night. We had good Google Earth charts of that bay, and they gave us a couple of waypoints from their way in.

Also fortunately, at sunset, the howling wind just died off, and our speed picked up to 4-5 kts VMG.

Both Brick House and Catamini, anchored next to each other, left their AIS on, so we homed in on them and anchored between them at almost exactly midnight.

As we had been warned, it was a bit rolly, especially when the wind/current laid us sideways to the swell curving around the southern reef. But it was a secure anchorage and we could let ourselves and the engine rest for a bit.

In the morning, Brick House and Catamini left, but we decided to stay the day to fix a few onboard problems (leaks). We moved into a much more protected anchorage (Port Patuco on the NW corner of Sarangani Island), where 4 other boats from the rally were. This is a great all weather anchorage.

We had fantastic Globe (cell) internet in the bay at Balut Island, and marginal internet in Port Patuco. No Smart signal at all.

Anchor waypoints: Balut in 65 feet sand: 05-24.12N 125-25.61E
Port Patuco in 33 ft mud?: 05-28.13N 125-28.57E

We may leave here mid-day today to motor (into the wind) the last 120 miles to Sangihe overnight.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Short Overnight at Talulan Bay

After much discussion between the crew, we decided to stop overnight at Talulan Bay. Dave didn't want to have to navigate the prolific small fishing boats (with flashlights for lights) and FAD's all night long. And we both wanted to be able to see some of the coast we were passing by.

So just at sunset, we stopped in Talulan Bay. We had one waypoint on the western side of the bay, but we chose an anchorage in the southern end of the bay--away from the town. The problem in finding an anchorage was--as usual in these parts--it was either over 100 ft deep or 3 feet deep (and the light was fading fast. We managed to find a spot with a little more shelf and dropped our anchor.

We nosed in cautiously with Dave on the bow as lookout, and me on the depthsounder with my hand on "reverse". As soon as we got down to 10 feet, I dropped a waypoint and we reversed out of there. We then dropped our anchor far enough from the waypoint to make sure we had swinging room. The shelf went from 12 ft to 35 ft to 75 feet in about 100 feet, so it was tricky. We finally dropped in about 50 ft and let out 150 ft of scope (all chain, with a 100 lb anchor).

We had a bit of a squall pass overhead during dinner--we were protected from any wind, but we had frequent lightning for an hour or so.

The rest of the rally people that left with us kept going. The wind is supposed to pick up a little today from the SW (too close to sail), so they all wanted to keep going and get south before things picked up. Only 2 or 3 boats are behind us now--Carina and Sidewinder leaving the marina this morning, and Helena, who was supposed to have left yesterday afternoon.

We set the alarm for 5am, and were underway by 5:25--we've got 66 miles to go to the next stop (Balut Islands, off the southern tip of Mindanao), and sunset is at 5:45pm. So we are pushing hard to get there before dark (right now our ETA is 6:30pm :( ) We have good Google Earth photos of the anchorage, and there should be a number of rally boats stopping there tonight, so hopefully we'll have some help getting in if we arrive after dark.

It's a beautiful morning motorsailing in light winds and slight seas along the coast. All the Filipino fishermen are out in force in their tiny canoes--we counted 20 within sight at 5:30am (and they'd probably been out fishing all night).

And the best thing is--the Philippines have GSM (cell) data, so we have pretty decent internet right now.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

We are Off to Indonesia!

Yep... sorry I haven't posted any pictures of all the stuff we've been doing in Davao over the last month. But between social activities and getting ready to leave on the Sail Sangihe (Indonesia) Rally, we've been too busy.

We left the marina this morning at 8:30 with a group of 6 other boats, including a few SSCA Commodores (Catamini, Sloepmouche, Brickhouse). Carina and Helena are following tomorrow.

We are going to Sangihe, an island in eastern Indonesia for our first stop, about 200 miles south of Davao.

The weather this morning is nice--sunny and light wind. But the forecast is for the wind to pick up out of the SSW--almost on our nose. So we are motoring south as fast as we can go. We are hoping to beat the approaching stronger winds. Originally we had planned to stop along the western shore of the Gulf of Davao, but now we think we may just push on through tonight. If we get far enough south, the wind won't be as strong.

We only plan to spend about 2 weeks in Indonesia--the Rally goes all the way to Raja Ampat (a very famous dive destination), but I think we'll head back from Sangihe. We are booked on a flight out of Davao on October 7, to start making our way slowly back to the U.S.