Sunday, December 11, 2016

Our Manila/Subic Trip

When we were in Palau, and decided to go back to Samal for the winter months (instead of going to Subic Bay as we originally planned), we decided to take a flying dive trip to Coron Bay. We arranged the trip with a visit to a former Navy friend in Subic Bay and the annual Army/Navy Game watching party in Manila.

We flew into Manila and friend Kent picked us up at the airport and drove us back to his house in Subic. We hung out Kent for few days. Dave and Kent played golf, warming up for the Army/Navy golf tournament.

Kent and Dave with their Caddies at the Subic Golf Club

We had lunch at Vascos, and stopped in to check out the primary Broadwater Marine store next to Vascos. Vascos' ad say it is "A Hotel museum with a picturesque ambiance." Plus a waterfront restaurant where local ex-pats like to hang out. There's an interesting little underwater artifacts museum at Vascos.

While in Subic we were delighted to get to spend an afternoon helping our friends Graham and Avril on DreamAway launch their boat after a long haulout and refit at Water Ventures.

DreamAway on the Travelift

We have been running into DreamAway here and there since we first met on a dark night in the Tuamotus, where we were making landfall after dark at a tiny cul-de-sac with reefs on both sides (Anse Amyat, Tuamotus) We got underway early in the morning and pushed all day, trying to make the anchorage in daylight, but ended up arriving a little after dusk. Though we did have our own track to follow in, we discovered that the light we expected to guide us in was not working as we approached. So we made a call on VHF to see if someone could help us identify and pick up a free mooring. We made a VHF call, and Graham from DreamAway answered our call. Knowing him now, I'm sure he was saying to himself "What the bloody hell are those stupid Americans doing, coming in at night!" But instead he said "Soggy Paws, this is DreamAway, we're on a mooring here at Anse Amyot, and yes there is a free mooring available right next to us. Come on in, we'll help you out. Mind the coral bits."

Anyway, DreamAway was looking pretty spiffy on the outside, after the yard had painted both hull and deck. The launching and docking maneuvers went well and after a 100m boat ride, we all celebrated with a glass of wine in the cockpit, and with dinner and ice cream afterwards.

Doing One of Dave's Favorite Things, Eating Ice Cream

We had several nice dinners with Graham and Avril, catching up on each other's adventures in the last 2 years. Avril and I spent a couple of hours side-by-side on the computers, swapping info and GoogleEarth charts. The last time we had seen them was in March 2015, when we stayed on their boat for a few days while visiting New Zealand by air.

We spent another afternoon trying to arrange Yanmar parts to fix our saildrives. A friend had given us the contact info for Azumi Corporation, and they listed themselves on their website as the Yanmar representatives for the Philippines. We had exchanged a few emails, and had a list of the parts we needed, but Dave had a few questions and wanted to talk with someone face-to-face. We met the nice young man who is the parts manager, asked him a few questions, and he revised our quote on the spot. We were a bit shocked at the prices he quoted, but I checked US prices online and found his prices were actually quite good.

When we tried to hand him a credit card he said "No, no, pay cash". This is a bit of a problem in the Philippines. The bill was for around $1,500 USD. And most of the ATM machines in the PI will only dispense 10,000 pesos ($200 USD) at a time, with a $4 ATM fee "for foreign transactions" each time. And, one of our two debit cards wasn't working.

Fortunately, we had "stocked up" on cash for the trip, and we found we could do two $200 withdrawals per day. So after 3 days and with a loan from Kent, we were able to pay the parts bill in cash. Azumi ordered the parts from Singapore and said they'd be delivered to Davao in about 20 days. The $1500 included a $160 fee for shipping and customs handling issues (via DHL), which I think would have been a nightmare if we had ordered the parts directly from Singapore. And it would have cost even more to buy the parts in the US and have them shipped.

Then it was time to head for Manila for the weekend's activities surrounding the U.S. Military Academy's Army/Navy Football game. There are a surprising number of Filipinos who have attended U.S. military academies. Those who can, gather in Manila every year for the Army/Navy game. There is usually a golf tournament, a dinner, and a 4-am watching of the actual game (5pm in the US is 4am in Manila). This year, the game watching was at the US Embassy in Manila, in the Marine Guard's rec room. (Thanks, Marines, for hosting us).

Army and Navy Banners at the Dinner

The Whole Group

Roilo, Kent, and Dave, USNA Class of 70

The Army Fans Hoping "This is the Year"

Watching the Game

Unfortunately for the first time in 14 years, Army beat Navy. Navy had a tough year this year, their very good 1st string QB was injured in the first game of the season. The 2nd string QB was injured in the last half of the previous game, and they played a big playoff game the weekend before (while Army was off). So they went into the biggest game of the year with their 3rd string QB, who had only played about 1/4 of a game. They gave a good account of themselves, but Army ended up scoring more points, and winning. Our Army friends were ecstatic, and we were happy for them to finally get a win. But we'll be back next year...

On our way into Manila from Subic, we stopped off at Concrete Solutions to take a look at their "blueboard" insulation product. We wanted to buy some blueboard insulation for our new fridge. Blueboard is a Dow Corning product used for lots of things, including building insulation. This product turned out to be 2" thick, 2' x 4' "block" they use to insulate buildings. It seemed OK for our purposes, so made up an order and whipped out our credit card and... you guessed it. No credit, just cash. So back to the ATM's again. Fortunately my 2nd ATM card started working, and some of the ATM's in Manila would let me take out 20,000 pesos at a time. So with only 2 days of ATM visits, we could pay Concrete Solutions, pay off Kent, and have a little money left over. (We could be Wiring money from our US Bank accounts but every time we've done that, it's a real PITA to make happen, and more expensive than using cash and ATMs). Concrete Solutions handled the shipping from Manila to Davao, and we should get our shipment just before Christmas.

On our last night in Manila, Kent went back to Subic and we moved to the Nichols Airport Hotel, recommended by friends. This is a hotel near the Manila airport convenient to Terminal 3 and Terminal 4 (where the local flights fly in and out of). It has reasonable prices, clean, and neat, with a small restaurant, free wifi, and free shuttle to the airport. But in a fairly dodgy section of Manila. Good for transit, not much good for anything else.

And then we flew off to celebrate my birthday with a week's diving at a resort in Coron.

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