Friday, December 31, 2021

Back to Oceanview Marina

The trip back to Holiday Oceanview Marina, down the coast of Mindanao was relatively uneventful.

We stopped in Bucas Grande for a couple of days, and got the drone out.
Beautiful Bucas Grande

Most of the trip south was a wind-less motorsail. Some days we didn't even take the awning down.
Motoring South with No Wind

We met the usual wide array of fishing boats.
Fishing Boats

And some friendly kids who wanted us to stay and visit their village.
Friendly Kids!

I dropped my cell phone from the helm station--about a 4 ft drop--and it landed on the corner. Eventually this purple stuff crept all the way up the screen, making the phone unusable. I was forced to move to a standby, a very old Samsung Galazy S3. I see a new cell phone in my future!! (I did end up buying a new phone, but also got the screen on the old phone fixed).
Broken Phone

One of our Last Sunsets

We arrived back at Oceanview Marina on Nov 15 and COVID protocols were still in place. We were told we had to go to the health center on the island for a COVID test. But when we got there, they said we didn't need it. We also were told we had to quarantine for 5 days. But 4 days into the quarantine, they also removed that requirement.
Soggy Paws and Meikyo Sharing Quarantine

We spent most of December getting ready for our leap into Indonesia in January. The requirements to enter Indonesia were still a moving target, but by god, we were going to get going!
Required Provisions for Us and the Cats

Checking out PCR Testing Facilities in Davao

We Had a Very Nice Christmas Eve Dinner with the HOV Gang

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Diving Bohol (Not!)

As we started to think about heading back to Samal Island, we wanted to try to dive in "legendary" Bohol. We contacted a dive operation on the east coast, and they were excited to have us come by and dive with them. At this point in time, the Philippines were still not letting foreigners into the country due to COVID fears, so all the tourism-based operations were absolutely dying.
The S Pass

Bohol had been rigidly closed during the pandemic for over a year for all but Bohol residents. But the Bohol local government had recently "opened up" with a requirement for an "S-Pass" for visitors to Bohol. This is an online "check your vax status" mechanism.

We were fully vaxxed and had the paperwork to prove it. The S-Pass site wanted verification from the Philippines Government site. Everyone giving vaccinations were supposed to be uploading completed vaccination information to the central government website. But our vax site was apparently WAY behind in uploading the data, so the S-Pass site said we were not vaccinated. As we had paid $100 USD to a private clinic to get Moderna vaccinations, we were pretty upset that our vax confirmations were still not registered on the Philippines Government site. So, we could not get an S-Pass.

We provided copies of our vaccination proof to the dive resort on Bohol, and asked them if we could just anchor off their resort for a couple of days and dive with them. We asked them to get approval from the local council. Well, they couldn't manage getting around the government beauracracy and the insistance on an S-Pass. So sad, for them and for us.

So, we called up our old friend at Southern Leyte Divers at Padre Burgos, and asked if we could come dive with him. Actually, I think the same restrictions were in place in Leyte as in Bohol, but at this point, this guy didn't care. He knew if we anchored off, just dove with them, and didn't go into town, nobody would question him or us. So we stayed there for 3-4 days, had some nice dinners ashore, and some nice dives.
Southern Leyte Divers Dive Boat

An Anemone Showing its Colors

A Nice Nudibranch

A Ferocious Looking Lizard Fish

We also met up with Mike and Liliane from SV Meikyo, who were also on their way back to Samal Island.

On 4 November we started the trip south to Samal Island.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

US Ham Exams in the Philippines

Once we were finished having fun in Catbalogan, we spent most of October bouncing between Camotes and Carmen. During that time, we held 2 ham exam sessions. Amateur (aka Ham) radio licenses are regulated by the US Government. But they have delegated the process of actually giving the exams to "Volunteer Examiners". Dave and I are a member of the Laurel Volunteer Examiner group in Maryland in the USA. About 5 years ago, the Seven Seas Cruising Association partnered with this organization to allow roving SSCA members with the correct credentials to give ham exams wherever in the world we are.
Laurel VEC

All the exam materials (randomly generated multiple choice exams) are generated online (we have to download and print), and once scored, we have a program to enter the pass/fail information to submit the results electronically to the FCC.

We have held ham exams in Palau, several times in the Philippines, and New Zealand.

We started talking to one guy who was asking about communications when sailing offshore. This guy was on a really tight budget, so we told him about doing email using HF Radio via Winlink. The equipment to do this is about the same cost as an Iridium Go, but once you are set up, you can sent and receive email, and download weather for FREE. Besides the equipment, the only requirement is a valid ham license.

So one thing led to another, and we organized a ham exam session. We needed 3 "Extra" class ham licensees, and as luck would have it, another cruiser in the bay had the credentials to become our 3rd examiner. This worked well on the first session, but on the 2nd session, our 3rd guy had moved on. We miraculously were able to hook up with a Filipino in Cebu who was also an Extra Class US licensee, so he was our 3rd guy on the 2nd session.
Examinees Taking Tests in Zeke's Bar at Port Carmen

First Session Sep 20 Successful Examinees

Second Session Oct 10

Two of the examinees were able to test their way all the way to Extra Class!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Adventures in Samar - Caving, Canyoning, and Sightseeing

Sep 2021, Samar Island, Philippines

We actually made 3 short visits to Catbalogan, the capital of Samar Island, Philippines in September 2021. The initial reason was to go caving with Joni Bonifacio of Trexplorers. Dave loves caves, and Joni is THE caving expert in the Philippines. I am not a big fan of caves unless it is a big lighted cave with handrails and a nice walkway (ie Luray Caverns in the USA). So, with the cat off to the vet for emergency surgery, I took advantage of the situation and stayed onboard to "wait for the cat". Dave went caving with our friend Paul from s/v Ttaack, and Paul's girlfriend.

Joni Bonifacio's Trexplorer Shop

They had a blast--hiking to 2 different caves and then exploring each cave. But it was a strenuous day, and Dave's shoes were not up to the slippery cave floors. He came home with a fairly significant gash in his forehead from a slip and fall. Joni arranged everything, including motorcycle transportation to the starting point, porters to carry gear and food, and proper helmets and good headlamps. Joni carries an iPhone in a waterproof box and takes prolific pictures. At the end of each adventure, he put together a short video about the adventure. There are a few pics here you can scroll through (and click on each picture for a bigger version if you want), but if you're into video, here's the Youtube link for Dave and Paul's Trexplorer caving adventure:

Transport to the Start of the Hike

Kids in the Village Where the Hike Started

Hiking in to the First Cave

The Entrance to the Lobo Cave Complex

All Properly Kitted for Our First Cave

Some Serious Cave Exploration!

Cave Pearls!

So we hiked in to the first cave, then came out, had lunch and hiked to the second cave.

A well-deserved lunch before our next hike!

And Onward and Upward to the Second Cave

This Cave Is Even Bigger!

At least it's bigger in some places!

Whew! Finally done and resting before hiking out!

This was really an exhausting trip--way more strenuous than they had imagined. (I was really glad I had opted out for this one).

On a second visit to Catbalogan, Dave and I went "Canyoning" with Joni. We only had a vague idea of what this was, but it sounded like fun--rappelling down into a river canyon and walking down the river. What it actually turned out to be was a series of 7 waterfalls as the river descends into the valley, and we rappelled down some of them and jumped down others. And waded and swam down to the next one. It was a fun trip--a little physically challenging, but not too bad. Besides the actual rappelling, there was a 2 hour hike up along the river bank to the top of the canyon. (This part Joni never mentioned in his description of "canyoning").

Starting Our Hike With the Porters Who Carried all the Gear

Getting Kitted Out with all the Gear

We Practice Rappeling On a Tree

Our First Rappel Looks Pretty Scary!

Dave Sez "Ladies First!"

Joni Requires a Thumbs Up (Dave not so sure!)

We Made It! Only 6 More to Go...

In Some Places There Was a Lot of Rock-Scrambling

More Rappelling--This One With a Jump at the End

And Jump!

In Other Places We Did Some Serious Swimming

Joni Had Packed in a Nice Lunch for Us!

We did a total of 7 descents, and a lot of rock scrambling and/or swimming in between each one. Lots of fun, but we were glad to finally reach the bottom. I kept wondering... what if there's a heavy rainfall? But I'm sure Joni had that figured out. We felth very safe with him. He has led a number of international caving, mountain biking, and canyoning expeditions. And his gear was top notch.

If you want to see a play-by-play of our canyoning trip with more detail, Joni made a 30 minute Youtube of our day of canyoning adventure.

On another day, our new friend Gary invited us to go hiking over on Daram Island nearby (SW of Buri). We went in his speedboat. On arriving in the little town at the base of the hill, we asked for a guide to show us the way. We ended up with 4 nice young men.

Gary's Speedboat

The Town at the Base of the Hill

Narrow Streets Along the Waterfront

Someone's "Car" Parked by their House

We Go Searching for a Guide

Our Guides

It was a nice day, but hot up on the hill with no trees. Great views, though!

The Long Hot Hike Up the Hill

Friendly Fellow

At the Top we Find a Big Monument

And a GREAT View

We loved hanging out at Buri Beach and Catbalogan Town. Sorry we didn't have more time to hang there. For those of you who want to know where it is... here's a Google Maps Link

Next... some of our "inland adventures" touring around Samar and Tacloban.