Friday, July 30, 2021

Doing the Carmen / Camotes Shuffle

June and July 2021

We finally broke out of Port Carmen on June 10, and headed out to the Camotes Islands, along with our friends on Java. We had met Evan on Java in Ecuador in 2009, and have bumped into him on and off across the Pacific. Evan is pretty much based in Port Carmen these days, where life is easy. We were excited to catch up with Evan and Nancy once again.

The Camotes is a group of 3 islands in the middle of the Camotes Sea between Cebu Island and Leyte Island, only 15 miles from Carmen. Most of the waypoints and accounts of cruising the Camotes that I had were from people cruising during the winter season, when the wind blows out of the northeast. But this was summer and winds were S-SW. So the NE season anchorages wouldn't work at all. We had to find our own anchorage on the north side of Pacijan island.

The Camotes, between Cebu Island and Leyte Island

We followed Java in to their favorite spot, off the east end of the beach at Talong Diot, close enough that they could take their dog Micro into the beach on the kayak. This was an OK anchorage, but lots of noisy banka traffic, and not very good holding. The bottom looks like sand, but is really slick rock dotted with small coral heads. There is a reversing current between Talong Island and Pacijan Island.

The Tulang Diot beach on Pacijan is normally a tourist beach--and mainly for picking up tourists and transporting them out to Tulang Island. But with Covid, not many tourists on the island.
The Beautiful Beach at Talong
All the Tourist Bankas Waiting to Take Tourists out to Talong

After the weekend, Java left to go back to Carmen, and we explored a bit and found another anchorage we liked better, near the west end of the beach. I snorkeled around until I found a sand spot clear enough of coral heads and shallow enough to anchor in. We wanted to check out a dive shop we had been messaging with, about doing some diving.

Rock Dive is just around the corner to the SW (off the picture, lower left corner). We dinghied around from our anchorage and met up with "Uncle Rock". We eventually made about 25 dives with him, and became good friends.

Talong (Tulang) Island Anchorages for SW Winds

There were about 10 dive operations on Pacijan before Covid, and now there are only 2, and Rock Dive is one of them. Rock was surviving COVID by turning his low-end dive resort into a karaoke bar and restaurant. Plus he has a few amusing side businesses, including breeding horses and breeding Dalmation puppies.

Rock's original profession was accounting. But he hated the grind and hated accounting, so came to the Philippines to learn to dive, and eventually opened his own dive operation. His first shop was in Cebu, but he loved diving in the Camotes so much that he moved his operation to the Camotes a few years ago.

Rock's Dive Center and Karaoke Bar
Great Waterfront View from Restaurant
Rock's Pregnant Horse Rosemary

We spent a few days diving with Rock at Talong Island, along the wall on the north side. This is an amazing wall, with lots of life, nudis, sea fans, and just a little current to move you along the wall.
Some Soft Coral Along the Wall
Sherry and Nemo

When we got a period of really light south wind, we moved to the pretty beach town at the south end of Pacijan, at Santiago Bay. Here we found the other dive shop, and made a few dives on the south side.
Camotes Fun Dive Shop on Santiago Beach
Locals Enjoying Beach Volleyball at Sunset

We enjoyed the vibe at Santiago Beach. Lots of restaurants along the beach. But it's a long way in in the dinghy, the water gets very shallow, and the tides are a factor. You will wade to/from your dinghy, or find your dinghy high and dry. Both are friendly dive operations with good diving. Santiago Bay is better in NE season, and the Tulong area better in SW winds.

While in Santiago Bay, we rented motorcycles and Nerji, the Dive Shop owner, showed us all over the two islands. We hit all the tourist spots, including the Magellan Monument, and the cave.
Touring the Camotes by Motorcycle
The Magellan Monument
The Overlook at Buho
Lake Danao Tourist Center (Restaurants, Boats, Zipline)
Swimming Underground at Timubo Cave

There is a decent store, open market, and restaurants in San Francisco, the town at the center of the "butterfly" that the two main Camotes Islands make.

We moved back to the Talong area on June 20, when the SW wind came up to 10-15 knots. With a little current along the island opposing the SW wind, it was very uncomfortable off Santiago.

A few days later we motored back to Port Carmen. It was time for my 2nd Sinovac shot. Plus we had a few things to take care of... the watermaker boost pump quit working, and we had fried one of our alternator controllers.

We spent 3 weeks in Carmen this time. Partly doing boat work, and partly enjoying socializing. One Sunday morning we went by dinghy with our friends on Dream Reach up to a Hotel/Restaurant that served a great Sunday breakfast. After a massive "English Breakfast" we lounged in their pool.
Breakfast at Huna Huna Resort

We did at least one low tide Happy Hour on "Claudia's Island". This is a little "awash" rock outcropping next to the mooring area, and Claudia on s/v Tao has been piling rocks and planting mangroves to make it a little nicer for dog-walking and sunset Happy Hours. When the tides line up, it's big enough for cruisers to gather for a sunset happy hour. An old truck tire serves as the table.
Happy Hour on Claudia's Island

On our 2nd visit to Camotes, we finally found what we thought was the perfect anchorage for SW winds, on the north side of Talong Island, at the eastern end. 10° 43.181' N / 124° 19.613' E is the waypoint for a large shelf of mixed grass and sand, and a few scattered coral heads, in about 30-35 ft. We got 3-4 boats in this area. It is pretty protected even if strong S-SW winds are blowing. And it is mostly out of the way of the noisy fishing bankas.

Our Favorite South Wind Anchorage at the Camotes
Our Favorite South Wind Anchorage at the Camotes
Another Nice Sunset

Diving with Rock, he would come by and pick us up off the boat, and we'd dive the wall. Once or twice a week, we'd dinghy in to Rock's place for dinner. One night Rock prepared us a traditional Korean barbecue dinner.
Korean BBQ at Rock's Place

We also had Rock out come out to Soggy Paws. The people we meet are always intrigued by our lifestyle.
Rock Asking a Million Questions about Life Aboard

We spent a great couple of months between short stops in Carmen and diving at Talong Island.

If you go to Camotes, be sure to check out Uncle Rock's Dive Center.