On Sunday we went to the traditional lunch buffet at the Abanico Yacht Club ( or Yatch Club as it says on their sign!) and with stomachs full of the things you can’t get at sea, like roast pork, fresh salad and braised Kang Kong (the Philippine version of spinach), we contemplated going out to sea. It is hard to leave any port after a few days, when things seem comfortable and you start to forget the feeling of flying through the waves on a good tack with a good wind. All the more difficult when you haven’t moved for more than a year and a half, and hardly remember how to access your navigation program, or where the halyard for the genoa is. After a year and a half of cancer treatment, too, I had fears of my own; would I have sea sickness? Would I have the strength to do shifts?
Despite all our queasiness we started the automatic preparations that lead to setting sail; lashing, which means getting all the things which could fall on the floor settled into safe places, clearing away anything which could interfere with sheets (ropes really), getting the gps connected and talking to the navigation program, checking the route out of the harbour to make sure there are no obstacles (important when you have no engine…). Somehow all this lead to us actually raising the main sail, throwing off the mooring ropes and unfurling our genoa as we gradually gained speed and found our course. We were both in shock that we were actually sailing again!
Chasamba behaved wonderfully; we had a strong easterly wind, not perfect for getting to Cebu, but good for sailing the first few miles. Puerto Princesa is a big inlet, and the yacht club is right inside at the far end, so it is about 8 miles to the entrance. The bay has lots of fringing reefs, but we have a really good map, one of the few which are accurate for this area and works with Open CPN, so we felt safe not sticking to the waypoints that most yachts use, and had a free hand to use the wind. We flew the first few miles, until the yacht club was out of sight; we had the ebb tide in our favour and a broad reach. The only problem was that for the last few miles the inlet changes direction, bringing us dead against the wind. It’s a few miles wide at this point, but fringing reefs make it hazardous to tack, and by this time it was getting dark, so we returned a short distance and found a good anchorage, well protected, just outside the Port area. After a reasonable nights sleep we set out with a nice westerly breeze at 7.30 the next morning, and nearly got out of the entrance without tacking. The easterly Amihan wind came up early though, and we had to tack a bit in the end. The problem now was that the wind was absolutely dead against us and very strong, at least 25 knots, there was a strong southerly current and we really couldn’t make much headway, no matter how much we tacked. We spent most of the day tacking, beating into the fierce wind and really not enjoying it much. Chasamba actually seemed to have fun, she likes a good strong wind, and she had been waiting to sail for so long, but in the end we made the decision to go back home and wait for a better wind. With a heavy heart, but also a bit of relief, we turned the wheel and surfed down the waves back into the inlet. We sailed all the way up to our mooring, just losing headway a few metres off, and one of the cruisers kindly came over with his dinghy and pulled us up to our mooring ropes. Later we saw that Robert and family on Emma Peel, who left a day or two before us, had also returned, and found out that they had hidden in Honda Bay for a day before giving up too- they were bound for Bonbonon, the same direction as us.
So, now we are waiting again, hoping for a south-westerly wind, just for a few days. We are doing jobs meanwhile; I greased a winch which had been sticking today, and found lots of dog hairs, for shame (Sheva has been gone for a year and a half), and changed the seal on the heads, a job I had been putting off, but it was really leaking a lot so no choice! I also went to the market and bought wonderful little calamari for dinner, mussels for lunch and chicken wings for a barbecue tomorrow. Oren is rebuilding the cabinet behind the stove, so the wind had better not change tomorrow!
This is just a little piece of what was stuck on the bottom of Chasamba. Sponges, soft corals, barnacles and seaweed made a haven for shrimps, little crabs and seaworms, as well as things I have no idea what they are. Now nearly everything is off, the bottom of the keel is the last refuge for displaced sea-beings and in the next few days that will be gone too.
We plan to leave Puerto as soon as we can, now we are waiting for a good weather window and just need to do stocking up and a few last preparations. The new wind vane is whizzing round making loads of electricity, the new solar panels are pumping electrons into our batteries and all we really need now is a fridge. Unfortunately there is no way to buy one here, we will have to wait until we find somewhere where they are common.
What a weird photo, huh? Oren’s tablet takes good pictures, but the blades of the wind generators aren’t really bent like that!
After a long, long journey through Jordan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Manila, we are finally back on Chasamba. We are just as glad to see her as she is to see us, and although she can’t actually speak her cockpit floor creaked with joy as we stepped aboard.
After sleeping off the jet lag and getting into ‘island time’ we are starting to get down to business; Oren has already put the genoa onto the forestay and will get the mainsail hoisted this evening when it gets cool enough to work on deck. Meanwhile I have started to get supplies organised and the kitchen clean, and the most important- got the wireless modem working so we have internet, hurray!
It will take us a while to get moving, and there is also a typhoon on the way, so we have an eye on that. It is probably going to get to the Philippines on Tuesday or Wednesday and then work it’s way over during the few days after that. The weather generally isn’t bad but the wind is very easterly, so without an engine we need to wait for a better direction, since Cebu is to our east. Oren has had a last despairing look at the engine and it is completely stuck (we hoped it might have healed itself or something…) so we will have to sail up to the yards in Port Carmen to get a new (second hand ) engine and to do all the other jobs we need to do. This will be our next adventure!
We brought a new wind generator and solar panels with us- yes, dragged them all the way from Israel and managed to avoid customs in four countries! They even arrived safe and sound without a scratch on them. So another job to do before we sail is to get them set up and working. This will mean that even without an engine we will have plenty of power for the gps, computer which we use for navigation, lights and so on. We also brought LED bulbs to replace our navigation lights, this will save us a lot of electricity. We could actually sail for ever without an engine and still have enough electricity.
Puerto Princesa is just the same, there are lots of yachts here including some that we know. On Sunday there is a buffet at the yacht club so we will get to meet some of them. The owners of the club, John and Cissy, are away in Kudat in Malaysia just now which is a shame, but maybe we will see them either before we go or at the end of the year when we plan to sail to the Gulf of Thailand.
The view from the cockpit; nearly happy hour!
We are on our way back! Update soon….
It seems to be a fast rule of boat maintenance- for every one thing you fix, two must wear out, break or become frayed. In the last month we have worked more or less full time on Chasamba, only taking a few days to go to El Nido by bus for a well deserved break. In that month;
- The engine has been declared dead for all intensive purposes because of rust which has made it seize up
- We discovered quite a bit of worrying rust in the bilges and dealt with most by chipping, using rust converter and painting with several coats of primer, although some is just under the waterline outside and needs a haul out
- The cabin sole had become spongy and unsafe, and we are nearly finished changing some parts, fiberglassing other panels and painting it with rubber based paint
- The bilge pump wasn’t working properly, after rerouting the pipe, resiting the float and tightening bands it seems good now
- We discovered a slight leak round the depth sounder which we installed last year, and managed to do a temporary repair job which should be fine until we can haul out
- greased the roller furling track and checked that both the jib and mainsail can be hauled up and down
- Oren has taken the main sail and best jib to be repaired; they are both ok but just need a bit of restitching
- We finally recovered the saloon sofa that Sheva dug a hole in ages ago, when she was alone on the boat and scared of fireworks
- Oren made me a really good shower at last
- We have thrown away a huge mountain of junk and donated another mountain of things that someone might want; at least in the Philippines nothing ever goes to waste
- I have revarnished the areas round the companionway and both ladders, and the entire heads, and put non slip tape on the main ladder
- I have finally sewn fitted sheets for our bunks; boat beds are funny shapes, and no ordinary sheet stays on for long
We still have to ;
- go up the mast and fix the deck floodlight and engine light
- fix the vhf antenna wire which has broken flush with the deck; maybe we will change the whole thing or just get some connectors
- change all the hydraulic pipes for the steering and autopilot
- get maxsea and opencpn installed on my new netbook and get it working with the gps and back up blue tooth gps; using a netbook should save power
- print out back up maps for the course to Cebu
- bring our wind vane rudder back from the yacht club and put it on and try to remember how it works
- probably a few more things that I can’t think of just now
So, a busy month indeed! Our plans are; fly to Israel on the 13th, on the 3rd of February I have reversal surgery to close the stoma. I have to be in Israel for two months because of possible complications. In April, if all is ok we will fly out to Chasamba and get her ready as quickly as possible to sail to Cebu. We will have no engine and in April there is usually little wind, so it will take us a while to get to Cebu. Once there, we will head for the boatyards in Port Carmen, where we can haul out. We will spend a few months there changing rusty panels, sand blasting suspect areas and hopefully getting a new ( well, refurbished, probably) engine. For myself, I would happily sail without an engine, after all we don’t ever use it anyway, except for maybe just the last little bit of getting into tricky anchorages.
After all our repairs are done we hope to have time to sail to Bonbonon to leave Chasamba there while we go to do the Annapurna trek and have a few weeks in India. We really wanted to leave her in Thailand, but it looks as though that won’t happen.
Oren getting the job done!
A yacht caught in typhoon Yolanda, lucky to be still afloat.
Mud crabs at last!
We got back to Chasamba more than a week ago, and since then both our laptops have given up the ghost, the wifi has been abysmal anyway, and we have had so much work just getting the boat livable that internet has taken a back seat. However, now I have a new netbook and have dragged myself to shore paddling frantically against the north east monsoon wind, and am sitting relatively comfortably in the yacht club, connected to the wifi. Wow.
Chasamba has had a hard time this year and three months. She has rust everywhere we chip at any suspicious mound, including some worrying places below the waterline. Oren is hard at work with his new tools which luckily make it much faster to get down to clean metal. We do have some holes, all in the thinner part of Chasamba, which is the deck and cockpit, and we will need a yard to change some parts of the deck. However, it is doable, and we think the boat will survive, with a good surgeon/ welder.
Puerto Princesa is the same as ever, maybe more traffic and more people, but the same tricycles, air pollution and humid heat. It’s nice to be back, even if it is only for a short time. I’ll work on uploading some photos, but meanwhile I have to get to the hardware store, laundry and shopping. I thought this was supposed to be a holiday?
Last November I was diagnosed with stage 3 Rectal Cancer. Since then I have been going through treatment; first radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy daily for a month, then an operation to remove the tumour and finally six months of much stronger chemotherapy. Now it is finally over, except that I will need another small operation, but that will be in February, and until then we are FREE!
We have bought tickets to Puerto Princesa, Palawan, where (we hope) Chasamba is sitting on a mooring waiting for us. We will have seven weeks of wonderful holiday which we both really deserve. Oren has been working hard all year, and I am getting my strength back after months of feeling pretty awful. Next week we will be back on our floating (hopefully) home, chipping away at the probably very thick layer of barnacles on the hull. I hope the wifi there will be good enough to post some photos, so check in next week.
It’s taken a personal email from someone who reads this blog for me to remember that there are a lot of people out there waiting for news from us; SORRY!
I wish our news was better, that I could say that the reason we haven’t been in touch is because we were on some idyllic island whiling away the time with chess games and fishing. But life has other plans for us.
We were on a three month visit to Israel, working to build up our reserves and visiting family and friends when I discovered that I have stage 3 colon cancer. It was lucky that we were in Israel where medical treatment really is first class and we are covered by health insurance, also that we have a lovely little house which we have just built next to Oren’s parents house. After diagnosis in November ( on my birthday, of all days) I have been through a course of radiation and chemotherapy, which I finished yesterday. In the middle of March I will have an operation, and after that some months of chemotherapy again. It’s funny how fast your life can change completely and all your plans go down the drain, or at least get put off indefinitely. However, it could always be worse. I have Oren to look after me, he really is quite good at it to be honest. Chasamba is in a safe place and is fine. Sheva has a new home with a very nice expat we know in Puerto Princesa. We don’t have much money but we aren’t starving either, and all my medical expenses are covered. I don’t seem to have any metastasis, so far. So I’m not complaining, maybe in another year we will be back on Chasamba! Until then, I am writing a new blog here for anyone who wants to know what having rectal cancer is like, and any other news we have. I will update here whenever we have any news about getting back to Chasamba.
Yes, we are back in Puerto, it really feels like home after wandering round Palawan! We left El Nido with the intention of circumnavigating Palawan anti clockwise, but didn’t reckon on a current running against us of up to two knots. Together with light winds and calms, it was impossible to get farther than Quezon, and after two days spent trying to get past the treacherous reefs around this southern city a south west wind came up; we looked at each other and saw that we were in silent agreement- we turned round and ran back up to El Nido, arriving in two days after beating down in ten.
On the way down Palawan’s west coast we did find some nice anchorages, and the part between El Nido and Port Barton is really worth cruising. There are more fish than anywhere else in the Philippines and the water is clear and pleasant, with few or no jellyfish in most places. We went through Malampaya Sound and stopped at John and Cissy’s island, Alligator Island, where we met Bill who is living there as caretaker.
Now the south west monsoon seems really to have started, a little earlier than the last two years. The weather is still not very wet but the wind is quite strong from the south west and squalls pass over frequently. We are glad to be in a sheltered anchorage, and it is fun to meet lots of yachties after not seeing many anywhere else. I suppose they were all hiding out here ( or in Subic, or Bonbonon!)
The first project we have done for our rainy season refit is to dry dock Chasamba, and we did it right outside the club, with quite a few slightly bemused Australians looking on. They had never seen anything like it, as we steamed up to the beach at high tide and just tied ourselves up to a bamboo cradle which we built on the spot. We worked hard for the next few days, and managed to scrub, sand, paint primer and antifouling in three days! On the third day we had to get back into the water or stay until the next high tide. We were ready, all our bamboo dismantled and the tide nearly high enough when a big squall hit the anchorage. Winds of 30 or 40 knots started to push us up on shore, and although the tide wasn’t really high enough we had to start pulling in our stern anchor, set a few hundred meters out to sea, and trying to reverse with the engine. For a while it looked as though we would be swept right into the veranda of the yacht club, and we could feel Chasamba shudder every time she hit the bottom between waves, as we gradually clawed our way back into deep water. Eventually we got out into the anchorage, rescued the dinghy which had sunk meanwhile since it was full of chain and the anchor, and anchored in a reasonable place. We came back into the yacht club for a well earned hot shower and a beer, and were congratulated by all on our lucky escape! Now, a week on, the paint looks good and hasn’t flaked or peeled like last time, so we hope it will last for a bit longer.
Next project, new cockpit cushions, is also done, and cheaply because we used the material from the sprayhood which we replaced with plywood in Bonbonon.
The next project in line may be getting our fridge working again, although this is a bit difficult because it really needs rebuilding and making smaller, and putting into the place it should have been in originally.
The internet this time is not as good as it was last time, so it will be a bit difficult uploading photos, so if none appear, sorry and bear with me….