I have been inexcusably lazy about updating this site. Thing is, when you are far away, with hopeless internet available only once in a while it is easy to convince yourself that it isn’t important. It also takes a VERY LONG TIME to upload photos in many places around the Philippines, including Bonbonon, where Chasamba is (hopefully) bobbing up and down on a mooring awaiting our return.
We are in Israel at the moment for several reasons, really killing two birds with one stone; My daughter has just given birth to a lovely baby boy, my first grandchild, and needs all the help she can get. Also it had been a while since I did any of the periodic check ups that I am supposed to do to make sure the cancer hasn’t come back. We have had a busy few weeks, but now everything looks fine; after having pre-eclampsia and a really hard labour my daughter and grandchild are doing well, and my CT, blood tests and follow up visit with my surgeon were good. I know we cancer people always like to compare numbers, so for any of you reading this, my CEA was 1.78. I actually have another blog just about my cancer related experiences, just as well updated as this one (groan!), there is a link to it on the ‘links’ list on the right hand side of the page. It is called ‘ The Bottom Line’.
Now, on to the nitty gritty; where have we been and what have we been doing? Well, we left Zeke’s yard, where we were hauled out, and went a total of 200 metres over to Pepe’s yard to carry on working. Pepe is a nice guy and the yard is good, although basic. There is electricity available, for free if you don’t run anything horrendous like air conditioning, but no water, so you have to fill your tanks from a water lorry which comes round. This isn’t drinking water, so you buy the big 20 litre blue jerry cans from the restaurant for that. Pepe’s workers are cheaper that Zeke’s, and he doesn’t mind if you bring in outside labour. We didn’t use any labour, we did all our own work. We stripped all the old layers of paint, epoxy and non-slip off the deck, using a sander and a grinder; this was the hardest part and took several days, the dust got all over us, inside our clothes, up our noses, everywhere. Inside the boat too, although there is generally so much dust and dirt in the yard that even when we weren’t working it got dirty inside too. The yard is right next to a big shipyard where sand blasting goes on 24/7, and depending on the wind direction dust comes billowing over both Pepe’s and Zeke’s yards. There are long stay veterans in Zeke’s yard who try to say that it is cleaner over there, but we went over there a lot and it looks just the same.
Anyway… so we eventually got all the stripping, rust chipping, sanding and so on done, and then slapped several coats of primer, topcoat and sand for non slip on. Then we renovated the spray hood and cockpit roof with an extra layer of fibre glass and painted it, and renovated the dinghy, which is always the last thing on the list, poor thing. Usually it gets left un-renovated, but this time it turned out to have some rotten bits, so we had to do emergency surgery on it! It now looks better than ever though!
After all that work we wanted a rest, and planned to cruise over to Bohol, starting with North Bohol and working our way down. So we left the yard, finally, on 19th November and had a good sail over to Bohol; there is a strong current which helped us and we made it over there in well under a day. Then we gunkholed down and round. To be honest, Bohol is just ok, anchorages are mostly either in mud so there isn’t good snorkeling or pretty deep. There were some pretty places; the anchorages along the chain of little islands which separate Cebu from Bohol are sandy and the coral is good, mostly unspoilt and there are actually fish, a rarity in the Philippines. The locals were happy to sell us fish for very reasonable prices, but no vegetables or anything else. We had stocked up in North Bohol, there is a good market in Jetafe, and pump boats from every little village go there, so while we were anchored near Jao island we went. We got mud crabs!
The only problem is that this area has no cell phone coverage and thus no internet, thus no way to check that no typhoon is getting close. The anchorages along the chain of islands are all very exposed, and would give no shelter in a strong storm. Since this was typhoon season we felt uncomfortable after two days, and sailed over to the main island of Bohol to get internet. And it was lucky we did! There was a big tropical storm coming right at us! We considered running for Bonbonon, about 24 hours away, but the storm was closing in too fast, and we had found a reasonably good anchorage, hemmed in on three sides by islands, meaning that waves would have very little fetch. We put down all our chain, set the anchor alarm and settled down to wait. At 10pm the storm struck, the wind howling over the hills and twisting Chasamba back and forth. Soon the anchor alarm started peeping, and Oren rushed up to the bow and threw the big fisherman anchor. That stopped us moving, and we went back to watching the computer screen; with today’s technology you can watch your boat on the map and see exactly what is going on, even though outside it is pitch black! The marriage of technology and traditional seamanship is very powerful, even though seamanship is still the most important factor, since technology can always fail, and seamanship relies only on itself.
The storm eventually blew away, over the channel between Bohol and Cebu and on over Bonbonon. A few hours after it had hit the wind died and the bay was calm, as though nothing had happened. The decision not to run for Bonbonon was good, since the storm went exactly that way, and would have gone right over us; it would have been an awful night. We heard afterwards that a fisherman had drowned near Bonbonon as the storm went over.
The next day we were faced with a quandary; another storm was brewing, in the same place as the first, and looking worse. Stay at anchor and risk dragging again? If it developed into a typhoon the anchorage would not be safe enough. Find a better anchorage? We scoured the maps, but only Bonbonon looked safe enough in the immediate vicinity. It was annoying, because we had hoped for a few more weeks cruising, but good judgement prevailed and we weighed anchor for Bonbonon. We had a wonderful sail down there, the prevailing north easterly amihan wind on our port quarter augmented by the approaching storm system; I don’t think we could have stopped even without sails! Once we got round into the wind shadow of Negros, as dawn broke, we were off the conveyor belt of waves that had swept us all the way, past tiny Apo island with its unreliable lighthouse which stopped flashing as we closed, past the city of Dumaguete with its contrary currents caused by the turbulence of the southern tip of Cebu island, past the long golden beaches of south east Negros, populated only by the occasional stray dog. Back to Bonbonon, a bay we know well, a safe haven and the place we would leave Chasamba. The forecast storm did turn into a typhoon and went a little north of Bonbonon, enough so that we only had rain.
To be continued…
Jao island, walking along the only real path…
a traditional family house
Chasamba anchored over coral
just a squall, but such a beautiful rainbow!
these are fishing traps
children going to school on a neighboring island
sunset over Mocaboc island, with Cebu in the background.
an overlay of Carmen with the waypoints we used to get through the reef; the yards are southeast of the last waypoint, at the edge of the overlay.
the general direction we went..
some overnight anchorages…
Mocaboc island where the anchor mark is; all these islands are lovely.
wheeeeeee! Best sail for a long long time!
The entrance to Bonbonon; for any aspiring Bonbonon visitors, beware, what looks on the map like a nice wide s shape is actually a narrow passage between very shallow reefs, the map is wrong. Once inside, there are many fishing boats with ropes strung into the middle of the passage, so entering at night isn’t a good idea, even with waypoints.
Yep, this is Chasamba. But no, we haven’t been at the bottom of the sea, luckily. We knew we had some rust issues, and this is why we got to Port Carmen as soon as we could, but we had no idea just how deep some of it was! Oren made this hole with a screwdriver, easily.
Chasamba in the cradle waiting for low tide to be pulled out by the tractor.
Almost out! I’m up on the deck, Oren is directing activities on the ground.
Sitting pretty, and we can start work.
Then welding- this is Alex, the house welder for Zeke’s Yard.
Not bad, huh?
And then we scraped and ground and sanded and filled and painted primer three coats and antifouling three coats, nothing really…
Tired but happy…
Chasamba is beautiful again, at least from the side. Now we just have to do the deck…
To be continued…(but first we are having a rest and plan to go to snorkel with whale sharks in Oslob tomorrow!)
After a short but memorable trip we are anchored opposite Zeke’s restaurant, waiting to go onto the cradle and haul out Chasamba for the first time in four years. The last time she was out of the water was in Thailand, in Asia Marine, near Ratanchai in Phuket, since then we have just dried out next to bamboo piles , once in Puerto Princesa and once in Bonbonon. Whilst it is cheap to paint antifouling this way it isn’t really good enough, and Chasamba really needs this haul out.
The way here was much easier than the trip from Puerto Princesa to Bonbonon. It was a short trip, we spent one night at anchor, and the weather was good, in fact too good, with very little wind. We had to motor much of the way, which gave us an opportunity to see how our overhauled engine works. It was fine, except for one incident when we got air in the fuel lines three times, one after the other. Oren disconnected the primary fuel filter, which must have been sucking air in, and it stopped happening. The scary thing was that we were just at the narrow part of the channel between Mactan island and the reefs opposite Cebu, and the current which is very strong there kept pushing us closer to the reefs. In the end we got fed up and went back a few miles to find an anchorage for the night. The next day we easily passed the channel and arrived here. Internet is better here, so I’ll be uploading photos and video of the haul out soon.
Not us! But friends of ours, a Swiss guy living in China and his Chinese wife, plus their two small children. They arrived at the entrance to Bonbonon after dark last Tuesday in bad weather. Their engine had given them problems on the way, showing low oil pressure, and their main sail had ripped in nasty squalls with 50 knots gusts of wind. Exhausted, they decided to try to enter the harbour under sail; they had the track and thought they could manage it. Bonbonon has a difficult entrance, with a long sand bar across most of the width. To enter, a yacht has to close with the land until it is almost on the shore, then turn smartly and dash into the channel which runs parallel to the rocks. Unfortunately the wind had dropped with darkness, leaving huge waves. As long as they were approaching the shore they were pushed along by the waves, giving them the impression that they had enough wind to maneuver- when they turned side on to the waves to get round the sand bar at the entrance suddenly they had no speed and were swept onto the rocks. This could have been a bigger disaster, but luckily all escaped unhurt, largely because another cruiser and Boy and Arlene came out in dinghys and helped, first trying to pull the yacht off the rocks and when it began to break up pulling the children out and up the cliff. The cruiser, a German called Gunter who is a brilliant mechanic, lost his dinghy and outboard motor in the process, and Boy and Arlene overturned and by luck managed to save their dinghy, Boy manhandling it over the coral somehow and avoiding puncturing it. Gunter was injured, getting a nasty gash on his knee, and all had cuts on their feet from the coral.
The yacht , a 30 year old Beneteau, was completely destroyed during the night, only little bits of wood and trash was left to wash up on the beach. During the next few days local people dived to find anything which could be saved, but found little, only winches and the mast, which was in two pieces. The outboard engines of which there were three were smashed to bits, and there wasn’t much else on the boat since it wasn’t a full time cruising boat. The engine is still on the sea bottom. We came out with the rest of Bonbonon’s cruising fraternity to see whether we could help the next morning, but there was very little we could do. Oren found some clothes washed up on the beach; until then our friend had only his shorts to wear. Other cruisers fixed Boy’s outboard engine, which had been submerged. Luckily there is a resort on the rocks called Kookoo’s Nest, and the family took a room there to recover before flying back home.
This story makes me realize how much we have learned in the time we have been cruising; we also arrived after dark in bad weather, also without an engine. We also thought that we could probably make it in to the harbour, and really wanted to, since staying outside is uncomfortable and we were tired. But we didn’t do it. We overcame the natural urge to finish the journey and chose a spot far enough from shore to be safe, put down our trusty fisherman anchor with 200 metres of rope in 40 metres depth , just like the fishermen do, and rolled around, even managing to sleep, until morning. Then we fixed the engine enough to get in, waited for the tide and easily chugged in. This is called experience. It is gained when you come in to shore at night and get up in the morning to find yourself in a big coral reef ( Eritrea) and when you follow the chart to enter harbour and find it is not in the right place ( Galle, Puerto Princesa), and when you have a hundred other near misses. Everyone has them, but an unlucky few don’t manage to survive them intact.
Really I have to stop calling our engine names. Or start calling it Mr Lovely, or Ms Nice-to-Hear. After about a week of working getting all the bits fastened on and finding out which wire should go where, we finally turned the ignition switch yesterday for the first time. Nothing happened, but again, it wasn’t the engine at fault, but us again. We had mixed up the starter wire with the alternator wire. Sorted out that, and tried again. The engine roared into life, in fact it started to work frighteningly fast, and the oil pressure seemed to be very high! Then it died suddenly. All very worrying signs, and we worried that something awful was wrong. After calming down a bit we had a think and played around a bit with things and discovered that the throttle control, which we had had mended since we couldn’t find a new one, was sticking and making the engine work at 3000 revs. The oil pressure sensor was in the wrong place, and the oil pressure alarm had been accidentally used for a bilge pump. Lastly there was a bit of air in the fuel pump which caused the engine to stall when it got through the pipes. After fixing all these we started up again, and lo and behold, we have an engine! The gear is working perfectly, and when we make a lengthening strip of metal for the throttle that should work too. Now we have a few minor problems left; a minor fuel leak probably caused by high pressure pipes which need tightening, a new tensioner for the alternator and a slight leak of water from the seawater cooling pump. But we have an engine, and it sounds good. Very good.
This is a clip I uploaded to youtube showing how we got our engine back;
Getting Mr Grumpy back on board…
Mr Grumpy has been reborn as Mr Misunderstood-Trying My Best Under The Circumstances. We really need to apologize to our engine, and I will explain why. But the important thing is- it is working, sounds good and is sitting in the Yacht Club, enjoying a cold beer and waiting to be refitted.
Now, why should we apologize? Well, after the overhaul was complete, all new insides and scrubbed clean, almost a new engine completely, the mechanics tried to start Mr Grumpy. Just as before the overhaul Mr Grumpy turned over with the starter but refused to start. The mechanics couldn’t understand why; took off the fuel pump and took it to be retested even though it had been refurbished, changed the battery, checked the stop control. No, no, no. Then they got desperate and sprayed a bit of petrol in the air inlet, and the engine started- a second later there was a big explosion and the water cooling pipes flew off, narrowly missing several workers in Hammerhead’s machine shop, where the overhaul was being done. When Oren looked inside, the whole of the salt water cooling inlet was blocked with a kind of white powdery substance, and the aluminium was eaten away round it. It turns out that because the engine was not used for so long seawater which was sitting in the intake caused electrolysis which ate away the aluminium and deposited the oxide in the middle of the pipe, blocking it. There was no gasket between the stainless steel pipe adjoining the aluminium heat exchanger, which probably caused part of the problem.
Luckily the only aluminium welder in Palawan works in Puerto and was available, he filled the hole and did elegant work- not cheap, but better than waiting for a replacement part from England for much more money.
So, the engine would never have started on the boat. Maybe it didn’t even need to be overhauled at all- the mechanics said that the amount of pressure generated could have caused the pistons to stick in the first place. But we are glad we did do the overhaul; there were so many little problems we found while doing it, and Oren learned a lot about engines. It didn’t cost too much either, and here is the breakdown of costs for whoever it interests;
Parts from England ( we ordered from Parts 4 Engines, and they were good)- 20,000 pesos
Import tax-5000 pesos
Parts bought in Philippines- 6600 pesos
Fuel pump and atomisers – 6,400 pesos
Work (two mechanics for a week and use of the workshop plus workers)- 22,500 pesos
Aluminium welding- 1,200 pesos
Altogether 62,000 pesos, which is 4,844 shekels, or about 1,400 dollars.
We used local products as far as possible and paid nothing for the lorry which took the engine back to the Club. Altogether we were very happy with the work done; in the Philippines many tools and parts aren’t available and the workshops are used to making parts from scratch; the sleeves used were reshaped from similar ones available here, a saddle which broke was replaced with a new one made on the spot, but these mechanics do this all the time and keep old engines running for ever.
Another update to follow with pictures of the overhaul.
As you can see, Mr Grumpy, soon to be reborn as Mr Nice Guy, is on shore! We took the cockpit sole out and hauled the engine up with the boom and tackle, it really wasn’t too hard. Then we swung the boom out and gently lowered the engine into the yacht club tender. It went well, and on shore Oren organised several Philippino helpers to get it into a tricycle and off to the industrial zone. Hammerhead, Oren’s machine shop guy has already finished the head, and now we are trying to find piston rings. The sleeves were no problem but Hammerhead says the rings must be original Perkins rings, and they are hard to get here. Perkins’ distributor in Manila say they don’t have any in stock, but will try again to find some and will give us an answer today. If they really don’t have any we will have to order from England, but they should arrive quite quickly by DHL. Just hope the customs don’t have a field day.
The gear is clean and painted, and has new hoses, the injection pump has been checked and fixed; it had a leak and apparently was causing high fuel consumption; the water pumps are both fine and the cooling system is ok too, just needs cleaning with a bit of vinegar in the pipes. So, it’s just the rings holding things up, and that problem should be solved soon. So far it hasn’t been too expensive; as long as you take bits to the shops yourself and do all the running around things are really cheap here. When everything is done and (hopefully) working, we’ll give a summary of costs.
The gear is out! After a lot of pulling and pushing. Now it needs cleaning and painting, then it can wait to go back in.
The wind hasn’t changed, still easterly and still quite strong, so we are still sitting here. Oren has finally gotten fed up of waiting, and has decided to take the engine apart and take it bit by bit to be fixed. Thanks to my father we have the engine manual, and poring over it we gradually managed to take off all the bits and bobs and get the cylinder head off. This is going tomorrow to Hammerhead, Oren’s favorite machine shop guy. It will have to be followed by the rest of the engine, which is heavier, and we will borrow the yacht club’s pontoon float for that, plus a few Philipino lads to manhandle it on and off.
The engine looks awful inside, and surprise surprise- sea water was in two cylinders! This is probably because of turning the engine over to try to start it lots of times while the sea cock was open. It isn’t the only reason the engine is stuck, but it certainly can’t have helped.
The cylinder head waiting to go to the doctor….
And the rest of the engine feeling airy and waiting for it’s turn!
Nasty muck in the cylinders!
The plan now is to overhaul the engine here and get it working again, change or overhaul as many peripheral bits as possible- fuel pump, atomisers, oil filter housing, water pump- and then we will have a way to get to Port Carmen to do the rest of the work we need done. By the time the engine is ready the wind will have died down and we will be into the calms between monsoons, so motoring will be a reasonable option, at least part of the way. And meanwhile we aren’t just sitting here twiddling our toes. If the engine is still not as good as we would like we can sell it as a working engine in Port Carmen and get a much better price for it than selling it as a lump of metal. But we hope that with Hammerhead’s love and care the engine will rise from the dead and become a completely different engine; clean, reliable, economic in fuel, quiet… Maybe our expectations are a bit exaggerated!
The weather looks good on Tuesday, with a northerly wind according to grib files; grib files are not always accurate, particularly for wind strength, and often underestimate, which is what happened on our last try to get out of Puerto. However, we are willing and ready for another go, and Tuesday seems the best day. Fingers crossed!
Meanwhile buffet day at the yacht club has rolled around again, it’s a hard life!