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.
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
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.