A New Flag to Fly

It has been a year since we entered a new country and then it was only a brief stop in Brunei. The last two years have brought us to now familiar places, cultures and people. i must admit after four years of new a bit of familiarity was welcome but the wanderlust prevailed and off to a new adventures, the Philippines

We lavished in the luxury of Sutera Marina for many weeks, swimming pools, exercise gym, sauna, and a palisade of restaurants all abound here. Also the only chance to really get help on the boat in months. So with the crew all pampered and Furthur standing tall we left our favorite marina bound for the exotic and unknown.

As with any area traveled by cruisers it was not entirely unknown. I perused my constant companion, noonsite.com and found a wealth of information. One cruiser left an excellent blog. Thanks for to SV Solitar for their great notes. As we were heading right to the destructive path of a devastating typhoon, current local knowledge was needed so i contacted three of the local dive shops and got a friendly response from one. All was up and running, albeit at a bit of a slow pace. The only reported hitch was the local ATM had been destroyed, other than that internet and supplies had been restored. i was concerned about security, as we would be an understandable target for someone in need of food no matter how they got it. I was assured there had been no looting or violence in the area.

We bought fifty pounds of rice and collected clothing from the other cruisers to help the people in the area and took off. The trip up Palawan Island can be done on either side, weather making the determination. i mulled over forecasts and made the decisive decision not to decide until i got there. If the northeasterly’s are strong the west side is preferred, if not the east is shorter and more available anchorages. We got to the tip and made the call to go up the east side. the four day at 60-70 mile a day trip is easy and we found great anchorages providing protection for the prevailing wind and swell, we slept well each night. The wind and current on the nose it was great time to be in a trawler, Furthur pounded through the seas with little disturbance and we made seven knots steadily.

The second day we crossed Balalaca Straights, often known for rough seas but it was calm and easy. That brought us into Balalaca Island and i saw a neat passage between two islands that would cut an hour off the trip. When we hit the passage saw a blockade floats across the passage. Soon we met our first Philippino, a fully camouflaged armed chap with his friend in a small speed boat directing us away from the pearl farm. No arguments here we turned around. At this point i told the girls to go down below, i recognize the vulnerability of one man and three attractive young girls on a boat so took no chances. The small pange style boat followed us for a while to show us the right way to go and fell back leaving us more of a story than real danger.

A few day hopes and we entered the main harbor on Palawan Island and home to the local capital of Puerto Princesia. One can see the Spanish influence in the Philippines by the names and the predominant Catholic influence. The charts are sketchy here as i had been warned by the noonsite blogs so we crept in, luckily so as we came up on an uncharted reef, around it we went with Sam glued to the depth sounder and into the popular anchorage at the local yacht club.

Four days at sea was a new experience for the new crew and they were all antsy to get to shore. We unloaded the dinghy and went to the dinghy dock at the yacht club and up to the thatched roof open club where cruisers met, ate and yes drank beer. This was reminiscent of so many places in the South Seas, it felt like home.

The first day in any new country has an agenda and things to do; get cash, clear customs/immigration, get SIM cards for phone and internet, locate markets and local attractions. We walked out of the yacht club and all of us hopped into a “tricycle” a motorbike with a large covered side car, the local transport. Roland, our driver, took charge and walked me through the clearance and phone store. The “car” and driver costs about two bucks an hour. The girls took off for the other needs. We met back at the yacht club and all agreed we liked this place!

Back on Furthur at dusk, a great homemade soup by Maddi and plans for the next day were made. The girls were off on an adventure visiting the underground river system and i to boat chores and some cultural explorations of my own.