This year’s cruising season started as most do, joyous holidays at Puerto Galera Yacht Club, spectacular diving at Apo Reef and the familiarity and comradery of Coron, Busuanga Bay. From there we varied from our path taken to see parts unknown.
First stop was a small island well known for kite surfing and cashews, Cuyo Island. Mounting a rented motorbike, we explored the island and enjoyed meeting a few other cruisers, life so far was very uncomplicated but that will change.
After a quick stop at a hot springs along the way we made it to a very protected anchorage on Cuimaras Island, this one is a mango mecca. We anchored in a bay full of fish traps and stands, awaking on the second morning to a real treat! We were right on the first turn of the hopped up bangka race course, best seats in the house to watch the races.
The abnormalities of this season would arise, we were hit with relentless day in and day out Northeast winds. Normally these winds cycle in four to five day blows interrupted by a few days of smooth seas, not this year! We sat out as long as we could then decided to alter our course to avoid the narrow channel we had planned to use as passage north, so we headed southeast.
This route took us to a place we had heard so much about from other cruisers, Tombobo Bay. This natural nook has been a heaven for cruisers for years, and sadly has become a bit of a graveyard for once gallant passage making boats. With excellent charting courses provided by our friend Terry, we wound into the bay and found a mooring, one we knew had just recently been used.
We had intended a four or five day stay, expecting the raging winds to abate, so much for plans. Three weeks of twenty to thirty knot winds kept up put. Not a bad place to be stuck, come great cruisers, three social gatherings a week at the various bayside restaurants plus some fantastic motor bike exploring.
We ventured into Dumaguete a few days after arriving and that is when we saw the first signs of things to come. There had been an out break of Corona virus with some Chinese tourists recently. Every where we went, we got our temperatures taken and hands sanitized, not a real inconvenience yet.
The favorite find was a wonderful hot springs not far from the bay. We rode the bike up the hill and did the 262 steps down to the springs many times during our stay. This place had been severely damaged during typhoon flooding a few years ago so all that remains are the four rectangular cement pools. The source is very close which gurgles out a stream of very hot water, too hot to touch! That water is mixed with cooler sources to make the pools any temp you like, I like hot!
The weather broke and we departed Tombobo Bay heading north. First stop was only thirty miles away, Siquijor Island. As all these islands each have a unique feature, cashew, mangos or hot springs, this one is no different. Here it is witches! Magic is in the air, the famed “Love Potent number 9” comes from here, voodoo dolls can be bought at roadside stands. Oh, we also found Hobbits live here! We took a mooring on the southern shore offered by the Coco —— resort. They were more than welcoming to cruisers.
Three days with the witches and warlocks and off we went to Bohol island. We anchored in the shallow bay behind the port wharf and ferry dock. Dinghy access was easy on a smaller wharf inside the bay.
Donna, the intrepid sight seer, had a day of exploring planned out, taking us mid island to the famed Chocolate Hills, a unique geological formation of dozens of small rounded hills. We connected online with a fellow diver/cruiser and arranged a rendezvous for the next stop. Our friend Bob took me on one of the best dives I have done in the area, fantastic wall with brilliant corals. The real treat was near the surface where we found a massive school of sardines, swimming in unison, playing with them was a hoot.
This was the last place the Corona Virus would not control our destiny. We made the thirty mile, flat water, hop to Cube City and set our berthing at the Cebu Yacht Club. The club is under new ownership and the staff was extremely friendly, the old berthing restrictions are gone, it is a flat rate to moor there now. A nice lady from Quarantine arrived at the boat asking for our quarantine papers, as the boat has not left the country in four years, I had none. She explained this is a new requirement and for 2500 pesos provided the needed document. The next day the had another new form to fill out, first question was how many people on your ship have died?
We love Cebu, again I found a nice spa with massages for Donna and sauna for me, and many wonderful restaurants nearby. Actually the restaurant at the Cebu Yacht Club is one of our all time favorites. The Virus was beginning to show its muscle as we were ray gunned at every mall entrance and hand sanitized at every door. i love guitar shops and one mall had four of them, they know about us dirty guitar pickers and sanitized each time we went in hahah.
We were expecting a delivery package which was delayed due to flight interruptions. Not wanting to sit in the yacht club we inquired about doing a short hop to a neighboring island and back. The marina sent me to the coast guard who issued a clearance for us for five days on the closest island, Camotes, which is also in their jurisdiction. We also reserved our spot in the marina and told them, “I shall return”.
Camotes Island has a wonderful, classic, white sandy beach which we anchored close to. Not too close as it is a well-marked Marine Sanctuary. Life was good, Priam could swim and play on the beach and we had a nice meal at a beachside stand. The second night we moved to a more protected anchorage between the two islands to avoid the swell. Just as the sun was setting, I saw the Coast Guard small aluminum boat full of people approaching. They had everything from video phones, infrared thermometers, to M-16s on the eight people packed on the small boat. It seems that there was one case of the virus found in Cebu that day and all bets were off. After some discussion and a call the mayor, who seemed to call the shots, we were told we had to go back to Cebu. The did concede that we could move in the morning, and they called at 9 am to make sure we did.
Here is where our lives changed and Cruising with the Virus takes a more serious tact. Not sure what the future will bring. We are in daily contact with dozens of cruising boats in the area, our goals have all changed: once we sought the interesting now we seek the safe, once we were the masters of our courses now the ever changing rules and restrictions dictate our lives. Ah but we are cruisers, lovers of adventure. We live off the grid and are self-sufficient, We will survive.