January 15, 2014

From Boracay to El Nido, Philippines, Dec 13 - Jan 14

Boracay is a 4 mile long island with a couple thousand hotel rooms and 6 miles of beach. Thousands of tourists, mainly from Aussie land and Korea were there for New Years. Some silly travel writer labeled it one of the nicest beaches in the world, but he obviously had not been where we were on Downtime! It is beautiful, but over crowded. On the East side of the island was a beach where Pete joined hundreds of other kite surfers for a few days. It was interesting to watch Pete manage the kiting with so much traffic. The only downside to this kite area with a steady onshore breeze, was the amount of sea grass and garbage that washed ashore every day.  

One day Paolo on S Mar, who we've known since Fiji, dropped the anchor near by. It was great since he is kiter as well. During Pete and Paolo were kiting I was exploring little Boracay. Twice I've been to nicest resort on the island Shangri-La, enjoying beauty of civil life... haha... 

Lunch time!

 I was happy to take some pics around with famous white long beach and famous blue local boats for tourists. Could not complain!

waiting famous Mango Shake! 

On New Year Eve Pete was kiting and I was cleaning Downtime, kind of Russian tradition, make your home clean before next year... Or maybe it is our family tradition...lol Anyways the weather was cloudy and rainy and Pete bought oyster and champagne for me, so I was enjoying my routine... For dinner we went to fancy restaurant and had a walk through the crowd on the beach. Fireworks start after Midnight and never stopped... Not seriously!

Next day was not very sunny, but very windy. We were having our lunch and suddenly we saw one local boat turned upside down... Pete to the rescue! 

After nearly two weeks we had enough of the crowds and wanted to get out to somewhere a bit calmer. We decided to get some help aboard sailing to the next few islands. Sometimes it is nice to have new people aboard. Dave, a 27-year-old Australian, had been on the outer islands surfing when we found his profile on Find A Crew. Being adventurous and not afraid of heights, he would be a lot of help sorting out our later problems with the mast. He was also a fellow diver and surfer!

After we left Boracay we sailed 30 miles west to the small Island of Batbatan to see how the kite surfing conditions were, but could not find the right conditions. After a nice lunch we pulled the anchor and sailed 14 miles NW to a small reef with a sandbar called Seco Island, where we hoped conditions would be better.

During our sail there the winds lightened up, so we had the big sail out called a Screecher. Then just before we approached the island the winds kicked up to over 25 knots and the boat was charging along over 10 knots. When it came time to put this huge sail away we had a heck of a time getting it down! The sail tangled and would not furl, so we had to wrestle it on deck behind the Jib, and finally stuff the whole mess into the locker all tangled up. Pete and I were glad to have crew to help with that mess! Good job Dave!

We were now traveling with our friend Paolo on S Mar, Swan and the guys enjoyed kite surfing for three days with perfect winds. Seco Island is a kite surfers dream and we had it all to ourselves for the first day. The island is surrounded by shallow reef which knocks down the ocean swell and is only a few feet high, with only a few trees growing on it. This allows the wind to blow cleanly over and you find yourself skimming along in perfectly calm water behind it with a kite full of wind.

Sadly the weather reports started showing a small Typhoon heading our way! (don’t worry small ones only tear the heck out of everything they don’t kill you) The winds were predicted to get over 60 knots where we were, so we decided to sail south to get out of its path. We sailed for two days and dropped anchor in Port Princes, 200 miles to the south, only to see the storm had turned yet again and would continue to head south of us. This storm wound up stalling and never even got close where were, or had been, but at least we were safely out of danger anchored in a secure bay.
On our sail down we finally had perfect winds and set the newly repaired main with one reef and the fresh jib. Together they pulled us along at a comfortable 8 knots. This by the way, is also perfect fishing speed so we set 4 poles off the back with a variety of baits. We did not have any luck the first day, but mid morning the second pole Dave had set out had a fish on! (beginners luck on Downtime) Our ever faithful purple and black 8 inch squid had done it again and 20 minutes later I reeled in our first fish of the season, a nice 25 pound Wahoo!

We arrived in Purto Princessa later that afternoon and dropped the anchor in 50 feet of calm water in the back of the bay in front of the "Yacht Club." Now, Yacht Club is a term used very loosely in this part of the world. This one was owned by an expat that moved here many years ago seeking the island dream. For $10 a week you could be a member and use the dock and limited facilities. Drinks were cheap and the crowd was fun, especially on Sunday when the owners wife put on a buffet lunch.
Happy Birthday dear Tia!!!

On Monday Tia has her Birthday, so we went all together to nice cozy resort in the bay and enjoy tasty dinner!

Town was just a short tricycle ride away and we made several trips to market, including one night to the famous Tiki Bar.  The Tiki Bar was a place with live singers and decent food.  After a few too many beers we were having strange conversations with people from all over the world. Pete met some fellow Dutchmen from Holland while I was talking hula with a few Arabians and talking to Filipino girls. Being in a friendly mood, most likely from all the beer Pete drank, he went up to a really tall Filipino girl and asked how she got so tall? After all she was pushing 6 feet...a good foot taller than the rest of the girls.  She told me she drank a lot of milk which made him proud of being a dairy farmer, but then I told him the real reason and that his real name was Brain.  Yep, the first lady-boy encounter, got him! 

We spent three days watching the wild weather system randomly head to where ever it was going, and finally decided to sail back north close to our original plan on the back side of the low pressure system that was spinning just over a hundred miles away. At least the storm was generating a nice 20 knot southerly winds that pushed us all the way back up the coast of Palawan. Sadly there was no way we would be able to get all the way north to Sablayan before the winds changed back, and were not able to dive Apo Reef since it lay 300 miles north and directly into the prevailing winds.

Plan B took us up and around the top of Palawan and down the West side to El Nido, a small tourist town that sits among the towering black limestone cliffs (it was funny I was first calling them “lemon stone”) that the area is famous for.

Dave hopped off the boat and we were waiting for my lifelong friend Jenny from Russia to fly in.

The last part El Nido, Philippines will finally show up here. And maybe in Russian :)

Live your dream,