Unscheduled Return

I’d much rather write about the adventures of a new voyage, first impressions from a new port or about new people we’ve just met… Unfortunately I have to admit that we are still in Kudat and it seems that we will have to stay here at least for another two to three weeks. The reason is simple. Have a look at the following picture and guess for yourself…


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Trapped in Kudat

Month and a half ago when we sailed away from Philippines and arrived to Kudat, a small town in Sabah, also known as the „Land Below the Wind“, we thought we finally left all those potentially disastrous typhoons far behind. Turns out not quite so… Although it rarely happens that a typhoon ventures that south as Borneo, these cyclonic monsters can influence weather even in regions hundreds of miles away. And so here we are, already two weeks helplessly trapped in Kudat. It’s not that a typhoon’s path is predicted to go anywhere near us, but last week it was the super typhoon Usagi and now another typhoon Pabuk that is sucking in and thus intensifying the monsoon winds, which blow from south-west, i.e. exactly the direction we want to travel. The wind itself would not be such a problem, but the local waters are infamous for serious currents, that are strongly influenced by monsoon winds, and to sail on a small yacht not only against the wind, but also against a 2 knot current is not really much fun.

This is how it currently looks in SE Asia...

This is how it currently looks in SE Asia…

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OpenCPN on Windows 8

We got very fond of our iPad 2. Small, fast to start, last couple of ours of typing. Love it. Except that it does not run our Windows applications like dictionaries, Office and such. Thus we when we visited Taiwan, we bought ourselves Asus VivoTab Smart tablet with Windows 8.

Main excuse for this expense was so that we can write without turning on our laptops. The second one was, that we can run OpenCPN and have instant navigation tool other than Navionics on iPad.

OpenCPN on Windows 8 tablet

OpenCPN on Windows 8 tablet

The only trouble is, that Microsoft decided to wrap the internal GPS with an API that many application don’t know (including some sold by Microsoft!). There is a $15 solution, but it doesn’t work as reliably as one would expect.

So I’ve decided to write a little TCP server that interfaces the Location API and sends NMEA sentences so that OpenCPN can read them.

More details here: https://bitbucket.org/petrsimon/geolocationtcp/wiki/Home

I’ve tested it briefly, seems to be working. We will test it at sea next week when we head down the west coast of Borneo. If it turns out to be usable, I will improve it and make a proper application out of it.

Let me know if it works for you.

Against the Winds and Currents aka from Puerto Princesa to Kudat (Part 2)

Although we managed to avoid the two reefs in the mouth and in the middle of the bay, we motored too far inside the bay and hit the reef stretching from the far end of the Clarendon Bay! We tried to reverse and get out of the reef using our engine, but this time it didn’t work. It was clear that we needed some external help…

Luckily for us, soon after we entered the bay, we spotted a couple of local fisherman in wooden canoes. One of them was nearby so we called him to come closer to our boat. He couldn’t speak English but using hands and gestures we somehow managed to explain to him that we were stuck on a reef and that we need him to row our stern anchor back to deep water and drop it there. We would then try to winch ourselves off the reef.


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Against the Winds and Currents aka from Puerto Princesa to Kudat (Part 1)

Everybody warned us: „You are too late!“ First we didn’t get it: „Too late for what?“

„Did they close the border to Malaysia?“ was the pretty much straightforward reaction of our Kiwi friends Jackie and Dave. The answer, of course, was much simpler – the South-west monsoon.

Once the SW monsoon sets in (roughly at the end of June, beginning of July), the boats trying to get from Palawan to Borneo have to fight not only head winds but also strong currents, which in some parts can reach up to 2 knots. On top of that, once the monsoon picks up, most of the anchorages along the way become inhabitable, so there’s basically nowhere to hide.

Of course, as relative greenhorns we didn’t dare to underestimate the warnings of the experienced sea dogs, nevertheless, during our one-month stay in Puerto Princesa we noticed, that the SW monsoon intensifies only for a couple of days, that are usually followed by a comparatively longer (e.i. in comparison to the NE monsoon) period of relative calm. When after 5 weeks of our stay in PP, one such weather window presented itself, we knew it was time to move to another anchorage.


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Back in Kudat

Hard to believe it’s been more than a month, since we arrived to Kudat, a small port at the north-east tip of Borneo… Time really flies and last month it flew even more so, since we were especially busy. Moreover, unlike our stay in Puerto Princesa, where we literally spent the whole month and a half aboard Janna translating, this time we were more often out of Kudat. While we traveled all around SE Asia, we left Janna in care of our friends Jackie and Dave of s/y Brigadoon safely tied to a pontoon in the local marina (which by the way is free! It hasn’t been officially opened yet and is run jointly by the cruisers in the spirit of a commune – people take turns cleaning the showers, share washing lines and clothes pegs, watch after the boats of those who are currently away plus even water their plants and take care of their dogs…).

Janna in Kudat marina

Janna in Kudat marina

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Perfect Birthday

“You go on reading! After all you deserve a proper rest after yesterday!” commented Petr on my slightly lethargic mood, when after breakfast I quietly disappeared to my favorite cockpit seat with my Kindle. I didn’t so much suffer from a post-celebratory hang-over as one might suspect given that the previous day was my birthday. Truth is, I was just plain tired. Janna, however, was almost spotless and our sewing machine saw the daylight again after quite a while. Not everyone would agree but for me this was a perfect B-day! Except perhaps for the evening downpour, that thwarted our plans of taking a stroll to town before dinner. On the other hand, nothing is ever perfect so there’s no point complaining. Instead of walking, we took a tricycle and contributed, in our own modest way, to the local economy.

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Janna’s Track So Far

We have been meaning to post maps with at least partial tracks of our voyages so far, for we can describe from where towards where and really try not to miss any island or rock that we passed by but in this case words just can’t compete with a map. A single glimpse and you are immediately up to speed! Not to mention the tongue-twisters and jaw-breakers that lots of the Filipino geographical names present to us ignorant foreigners. Try telling someone: “Today we passed Guintungauan and anchored at Ditaytayan.” Or Inambuyod, Dilumaoad, etc. Plus we found out, that sometimes same toponyms are used for different places. So far we anchored at two “Maricaban”s already. The former being an island in Verde Passage between Luzon and Mindoro, the latter a bay on the north coast of Busuanga Island.
In short, a map is a map and here we finally managed to create one (sometimes the speed of the internet and poor internet access here is real maddening! Especially when you spent last 30 something minutes clicking your track on Google Maps only to lose it all when the internet connection is suddenly lost) that roughly follows the trail we sailed so far, including all the anchorages we stopped at. In retrospect our favorite place so far is definitely Apo Island, whose gorgeous underwater world and breathtaking sunsets are just unbeatable! Not many people stop there but if you find yourself in the vicinity, you must definitely give it a try!

View Taiwan to Puerto Princesa in a larger map

At Anchor in Puerto Princesa

Once again we’ve found ourselves settled in the comforts of the routine life at anchor. After breakfast in the cockpit, we usually sit down to our computers and in the afternoon, when we just can’t take it any longer, or more precisely when our behinds already hurt so much that we can’t sit any longer, we go for a ride on our folding bicycles, which we keep conveniently parked in the yacht club (which also gives a chance to enjoy the abundance of space in our V-berth!) Mostly we buy some provisions on the way to stock up on some of our favorite local goodies before we leave Philippines and from time to time we stop in the club before heading back to the boat to have a chat with some of the local regulars. Most of them are from Australia, though there is Klaus and his wife from Sweden, who live on a beautiful yellow trimaran.


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Puerto Princesa Four Years Later

Our days in the lovely Bacuit Bay and the anchorage off Corong-Corong are over. We’ve spent there almost two weeks, half of it translating, i.e. working, and half exploring. When the wind was fluky we were hitting the keyboards and with the first sign of a breeze, we pulled the plug, stashed our awning and set sail.
But the time has come and we had to move. We’ve got this condition, you know. A travel bug. Quite contagious. We are turning literally in front of our eyes into nomads, pure and passionate gypsies.

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