From Kaohsiung to Puerto Galera II

In the afternoon the wind was gradually intensifying and before the dinner we had the second reef in the mainsail and genoa was replaced by a reefing jib. Even under the reduced canvas we maintained 5.5-6 knots over ground. The waves were growing by the minute and as Janna surfed down their slopes the speed was reaching 8 knots.
We had very delicious instant vegetarian rise from Jessica Ou, the Cape Horn windvane was steering very reliably. We were nevertheless little nervous if the wind and especially the waves are going to grow even further. The night was uneventful and soon we got used to the wind and the waves and we started to hope these conditions will hold. The watches were relaxing, one only had to stand up to look around and inspect each quadrant with a little more care so as not to miss a light due to the big swell. But we could see only one or two ships. Our strategy to sail further offshore payed off. When we had the north coast of Luzon on our beam we were about 70 miles offshore.
In the afternoon the wind started to weaken and in the evening we were once again battling with insufficient wind and still quite considerable swell, which was taking the wind out of our sails.
The next two days were spent by hypnotizing the sails. Whenever they bellied and stayed that way for more than ten seconds, we fixed our concentrated stares at them hoping to keep them that way. Then we felt Janna’s stern to lift on a swell and the mast whipped through the air. When the sails only collapsed, we were cheering. Mostly, though, the swing of the mast was faster then the strength of the wind, and the sails followed the mast as if it was a flagpole waved by a zealous boy-scout in a parade and then the mast swung back and a then came the loud bang. Janna shuddered and so did we. If this continued for a while and we couldn’t help it by steering, the sails went down. Whenever there was the tiniest of zephyrs we hoisted the gennaker made out of light nylon, but sometimes even the gennaker was too much of cloth for the joke of a wind.

Soon we didn’t bother to watch the speed. We knew what it was. From time to time we would hear the cheerful sound of the bow wave and that meant we are really moving at speed of about 2kn. At those times we raved on deck picturing the pristine anchorages, shade of palm trees and cold beer that are now almost within the reach of a hand. This enthusiasm usually soon dissipated, down with the sails and Janna continued her cork screw like bobbing/drifting.
We used the times of the greatest heat to bath either by jumping directly into the sea or by pouring sea water over ourselves using our new canvas bucket that Jana made right before departure from an old mainsail. We’ve noticed new type of marine growth on the bottom and as we were bathing each day, the water became noticeably warmer and warmer.
As we slowly approached the coast, each evening we observed billowing clouds and distant thunderstorm. That reminded us of our summer sail through the Philippines when we were moving Janna from Langkawi to Hong Kong. We used to be quite scared of these thunderstorms, and we still are, but we started to wish to get closer to them and get the taste of some of the power they were packing. We didn’t care much about the lightnings, but wind, that we could use. Not much, just a little more.
After five days at sea we made about 2/3 of our planned passage. We were little worried how much longer it would take to get to Puerto Galera. Thus we decided, against all the warning signs that we’ve received before, to aim for Subic Bay Yacht Club. It lies in a bay of the same same, and old station of the U.S. navy and air-force, now deserted. The yacht club itself was known for being expensive with very poor service and the bribes demanded by immigration, quarantine and customs were the highest in the Philippines. But we were in the situation where we needed a mechanic, which we could surely find elsewhere, but in case we need spare parts or even order something from abroad, Subic Bay was the ideal place, because it’s a duty free zone. Thus we changed course towards Subic Bay (we were sort of drifting that way anyway).
Once more we tried to inspect the whole fuel system, but we couldn’t find anything. We replaced all filters, checked that no hose is blocked, but we still couldn’t pump the diesel out of the fuel tank. We disassembled the mechanical fuel feed pump, but found no obvious problem. The diaphragm and all the valves looked fine. By the way, have you ever seen the weird gunk that collects in the pump? We retightened all the clams, but still no fuel was coming out of the tank. It was a hot and uncomfortable job. Janna was rocking on the swell, I was sweating like a pig, dripping sweat and diesel. Jana was on the watch for the ships, fishermen and parts and tools rolling around the cockpit.
We were clueless. Everything seemed fine, so why couldn’t we pump the diesel out? We never had a problem like that. We decided that it would be best to go to the nearest port and seed a help from someone with more experience. The obvious choice was Subic Bay. It’s a duty free zone, has a boatyard for yachts, finding spare parts should be more likely than in Puerto Galera. We still had about 40 miles to sail, but if we get a good wind, we might make it before dinner.
The morning greeted us with barely any wind at all. We were kind of moving under a limp gennaker and there wasn’t much to do other then jump into the water and give ourselves a power-wash. Just when we dropped the ladder into the water, the wind picked up and suddenly we were making 3 knots, then 4 and in few minutes we were flying. We setup the Cape Horn windvane, lied in the cockpit reading.
Since we were getting closer to the shore, there were more tankers, but we had a good wind and they were mostly passing us at a safe distance. For a while a school of dolphins followed us.
Around one o’clock in the afternoon, the winds started to die on us again. We were doing what we could to stay in a good angle to the swell and to make way for Subic Bay at the same time. We were hoping the wind will pickup the same way it did yesterday afternoon, but
we were not so lucky. No, the Neptune decided to make us work for our first port of call. We were drifting soft of towards the Subic Bay when a small fishing bangka approached us waving towards the Subic Bay. We thought they are directing us to the port, but the waving got more and more excited and then we spotted the small buoys of their net. We were about two boat lengths from it and there was no way we could avoid it. So we sailed right across the net. The fishermen were watching us with despair. We were shouting “It’s OK” and “Don’t worry” as they watched as their lively-hood being destroyed. Luckily for them and for us, Janna’s long keel slid over the net and didn’t harm it at all. That’s a great advantage of our boat in areas like these. The nets can be found everywhere and it’s a nasty job to get one off your propeller.
The sun was falling down and the shore grew closer. We decided to take a shower. We found out that one of our port lights is leaking a little bit, so I stood closer to the boat and started to pour buckets of sea water on top of my head. Suddenly I realized that I am standing right next to the front hatch and not exactly small amounts of water are splashing right over our V-berth and the veggies stored there. I cried out, Jana jumped up and if I wasn’t standing on the other side of the boat already, I would have ran there for a protection from Jana’s mop.
About five miles from the mouth of the Subic Bay the wind picked up and we were doing five knows just under the gennaker. We had about an hour before we would have to start tacking into the harbour. So Jana put our pressure cooker to work. Before the risotto was ready, we hoisted the mainsail, took down the gennaker and hoisted hank-on genoa instead. As we munched on our dinner, the wind started to die again. We started to get worried.
The sun was gone, the darkness fell and we were becalmed right by the mouth of the Subic Bay.
First we called the yacht club to see if they have a boat that could tow us in. They said they don’t. So we contacted the port control and advised them the we are barely sailing at the speed of one knot and that we might soon be obstructing the traffic. Fortunately there was no traffic, but it surely wasn’t a good place to be idling.
The port control said they will organize a rescue. We defended ourselves that we are not in danger and that we only need a tow. But the “rescue” definition of the whole affair stuck. Then the wind picked up again and suddenly we were moving at about 2 knots. We informed the port control and the boat that was supposed to tow — I mean rescue — us was supposed to stand by.
Soon we saw about 50′ steel pilot boat approach us. The wind has dies again, so we gave up and let them come along side. We had the lines and fenders ready. I’ve discussed with the captain of the boat how we are going to them. His idea was to tie bow and stern lines and get underway. I strongly protested and forced him to tie a spring line from our stern to his bow. When all of us were satisfied, the captain gave a signal to the helmsman. The engine roared and the pilot boat jump forward. The lines screeched, Janna moaned, the two of us screamed.
“SLOWLY, @#$%, #$@&*&*#^$, *&&^@%%$$$@!”
The captain smiled and said:
“That’s our lowest speed. Any lower than that is the neutral.”
We complained that this boat is too large for us, that they knew we are a small boat. When both boats gathered momentum and settled down, the screeching and tugging stopped and we were little relieved. We were still checking all the lines, when I looked up and started to wonder where are they taking us. The captain informed us that they cannot enter the basin of the yacht club, so we will be tied to them at their dock for the night. The dock was supposed to be right next to the yacht club. The yacht club was to the north, we were being towed to the east.
“Where are you taking us?” I asked the captain.
“To our dock, next to the yacht club,” he replied.
“I think that should be that way,” I pointed north.
So far the captain was lounging against the guard rail, satisfied with the execution of his mission. Then the captain jumped up and looked around. Then he mumbled something in Filipino and ran into the cabin. Then we made a sharp turn.
Their exhaust was spraying Janna’s topsides and filling the air with nauseating fumes. Apart of that, it seemed like all is good and we’ll soon be tied in the marina, hot shower pouring on our shoulders, cold beer in hand. It wasn’t meant to be. Not for another couple of hours, anyway.
So far we were riding through calm water south of the Grande Island which mark the port limits. When we passed the island, a sudden strong wind hit us and whipped up a nasty chop. Janna was of course on the windward side. She started rocking violently and crashing against the pilot boat. The lines were stretching beyond belief. This is no good, we shouted at the captain, who seemed worried as well. The chop was getting nastier and the noises unbearable. We asked the captain to stop the boat. We suggested that we will sail from here, the wind was more then adequate for that. But the captain wasn’t willing to let us go. He called the port control who in the meantime found a smaller boat that could take us directly to the yacht club. We were still couple of miles away, so we were hoping to sail towards towards the small boat. But the captain had his instructions. So we waited for about an hour when an unlit motor boat about 20′ long approached us. The crewman jumped aboard our boat without a warning, which got me little worked out, but I controlled myself and I simply said: Get back on your boat. We got rid of the steel monster and continued in much slower pace. In about an hour we reached our destination. The wind had died again, so we wouldn’t have made it to the yacht club after all. Anyway, we were there and safe.
The dangers of the sea and shipping were over, now were had to get ready for the “land sharks”…

 

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