Palawan Here We Come

We’ve made it to one of the most beautiful places on the face of the Earth. At least that’s what people that have been places told us. As for ourselves, we were little worried about this description. We are just at the beginning of our cruising lives. Do we really want to see the best right at the start? Won’t we be disappointed with the rest?

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Nah, I think we’ll be all right. Apart from what we see around, and don’t take me wrong, it is really beautiful out here, we have these inner lives of ours, and that makes the exploration so much more exciting. As if one was living several parallel lives set in different worlds, possible worlds as Lewis Carol called them. You dive into one, get consumed and when you surface again, there’s another one. It’s the transition that can be difficult, especially from a world that’s easy, nice and exciting, to a world that’s uncomfortable, hard work, too cold or too hot, wet when you want to be dry and don’t get me started on the wind conditions.
We’ve spent about 10 days in Puerto Galera. Mostly those were working days, but we’ve snorkeled a lot and explored on our folding bikes. Before leaving the yacht club, we anchored for two days in nearby Boquelle Bay and snorkeled some more. We left about two weeks ago, did a little motoring, which made us unexpectedly happy, since it turns out that we have finally fixed our fuel intake. No more air leaks! We sailed further offshore and got a little push from the squalls that form on land without getting too wet. Our next destination was Apo Reef or more exactly the Apo Island. People suggested that we should head to the Pandan Island, but that sounded a bit too touristy. Also the idea of being out at sea was more compelling, especially after all those days in Puerto Galera.

básnili Švýcaři, které jsme potkali v Kaohsiungu.

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We approached the Apo Island late in the afternoon. So did a mean looking squall that blew over us right after we picked up a mooring. Not knowing the size of that thing and having doubts about the state of that mooring, we kept the engine running and prepared a third reef in the mainsail in case we would have to move. But the squall soon blew over, we had a hot dinner and good night sleep. This might sound like something much too ordinary, but I used to have hard time sleeping out on moorings or on the hook, especially after my nerves were excited by an adverse weather. I would dream of lines being chafed through, leaks springing at strange places… I would wake up in a pool of my own sweat — granted that this is all happening in the tropics, so the nightmares might be innocent here. Later I have noticed that all the catasrophes that are happening to our boat and taking place on gear that we don’t really have. The lines being chafes would have different color, the leaking holes would be found in an awkward spots that cannot be found on our boat. A strange thing happened. I would realize this while dreaming and look at the leak or the almost chafed through line, shake my head and tell myself, this is not on our boat, don’t worry about it. Sometimes I would still open my eyes and end the dream, but then I’d known already that it was just a dream.
Well, I am a big boy now and I don’t have yachting nightmares anymore. It makes for so much nicer mornings. You know, those mornings that you know that you slept well even though you should have been more worried. Those mornings that you realize that you trust your boat, because it’s a solid piece of fine engineering, you can trust it because you put so many hours into it and you know all the weak spots, you know the sounds, the right ones, that’s when she expresses the pleasure of being at sea and you know also the sounds that are the signals of a problem.
Anyway, we got up, the morning was gorgeous of course and the coffee made it even more so, jumped into that ridiculously crystalline water and saw the hordes of critters, some swimming lazily below us, some nibbling on the corals, others — the big ones — chasing the small ones, and everything was so huge and peaceful.
First we wanted to see the island and the Apo Island Trail that we’ve seen pictures of. We rowed ashore, pulled the dinghy above the tide line and went to one of the houses there. A ranger dressed only in shorts, cigarette hanging from his lower lip — picture a half naked bum from your favorite train station — greeted us. We inquired about the a path, the trail. This puzzled the ranger.
“A path? You can try to go to the lighthouse, maybe there is a path there. But I don’t know where it leads.”
His smile was stained with half rotten yellow teeth. Now we were the puzzled ones. We thanked him and turned around.
“Also you have to pay an entrance fee.” Unlike the requests at many other places in the Philippines this fee is official. And it goes back to the park (Apo Reef is a national park). We said that we din’t bring any money and that we will come later.
The lighthouse was just few minutes away. No sign of no path, though. But the fence around the lighthouse, which was embellished by a barbed wire, so popular in the Philippines, was open.
“I don’t think we should go there.” But the open door was just so inviting. Soon we were climbing the steep stair and stood on the platform in the middle of the lighthouse. The view was magnificent and it was immediately obvious that our dear ranger has never been here. Most of the island consists of sharp rocks and mangrove swamp. There’s a nice looking lagoon between the mangroves. South and east of the island is rimmed by a beach.
We climbed down and decided to go back around an old ranger station. That’s where we found the Trail. The trail is no more then maybe fifty meters of a passage above the mangrove swamp made out of bamboo. Quite nice actually and it ends by the lagoon. It’s definitely worth the trip to the island if you head there for diving. Don’t mind the mosquitos, they are just doing what’s in their nature and as we have found out, they do it with passion. But then, would it be marsh if there were no mosquitos?

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We combed the beach for a while, the sand is real fine there, very white with tiny red particles, a ground coral. But the sun got to us and we head back for the dinghy and our snorkeling gear.
I won’t describe the world that opened for us there. Snorkeling in Puerto Galera was very nice, but around the Apo Island, it’s like swimming in an abstract painting. The variety of coral is just amazing. A memorable moment happened the second day. We were snorkeling, heads down looking what’s below us and suddenly Jana grabbed my hand. I looked at her with a grin that was supposed to be romantic (as romantic as it gets when you wearing goggles and plastic tube is sticking out of your mouth). But her eyes were wide open and she was making weird sounds.
“Ghuh guh gooh, ah.”
“Huh?” This one is actually pretty easy even underwater.
She shook her head letting me know how thick I am and jerked her head to make me look in front of us.
I froze. I opened my eyes as wide as a could and then I said:
“Oh hy goh!”
“Hah hoongehul,” said Jana.
Right in front of our eyes floated a large turtle. She winked an eye at us, moved her lower jaw as if she was chewing, then flapped her hands and swamp around us. We followed her for a bit and she didn’t seem disturbed by our presence at all. She dove down and then surfaced again to get some air and then she got tired of us and ditched us.
We spent one more night and then left early in the morning in a nice breeze. From that day on, we decided it’s time for daysailing. There are plenty of places to anchor, we can explore, and besides, sailing in the Philippines at night is ill advised. The small unlit fishermen are everywhere, there are pearl farms and fishing nets, and reefs, too many chances to hit something. We wanted to make it to Tara island, but we had such a good wind that we continued and sailed into Maricaban Bay and picked up a mooring there. The yacht club provides potable water and ice free of charge, which was a great treat. The mooring fee is 200 pesos per night.

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We left early in the morning again with two or three ideas where to spend the night on the way to Coron. The anchoring turned out to be a little more troublesome than we thought. We are reluctant to anchor in more than 15 meters, because one has to drop a lot of chain and the morning exercise turns into a heavy lifting. Two anchorages that were suggested were too deep, so we headed to a bay open to the east side of Busuanga where there should be an underwater hill with a large pinnacle at about 10m. After a little searching we found the hill and spend a peaceful night there. The place wasn’t too great to spent much more time there and we were running out of veggies. We were at Coron the very next day at around lunch. We had to motor all the way, but about 2 miles from the anchorage, the wind picked up, so at least we had the honor to sail for an hour or so right through the Coron Passage(cca 2 miles wide passage between Busuanga and Coron Island)and drop the hook next to a Japanese 35′ cutter.

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2 comments to Palawan Here We Come

  • Yibo

    Very interesting sailing adventures ^_^
    It will be difficult for you to come back to KHH marina…
    Enjoy it and make us dreaming.
    P.S: Clément is born 😉

    • Petr Šimon

      Congratulations!!! May your child become a sailor too :)
      Surely, we could return to Kaohsiung, not for the marina, of course, but for the friends we have there 😉

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