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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You wouldn’t find happier people when we make port. We drop the hook, exhale — yay, we made it again — explore and enjoy the delights of land like fresh veggies, cold beer and, yes, the company of landlubbers (in small doses).
But after few days the shore keeps creeping towards us, even closer, the karaoke from the nearby bar become so annoying, never mind the roosters showing off in the morning — finally, you got up, we’ve already had our breakfast — and squealing pigs being tortured and butchered in the village (remind me if I ever have cravings for some pork).
So we loaded our little boat with water and fresh produce, cranked the windlass and we sailed away.
This time of year in the Philippines is rather funny. You get a little breeze, sometimes, then it dies, you start the engine, so that you can turn it off again in about half an hour when a big fat black cloud starts approaching and the first tropical bullet-like rain drops hit you in the eye. That’s because you are staring at the windex at the top of your mast all the time, instead of feeling the wind on your face as the true mariners of the past did. Not to mention the pain in the neck. The wind in the Philippines is simply a big pain in the neck.


And that’s what we got when we sailed north around El Nido. But at least you get moving. The squall mind blind you for bit, so you head offshore, but these squalls have a short life. Before you get too far from your rhumbline, they die and you get to sail straight into your intended anchorage with a beautiful breeze on the beam. It might drizzle the rest of the day, but you are snug in the cabin, anchor dug deep in the mud, because you just found one of the few anchorages with a good holding ground.
You sleep well and get up in the morning full of life and the breeze gives a promise to kindly blow you out of the anchorage once you heave the hook. There’s no indication that the breeze should die when you are just passing that rock in the mouth of the bay that provided such comfortable lodging.
You keep fighting. You sail/drift wing-and-wing, pass the rock, avoid the fishnets set by the fishermen and you hypnotize the horizon looking for any signs of wind. But you are looking in a wrong direction. In the meantime a big mean squall just crept behind you. You are sailing hard at it’s edge, hoping for the wind to last without getting stronger. May be it could shift to the west just a little bit, so you can pass the little island in front of you. And it does, yes it does. Even though only for couple of minutes before it start dying off. You shake off the reefs, hoist a larger jib. You want the get the most of the wind that you have.


You’ve been paying too much attention to the sail and suddenly you find yourself blocked off by a field of buoys — a pearl farm. You don’t want to entangled in that! The guards don’t mess around. But you clear them, even if only by few feet.
A bay full of reefs and submerged rocks opens up in front of your eyes. All you see, however, is water. You know what the chart says. There are rocks that can tear a hole in the belly of you floating home. The sun is tired, it’s falling towards the west horizon. There’s not much time to linger. When you left your last anchorage you expected the wind to be from the south-west, but here the conditions are different. The anchorage you have chosen is exposed. Quick look at the chart. The options are few. The best one is soon discarded. Pearl farm all around.
Finally you drop the hook in 7m above corals right next to a beautiful coral head surrounded by colourful fish and underwater vegetation.


This is the east side of Palawan. Two days away from Puerto Princesa.
Morning breeze takes you out to sea. You are still in the protection of a group of small islands connected by a reef. Once out of the hiding, the sea swells up, the wind picks up. This might finally be the monsoon. And another squalls approaches. It misses you just right to give you a lift and then you continue, first in fluky winds, but you stand your ground and the monsoon kicks in again, it’s on the nose, mind you, but the heading you are able to keep is not too bad. Not too bad at all.
The night falls and it’s going to be an interesting one. Squid fishing boats rim the horizon, nowhere to hide. The moon is still week, but the bright lights from the boats light up the night, you are not alone, not tonight. Surprisingly, you pass right between them, no need to change your heading, no need to mess with the trim.
Another watch change takes you down into your bunk, little tossing and turning and soon you slip into another world until the other grabs your shoulder and mercilessly drags you back.


The sunrise is quite ordinary. It’s cloudy, drizzling from time to time and you are just couple of miles away from your goal. You ran out of wind and with the wind you patience has gone as well. The engine has to be turned on from time to time, basic maintenance, you tell yourself as you are streaming toward the comfort of another anchorage. But this one is unlike the other before. This one you know. You’ve been there before. The name brings out good memories, people you’ve met, the atmosphere of those days.
You’re almost there. A worry creeps up. What if you have too many expectations, what if you’ll be disappointed. But you already know a remedy for that problem. There’s nothing simpler than lifting your hook and sailing to a place down the road…


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