January 15-17, 2014: Our crossing from Puerto Galera to Port Caltom on the northern side of Busuanga Island took us the better part of two days and was possibly our most uncomfortable trip thus far.
After a rude awakening at four in the morning on our day of departure, we were underway within twenty minutes. It was almost pitch black. The moon was nowhere to be seen and even the sun didn’t bother to get up for another two hours.
We rounded Cape Cavite at the northwestern point of Mindoro making good time with relatively calm seas, but that all changed as we crossed the mouth of Paluan Bay on our new southern heading. Now a following sea meant we had to hand steer our way around the numerous fishing floats bobbing along this coast.
Although we were anchored near Mamburao just after three in the afternoon, it wasn’t very restful here either. An offshore wind was howling out of the east and waves were breaking on the points not too far away from us on either side. The wind didn’t let up all night. (Average speed 6.0 knots at 1500 RPMs.)
After another early start on day two, we began our crossing southwest from Mindoro Island to Busuanga Island, part of the Calamian Group that makes up the northern part of Palawan province.
Before sunrise, the four stars of the southern cross gave us a perfect guide to steer by. I didn’t realize we’d be able to see this on the north side of the equator. However, after sunrise, we had nothing but our navigation system to guide us. There were no landmarks. It was all open ocean, all around us. Pretty much the only change in scenery were the freighters we’d spot in the distance and track on radar as they crossed our path on their way to or from China.
It was a long slog. An uncomfortable following sea and no islands to tuck in behind meant no break from hand steering. We tried using the sails again to see if that would feel a little smoother and make steering a little easier, but the wind was uncooperative once again. It actually died off for part of the day, but that didn’t seem to stop us from rolling about. At least we were making good time. We could have dropped the paravanes for a smoother ride, but that would have slowed us down and we wanted to arrive before sunset.
We finally reached Port Caltom, otherwise known as Maracaban Bay, just after four in the afternoon. This was a return visit for us. It was our furthest point on our cruise back in April before we turned around and headed back to Subic Bay. (Average speed 6.1 knots at 1600 RPMs.)
At this point we were too tired to lower the dinghy, but not so tired that we didn’t want to go in for a welcome beverage at El Rio Y Mar resort. So instead we launched our new kayaks for the first time and paddled in. Needless to say, it was an early night.
After sleeping in and enjoying a leisurely breakfast, we spent most of the next morning cleaning salt off MOKEN’s rails and decks that had accumulated on our crossing. There was also a fair bit of cleaning to be done inside too. It’s hard not to track in salt and dirt and sand when we go about barefoot all the time. Chris changed the raw water pump and cleaned some filters in preparation for the next leg of our voyage. With that behind us, we spent a lazy afternoon by the pool and did some kayaking around the bay.
We could really see some of the damage caused by Typhoon Yolanda that passed over this area on its way out of the Philippines. There was a fair bit of repair work underway on roofs around the resort, lots of trees were broken off or uprooted and the coconut palms still standing had lost most of their fronds and were looking pretty bedraggled. We also learned that the local fishing village, home to many of the resort’s staff, was also severely damaged. It was good to see that the resort’s owners were helping to give something back to the community by hiring additional local workers to help with repairs and collecting donations from guests to assist the villagers with their own rebuilding activities.
Next up, we go below the seas in Northern Busuanga. We’ve included a few pics from our dive boat here to make more room for actual underwater photos on the next post.