Heading South

February 22, 2016: Today we planned a relatively leisurely 42 nautical mile cruise south to Banton Island and the weather was totally cooperative. We made our departure from the inner basin in Port Balanacan at 0630. The sea was glassy calm and flat, and there were many little fishing bancas out as we made our way along the western coast of Marinduque Island. Ideal cruising weather. Even Nukaat was unperturbed.

Just before we reached the Tres Reyes Islands (three kings), reportedly good for diving, we were approached by a fisherman in a small banca who asked us for a bit of food. I guess it was taking longer than he had planned to catch anything to take home. We gave him a few granola bars, a bag of cashews and a couple bottles of water and he thanked us profusely before getting back to his task at hand. I’m always amazed at how intrepid the small banca fishermen are, all alone miles offshore, in all kinds of weather, day or night. Usually we see two or more boats out fishing together, which is at least a little more reassuring.

Mount Maralanga rose from the southern tip of Marinduque, as we started the crossing to Banton Island. It was a lot calmer than we had expected and we were averaging more than six knots, reaching the northwestern tip of Banton by early afternoon. Curiously, the palm trees on the island all looked to be dead or dying. Whether from disease or typhoon damage, we couldn’t be certain, but it made the island seem rather forlorn.

We had inspected the various bays along the west side of the island on Google Earth before setting out. The waters around Banton are very deep with shallow reef areas close to shore. That doesn’t leave many options for anchoring. A couple of sailing blogs had recommended anchoring on the east coast near the main town of Poblacion, but with the winds coming from that way and expected to pick up, it didn’t seem like a very good option for us.

We headed into the first bay along the west coast but the water remained too deep and the reefs looked really, really shallow (the chart said 20-30 feet but I don’t think we were in a very trusting mood), so we made a quick decision to continue on to Romblon, since we were making such good time. It was only another 26 nautical miles and we estimated we should arrive before sunset. Fingers crossed as we never like to arrive in an unknown anchorage after dark.

Lucky for us, the waters stayed calm and our speed stayed relatively steady as we skirted the Sibuyan Sea past the tip of Simara island and crossed to Cobrador Island. From here we rounded Alad Island and entered the channel leading to the Port of Romblon.

Once we finally got our mobile signal back, I called Leonardo who’s affiliated with the Romblon Yacht Club and asked him if any of their mooring buoys were available for us. I had contacted them ahead of time to let them know we were coming, but suddenly we were a day ahead of schedule. Most of Romblon harbour is more than 100 feet deep, so the mooring buoys are greatly appreciated and a good deal at just 150 pesos per night. All three of the club’s moorings located in the far left (north) side of the entrance to the multi-bay harbour were unoccupied and Nards suggested we take the middle one.

After rounding the reef and reaching the moorings, and then figuring out that there were actually two buoys associated with the mooring closest to the shore (for fore and aft tie), we ended up finding the middle buoy and securing MOKEN to it just before 1800. It took us less than 12 hours to cover nearly 70 nautical miles, including detours and distractions. Not bad at all. And now we were ahead of schedule. Bonus!

Here again we were the only visiting yacht. I guess it was still early in the cruising season. There were two sailboats tied to moorings in another bay at the south end of the harbour, but there was nobody aboard and they looked like they might have been sitting there for a bit.

It was a mostly leisurely evening relaxing on board and enjoying the sunset over the islands to our west. However, this mooring was a little too close to shore for our liking. Too close to the barking dogs, the karaoke bars, the trikes and the burning piles of garbage on the beach. The smell of burning plastic was too much to bear, but luckily the piles burn down relatively quickly.

Tomorrow morning we’d move to the third mooring (the blue one) located closer to the middle of this bay and go exploring in Romblon town proper, which looked very different from all the other places we’ve visited in the Philippines thus far. From off shore, it seemed to have a bit of a Mediterranean flair to it, with colourful buildings and a concrete sea wall lining the shore, and a fort perched high up on the hill overlooking town. Until tomorrow…

Romblon Yacht Club Moorings: 12 35.419 N, 122 16.380 E

Here’s a tip if you’re travelling around the Philippines. Don’t rely on just one mobile carrier. Normally we use Smart. Before we left Subic, we bought a Globe SIM card for one of our devices as we’ve heard from others that the Globe network works better than Smart in some regions of the Philippines. Up to this point of our trip, Smart has worked quite well and Globe has been rather iffy. But here in Romblon, we were really happy to have Globe too. Even though we could see towers for both networks on the hills around us, the Globe signal was generally much stronger and the 3G was usually much quicker. Go figure.

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