Home to Subic

As I started to assemble this final blog post of our 2016 Busuanga Adventures I couldn’t find many pics to go with it. How unusual.

May 24-28, 2016: All good things eventually come to an end and our latest Busuanga adventure was no exception. It was time to say goodbye to all our friends new and old in Puerto del Sol and Concepcion and make our return trip north to Subic.

No cruising adventure would be complete without the odd challenge and bad weather. We got both on the return.

Day one took us just a short hop to Coron to stock up on a few provisions at the market. It looked like rain so we put off our trip into town until nearly 1700 hours. After the market we had dinner at one of our usual haunts, Sinugba Sa Balay, before heading back to the dinghy just two hours later. We found the dinghy sitting in hardly any water thanks to a king low tide. I trekked back into town to try and find some sort of pole (tiken) that we could use to push ourselves out. The only piece of bamboo I could find wasn’t very long and split before we got out far enough to start the outboard. Can you say frustrating? We were really wishing someone hadn’t stolen our long, sturdy tiken that we got previously in Concepcion. Back on MOKEN, the big rains finally arrived later in the evening.

The next morning we set off around the east side of Busuanga Island heading to Tara Island, our usual anchorage. It got a little rough on the outside after we exited Coron Passage but it wasn’t too bad until we made the final push to Tara Island. With the wind coming from the south, we anchored closer to the south end of the island than we normally would to get out of the chop. This worked for a while…until the wind direction changed after dark by 90 degrees and started blowing into the bay from the west. There’s no protection at Tara from that. With two squalls bringing winds up to 30 knots, big rains and an uncomfortable swell, it made for a tense night.

We were glad to get back underway the next morning, but the weather didn’t let up for us at all, making for a long, slow, uncomfortable day with no respite from the mushy seas. Winds were coming at us from the southeast but the swell was still coming from the west due to a big storm hundreds of miles away near China. As we neared Apo Reef, we quickly dismissed any hope of getting in any more dives on this trip. There were big waves breaking on the west side of Apo Island, right where the mooring buoys sit.

Our sail helped to stabilize us somewhat, but only until the wind changed direction again. Although we were aiming for our overnight anchorage in Mamburao, we had to head 30 degrees to port to get some relief, turning to head into the bay at the last hour and putting up with beam seas. As we approached the normally calm bay at Mamburao, we spotted breakers on either side of the bay. We approached carefully and entered the bay crowded with fishing bancas of every description, each of them anchored fore and aft.

For us, anchoring was a bit of a challenge because our stern anchor was sitting back in Olongapo while waiting for a new mounting bracket, so we couldn’t get in too close to the other boats. This meant we had to stay out further in a spot more exposed to the southerly wind and the beamy westerly swell. We rock and rolled all night, eventually putting out one of our paravanes to give us a bit of relief. It was another restless night.

With very little sleep behind us, we were awake at 0430 and underway by 0500. It wasn’t as windy today but we still had the big swell from the west. It made for a roly-poly day. The wind picked up a bit near Cape Calavite, so we were able to use the sail for part of the crossing to Lubang Island. Then the wind died off completely, leaving us with the swell.

Normally we see a lot of big cargo vessels on this stretch of water. Today, there was just the one. The enormous Grand Dhalia flagged in Panama, which was on a constant bearing, decreasing range, otherwise known as a collision course. We dropped our speed down to a crawl at four knots and passed behind.

We opted to head for Golo Pass to try and get a bit of relief from the westerly swell. The water colours through the pass were spectacular as we navigated the narrow channel. Why didn’t I take photos? Too busy looking for shallow spots, I guess. It was 28 feet at the shallowest. The short run between Lubang and Ambil Island was refreshingly calm and we got a good 3G signal so we were able to get a weather forecast and have lunch.

The weather looked promising for the rest of the day and promised to be more unsettled the next day so we altered our original plan of overnighting in Port Tilic and instead decided to make a run for Port Binanga, just outside Subic. The crossing continued rolly but it was otherwise uneventful and the weather was good. We watched a spectacular night time lightning show in the skies towards Manila as we made our way up the coast. There were several planes circling overhead in a waiting pattern before being allowed to land.

Usually this stretch of coast is littered with fishing bancas at this time of night. But this time, there were none to speak of. We anchored in the bay at Port Binanga just after 2200 hours and fed kitty. We were both out like a light in no time skipping dinner altogether.

After a deep sleep, we got underway the final morning at 0600 hours and cruised in the thankfully calm waters of Subic Bay reaching our berth by 0730. With so much nasty weather en route, MOKEN was one very salty gal. No rest for us. Time for the cleaning to begin.

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