April on MOKEN

April 1-11, 2017: It was rush hour on the water as we departed from our anchorage at Marinduque Island at first light. A couple of small bancas using nets to fish at the exit from the inner basin graciously moved to the side to let us pass. We passed two ferries in a holding pattern waiting for others to depart so they could take their place at the docks. Today it was a very busy little place.

Our crossing to Puerto Galera was mostly calm and uneventful other than dodging and weaving through fish floats. When we got closer to Verde Island, we had a few close calls with fast ferries and slow ferries, whose captains seemed to believe they always have the right away. We were making good time until we hit Verde Passage; then the current turned against us.

Puerto Galera was really hopping. There were more than the usual number of boats anchored, and heaps of little bancas all sporting colourful pennants whisking tourists around the bay on this, the first official day of summer holidays. (April and May are the school holidays here.)

You never would have known it was summer by the weather though. These are usually some of the hottest months, but it was cooler than usual and the wind was relentless.

We anchored in a small, deserted bay where we enjoyed three undisturbed nights until a patrol boat came and asked us to move. Apparently this bay is a special reserve and no anchoring is allowed. These decisions are frequently made at the local government level and never make it on to the nautical charts. How is one to know? The patrol boat didn’t seem to mind that the dive boats were anchoring right on the reefs all around us. As it was too rough on the outside for divers, most of the dive charters were shoe-horned into the bay instead.

We moved to one of the large moorings in Dalaruan Bay that’s managed by the Puerto Galera Yacht Club. From here, it’s a long dinghy ride to the Muelle, made all the more uncomfortable by that wind that never did let up. We spent eight days all told, waiting for a weather window to make our final crossing to Subic Bay and spending our time alternating between hiding out from the wind on MOKEN and quick, wet trips to town for meals or provisions.

 

 

We did manage to spend a couple of relaxing afternoons poolside at a future new boutique hotel that our friend Paul was looking after. Here we tried out our new air hammock, affectionately known as the blue banana, and sat through one of several earthquakes that occurred on April 8 and 9, which ranged from 5.4 to 6.0 on the Richter Scale. All the birds would fly up from the surrounding mangroves just seconds before the shaking started. Even stranger was feeling the earthquake reverberate through MOKEN later that night on the mooring.

One of our neighbouring yachts from the Subic Bay Yacht Club arrived and tied to a mooring next to us. It was like old home week.

On our last afternoon in PG, we finally got a respite from the wind long enough to take the dinghy to the beach. After sharing one beach with some day trippers, we skirted Bogete Island to our favourite (and usually empty) beach on the outside, but couldn’t make it ashore due to extreme low tide conditions. We would have had to drag the dinghy across the reef to get in. Instead we floated around, watching little fishies in the water and talking about our future plans for cruising on MOKEN.

With a good weather window finally upon us, we returned to MOKEN and got ready for an early morning departure. Once underway, we were glad we’d waited it out. The crossing, first to our overnight anchorage in Hamilo Cove and then onwards to Subic was one of our more comfortable passages. Even Nukaat was unfazed and spent most of the time outside his basket.

It got hotter and more humid the closer we got to Subic, and the hillsides changed from the lush green off Mindoro to the dry hills of southwestern Luzon. Along the run up the Bataan coast, we watched as a sea eagle soaring high above us in the sky suddenly dived into the sea and came up with a fish.

We were soon back in Subic Bay where the winds picked that exact moment to jump back up to 20 knots, stirring up whitecaps and making docking at our home berth more challenging than usual. We wanted to tie up on our starboard side as the wind was pushing us that way, but there was a huge, rusty bolt sticking out of the dock on that side. Despite the confusion, Chris manoeuvred MOKEN in for a port side tie up without much drama while I tossed the lines to the guys on the dock. Soon we were securely tied and ready to start cleaning.

Next up, Nukaat shares his version of the events of the last few months.

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