Subic to Borneo Adventure: March Highlights

It’s June and we’re sitting here on MOKEN in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. I’m reliving what we did in March on our way south from Subic Bay as I put this blog post together. It’s a good thing we keep a log and take lots of photos, or I’d be totally at a loss. So much water has passed under us since then.

March 1-31, 2018: The beginning of March found us still hanging out on a mooring at El Rio Y Mar at the north side of Busuanga Island. Chris got our outboard purring and cleaned the hull below the waterline, while I continued cleaning and polishing things topside. It really is like they say: cruising is fixing (and cleaning) boats in exotic locations.

Our buddy Dan arrived for a short visit with his girlfriend Nicole and we hung out at the Reef Bar together with our new Aussie friends, David and Marjorie. The following day, fellow cruising friends Melinda and Brian arrived on their Hans Christian named Velella, together with their friend Trish, and we spent a couple of days catching up. In the six years that we’ve cruised in the Philippines, we haven’t come across a lot of cruising boats, and those we do see are often the same ones we’ve met elsewhere.

After more than a week on the hook, we finally decided it was time to move on, so the next morning we made our way to Coron, where we stocked up on fruit, veg and prawns at the market, then ran around town picking up bread and assorted groceries. We were soon back on board with the dinghy stowed and underway en route to Busuanga Bay, aka Puerto del Sol, aka Pearl Bay.

There’s been an explosion of pearl farms along this route and it was interesting to see the fields clearly visible on our radar, clear enough that we could actually see the channels between the various fields, which are much harder to spot with binoculars. Nearby, close to Lusong Island, we spotted one of the boats from d’Divers and our regular dive guide, Mensoy, who gave a big welcome back wave. It wasn’t long before we were moored in the bay.

 

Sadly, the condition of Puerto del Sol’s mooring field has gone seriously downhill since our last visit, and we tried three of them without ever feeling particularly secure. To add insult to injury, the mooring fees had increased and were no longer consumable. Add in the lack of mobile coverage in the bay and it was no wonder why the mooring field was empty. All the other cruisers were anchored in the outer bay for free, where the cell service was better.

After a warm welcome back by all the staff at Al Faro and a couple of days of hanging about, we decided to take a break from the bay and motored a couple of miles north up the coast towards Concepcion town. As we anchored, our chain counter went on the fritz, so we decided to backtrack to the bay.

This time we settled on the ghost mooring in the middle. With no float on it, it wasn’t the easiest one to spot, but the eye was in much better condition than most. We also picked up a marina membership at Busuanga Bay Lodge for one month. This gave use of their pool, showers and gym, free water fills at the dock and discounts on food and beverage.

 

For the rest of the month, we alternated between working on MOKEN, cooling off in the pools at Al Faro and BBL, reading, working on the blog, diving on the WWII Okikawa wreck just outside the bay, watching racers in the Philippines Hobie Challenge, and hanging out with old and new friends: Ann and Mike, Dan and Nicole, Pedro and Neria, Thomas and his son Kai, Pablo and Beatrice, Jimmy and Nanita, Brian and Donna (Furthur), Danny and Yvonne (Thin Wolf), Sie (Freebird), David and Queenie, Phil, Peter, Luke, Tobie and Damian. There was a bonfire on “the island”, the occasional motorbike trip and day trips with Pablo and Bea to Calumbuyan Island and the Concepcion waterfall.

 

After a couple of weeks in the bay, we made a return trip to Coron for provisions and to pick up our anti-skid paint. After lunch, we hired a trike driver (Cris) to take us to the port to get our package of paint from Broadwater. It was quite a process. First stop, pick up our bill of lading from the San Nicholas ferry office. Then on to the port warehouse. Here several guys hunted for our one box for nearly an hour among thousands of other boxes. There didn’t seem to be any sort of logistical system in place here. Next we paid a six peso warehousing fee on the far side of the port. Once we returned with our paperwork, we received another receipt. With this in hand, our trike driver ran our papers around to two more stops. Finally, we could take our box out from the port, after first handing over our final receipt at the gate.

 

On this visit, there were a lot more cruising boats in Coron harbor, including another meet up with Melinda and Brian (Velella). They joined us for dinner at La Sirenetta and for lunch at Sinugba Sa Balay the following day.

After two nights in Coron, our fridge, freezer and pantry were restocked, our bills were paid, our cash and petrol supplies were replenished, our dinghy was lifted in place and we were ready to head back to Busuanga Bay. That’s when we experienced the unthinkable. Suddenly there was a poo fountain spurting out of the holding tank vent for our aft head. Ewwww! Crap geysers are no fun, but apparently not all that uncommon in the yachting world. At least it spewed overboard and not on our deck.

Boat work never ends but it does give us a sense of purpose and some structure to our days. After morning coffee and WiFi time, we usually spend the mornings on boat-related projects and cleaning. One day, Chris fixed our windlass. Another day, we took MOKEN to the dock at BBL to fill our water tanks and wash the deck. In exchange for the time Chris fixed a sliced radar cable on Danny and Yvonne’s boat, they bought us dinner at Al Faro. Then there was the day poor Chris had to jump into the dinghy and try to clear that blocked sewage hose that had resulted in the poo fountain. He even attracted the attention of a huge banded sea snake in the process. One of his more pleasant projects was hooking up and testing our FLIR. This infrared and low light camera will be a useful addition to the navigational tools at our disposal on our upcoming multi-day passage to Borneo and other night passages in the future. Chris also worked on a couple of aft wiring projects related to our VHF antenna and swim deck camera.

Mid-month, Chris announced we have a battery problem. Oh boy. When Chris tested our batteries, he discovered one dud. This meant he had to disconnect two (as they are paired), and left us with only four house batteries. Charging improved once the dud was removed, but we will need to monitor closely and replace them once we get to Malaysia.

Being so far from home also has its challenges. For several days, I’d been trying to reach my dad in Canada by phone and email with no luck. After checking with some of his friends and the staff at the retirement community where he lives, I finally discovered that he was in the hospital. When I called, the night nurse gave me an update on his condition and told me he would be in for a few days while they tried to drain fluid from around his heart, run further tests and get his issues sorted. Luckily, I have great friends who also checked in on my dad and provided me with follow-ups over the next few days until he was discharged. Extra special thanks to Marnie at Elim, Jenny, Shelley, Bernie and Rita.

 

Feeling a bit more confident that my dad was being well looked after and on the road to recovery, we rented a motorbike and rode north through Salvacion and Busuanga to spend a day at Ocam Ocam Beach. Here we found a long stretch of white sand beach with basic Filipino-style beach resorts, huts and hammocks. The water was clear, the beach was mostly clean, and the place was very relaxed. It was so much better than the bustle and mess of Coron, but I expect this will all change in time as development has already started unchecked. We found just one small resto on the beach. Fortunately for us, we were the first to order lunch. Later on the place was packed and the poor lady working there on her own was run off her feet, taking orders, cooking and serving.

Our April adventures are coming next. Stay tuned.

 

 

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