Monday, 4 February 2013

Arrived in Philippines

It took us just over four days to sail from Palau to Philippines and we couldn't really have asked for a better passage. It was only on the last days that we had a ton of squalls and variable winds. Anyway, a nice passage was especially nice after our last two uncomfortable passages. Sure, Sophia was still rolling around, but it wasn't too bad (eg throwing us across the saloon) and it is to be expected on any open ocean passage and especially with such a relatively light boat as Sophia. The plus side of her being light is we very often sail with just head sail and no main, where as most other cruising boats need both sails. One interesting thing about our passages in general is also that we have never been becalmed, well, not for more than a few hours anyway at the most. We wonder if that is just our luck, or if it's because even in very light winds we still manage to sail (and we're OK with only 2-3 knots of speed sometimes), where other boats can't sail. 

Out first impression of Philippine landscape is it's as green and lush as all the other islands we have visited on our way, and we have even seen quite a few nice beaches as well. The only problem so far is there aren't as many anchorages as you'd think. Not around the Hinatuan Passage anyway. We tried finding a spot in a really neat lagoon on the east coast of Bucas Grande Island, as it was indicated in our guide book (old and not very detailed, so that doesn't help it much either) as a possibility with a stern line ashore, but we only saw 35 m depths and shallow coral on the shore lines, although we did not search the whole lagoon. Instead went to the only other anchorage by Lapinigan Island and we only just made it before night fall.

There we even had the typical island welcome committee, two out-rigger canoes with motors came zooming up to us, one of them waving a tuna, and they told us which side to go around the island (south) because of power lines and where to anchor. Andrius, the one with the tuna, was quick to come and visit us after we had anchored off his village. He was keen to chat, he has worked two years in Qatar as an electrician and his English was pretty good. After a great sleep (and a yummy tuna) we went ashore to visit the village the next morning. We got the same royal treatment like in Melanesia with a huge entourage of curious kids following us around :-) Andrius told us 1000 people lived in the village, although that seems exaggerated, maybe he just wanted his village to sound more impressive. But there sure was an astonishing amount of kids. The biggest change from Melanesia is that they have electricity. This electricity also powered a karaoke place which explained the terrible music we had heard the night before. The houses were about the same or maybe slightly better, although still shags by NZ standard, for example many don't have glass for windows, just holes that can be covered. The houses were also crowded together really close. People were were super friendly and smiley, as far as we understood, we're only the second yacht to visit in several years!

We then sailed to Surigao, thinking we had gotten the tide right the day before when we were going through the first pass with a bit of current with us, but we ended up having the tide against us, a few times we were down to 0.8 of a knot on the gps, but doing over 7 knots on the speedo with the motor in high rev and head sail up helping as well! It was pretty much just about dark when we finally arrived, so we were very happy to drop the anchor. Surigao is a fairly big place with 130.000 inhabitants, and a ton of boats and ferries around, but being dark we couldn't really do or see much, so it was interesting waking up the next day! We walked into town, not sure what to expect on a Sunday, but most shops and all street stalls were open and crazy noisy busy traffic on the streets. A bit of a shock to the island mojo we have been in for over half a year! And we feel like giants walking around towering at least a head taller than all the Philippinos.

Today, Monday, we spent all morning with customs and immigration, mostly just waiting, but in the end, we are not even fully checked into the country, that will have to wait until Cebu City. We are now waiting here until tomorrow when Sheralee arrives, as she can fly directly and cheaply to here from Cebu City rather than ferry and bus to where ever else we might be. Then it's time to see as many islands and beaches and do as much snorkelling as possible for the next 9 days she's here.

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