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  december 2011


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01/12/11  Happy Birthday Ann!  Weighed anchor about 0930 to move a couple of miles around the point and re-anchor is what is known as "The Duck Pond", which may or may not, become a marina at some future date.  It's very small and is presently home to a few fishing boats, some military boats and a  half dozen yachts.  Like the Greek Isle of Simi, it involves dropping your anchor and reversing up to a rocky wall and taking two lines ashore to secure to whatever you can find on the shore line.  Although it's only about 4 metres deep, both Storm Dodger and myself dropped 40 metres of chain while backing up. (Later we were told that it isn't good holding and the anchors may drag in a squall).  The benefits of being here are better security, ease of getting ashore from a dinghy and a hotel complex with a swimming pool and wi-fi connections........I may get to update this blog at some point!! It's also a peaceful spot, surrounded by a palm fringed golf course with just the sound of the cicadas to disturb the quiet.  Roger finally saw a doctor at the hospital, where at one point they were going to keep him in on an intravenous drip. before then deciding on the results of various tests, that he could return home with double strength anti-biotics.  We will now have to wait a few days to see if it begins to clear up.

02/12/11  We all took a walk to the nearby shipyard this morning to try and get an 'agricultural' tool made up to shock the bolt off Roger's generator.  All we need is a short length of scrap 30mm steel with a half inch socket drive welded on one end so that we can give it a good thump with a club hammer to 'shock' the bolt into starting to turn.  The trouble was, we couldn't find any half inch square steel anywhere!  Maybe tomorrow we can get hold of a couple of 24mm sockets and weld them to a turning bar.  The rest of the day we spent in town seeing what various shops had to offer.

04/12/11  We finally managed to get the bolt and pulley off Roger's generator this morning!  Geoff (another yottie here) helped by welding a 24mm socket to a 12 inch by 1.5 inch bar of stainless steel and we gave it several hefty thumps with a club hammer.  Once that was off, it was relatively straight forward to remove the engine front cover and free off the troublesome fuel rack.

05/12/11  Carried out an engine oil change first thing this morning.  Rolf and Eva arrived in the 'pond' onboard Present and Roger and myself helped them with the stern lines to shore.  We later went into town and carried back a lot of heavy shopping such as drinking water bottles, coke, sprite etc.  Managed to then go to the hotel and update a bit of this blog.

06/12/11  Spent most of the day helping Roger with his dinghy which still deflates at an alarming rate.  We found one of the seams coming apart and glued that up again.  Time will now tell if it still goes down.

08/12/11  Re-launched Roger's dinghy which seems to be staying inflated far more than it has been.  Yesterday, Roger paid another visit to the hospital where it was decided that his foot problem was caused by some sort of parasitic worm found in sand and coral - more creams and tablets!  Today we decided to get our diesel and that proved to be a comical sequence of events.  The fuel is subsidised and most filling stations will only allow you to buy 20 litres in a jerry can, I wanted 100 and Roger wanted 220.  We knew that we could get a letter from the commercial department of government allowing us to buy more than the regulated 20 litres, so we went there by obtaining a lift from an off duty policeman.  We were questioned as to why we wanted the fuel, where we came from, where we were going etc., etc., but were duly given a letter each allowing us the required amount of fuel providing we got it today!  That was the next problem, getting transport!  Taxi's wanted too much money....so we harangued a few local market traders to use their trucks, but again they wanted too much money.  We finally went back to the shipyard, brought all our jerry cans ashore and then asked a lorry driver in the yard if he would be prepared to collect the diesel for us, to which he agreed......and for nothing!!  While in the yard, I helped Dominic, a French skipper to remove the oil seal from his engine crankshaft as he had no idea how to get it out.  Internet in the hotel has been down for the last two days - apparently because a rat has eaten through the wi-fi cables.

09/12/11  During the morning, I helped Roger with stripping down, cleaning and re-assembling one of his winches, then into town in the afternoon to the Marine Department, Customs and Immigration to check out of Malaysia in preparation for leaving tomorrow (weather permitting).  Intended destination is Pulau Banggi, then Balabac and onto Palawan in the Philippines.  The Kudat Golf and Marina Resort Hotel has repaired it's wi-fi cables and I've updated the photo's from Pulau Tiga.

10/12/11  Hauled the dinghy onboard, deflated it and stowed it away with Astrid's help.  Let go the stern shore lines and weighed anchor at 0830, Rolf and Eva having left onboard Present about an hour earlier.  We made our way northward under engine and genoa, making water for a couple of hours.  By noon I had to drop the genoa to stop it flogging in the south-westerly swell.  Because of the direction of the swell, we changed our intended destination of Pulau Banggi (the anchorage would be open to the swell) and moved slightly westward to drop the hook off Pulau Balambangan, where we were surrounded by dug-out canoes paddled by teenage girls carrying half naked toddlers, begging for food.  All three boats gave a little something to them.

11/12/11  Not a good night, the 25 knot winds continued through the night which made the boat pitch and roll somewhat, and I had serious doubts about putting to sea this morning to cross the Balabac Straits - well known for it's bad weather.  My thoughts were to stay at anchor and let the wind blow itself out but we all put to sea anyway.  It wasn't long before I regretted that decision!  The seas were rough, with 3 to 4 metre waves, a constant F6 wind gusting to F7 frequently and I had to wear harness and clip on in the cockpit.  With a half furled genoa and engine at 1500rpm, speeds seldom dropped below 7 knots and the highest I saw on the instruments was 10.2 knots as I surfed down a wave.  Inside the boat was a shambles, a bottle of orange juice broke and mixed in with six smashed eggs and a burst bag of rice which covered the saloon deck.  Everything else in the forward cabin broke loose and was rolling everywhere.  However, with the out of season SW wind, we made quick progress toward Balabac and by 1130 were approaching the entrance to Clarenden Bay.  We were now out of the South China Sea and in the Sulu Sea........in the Philippines!  Of course, the wind picked up at this point and blew hard across the narrow entrance.  I had no choice but to enter with the genoa still driving the boat between the shoal to port and the reef to starboard.  Once inside the bay, I furled the sail and anchored in 9 metres, close to Present with Storm Dodger a little astern.  The winds continued but at least we were sheltered from the seas which pounded on the reef on my port side.  Here, we had our first close up view of the Filipino fishing boats which all proved to be of the same basic design, be they large or small.  They consist of a main narrow canoe type hull with outriggers on both sides, the larger ones have a sort of bamboo scaffold type structure on the main hull and the 'driver' sits atop this structure, sometimes in a little wheelhouse type of affair.  Steering is by a fore and aft bamboo pole attached to a transverse lever on top of the rudder post. As we saw during the next day or so, these boats are extremely stable in rough conditions.   Later, onboard Present, I mentioned that the International Space Station was scheduled to pass directly overhead our position at 1827 hrs and I was delighted to see it - much brighter than I imagined it would be, and the first time I've seen it despite looking for it on many occasions.

12/12/11  After a peaceful night, we weighed anchor at 0630 and continued northward up the eastern coast of Palawan Island in somewhat more comfortable seas with an Easterly Force 4 wind helping us.  Again we made good progress and I saw 10.7 knots indicated on the speed over ground instrument.  My second reef point cleat for the mainsail ripped out of the boom during the day.   Our intended anchorage was discarded in favour of Pirate Island but I had serious doubts about my being able to anchor there, and on arrival my fears were confirmed.  Although Present and Storm Dodger were able to anchor, it was either too deep or too shallow for me to anchor safely and the sea bottom didn't shelve.....it came up in steps!  One moment I was in 18 metres of water, the next in two.  I called Roger on the radio and said I would find another anchorage across on the mainland island, then continued another 5 or 6 miles to anchor off Bonobono in San Antonio Bay.  Here, I was in 7 metres of water with good holding on a mud bottom and sheltered from all directions except the east.  I decided on a corn-beef hash for dinner but half way through cooking it, the gas bottle ran out, so...... change that in the dark (it's always the case).  From the after locker, empty out the funnels, two stroke oils, containers - including my newly acquired container for cleaning the air intake filter and a sudden roll caused that to topple overboard!  Cursing and swearing, I grabbed the boathook and gradually got it back to the side of the boat, laid on deck and hung myself overboard to grab it.  OK, change the gas bottle and put everything back in the locker.  Now try to open a tin of corn beef....Yep, the key broke off.  Get the can opener......worked alright on the straight bits of can but on the first corner, the can flipped over, skidded across the work surface and plopped into the sink of washing up water......aarghh!  Not going to give up, get out the trusty Swiss Army knife and get on with it!!

13/12/11  Weighed anchor at 0715 and made my way slowly south eastward, then eastward out of the bay to intercept Storm Dodger's course.  We then continued our north-easterly  course to anchor on the western side of Inamukan Island, which is in Island Bay,  just before dusk.  As darkness fell, the pale blue sky was peppered with thousands of fruit bats leaving the island and heading over us to the main island of Palawan to gorge themselves on ripened fruit.

14/12/11  A good, peaceful nights rest before leaving Island Bay at 0715.  Now the north easterlies have really set in and it was hard going, so we decided to anchor in the shelter of Emilina Island at 1245.  We took a dinghy ride toward shore and walked on the coral beach jutting out to the west of the island.  The main island of Palawan affords scenic views to the west, it's green and mountainous - quite different from all the previous islands of Borneo and Malaysia which all have a similarity to each other.

15/12/11  After another calm night, we got under way again at 0715 straight into the north easterly winds.  With two reefs in the mainsail and the genoa half furled, it was another day of slow progress in our intended direction.  Once more we anchored at 1245, this time  in the lee of Malanao Island and again took a dinghy ride toward shore, exploring a little inland up a creek in the mangrove swamps.

16/12/11  On our way again at 0630.  Once more I had two reefs in the main but the going was even slower in the two metre swell which later became a rough sea with short, steep waves - the very seas that Rhumb Do hates because they slow the boat down so much.  By mid-day, Puerto Princesa was in sight and the seas were now very rough.  I decided not to risk going on deck to lower the mainsail prior to entering the harbour and made thirty degree turns until I lined up with the entrance, easing the mainsail sheet each time.  The boat was now rolling severely and I was hanging on to anything in the cockpit that I could, so it was most disconcerting to see a lone fisherman in one of these small fishing canoes, nonchalantly fishing and watching me sail by.  I said they were very stable!!  Entry to the harbour gave shelter from the wind but more thankfully, the swell diminished!  The first things seen ashore were the dilapidated shanty towns along the shoreline, then a rather British looking church bell tower (except for it's blue paint job), then we saw a huge decorated Christmas Tree in what looked to be a park of some sort.  I dropped the anchor in the harbour at 1400, close by PFM and said 'hello' to John and Shiela whom I last saw up the River Klias.  Not five minutes afterwards, they up anchored and motored past me, shouting that they were seeking more shelter as a big storm was approaching.   Of course, we then had to get more information and nearby yotties, then the yacht club, told us there was a Tropical Storm (named WASHI) heading our way and it would be here tomorrow, either late afternoon or early evening.  Attempts to contact Present by VHF with a warning all failed because we knew he was having trouble with his radio. 

17/12/11  We decided to go into town in the morning, get a few supplies and get back to the boats for the afternoon.  It was a pleasant surprise to find the supermarket shelves stocked with quite a few items which we have been unable to get for some time, namely Pork, proper butter, crisps and so forth (they even have pork scratchings!)  On return to the yacht club, the latest weather info showed the storm had changed course slightly and that we were now in it's direct path, it's present position being about a half way between Mindanao Island and ourselves.  Winds of 60 plus knots are expected around 3am tomorrow morning and the diameter of the revolving storm is about 120 miles, travelling our way at 14 mph.  I let out 50 metres of chain, took down the genoa and stored it in the aft cabin, lashed the mainsail cover more securely and lowered the boom before lashing that to the bimini framework - I had already taken the bimini down for storing.  I also readied a second anchor to drop in case I have to dump the first.  The yacht club stripped all the furnishings, books, tables, chairs and anything else that moves in preparation for the certain bad weather.  Arrangements were made for Leah and Jordan to sleep ashore for safety.  Both Roger and I have tried on and off all day to contact Rolf and Eva onboard Present but there has been no response - I'm very worried about them and hope they are well sheltered somewhere for the night.  It's 8pm as I write this.......and there is nothing to do now except wait.

18/12/11  Any change in conditions awoke me as I dozed on the settee berth, at 2am the wind was zero knots, at 6am it was 25 knots......but apart from some heavy rain showers, that was all we got.  What wind there was came from the south east when we were expecting it from the north (the wind revolves counter clockwise in the storm) and the barometric pressure didn't alter by more than 2 millibars, which made me think that perhaps the storm had somehow made a drastic change of course.  A call from Steve on Gadfly seemed to confirm this, he'd had a SMS text from his girlfriend in Australia who told him the storm had passed to the south (more likely the north) of our position during the night.  Everyone seemed very relieved that we had escaped so lightly although we have had unconfirmed reports of fatalities on Mindanao Island.

19/12/11  Tropical Storm Washi (2011)  Still unable to get hold of Rolf and Eva and they are now well overdue in Puerto Princesa, I'm very worried about them.  Internet news reports tell of 650 dead, over 800 missing and 100,000 homeless following flash floods in Mindanao.

20/12/11  Concerned about Rolf and Eva, I put out an 'All Ships' call on VHF channel 16 first thing this morning, giving their last known position and course, asking that all ships keep a look out for the Swiss flagged missing yacht.  I spent most of the day trying to get my outboard engine to run but it won't!  I changed the fuel twice, cleaned and re-gapped the spark plug, cleaned out the carburettor and anything else I could think of.....but it still won't fire up.  Maybe tomorrow?  With much relief, Present sailed into the harbour about 1pm and anchored about 100 metres in front of me......so glad they are unscathed.

22/12/11  With the outboard engine now running (it was fuel contamination), I gave it a trial run over to Present and had a beer with Rolf and Eva who told me they had taken shelter in the walled harbour at Brooke's Point and the storm had passed them by, as it had us.  The local newspapers are reporting almost a thousand killed in the flash floods caused by Washi, which is named 'Sendong' in the Philippines.

24/12/11  I'm still having problems with my outboard engine - it runs fine in neutral but as soon as the gear is engaged, it doesn't want to know.  Abandoned that and went into town with Roger, Astrid, Jordan and Leah.  It was manic, the shops were crowded with Christmas shoppers, so we retreated to Bruno's Swiss Delicatessen for a while.  Slamat - Armin and Monica's boat - arrived in the anchorage during the afternoon, it will be good to catch up with them again over a beer or two!

25/12/11  Merry Christmas to everyone!  My apologies for the lack of e-mail greetings this year, I have been unable to get on-line for some days.  Thank you to those who responded to my SMS texts and I hope you all had a great festive season.  Here, it's baking hot and very humid.  Roger and Astrid invited me over to Storm Dodger for Xmas dinner along with Geoff, another single hander and we had a most enjoyable afternoon and evening.

28/12/11  After three days of daytime 30 knot winds, it's finally calmed down a bit.  We've been into town a couple of times, had a beer or two in the Yacht Club and generally chilled out.  Roger's foot infection seems to have cleared up well.

31/12/11  I transferred six jerry cans of fuel (120 litres) into the tank before the sun got too strong.  With my outboard engine now running more smoothly, I went over to Abanico Yacht Club and joined all the other yacht crews for a New Years Eve lunch.  I overdid it a bit on the pork, chicken, tuna (3 other fish too), potato salad, Scotch eggs, noodles, rice etc., etc., and spent the rest of the day feeling 'stuffed.'  No-one was going ashore for the evening as the best place to view the fireworks was from the boats and we had been warned that the Filipino's get a little crazy during the celebrations, firing guns in the air (and other directions), so I watched the displays from the cockpit.  The night sky was lit with thousands of fireworks from 6pm until well after 1am, the ships in the commercial part of the harbour sounding their sirens at mid-night.

So, that's 2011 over, who have we lost?  Johnny Cash, Steve Jobs, Bob Hope and Jimmy Saville.....or to put it another way.....there's no jobs, no cash, no hope and no bugger to fix it!!

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