All we have done is transit transit transit. We do it so much that it is starting to feel like a job, not an adventure. We have been pushing hard to make our checkout date. It is too bad really, Philippines has a great deal of beauty and interesting things but we have been moving almost every day between 60 and 80 miles, and only once at night since you don’t want to sail at night here.

After Cebu City proper we moved up to Pepe’s Boats Yard a few hours north of town. This place is full of people who get stuck working on their boats for years. Nice group though. The first night we went out to a BBQ place with all the yachties, I guess they do it every Friday. This was a OK but the really fun part was that it was our first ride in a tri-cylce. These things are amazing. They put 6 of us on one, Zach and Tim (from Camissa) rode on the roof! I think we really overloaded it and as we would pass by groups of locals they would point and laugh and take pictures with their cell phones. And it was Zach’s first taste of the road, I think he loved it.

After two nights in the “marina” we moved on. Getting out was almost as much fun as getting in since all the boats are tied to the opposite shore with ropes. When we came in we got a rope stuck between our keel and rudder, but on the way out we were a bit better informed so this didn’t happen. We put down 60 miles to a peaceful anchorage. The next day we did another 60 to stay off the town of Batan. Getting in there was interesting as the charts were way off and there was a very shallow bar to cross. Never have I seen so many fish traps and when I went to town to buy beer the locals all came out to see me. They were all very curious. The next morning we put another 55 miles down to Boracay.

Boracay is a zoo, a real zoo. There were no less than 11 parasails in the air at any given time. One of the charter captains there had to explain to us how to get behind the reef since the charts were poor for the area. Then when we anchored there were hundred of boats going by at all speeds. I thought we were on a sort of highway. The best ones though are the traditional crab-claw trimarans. They are set up for tourists but are still made in the traditional style and they are really fast. It was a pleasure to watch them zip around. After while though we went to town and it was like a Filipino version of Cancun. I did meet another MIT grad though and it turns out he was on a submarine back in the day. First one of those I have ever met outside the navy or MIT. So we had a bit to talk about. The next day we took our only overnighter to a place called Coron.

The sail was fine, nice and slow since it was only about 100 miles. But when we approached the beauty of the new island chain was stunning. It was very arid and reminded us of the Yasawas in Fiji. The sheer cliffs rising out of the water are breathtaking. Once we got into the town though our thoughts shifted elsewhere. There are tons of uncharted shoals in there and we tried to run aground numerous times. We thought of staying the night but we anchored in a narrow area and it was somewhat unprotected so Zach stayed on the boat and I ran to town and hired a tri-cylce to run some errands. Then we left for Popotaha Island where we anchored off the Coral Bay resort. This turned out to be a miserable trip though because there were enormous pearl farms taking up all but the narrowest of navigable waterways. So we had to stand a better than average watch, especially since the wind was up, we were driving into the sun and most the pearl buoys were black. Once we got the hook set though we were welcomed at the resort and had a nice dinner. The next morning was 75 miles to El Nido.

El Nido is probably the best place we have seen here so far. The rock formations are something you might only see in movies and the town is very quaint. We anchored in what seemed like a great anchorage but every so often the wind would pick up and it turned into a wind tunnel. The holding was fantastic though so it was not really a problem. We met some other travelers at a beach bar and took them sailing the next day. The wind was up so it was maybe not the best experience, but I think they had fun. When we finished we went to a beach out of town for dinner. The first dish to come out was one of the guy’s curry and as soon as it hit the table something climbed up my leg. WTF, it was a monkey. It then jumped on the table and ran over and grabbed some cabbage out of the curry and ate it. The it jumped back on me and shook its hands off all over me. I brushed it to the ground and went to wash my hands. When I got back a dog was standing on our table licking up the rest of the curry. Ahh, what a classy place. It was a shocking yet humorous experience.

Then the next day we left at 6 am to make an 80 mile day to Ulaga Bay, opposite Puerta Princessa on Palawan. The trip down had wind coming from one direction and swell from 90 degrees off so we got tossed pretty good for 12 hours of the 14 hour trip. Then we came into the narrow Oyster Bay in the dark. This would be OK but the chart datum is off so it was hard to know where anything was. We almost ran aground on a reef but managed to get anchored safely. We used the radar to figure out how far off the chart was then drove slowly in a 600 foot per side box the make sure the depth was there. Then we anchored right in the middle of it. Later that night, it was so calm and clear that you could see all the stars reflecting in the water. I don’t think I have ever seen that before.

All in all, I wish I had more time for the Philippines and I leave with very mixed feelings. It is one of the most crowded countries on earth and you can tell, but there are places where you won’t even know there is civilization nearby, it can be so remote. There are also tons of things to see here but we missed pretty much all of them as we spent too much time in Cebu and then had to transit every day. The one thing we really wanted to see was a new natural wonder of the world, an under ground river that is navigable for 20 km or so. But you must apply a week in advance for the permit and we just learned about it, well, about a week ago. Too bad. The sailing here has been mixed, either too much wind or too calm. Only a few days were great and all of the anchorages were barely adequate for one reason or another. But we also missed some of the better places as we moved so fast. It is as everyone say – don’t have a schedule or you will miss too much. One thing about the Philippines though is that the people are very friendly, even if the ones in boats never wave.

I am in the process of checking out now. It was a very long dinghy ride to the pier and first I stopped at the navy pier. There were no signs or anything so I just assumed it was the town pier. Then I saw the guys with guns. I turned around before they saw me, as I don’t know of a single navy in the world that likes it when foreigners just show up. Anyway, it turned out to be a 1000PP ride to town. That’s like 25 bux, I thought I was getting ripped off but it takes 2 hours one way and the driver is taking me all over.

We leave for Brunei as soon as possible. This should be straightforward but there are many oil and gas fields and dangerous shoals that must be avoided. They have funny names too, one is called the Insect Putty Billiard Room. How do you get that name for a shoal? Then on to Singapore. It is hard to believe we will be in Singapore in three weeks or so and then Thailand shortly after that. Very soon we will put the boat on a ship and say good-bye for awhile. Then Zach will really get to know the road and how most people his age travel.