Friday, June 1, 2012

Kudat, Malaysia to Port Carmen, Philippines

Silver Tern at anchor in Port Carmen, PI

We had a successful shake-down cruise to Kudat Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. We left in late April after securing our port clearances and returned mid May. We had the wind behind us both directions as the weather changed from NE to SW monsoon winds. Unfortunately, they were very light winds and we ended up motor sailing or just motoring most of the way, almost running out of fuel on the way there.

We had a crew of four, so the night watches were easy. We had two overnights each direction. On one of my night watches(Pat) I had light from the half moon, shooting stars, and saw no boats. On another, I had a dark, squally night with lots of small boats around, fishing with nets that had strobes on them. The boats themselves were unlit until we were close, then they turned on a flashlight. We were lucky in that we passed the Manilla to Mindanao shipping lanes during the day and were able to see and avoid the freighter traffic. Another new thing for us out here are FADs, fish attracting devices which are floating posts or buoys that have materials under water that give small fish cover which in turn attracts larger fish. Amazingly enough, they are anchored to the bottom in waters that are many thousands of feet deep. FADs are extremely common and are a serious hazard to yacht navigation throughout S.E. Asia. Nice to have an aluminum boat.

Under spinnaker, making 6 knots in 5 knots of breeze
Freighter traffic in the Sulu Sea - this is a good distance from one of these ships
Our crew, Terry and Mira

We anchored the boat with stern ties to a seawall in a protected, safe bay at the Kudat Golf Marina Resort. There were about six yachts there with room for at least ten, more if they raft together. The resort is friendly to boaters, has good food, wireless internet, and is just a short walk to town. It wasn't too difficult to find on our way in as the hotel has a tiled orange roof. We left the boat there for a few days to tour Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan. I spent my birthday viewing orangutans at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. We arrived right at feeding time. The next day we visited another feeding station, for proboscis monkeys. Malaysia is a developed country with clean modern cities and well run ecotourism. The population is mostly Muslim; friendly, honest people. Like the rest of the world, the population is growing and environmental problems are multiplying. In Malaysian Borneo, the native forests are being replaced by palm oil plantations at an alarming rate. The habitat for all sorts of rare animals, from orangutangs to rhinos is rapidly disappearing. It is still a great place to visit and cruise.
As we left Kudat, we got a breeze from the west and put up the sails. Ten minutes later we were in the edge of a squall and the knotmeter read 17.3 knots. We eased the traveler and settled down at a very sedate 12 knots. Doesn't take much wind to make this boat go, with any wind at all we sail at 7-10 knots. That afternoon, we visited a limestone cave on a small island north of Borneo. Not a tourist cave, just a cave that some of the locals guided us to. It was spectacular. The next day we set off northeast across the Sulu Sea. An uneventful passage (best kind).

Silver Tern secure at Kudat Golf Marina Resort Anchorage

Orangutan mother and baby

Pat and friend

Young male proboscis monkey

KK Mosque

Downtown Kota Kinabalu

We returned to Port Carmen and waited for the next high tide in order to trailer the catamaran up on the beach and into Tim's boatyard. While at anchor, we met the new owner of another Mumby cat named Tank Girl. Erik took some great photos of our boat. The other two Mumby cats had already returned from their trip and we were placed next to them in the yard. Tank Girl, a Mumby built by Jay Hopcus from Palau, is also hauled out now in order to have some work done to her interior. So, right now, there are 5 Mumby catamarans in Tim's yard, another one on the way from Australia, three being built across the bay and two more out in the bay.

Dinner aboard at anchor
 The following fish-eye photos were taken by our friend Erik.
 Cockpit looking into saloon


We are now heading back home to Canada for 6 months. The boat will remain at the boatyard and Tim will continue to supervise the rest of her her fit-out. There is still a lot of finish work to do on the interior panels, as well as hard wood floors to be installed and bogging and painting the exterior, etc. We really appreciate the quality work that gets done under difficult conditions there and look forward to returning at the end of the year to celebrate.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Shake-down Cruise to Malaysia

Silver Tern is almost ready for her first cruise. We have been working overtime to get her finished enough for the April 10 high tide that allowed her to float off the beach at Tim's Beach Boatyard and into Port Carmen Bay. We anchored out for a night and then motored down to Cebu Yacht Club where we are spending a week. We are finishing some critical projects like installing lifelines and winches outside, & lights and plumbing inside.We are also receiving visits from different government inspectors such as customs for the boat and it's contents, maritime industry authority for being a newly constructed vessel, immigration for our crew, & quarantine for pests. They want to make sure we are taking all the duty-free items we shipped in back out of the country, and that we are not smuggling any drugs, guns or young girls. Mostly we are finding officials that are willing to speed up the bureaucratic process for extra fees, and we are paying them after reducing their requests a bit.

The reason we are rushing so much is that the three Mumby boats that were built by Harwoods only had one year to keep the duty free items we sent up from Australia here before being required to pay fees or exit the country with the boats. So all three of us are headed to Kudat, Malaysia. And all three of us will then return to the boatyard after and continue our fit out. Steve and I are looking forward to heading home soon after that in early June. We are exhausted but have a great 3/4 finished boat to show for it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Christmas Holidays in the Philippines

picture above- Steve & Pat on holiday - Boracay Island, Philippines

After a far too brief return to North America, we came back to the Philippines in late November. The culture continues to both amaze and fascinate us. Being here at Christmas time, the strong Catholic presence is felt, with the entire culture being very bound up in the Christmas spirit. Not nearly as materialistic as we are used to (these folks have no money) but lots of singing, feasting and revelry. We had a medley of Xmas carols sung outside our windows every night for several hours for the whole month of December. While we tired of the music, the spirit and enthusiasm of the little kids was fun to watch. The funniest one was being woken up at 5 am with Christmas carol karaoke.

Some of the bigger holiday parties around here are hosted by employers. Our little boatyard hosted an incredible party for its 20 "boys" or young men who work on our boats. There were caterers, seafood delicacies,roast pig, cakes, drinks, decorations, tablecloths and a live band. It was the nicest event any of them had ever attended.

The makeshift boat yard was a great venue, with the space under the bows of one catamaran being an ideal backdrop for the band.

For presents they got sacks of rice, food baskets, and some toys if they had kids. Not much for us, but meant a lot to them.

Our next door neighbor has been raising pigs for the past several months, this is the season when they are most valuable as there are lots of feasts. We have learned that the aroma of pig pens tends to waft upwards, so we on the 4th floor get an especially good sample of it. Also, pigs squeal when displeased, unhappy or scared, which is much of the time. It is an unearthly and alarming noise. We will be glad when the last of the pigs are gone. Speaking of pigs, several weeks ago, we came home and found a small (40 lb) pig and a small goat tethered along the narrow walkway that leads to the fire escape that we use to get up to our apartment. After asking, we learned that the second floor tenants were having a holiday party for their company in our back patio area. Naturally, Pat fed the pig and petted the goat. A few days later the pig and goat were on the BBQ and the centerpieces of a local feast.

We missed being with our families, especially on Christmas Eve, but had to make do with using the high tide to pull Silver Tern a bit further up on the beach and rearranging the sand bags that support her during the low tides (I have such an amazing wife). After pulling the catamaran up, we looked across the bay and there were fireworks. Driving home about 11 pm, (about 1 mile), we passed lots of revelers and partiers, it turns out that the tradition here is to stay up until midnight on the 24th and then have what seems like a New Year’s eve ceremony, complete with firecrackers, fireworks and lots of music, ranging from sappy Xmas to raunchy rap. We passed a very full trike (125 cc motorcycle with covered sidecar) and I asked the driver how many people were on it. He thought for a second and said “I think 15”.

The weather here is another challenge, being hot and humid even though this is the cooler, drier time of year with the NW monsoons. In one day you might have thundershowers that soak through your clothes in less than a minute followed by intense sunshine that makes the aluminum boat deck so hot you could fry an egg on it. But we are sweating it out and enjoying the holidays.

The one restaurant in our small town of Carmen had a Christmas party on the 23rd for the locals and invited the foreigners too. Santa gave out bags of candies to all 50 kids that were there and they put out two buffet lines, one for adults and one for kids. They had lots of food for everyone which is typical of parties here, people have very little but they love to share and enjoy each other’s company.

On Christmas day we went on a Hash Club run and had a pot luck turkey dinner after. I made the Strand’s cranberry jello salad and mashed sweet potatoes. The slow cooked turkey and fixings were wonderful and reminded us of home.

Boracay Island

We got invited to go along with Ben Mumby, his younger girlfriend Jenny and her Filipino family to Boracay

for a holiday and naturally jumped at the chance to sail on a Mumby catamaran. We were impressed with the sailing as well as the accommodation on this catamaran as there was plenty of space for everyone.

Boracay is a small tourist island north of Panay Island that is a real tropical paradise due to its white sand beaches and palm trees. It has many scuba diving resorts and lots of cafes along the beach that serve inexpensive pina coladas and ice cold beers. We spent New Year’s walking along Boracay’s white sand beaches watching fire dancers perform at different beachside restaurants and waiting for the midnight firewoks.

The island is far enough away from Cebu that it took a few days to get there since we don’t travel at night here if possible. We had two overnight anchorages, one at the north end of Cebu Island and the other on Gigante Island anchored in front of a charming fishing village. Our Filipino family was disappointed that the squid fishermen had sold their catch of the day, but promised to have some for us on our trip back, which they did. I had time to walk the beach and pick up beautiful shells, since very few shell collectors visit this out of the way island.

The only one who didn’t enjoy the sail was Ben’s dog Jack, who was seasick and scared the whole trip.

Anyway, while work on the boat progresses slowly, the workmanship is excellent and the interior will be beautiful. Steve is able to install equipment as he works around the 6 boys that are gluing up wall panels. It's so much nicer here than the old boatyard. We don't know how long the fit-out will take, but we are being patient and trying to enjoy the Philippines.