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.

January 2012 Progress Report

Here is a completed navigation station. Unfortunately, this is on one of the other Mumby catamarans at Tim's Beach Boatyard. Our nav station is under construction , seen here on the left.

The interior fit-out continues slowly, but the finished product is stunning with hard wood floors and shiny panels with rattan cupboards.

Steve writes a good summary of the boat progress through December:

Work on Silver Tern is going as fast as can be expected, but still slowly. After foaming the interior, the foam was cut back to be flush with the interior aluminum framing. Then, strips of thin plywood are glued to each other to make a template which is used to cut a fiberglass sheet to the exact size needed.

A panel is then cut to match the pattern, with the edges sanded down to allow the panels to be joined together.

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The panels are then glued to the foam and aluminum interior.

Ceiling panels must be propped up until the adhesive dries.

After being glued in place, with the joints being perfectly aligned, the joints are then taped with fiberglass tape in order to make the interior a one-piece fiberglass shell.

The taped joins are then faired out with a gelcoat filler, and then sanded with sandpaper starting at 220 down to 1200 grit, then polished. This results in an essentially perfect joint (completely invisible), but requires hours of work per inch of joint and there are several hundred meters of joints on the boat.

Right now, most of the walls are done, ceilings in the aft cabins started and the shelves for the lockers have been made. Next will be the faces for the lockers (the doors are almost done) and the countertops for the galley and workshop.

We put the fridge into the galley simply because there was no place to store it. It is far too large to carry up our fire escape. So, to the left in this photo there is a space for the kitchen sink, across from that will be the stove/oven. We think the galley will be really functional.

Just forward of the galley is the “Executive Cabin”. To the left in this photo is a double bed and forward of this cabin is the starboard head with shower.

On the Port side, instead of the galley there is a workshop and forward of that is the laundry area which has a small washing machine, the watermaker and hot water heater. Forward of the laundry area is the port head, also with a shower.

Aft on both sides are aft cabins with nice berths and lounge areas over the engines.

The saloon area is yet to be started, nor have the floors. but we are assured that all of these things will go rapidly once underway. We have yet to start exterior painting or deck rigging, but that will all have to wait until the two boats in front of us have their exteriors finished.