Posted by: powellpjc | May 13, 2011

Hiding from weather.

They tell you to watch the weather reports every day here in
the Philippines, for typhoons begin in the month of May. Well, they actually
begin in April but main season is June-November with outliers in May, December.
So, I’ve been a good boy and have been watching the weather web sites.
Yesterday a low pressure system just off Palau caught the interest of the meteo
boys and today they graded the TRS (tropical revolving storm) as 95% likely to
develop into typhoon. The track was predicted to give me grief. The harbour I
was in (Port Carmen), rarely sees typhoons—the last event was 30 years ago, but
the winds then were 130kts—but one cannot rely on statistics. The anchor
holding was poor where I was so I decided to haul up and find a better harbour.
The nearest was Isabel, about 30 miles away. I had a lot of work to do.

I had to buy things. I flagged down a jitney driver (they
call them ‘Trikes’ here, but I’m using a word that is deep in my memory and may
come from India) and hired him for the day. First off—buy diesel fuel. One does
not pull up to the pumps with one’s yacht. One schleps jerry cans from the
yacht to the dock and schleps them via transport to the nearest gas station.

Fuel here is the same price as it is in Canada. At least it
was until the Conservatives took hold of the reins yesterday.  Maybe way better now in the old home town.

The fuel was easy to buy. Rode 7 km in jitney, shaking
kidneys all the way and filled jerry cans. On the way we stopped to replenish
the gin larder. A ‘twenty-sixer’ here costs $1.95. (One dollar, ninety-five
cents.) I loaded up.

Next stop: buy 2 roasted chickens for the sailing trip.
Spicy and peppercorn whole chickens. Total cost=$8.00.

The chickenmonger chops up my chickens.

Lifted anchor at 1pm and motor-sailed to Port Isabel.
Arrived in the dark, in pouring rain and dodged a few fishing spiderboats on
the way in.

Failures along the way:

  1. new nav-warning lights that I bought in Danao.
    They cost .50 each and made in China. Ok, no big deal.
  2. watermaker high pressure line (new 3 months ago)
    burst. Big deal.
  3. new electric windlass (purchased in Tahiti 7
    months ago)—would not drop anchor. Will lift. Thank god for small favours.
    Still, a big deal.
  4. One bilge pump. They fail so often I’m losing
    interest in the bilge.
  5. Dinghy sprung a leak sometime today. Too much rain
    to patch it buy there are lots of water taxis so don’t need it. Minor deal.

I think I am well-anchored and in a much
better spot than I was if the typhoon picks up speed and heads this way.

I guess we will see.

I have no internet access on boat here so I called a friend,
Dick Courtis on my new cellphone and he dug up the latest info on the TRS for
me. Looks like it will pass well east of here. We are now experiencing 20 kts
wind and relentless rain but no drama and I don’t expect any.

I flagged down a water jitney and went into the market.

Water jitney driver, Jessie, holding the steering mechanism in his right hand.

Bought shoes ($10), chocolate cake, fresh oranges from Florida (!!), 2
pineapples from here, all manner of fresh veggies except lettuce, dozen eggs, 1
kilo fresh shrimp ($10), 2 kilos local rice (.95), and a Manila newspaper. When
I got back to the boat I had 7 eggs intact and a pretty squishy looking
chocolate cake. The joys of sailing/backpacking. I did have two offers of
marriage, though, which is not a bad start.

The fish market in Isabel.

And the veggie market. Nice tomatoes at last.

Hope to head north tomorrow or next day, depending on the
TRS track. The sailing here is wonderful. Just like on a big, warm lake. No
big, scary waves and you can see the next island when you set off. And
everywhere you park there is a village with market and friendly folk and a hell
of a lot of fish and seafood on offer. Small fishes, to be sure. These folks
have hammered the waters for centuries and continue to do so but there must still
be enough critters to go around. 84 million people don’t live on bread alone.

Next day update:

Made error in port selection. The wind got up at 7 a.m.
Saturday morning and the sea shortly thereafter. The rain got biblical. All the
spider boats moved across the harbour for better protection and I decided to
move also, but I left it too late. The driving rain made it hard to see
anything and the boat was hobby-horsing up and down so much it was too
dangerous to try and lift anchor. I need to put engine in forward to get it
moving, then in neutral, dash to the front of the boat, lift 20 feet of chain,
dash back to cockpit to get boat moving again. Just too tricky on wet, heaving
deck. I did start the motor and rode it out. Six hours of unpleasantness but
the anchor did not drag and I was fine. By 4 p.m. it had eased enough so I
could go into town in water jitney with my laundry. My jitney driver took me to
his house where his wife will do it for me. Pick it up tomorrow (Sunday). Also
will go to the next town where there is a proper bank that will accept my ATM
card and replenish wallet.

Winds abated nicely during the night so in the morning I
took a 12 passenger van into the city of Ormoc. There were 19 of us in the van.
Found a proper bank and was able to score some cash. I could see the wind
getting up in the Ormoc harbour so I turned on my heels and returned the 1 hour
to Isabel. It was Sunday morning and the great Filipino fighter, Manny Paquiano
was duking it out in Las Vegas. Wherever there was a t.v. there was a crowd of
men watching the fight. The guy on the van beside got a round by round text, so
I kept in touch.

Sure enough, in Isabel the sea was up. The water jitney guy
wanted double rate because of the big swells. My laundry was delivered to the
wharf just in time, still wet but clean. I started the engine on the boat and
waited. The rollers were coming in at 8 feet and moderate wind. The guy beside
me was a 500 footer general cargo ship. I watched him. He was dragging his
anchor. I put my binos on his bridge deck and no one about. I called him on the
radio. No answer. A couple of deckhands were fishing off the aft deck. I called
a couple of tugs that were cruising the harbour. No answer. I called all of the
8 big ships in the harbour. No answer. I finally said, “Ok, boys, you may not
care, but the ship beside me, the ‘Queen of Joy’ is dragging and will be
aground soon. “ Ten minutes later she broke loose and went hard aground. The
boys stopped fishing and looked puzzled. A tug came by an hour later and pulled
her back into deep water.

The 'Queen of Joy' goes hard aground and the tug, belatedly, comes along to pull her free. I warned 'em.

My anchor, the Bruce, was dug in well in the mud and
I did not drag an inch. I fled the harbour at nightfall as soon as the wind
dropped enough. So long Isabel. Never coming back.

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