5:49 pm Thursday June 27
We were safe and snug in Illultuk Bay, Calauit Island Busuanga. Only problem was that we ran out of fruit and veggies but had plenty of everything else. I made bread and brownies! Our last two nights we had dinner with Carol and Brian who are cruisers from New Zealand. They had fruit and veggies so we contributed the meat and wine and brownies. They came Monday and we all toured the Safari Park together. It was great company and we had fed some animals. When we get to somewhere that has wifi and we have lots of time, maybe I can send some photos finally.
We will spend tomorrow in Coron.11′ 59″ 751 N 120′ 11″ 899 E are the coordinates.
For everyone who worried, sorry! Our friend Carol who lives in Manila had us covered!
Fueling the Boat
The price was right and the fuel dock was just down the river. So Monday Randal and I went to fill up. Hashim, one of the marina supervisors came with us. We got 1500 litres @ 1.88 ringits per litre (393.3 gallons @ $2.03 US per gallon = $804.49 ) Only Hong Kong, back in July 2007, was cheaper. The most we have ever paid at one time was in Subic Bay. We took on 1,321 gallons and paid a total of $3,579.91. The most we paid per gallon was in Makassar in August of 2008 where we paid $3.26 per gallon. Divide the amount of fuel we had bought prior to our Terengganu purchase over the time cruising so far and it equals about $182 US per month. Randal says that’s not really the way to do it, but it does give you an idea after I write that we just put $804 of diesel into the boat. I wouldn’t want anyone to think we do it very often. We burn about 1 and 2/3 gallons per hour. We also burn fuel when we run the genset at anchor to charge the batteries.
Maybe this spreadsheet will make things clearer.
There were other boats at the fuel dock so we pulled alongside and tied ourselves to one. Hashim is in the red hat. The fuel worker in the white hat came aboard DoraMac for a tour.
I don’t know his name, but he was 22 and not married. He said he needed to earn money first. Smart young man! He was polite and helpful too. Randal made a flag bandana hat for him.
The fuel intake has a red cover so there is no mistaking it with something else. You can see our bow line leading from DoraMac to the one we are tied to. I had to throw the line and hope I didn’t mess up because we really didn’t have time for a second try. There are no brakes on a boat.
We’re the boat on the left!!!!
I really had a hard time interpreting this photo, but the real green and brown fishing boat is the one on the right. The image of the boat on the left is all reflected from our boat. Even the blue and white fender on the left is a reflection. The green paint on DoraMac is reflecting back all of that color…pretty amazing to me.
The bank of the Terengannu River.
A fishing boat going by.
See all of the lights? They are used for night fishing to attract the fish to come to the surface. When we make night passages you can see the lights from miles away even. With our radar set for 3 miles, you don’t see the boats on the radar but you see their lights. Makes me nervous though I am getting better at trusting the radar. The bridge at the top of the photo is the one we ride over to get to town. On the other side of the bridge is the Crystal Mosque.
We are on Romblon Island and in Romblon town. Romblon is known for its marble and we will go on a tour this morning to see some of the quarry/factories. Romblon hasn’t become a tourist destination yet and it’s very nice and the biggest place we have been since Subic. Weather has been lovely. We were invaded by young children Sunday morning just as we were in China. They stayed for cookies, mountain dew and to get flag bandanas. Sweet cute polite kids. In the afternoon boat friends Chris and Mylin drove us up to their lovely mountain home overlooking the bay and their sailboat. On our first day out from Puerto Galera we saw wonderful magical dolphins, me for the first time.
Got to go. Not sure when I can email again.
June 10, 2008
We left Sabang and took the one road that really leads anywhere; the ridge road back to Puerto Galera from Sabang. Many people take bancas to get between places along the coast and “driving” to Coco Beach we found out why. We turned off the ridge into the woods onto a bumpy dirt road. We stopped at a sign nailed onto a palm tree indicating Coco Beach was down a dirt path into the woods. Dante parked our red minitruck and we all got out. With Dante as our leader we started down the path into the woods towards Coco Beach.
Looks like we will be leaving Puerto Galera early tomorrow morning and heading to Marinduque , Romblon, Santa Fe,Mangarin Bay and onwards. Not sure when I will email again. I will text our friend Carol and ask her to email my sister Harriet who can let you know we are moving along. We will also try out our sailmail if we can’t find any wifi and we really need to email. I am way behind on writing up our Puerto Galera adventure and hope to do some today.
I will send out an email when we can receive email again. We will check one more time this evening, but after that it might be a bit.
Randal checked the weather and it predicts calm seas with tiny waves for the area we will cruise. Last November when we were here with Nick and Zaida we had bumpy seas back and forth from Marinduque to Puerto Galera so had to layover in Marinduque and skip our trip to Romblon. There were little stingy things in the water in Marinduque so we couldn’t even swim. Now with our new wetsuits, that won’t be a problem though I think we won’t have time in Marinduque since it is just an overnight anchorage between here and Romblon for us. Romblon is known for its marble work so that should be interesting.
I am sending this myself from the Rock nRoll Cafe. Tomorrow Randal and I go on a real dive and we’ll use our own equipment to test it out. No tasks to practice, just follow the dive leader and look at fish.
Today was frst day of school here. It was so cute. Kids looked so full of promise. Sad since there is not so much opportunity. They had uniforms and funky backpacks. The big ones held the hand of the little ones and everone looked happy! It was the end of the school day; so maybe that was why all the smiles.
Will work on sending more photos of our adventures with Carol.
Go Sox! Go Celtics!
Puerto Galera with Carol # 1
Randal is in the galley making us our first pineapple shake. I just tried it and you can almost imagine rum in it: it tastes just like one of those wonderful bar drinks with the little umbrella and cherries hanging from it. Yum! One day I’ll be brave enough to make us avocado shakes.
We just had the best weekend visit with our friend Carol Carino. She came to visit and she took us on a tour of Puerto Galera! We visited Escarceo Point Lighthouse, Coco Beach Resort, Tamaraw Falls, Calapan, Ponderosa Golf Course, White Beach and had a special breakfast and tour of The Moorings, a hotel and resort just up the hill from the Puerto Galera Yacht Club. Carol had stayed with us in Subic Bay when we were tied to the pier, but was afraid that the boat motion here would make her seasick. So she stayed at The Moorings and asked them to provide her with a car and driver. The “car” was a converted mini pickup truck with two benches set up in back. It was bright red inside and out, cute and actually quite comfortable. And we covered some really bumpy, hilly terrain. Between us, Carol and I took hundreds of photos. My favorite is the one where I made friends with a water buffalo! Carol took lots of photos of that and some video too. The pictures from the top of the old Escarceo Point Lighthouse are neat too. And then there are the ones from the VM restaurant in White Beach where Carol and I had really great Halo Halos. We saw beautiful scenery, ate too much food, and had an altogether wonderful time that was way too short.
Carol came Saturday late morning. Her driver, Michael, took her from Makati to Batangas where she caught a morning banca ferry to Puerto Galera.
After she checked into The Moorings and got settled she had her driver take her to Muelle Pier. Earlier in the morning Randal had gone to Sabang to pay for our Scuba outfits and was on the pier in the Rock N’Roll Café at the computer. He stayed there, but Carol took the service boat to DoraMac to bring us some vitamins. She had been kind enough to bring us a gift of Caltrate for me and Cardio vitamins for both of us. Carol wants us to stay healthy! About 11 she and I took the service boat back to the pier and we made our plan for the day. In trying to plan for Carol’s visit I had read about the Escarceo Lighthouse just outside of Sabang. Amazingly in our prior trips I hadn’t walked there. It is slightly uphill and about a mile out of Sabang the opposite direction from Puerto Galera. Carol’s driver Dante knew the area and took us there on our way to lunch in Sabang. The landscape and 360 view was lovely.
Then it was back to Sabang and lunch at Portofino.
After lunch we went off on another adventure, to Coco Beach Island Resort. Coco Beach is between Sabang and Puerto Galera so was on our way home. It was supposed to be a nice place to swim so we thought we would check it out for another day. It was much more interesting than a simple resort. More like a socially responsible resort that was trying to maintain the environment and offering good work to local families. I’ll tell you about it next email.
As of about 2 pm this afternoon, Randal and I are certified Open Water divers. I would like to have opened with something more profound about the beauty of undersea exploration. But the truth is most of the course was a profound struggle for me. The actual swimming around underwater looking at neat stuff was fine. It was everything else that was really hard for me. Hard enough that at one point Simon was making me tell him why I was doing the course, for me or for Randal. Simon was our instructor and the question was asked because I was stumped at a very important part of the training. If I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t go on to complete the course. No way around it.
The course to become an Open Water diver is the first level of Scuba diving. You only are advised to go down to the depth of 60 feet. If you only go down that far, you don’t run into the issues that deeper dives can have, like decompression sickness. You also aren’t trained for high altitude dives or really cold water diving. We are certified as beginner divers who can do recreational dives to see fish, coral reefs, and what is hanging onto our propeller or anchor. Those were our goals. Simple. Reaching them, not so simple.
Of the two of us, I’m the one who really likes being in the water. If there is a chance to swim, I’ll go in. I grew up by the ocean. Randal grew up in the mountains and can swim, but it isn’t just great fun for him. But, of the two of us, he had the easier time learning the basics of SCUBA. The tanks, regulators (breathing apparatus,) underwater compass all made sense to him almost instantly. I still need to be told lots of the steps to hook up the equipment and take it apart. By the 4th day I was better than the first, but not competent, not yet. I even managed to put my leg through the arm of the wet suit preparing for dive 3. And our 4th day, I put the suit on backwards, at least as far as I could before Randal pointed out what I had done. That wasn’t so bad to undo. But getting my leg out of the sleeve was a real task. These suits fit snug as it is, so the sleeve was way tighter than the leg. I can laugh now. Then I was hot and stuck! Simon was kind enough to say he had seen it all before. He also said some folks had quit the course when asked for whom they were doing it. Simon looks like a British version of Matt Lauer of the Today Show.
Over the 4 day course we had to learn emergency procedures. How to drop off your weight belt with one hand; how to take off and put on your BCD vest underwater (vest that holds the tank and every other piece of equipment and helps you go up, down, or float around.) We had to learn to switch from our main regulator to an alternate regulator, our own and our diving buddy’s. We had to simulate being out of air and take our buddy’s alternate regulator. To teach us what it would feel like to be out of air, Simon turned off our air supply from the tank to the regulator. Randal went first. He did fine. I didn’t even let Simon get half way with turning it off before I made the out of air motion and grabbed for Randal’s alternate air supply. I felt like I was out of air. None of the tasks that got between me and my supply of air were easy for me. And it is air, not oxygen in those tanks. Filled they weigh 20 lbs though felt like 200 to me wearing it and my 12lb weight belt out of the water back to the dive shop.
We did class work, beach work, and a dive each of the first two days. Each dive itself was about 45 minutes. Randal and I got to Action Divers at 9 am in the morning. The first day we ate lunch about 2:30pm. The second day it was 4 o’clock before we ate lunch! Full days. I was totally exhausted at the end of day 2. We also then had to walk the mile from the shop to catch a jeepney from Sabang back to PG. Very tired. Our 3rd and 4th dives were several days later. Randal had developed an ear infection. No diving with ear infections. He put in ear drops and took amoxicillin and we were able to resume diving 6 days later. I honestly felt as if the reprieve were over. Our 3rd dive was the watershed for me. It was do the emergency tasks that scared me, or quit. There was no way around it To pass the course you have to be able to deal with water filling your face mask or even losing your face mask. You can’t just pop up to the surface, fix it all and go back down. And you can’t hold your breath while you replace your mask. That actually would make it easier so you don’t accidently breathe in through your nose. You have to keep breathing through your regulator and not breathe in through your nose at the same time. You can NEVER HOLD YOUR BREATH WHILE SCUBA DIVING. The air in your lungs compresses as you go down. It expands as you go up. If you hold your breath and go up, your lungs over expand and cause significant problems. Plus, it might take a bit of time for you or your dive buddy to find your mask. And, you may be down too far to just shoot up, while exhaling, without hurting your ears or causing other problems. EXHALING IS NOT HOLDING YOUR BREATH. And besides all of the safety issues, you don’t want to waste the time or air. Your dive buddy has to stay with you so would have to go up too. Lots of reasons why you have to deal with the mask skill. I struggled and struggled. When our friend Audrey took us for a scuba lesson in Subic, she tried to teach me to clear my mask. It is very helpful for snorkeling too. I couldn’t do it. Even though Audrey is a professional dive instructor, she didn’t push it; we were just there for an introduction to diving, not a real course. With Simon we had to try it during dive day 2, but only to begin to try. I actually didn’t understand how it worked so was doing it wrong. Simon showed me and Randal practiced with me on our boat. I even practiced with my snorkel, putting my face in the water with no mask and breathing through my mouth (snorkel) and not also up my nose. I got one tiny, very tiny bit better. Yesterday, dive day 3, it all came to a head. I couldn’t fill my mask and clear it. Each time I would try I’d get water up my nose or down my throat. I would shoot to the surface and yank off my mask. Simon would have to come up. Randal too. Randal to check on me. Simon to make me go down and try it again. Simon actually let me get away with only half filling my mask. But then we had to take the mask completely off and replace it. At that point my nose and throat still burned and I just wanted to cry. I wanted Simon to say, I could skip it, but I would have to learn on my own. Simon couldn’t do that. He is a professional dive instructor and we were doing this for certification. Randal was able to do it. He tried to help me. Simon told me I could do it. Any time I questioned equipment or anything, Simon said it was just because I was nervous and if I would just relax and do it, it would be fine. (I do think the regulator mouth piece was too big, but I obviously could use it.) Simon bases much of his teaching on the belief that people take the course because they want to dive and will do what it takes to learn, conquer any fear and learn any skill. If one can’t learn a skill, they just don’t want to enough. There is much truth in that. The confrontation came after I had taken off my mask, replaced it, cleared it and then shot to the surface and whipped off my mask. Simon was really frustrated that I could do it, but not stop panicking anyway. “Why are you doing this course? In your heart do you want to dive? Do you want to explore the ocean bottom and see fish and things? Or are you just doing it for Randal?” “If in your heart you want to dive, you’ll conquer your fears.” Simon asked me these questions to make me decide what I wanted to do, keep going, do the skill, and dive? Or did I want to quit? I certainly wanted to quit trying to learn that mask skill. But I knew I wanted to keep going, not just for Randal. But I couldn’t promise Simon that I could take off and replace my mask. I could hardly breathe at that point. I just wanted to cry. That had happened at Outward Bound one time when I was faced with a physical challenge that scared me. I stopped to cry for a bit, got it out of my system, started to breathe normally again and went on. I did the same thing, cried a bit. Put my mask back on, went down and found a way I could do it. It involved holding my nose part of the time. But I got my mask off, back on and cleared and stayed at the bottom. I felt like a kid who had cried about getting a shot and then it really didn’t hurt. I felt both successful and foolish that it had taken me so long with such a struggle. Simon dealt with it. He told me that people have stopped the course at the point when he asks them that question. I really do want to dive to clean our boat bottom, free snagged anchors and even see some neat fish and things. Not just for Randal. We did a dive and practiced other skills like going to the surface when almost out of air so just exhaling and not inhaling at all. That dive was 45 minutes also and then we had to walk forever back to the dive shop through the low tide. I thought my knees would buckle from the weight. When my friend Martha and I walked the Coastal Path in Wales we carried at least twenty pounds, all day for 3 days up and down hills and that didn’t seem so heavy. This partly empty tank weighed a ton. While we were taking apart the equipment and rinsing it in fresh water, Simon told us our 4th dive would be from a boat and we would learn new skills and do the mask removal again. I wasted time worrying about it all night and all the next morning until I actually did it during the dive and it was fine!
Yesterday was our 4th and final dive. It was the day I made sure I didn’t put my leg in the sleeve; instead I put the suit on backwards and had to change it around. It is like pulling on a very thick, wet, too small bathing suit that covers you whole body. Trying to pull it up over my hips and butt was a real challenge. We got our tanks ready and I remembered half of the steps, put on our booties and weight belts and, since it was a boat dive, climbed up the ladder into the banca that would take us about 10 minutes out to a cove for our dive. My friend Shelly Shuster said she fell off the ladder getting onto the boat for her 4th dive. I could see how it happened and almost did the same thing but for the boat person hanging onto me for dear life. You walk up a steep narrow ladder while wearing your weight belt. When we got to our dive spot, we anchored and put on our BCD and mask. Sticking our tank and butts over the side, one at a time we fell a few feet backwards down into the water. Doable, though I think I forgot to pump up my BCD as full as I should have. You keep one hand on your mask and regulator so they stay put and one hand behind your head in case you bang into something. I don’t remember having my hand behind my head, but I know I had my hand on my mask and regulator because they stayed put. Our next task was to learn to use our underwater compass. Randal got an A+, I got a D+ but I have an idea how to do better. Then we did an emergency ascent with Randal breathing from my alternate regulator. That was fine. Then we had to do the mask task. I did it first try with my convoluted nose holding method. I kept my eyes open so I could see what I was doing and that works better for me. You can’t see clearly of course, but well enough to make it less scary. Then we went for a dive to practice buoyancy. You use your inflatable/deflatable vest, weights, and your breath to keep yourself in place and not float away or float to the bottom or surface. Your weights are fixed but you can use your vest or breath. If you start to sink you inhale deeply and inflate your lungs. If you rise too high you exhale a lot more than you breathe in. It does work, though takes lots of practice. We practiced for about 30 minutes of that and then it was time to get back into the boat. I was actually sorry the dive ended, amazing since I had been dreading it earlier in the day.
Back at the dive shop I stayed in my wetsuit so Randal could take a photo. I have kind of a dazed expression and you can see the impression of the mask on my face. There was just too much activity with another boat of divers coming back for me to take a photo totally suited up. We changed and finished our final log entry. Simon filled out our temporary certification and we were done! Certified. Even me! Thanks Simon.
Another group of divers preparing for a dive. Just at the water’s edge right in front of the shop is where we practiced our skills. Then we would swim out further to the reef and look at fish and things and practice buoyancy.
Dazed and confused! The wet suit kept me warm in the water. Though the surface water was quite warm compared with Atlantic Ocean swimming, 15 ft down and 30 ft (our boat dive) it gets colder. Also, it kept the stinging things from being annoying. Randal and I had to do a swim and tread water test after one dive class and we had no wet suit. The stinging things were only annoying. Can you see the mask outline on my forehead and cheeks?
Saturday, May 31, 2008
I am sitting in the Rock N’ Roll Bar fighting with my email, my new blog, and following the Red Sox. I could tell you that my lucky red Red Sox ring broke and that’s why they aren’t doing so well lately. But it broke after they started losing. And I did lose my Red Sox hat in 2007 in Sai Kung the day before we left to come to the Philippines; Sox won the Series in ‘07’ so it’s not the fault of the ring.
I am realizing just how spoiled I got when we were attached to the docks at Hebe Haven and even more in Subic. In lots of ways it was just like living at home without TV. And even then we could get one channel with Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives and the Gilmore Girls till it ended. We had AC and unlimited water. You stepped off the boat onto the dock and could be on your way. Very different when you cruise. You have to provide everything for yourself.
We have to make our own power, water, and transport ourselves from boat to shore. There really isn’t enough power to run the AC, so we don’t. I don’t mind, but Randal suffers from the night heat. You have to think before you use anything that drains a lot of power, even our electric kettle. We can make enough water fairly easily so that’s good.
Because it is the “slow season” here the service boat has limited hours. Sunday through Friday it runs from 8am to 9am and then from noon to 9pm at night. If you miss it, you swim back to the boat. Remember when Randal missed the last boat back at Christmas time? Only the goodness of a few hearts got him back to our boat that night. Friday it runs from 8 am to 10 pm and Saturday from 8 am till 9 pm. Randal is also dinghy captain and he doesn’t want to mess with it, so we aren’t. We really haven’t needed it yet; our schedule matches the service boats. We have to be in Sabang for our SCUBA class by 9 am so have to catch the early service boat anyway. Scuba class lasts from 9 until late afternoon. Other days it’s nice to have the quiet morning on the boat to read, paint or even swim around the boat area. Randal works on boat things and I do laundry if the genset is running to charge the battery bank.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
After my internet session and after the 10th inning of the Sox Orioles game, Randal came back from getting a shave. It was his turn with the computer so I went off to the town center. It is just about a half mile walk along the main road that curves and goes down the hill to the row of shops and activity. I stopped in one of the little office/school supply shops for a notebook. I have decided to go back to keeping a paper journal; power and wifi being iffy. Just a pen and sunlight are needed for that and no power crashes can lose everything you just struggled to write. There is just something more fun about pen and paper anyway. I ended up buying 3 smallish notebooks for a total of 67 pesos. The last time we checked in Sabang it was about 43.20 peso to the dollar. It has gone up a tad. Not much money to us, but I thought that it would be a luxury to some school kids here to have more than one. Not that most of the kids look “poor.” They all seem energetic and happy and just the right size. Filipino women are my height or shorter than I am. None of them seems to weigh even 100 lbs. I stopped to try on a top the other day and it needed about another half yard of material to fit me. First the adorable “small” Muslim woman said it fit because it was “an extra large.” Then she told me leaving half of my top half uncovered was the style. Not my style…. I was trying it on over a tank top so maybe that was the problem. Maybe I’ll get one for when we are making a passage and there will be no one to see anyway.
At the small supermarket I bought some more amoxicillin, no prescription needed. Randal is taking it for his ear infection. One does tend to self medicate when cruising. Especially on a long 5 to 15 day passage, there is no other choice. He is improving and the swelling on the side of his face is going down. But still no diving today either. I bought some Ritz like crackers and some other cracker that resembles a saltine and some brown bread. It was bread delivery day so it was available. Since it is the off season, bread and yogurt don’t disappear in 20 minutes from being shelved. And the market isles were not jammed packed. Last December, between the heat and the crowds it was quite awful to shop. And truly hard to find bread. I headed back to the pier stopping to find where the post office was located. It was closed with no hours posted. I’ll have to check during the week. As I was walking, I spotted the most pathetic dog. Its hips were rubbed raw and it was very thin. I thought, no pretty scenery or inexpensive trinkets or moorings can make up for how sadly the dogs and cats are treated. They aren’t mistreated, but totally neglected if they are strays. There is no neutering so lots of unwanted pets. Not that there are roving packs of animals. I am afraid to think why that might be. But just too many mangy skinny looking dogs and cats. It puts me off. I couldn’t think of how to rescue the poor dog; we can’t possibly take an animal. So I walked back to the pier and found Randal still on the computer. I left him there, stopped at Brettos for yogurt and caught the service boat back to DoraMac. I finished my painting and wrote in my new journal. When Randal returned it was time for mango shakes. I also started cooking vegetable soup, the best way I know to use vegetables before they can go bad. I even threw in a half cup of rice that cooked as the soup simmered. Pretty good stuff, and healthy!
Jan from south of Copenhagen stopped to visit about sunset. Randal met Jan at the Classic Club Thursday. Jan is an experience diver so after a tour of DoraMac, we talked diving for a bit. Then Jan was off to his boat and Randal and I tested the veggie soup. By 8:30 Randal was off to sleep and I read for a bit more. By 9pm I was ready to call it a day too.