Monday, 16 May 2016

17th May 2016 - passage from Mindanao to Palau

Tuesday 17th May 2016

A very Palau decoration
Our friend Kerry has requested a more detailed account of the passage from Mindanao to Palau.  It is still all a big blur to me, so I will refer to the log book; it has a better memory for the trip than I do! 

We have, of recent times, done six hour shifts, very regimented – six to midnight, midnight to six, six to noon, noon to midnight.  Pete decided five hour shifts might be better - just not quite so exhausting, a bit more variety and less regimentation.  He discussed this with me; by then I was beyond caring- six, five, twenty-nine…all the same to me.  But the five hour thing was probably a good idea, in retrospect.  We both got to see the sun coming up, going down, the stars in different positons, etc. 

There was no moon at all, and some nights it was so overcast we didn’t see any stars at all.

On our first day, to Tubalan Bay, we had both sails up, very confidently.  But from then on…no wind at all, no sails.  The mighty 2XS motors are so wonderful; they just kept turning over, all the way across the sea, never a hiccup.

We had, however, a bit of a personal hiccup at our anchorage in Tubalan Bay.  We were there with three other boats – Evia Blue (Holland,) Soggy Paws USA and Soggy Paws Australia.  It was very dark and we were anchored not far from a village with a very loud karaoke bar.  Not a problem; we know they turn off the music around 9pm.  But what was a problem was a small boat coming up to 2XS out of the dark, with men in uniforms, shining bright lights at us.  Pete went out and they said they were local police, or coastguard, or whatever, and that they wanted to now what we were doing in their bay.  The navy boats were at the mouth of the bay, but a long way from us and we were NOT happy.  Usually we welcome anybody and everybody on the boat.  But not at night in the pitch black, and…not now!!!

Just a few weeks ago a tugboat crew was taken hostage off the coast of Borneo (not so very far away…)by efficient-looking people wearing black uniforms and coastguard insignia.  So we were not being unduly sooky…

We got on the radio to Dave (Soggy Paws USA) who was very soothing and told us to send the boat over to him.  They were, of course, totally bona fide, and here had just been a tiny snafu – nobody had thought to inform the local authorities that there would be a convoy coming through with naval escort…OOPS!!

The rally boats, by the way, have got through to Raja Ampat, with two lots of escort (Philippines and Indonesia) and the accounts I have read on Facebook say, basically, “Much ado about nothing.” 

Hmmm…I actually don’t think it was NOTHING!!  And I am sure we would have been perfectly safe jaunting away back down there but…it was not a risk we wanted to take.

Soon after we had left Tubalan Bay the port engine room flooded and poor Pete had to spend AGES down there in the hot hot confined space fixing a hole in the exhaust.  I sat feebly at the side of the hatch, doing whatever was needed, and watching, with mild joy, a pod of small melon-head whales frolicking around the boat.

We were expecting to see lots of fishing boats after we left the coast of Mindanao, and in fact we did see just one, attached to a very big metal FAD (fish attracting device.)  This didn’t make us happy; these FADs can be BIG trouble, and they are very hard to see in the sea.  Impossible at night, and the radar doesn’t pick them up.

But in fact we didn’t see another single solitary boat until we were quite close to Palau.  Maybe one or two squid boats shining their bright lights far on the horizon.

There was a big swell – probably three metres most of the way – and the sea was making us move with what I found to be a very uncomfortable rock and roll.  Pete didn’t find it uncomfortable at all…It could have been worse.  I managed to do all of my shifts, and to do most of the washing up if not meal preparation.  But I was not a very cheery companion on board 2XS… (And…I didn’t vomit, always a plus!!)

I should get Pete to write a more informed account of this passage…All I wanted to do was sleep, every single minute I wasn’t at the helm.  And even then sometimes my eyes were closed…

Coming into the harbour when we reached Palau was very challenging.  Lots of not-very-helpful posts and poles in the water, lots of reef, lots of very confusing instructions.  I was no help at all…couldn’t read the charts, couldn’t see the reefs (it was very early morning and the light was all wrong.)

But we got there – well done Captain Pete!  And the officials at the port couldn’t have been more relaxed and helpful.  They didn’t even look in our cupboards to see if we were telling the truth about stowaways, weapons, alcohol, fresh fruit and veg.  everything was done on board with minimum fuss and maximum courtesy.  The young security man on shore looked at me closely as we were leaving to go and moor near the yacht club.  He said, “Ma’am, I think you should go and moor the boat then then you should go to bed.  You look very tired.”  Indeed…

Last sight of Mindanao

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Marguerite.
    Beautifully relayed.
    I did enjoy my one overnight passage with you and Pete but it enables me to begin to imagine how tiring this very long passage was, albeit intermingled with magical moments. Well Done Pete and Marguerite!!