This was the message that I received so many times before arriving in the Philippines. There had been some bad press recently. It highlighted how quickly and easily the media can shape people's perceptions about a country and all of it's inhabitants. People told me that Filipinos were pirates, that they weren't friendly to foreigners, that I would be killed. They clearly had never been there. None of these people would warn me before going to the United States, but the odds were greater that I would be killed there then in the Philippines. It was one of the most friendly and welcoming places I've ever been to. I love Filipinos!
I was more nervous about being with my sister on the ocean in a confined space. No need for concern! I was amazed how well we got along. It was awesome. I'm still waiting for her to write a blog about our time together. For now I will skip ahead to when we parted ways.
Boracay was a bizarre place to say goodbye to my sister. It was a tourist trap. Once a beautiful tropical beach paradise turned into an overdeveloped and overpriced sewage hole. A few months after we left there, the notoriously nuts Philippine leader Duterte made a controversial (and smart move in my mind) to shut the tourism down in order to deal with the environmental disaster that was taking place. It was an economic shock for many people but I think drastic times call for drastic measures. The economy will be healthier if the environment is healthy.
The day after my sister left me, Dave arrived to accompany me for the final leg to Hong Kong. It was nice to see him again. We sailed out of Boracay heading North about 250NM towards a port where we could officially clear out of the Philippines. Then we would make our way across the South China Sea to the Asian continent. We decided not to sail at night to avoid the thousands of unlit and somewhat chaotic fishing boats.
The wind would determine where we stopped and how long it took us to get there. It took longer then expected. The wind wasn’t so helpful and safe anchorages weren’t plentiful. The ones we did find were quite ideal. A short SUP to small and pleasant beachfront towns. Crystal clear blue water. Hot hot hot.
After a week the novelty of cruising on a sailboat had worn off somewhat. It was much more interesting to head into the small towns and get stared at like some sort of alien. The adults who didn’t start a conversation hid their curiosity quite well, but the students and children were amazed, stunned, entertained, and sometimes scared all at once. The looks were priceless. Sometimes I’d mirror their expressions to inform them of how hilarious they looked.
One of the days we set sail and were quickly fully reefed in an uncomfortable beam chop. We battled for a couple hours before deciding to turn around and head back to where we came from. We weren’t expecting such rough weather in the somewhat protected waters of the Philippines. It was nice to return safely to a calm anchorage and not worry about being blown into an unfamiliar coastline on the other side.
The first yachts we came across were in Puerto Galera. As welcoming as the yachting community is we tended to feel a bit out of place among the retired western folk. They always hung out where stuff was more expensive and their privilege wreaked of colonialism. Kidding…sort of. We did meet a friendly Italian singlehander who had been sailing around the world for most of the last ten years. We enjoyed several meals and good stories with him.
When the weather looked good enough we aimed north to do an over night passage to Subic Bay, where we hoped to clear customs and immigration. Our route took us past Manila Bay and the chaos that would surely be present in front of the Capital.
Without a clear alternative we ended up paying a small fortune for the Subic marina to assist us in clearing out of the Philippines. It was clearly a corrupt situation. We got out of there asap and headed up the coast towards Hong Kong. Half a day out we realized we were running low on propane and decided it would be best to be safe and fill up at the nearest town. That was easier said than done but eventually I managed to find a new bottle and adapter that would work for us if needed. We were off with no plans of dropping the anchor until Hong Kong.
The weather changed those plans in a hurry and a day later we were back close to land on the northern tip of Luzon. We decided to wait out the rough seas for the night. I was hoping to explore the nearby town but we raised the sails in the early morning when the wind picked up.
Boy did it pick up. 30-35 knots were soon blowing us towards China. We were fully reefed and Dave decided to put up the storm jib. It was rough and an exciting undertaking that saw him holding on for dear life as waves engulfed him on the bow. He managed without the need for much assistance from me. I filmed him as best as I could. :)
Soon after we saw a sketchy looking black boat crashing through the waves nearby us. It was cool to have the waves put in perspective with a boat at least twice the size of ours. Not surprising to see it disappearing beneath the large swells.
Later that day I spotted a bizarre looking thing moving slowly into our course. As we sailed closer I was able to make out a massive barge with an oil rig on it’s side being transported to a drill site. I’m sure it would be a tricky maneuver to get that monstrosity up right and into place on the moving ocean. I have troubles picturing how they managed to do it.
Dave and I were changing shifts on average every two hours. It was rough and we needed to be alert to the situation on deck. At night it became much colder as we neared China. I wore my merino wool for the first time since the passage from San Francisco to Hawaii.
On one of my shifts I was on a collision course with a ship that was laying down electrical cable. They made sure I stayed well out of their way, which meant we backtracked for over half an hour. I’m pretty sure it was unnecessary but I had no intention of pissing off the Chinese. Assuming they were Chinese.
Two days out of Hong Kong is when the sea became very busy. Our AIS was lit up with ships on all sides. I had become more comfortable around big ships over the course of the Ocean but being in the vicinity of so many was new to both Dave and I. It was nerve wracking at first but we quickly became used to dodging the traffic without issue. It would have been much more comfortable if any of the ships actually used their radio to communicate with us. Perhaps they would have if we were speaking their language.
Spotting land was wonderful. In my sight was a destination that I had dreamed of for many years. It was a bit surreal. China was visible on the smoggy horizon. Hong Kong was mixed in there somewhere. I would soon be on land for a long period of time. Asia awaited.
Sailing into Hong Kong was a bit less dramatic then I had expected as most of the large buildings and skyscrapers were hiding behind the mountains of the island and the mainland. Our destination was Hebe Haven Yacht Club which is in a nice protected harbour on mainland Hong Kong territory. As we approached it was pleasantly surprising to see so much undeveloped and uninhabited land on the island and hills surrounding the metropolis.
Not knowing exactly what to expect in the crowded harbour area, Dave dropped Dolce’s sails as I hopped on to the SUP. I would arrive in Asia the same way I had left North America almost exactly one year ago, by paddling an inflatable stand up paddle board to the outskirts of a major port city.
I guided Dave onto a dock and stepped onto shore. Wow. We had done it. 8,333 nautical miles (15,432 km) across the Pacific in a 9m boat. Half of it I was singlehanded (solo).