After my exciting arrival through the reef to Pelau and a calm nights sleep I spent the next morning getting the boat into a more respectable state. I was then informed that I would need to move Dolce. Not so easy for me to do without any wind or an engine. Thankfully my neighbours on Yacht Kate were awesome and offered to help. It wasn't easy or pretty but Steve and his dinghy managed to tow Dolce over to her new mooring.
I then SUPed my bike over to the dock and cycled 20 km across a few islands to the hotel where I was to meet Julie. The ride took me through the commercial center and most populous island of Palau, Koror. The country has built up a successful tourism industry catering largely to the Japanese and Chinese. Apart from the government officials I didn't meet many Palauns as many of the service jobs are handled by Filipinos or other foreigners.
Julie’s flight arrived quite late at night and she wasn’t expecting me to meet her at the airport. It was a pleasant surprise. My flesh eating bacteria wounds were not so pleasant of a surprise. After a few days on land I had the honour of introducing her to Dolce. Was she impressed? Hmmmm… I doubt it.
I gave her a brief lesson in how to turn on the engine and maneuver Dolce out of the harbour, something I had never done before. It was a pretty straightforward task but a boat certainly does not handle like a car. I knew (hoped) she’d be fine. I wanted her to take the helm and motor in and out of bays and anchorages that would have been dangerous and quite challenging to sail out of. It would enable us to go places that otherwise I would avoid due to my strict adherence to no motorized travel.
You may be asking yourself "Why bother?" Why not make an exception here and there and use the motor for convenience and safety. It comes down to a simple commitment and challenge that I made for myself. I know it’s possible, even though many people for some reason think it’s impossible. It’s a slippery slope when you start to slide. Why not just take one quick flight so you can get to that island to see your friend? Why not hitch a ride when your bicycle falls apart and it’s monsoon raining on you in the pitch black? Because I wouldn’t be doing what I said I was going to do. Because I already make enough compromises in life. Because it’s fun. Because it’s different. Because I can.
I was a bit nervous putting Julie at the helm all by herself without any practice and very little guidance but I was guessing that she was even more nervous, so I tried not to show my nerves. The fact that the charts in Palau are not super reliable and the depth sounder was only working every other time added to the stress. I hoisted up the anchor and hopped on my SUP, leaving Julie to start the engine and make her way out of the harbour between the two buoys that marked the shallow reef on either side of the entrance.
First mate Julie did a fine job and I was soon back on board raising the sails to go explore the Rock Islands of Palau. They are pretty awesome uninhabited jungle clad islands that pop out of the reefs like green mushrooms. Hundreds of them. The sailing inside the reef was by far some of the most pleasant sailing I had experienced on the journey. Having a talented and lovely first mate along for the ride made it that much better. Julie and I had planned to sail from Palau to the Philippines together where she had booked a flight home from, but the weather had different plans.
It might have been for the best as Julie was not feeling great on the calm waters in the reef. It is likely that she would have felt the full brunt of seasickness on the open ocean passage. Especially if I had decided to push on in marginal weather that other cruisers were avoiding. She was still keen to attempt the crossing but it was in part due to the fact that she had booked a flight and didn’t want the expensive hassle of changing it. I think she also wanted to prove herself a worthy seawoman. That she did!
Julie successfully maneuvered Dolce in and out of several tight reef passages without issue while I watched nervously from my Paddleboard. No nerves necessary. Like a pro. My Flesh eating wounds were looking good enough that I finally decided to get back in the ocean and do some snorkelling. I couldn’t pass it up anymore. I’m glad I didn’t. Crystal clear water and fascinating creatures awaited us below the surface.
Julie was bummed she wouldn’t be able to sail with me and she had an annoying time trying to change her flights. In the meantime we had met Andy and Audra who were also waiting for the weather to pass in order to cross over to the Phillipines. It turns out Andy and I had been sailing almost the exact route and boat across the Pacific and we had actually crossed paths in Majuro without saying hi to each other. He said it was my fault but I’m pretty sure it takes two…:)
Not only was the weather preventing Julie from Sailing with me but it also meant that I would be late to meet my brother Trevor in the Philippines. He was soon to arrive and would only be there for 9 days. I had also changed my mind state into thinking that from that point on I wouldn’t have to sail solo, which had briefly comforted me knowing how busy and challenging the waters of the Philippines can be under sail power alone.
Julie managed to figure out her flights and I emailed Dave to see if he was up for a little sail to the Philippines. Julie and I then sailed back out to the Rock Islands for some more exploring. When we returned a few days later I received an email from Dave saying he had booked a flight to Palau and would arrive in two days.
When Dave arrived we all went for some tasty Indian food and it started to torrential sideways rain. We parted ways after dinner in a full on storm. Julie and I had conveniently decided to sleep on shore that night. Shortly after we got to our room I thought it would be a good idea to call the marina to see how the boat was. I was on someone else's mooring who had informed that he would kick me off of it if a storm picked up and he needed to move his boat from the dock. This storm had come out of nowhere so there was no time to do so. I ran a km or so in the torrential sideways and arrived at the Marina to a much worse situation than expected.
The boat of the guy whose mooring Dolce occupied was bouncing around like crazy and ready to rip apart the dock at any moment. I asked him what I could do, knowing full well there wasn’t much I could do, or much I wanted to do. He was clearly a bit pissed. Not so much at me but at himself for having let me occupy his mooring. I gave him his space as he frantically figured out what to do. If he had insisted that I motor Dolce out of there I would have no choice, but boy am I glad he didn’t. He found an empty and equally secure mooring to use.
I was nonetheless curious how Dolce’s mooring lines were holding up and decided I would go check on them. Not happening. When I got to the end of the dock where the tenders and my SUP were tied I discovered nothing but the severed leash of my SUP. Dolce’s main tender was lost at sea.
The next morning I awoke early with hopes of finding the SUP somewhere down wind of where it was torn from the dock. I didn’t have to go far. I bicycled to the neighbouring bay where a big resort was located and spotted it up against the rocks of a nearby island. I jumped in the water and swam across the bay to discover she had survived the storm with just a few scratches.
Julie flew home the next night as Dave and I continued to eye the forecasts for a reasonable weather window. It wasn’t Typhoon season. We’d be fine right?…