After leaving Kudat, we made our way across the Balabac Straits to the Philippines. We Travelled fairly quickly as it was October and almost time for the monsoon season to switch from SW to NE. We checked in a Puerto Princesa, stayed about a week sorting out phone cards, internet access and shopping. From there we mainly day-hopped along the east coast of Palawan, up to Coron in Busuanga, then across to Mindoro. From the northwest corner of Mindoro runs the Verde Island Passage, where the wind funnels through the islands. As we turned to corner heading east to Puerto Galera, we were hit with 30+ knots on the nose, along with short, steep waves that made progress, even under full power and reefed sail, exceedingly slow. We reckon it was one of our worst days on the water. The 40 odd miles too more that 12 hours. It was with great relief that we entered the port at about 8pm, met by the service boat of the Puerot Galera Yacht Club. We were taken to our mooring, tied on and we collapsed.
PG is a fairly small town, it's a tourist destination for divers. It has a supermarket, many small stores, restaurants and bars of course. The PGYC has a great restaurant/bar and to visit, we just had to call up the service boat who would then take us over to the club jetty. The mooringss are very good and serviced every year. Just before we left for Sydney, a typhoon was predicted to pass pretty close to PG. We had a boat boy stay on board to keep his eye on things in case it got too bad. It turned out that the blow didn't amount to much.
We came back to Meridian in January. We finally left PG around February and made our way south and southeast to Port Carmen, Cebu. Here we entered "Pinoy Boat Services" or "Zeke's Yard".
We arrived in Zeke's yard in March and expected to be out in a couple of months. Of course that didn't happen, the work dragged on much longer (and more expensively) than we planned, but that always happens with boat work. The work was quite extensive, essentially a refit as Meridian was almost 20 years old.
We had some bad rust patches removed. The exterior hull and deck were repainted, the interior and exterior woodwork re-varnished. New covers were made for the settee and the dinghy. New davits were made as well. All-in-all we were quite happy with the work.
Just as we were about to set off, Paul got sick. A trip to the hospital in Cebu confirmed dengue fever. As part of the general checking, they discovered that he had Atrial Fibrillation, an arhythmia of the heart. The dengue fever caused a low blood count, lack of energy but feeling not terrible. It meant staying in hospital for 6 days for the blood count and pressure to return to more normal levels. The worst part was the food, but Judy stayed and managed to go out and find more edible alternatives.
After that delay, we waited for Peter and Donna on Two Up to finish their work. Finally in September we escaped from Zeke's and headed south to Cebu Yacht Club in Mactan opposite Cebu City.
One morning we heard and felt a series of jolts, which we reacted to by getting on deck. Nothing was seen, so we quickly worked out that it was an earthquake. It had struck Bohol Island, about 30 miles away, causing great loss of life and damage. There was some damage and fatalities in Cebu and Mactan; the local Mall was shut for three days.
When we got to Bohol, we were able to see the extent of the damage. 400 year-old churches were toppled. The houses were either flattened, or miraculously spared. Of course, being the Philippines, rescue and aid were slow in coming to the remote areas - roads and bridges were severely damaged. We took a tour and had to take some pretty rough back roads to get around.
From Bohol we made our way to Bombonon, in southern Negros. This is a typhoon hole and home to many yachts, some of them stay for years on end. There isn't much there, a couple of small restaurants and stores. The major town is Dumaguete, about 45 minutes by car to the north.
We always get weather forecasts, either by radio or internet (if available). These are usually for about a week, and one day we saw that a mighty storm was predicted to pass over the Philippines. We watched the typhoon predictions and saw that if it continued on the path, we would be on the southern edge of it. We took down the sails, boat covers and anything that could catch the wind. We were on a mooring that was supposed to be OK, but when was it last serviced? Anyway we kept watching and sure enough, Haiyan followed the predicted path over Leyte. We thought we might have got up to 40 knots, but in the event it was only 20 -25 for a few hours with occasional gusts over 30.
Of course, everyone saw the utter devastation caused to Leyte and other islands of the Visayas. The estimated deathtoll was more than 7000, with many thouands losing their homes. Again, the government was unprepared and chaos followed.
Eventually the weather pattern eased so with Two Up we headed west for the last time together. We had met Peter and Donna in Blackwattle Bay, Sydney in 2005 and have sailed with them through Noumea, Vanuatu, the Solomons, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. They were also in our party of yachties that went to Vietnam. Peter has been a wonderful help in many ways, particularly getting the new mast fitted in Liapari under primitive conditions.
They are now in Darwin, having travelled back through Indonesia, and are planning their next adventure in the Kimberlies.
We left them and headed up around Panay and Mindoro to Subic Bay, NW of Manila in Luzon. Greg and Janise on Windchimes had been in the Watercraft boatyard since May, and they managed to get a berth for us. This was good because we needed to haul out for new antifouling, and to replace the shaft bearings that were a bit noisy. That was done in February/March after we returned from our annual Christmas trip to Sydney (and for the first ime), Bathurst
Meanwhile, we are in the final stages of preparing for our next trip: Japan.