Gigantes Sur in a Nutshell, OK Seashell

Last week we stopped at a little island called Gigantes Sur. Still in the Western Visayas province of the Philippines it is a small island off the east coast of Panay; a dot among several others in the area. There isn’t too much in the way of Cruising Guides for the Philippines, or at least not that we have. Quite frankly it has been nice not to have one, nice not to have some unknown opinion mire our choices. Gigantes Sur was not listed in our almost decade old Lonely Planet and Google Earth only showed a small fishing village, so we had didn’t expect to find much ashore. All of which was fine with us.

Our choice to anchor there was made purely by how it looked on the chart; a wide bay with a slowly shoaling cove that ended in a sandy beach, which probably meant good holding and there wouldn’t too many rocks to snag the chain on. The anchorage was protected from the predicted winds, was within our travel range and we were well provisioned. Really Gigantes was just another stepping stone in our voyage north, not much more a convenient stop over, a place to rest for a night or two.

The thing is about exploring is that you never really know what you’ll find. So we when pulled into the anchorage and saw flags lining not one but two beaches nearby and a parade of boats depositing people on those beaches we were more than a little surprised. Gigantes Sur was not just a sleepy little fishing village, it was a destination. Continue reading

How-to Make Dinghy Chaps

We just left the world of inflatable dinghies after a very frustrating and costly few years dealing with our problematic Takacat.

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The Takacat and the ongoing problems of the seams coming unglued.

There will be more info about our experience and disappointments coming up, as well as our reflections on our new hard dinghy from Porta-bote. 

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The New Dinghy!

But if you’re still in the blow up boat camp and are looking for a good start of the season project check out my how-to article about making a pair of stylish and practical dinghy chaps for your inflatable, as appeared in Cruising World Magazine in March 2017.

CW Dinghy Chaps

Love,

H&S

 

 

 

Provisioning, Passages and the Peanut Butter Princess

We are preparing for our next passage to the Philippines, which means we’ve been doing lots of schlepping of provisions. It’s not that I am worried about finding good provisions in PI, it’s just that I know there are somethings I may not be able to find. For me part of the excitement of sailing to somewhere new is the prospect of all the exciting flavours we get to explore, but there are still a few items that we would rather not live without; good tea, pasta without weevils, and, of course, all natural, no added sugar peanut butter.

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I am a bit of a PB addict – in fact in certain circles I am known as the Peanut Butter Princess. Everywhere we sail I search for good PB but rarely find it, which is why when I do find it I stock up – as seen above!

On Kate PB isn’t just for breakfast and it isn’t just a sweet. Featured in the March issue of Cruising World magazine was my recipe for Beef Satay, a savory, spicy peanut sauce made from peanut butter. If you missed the issue here’s the story behind the moniker and the Beef Satay recipe.

Love,

H&S

 

 

 

TBT: Tales From the Crypt in Cruising Helmsman Magazine

Don’t believe it is bad luck to leave port on a Friday? Well, six years ago we tested the theory when we departed from Isla Coco’s and sailed to the Galapagos Islands. The passage was one of our worst!

If you’re near a news stand Down Under you can trip down memory lane with us and read all about our (mis)adventures in the March issue of Cruising Helmsman Magazine.

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Rocking the Rock Islands

I was starting to get worried about Palau. We’d been here for two weeks and I had yet to be impressed by the place. Besides the (mostly) good provisioning and general convenience of the place it had failed to inspire the awe that everyone talked about. And after our way-longer-than-expected passage and a non-existent New Year celebration I was really in need of a little inspiration.

Anchorage in Koror

Anchorage in Koror

The big destination in Palau is the Rock Islands. Located just south of the main town of Koror they are a cluster of uninhabited limestone island that are designated National Park zone. The area is home to the few white sand beaches and pretty much all the prime dive and snorkeling sites found in Palau. If you’ve seen a photo of Palau – verdant green, odd-shaped islands surrounded by sparkling blue water-chances are it was taken in the Rock Islands.

Being a National Park there are, of course, national park fees to pay. A cool $50 USD per person will buy a 10 day pass for the island group. This one-time fee is perfect for the usual fly-in tourist who only spend a couple of weeks here but a little inconvenient for those of us who are upwardly mobile and like to dilly-dally a bit. Tack on another $40 USD for a boat permit for the area. Add to that that you cannot extend your stay in the islands without returning to Koror and the logistics of exploration are both a little expensive and frustrating. Nevertheless we put our money on the table and were excited about getting out of “town”, and away from the constant roar of the power plant, for a little while.

The Rock Islands are beautiful, dramatic and full of surprises. We found flat calm anchorages tucked into intimate coves surrounded by nothing but chirping birds and splashing fish. A few nights the boat sat so still that I actually woke in the middle of the night to check that we were actually still afloat. Continue reading

Palau

So we are here, safe and sound in Palau.

In fact we arrived over a week ago after a rather trying and very long 20 day passage from Papua New Guinea. Although we hoped to be in port before Christmas light winds, contrary current and the beginnings of Super Typhoon Nock-ten, which smashed the Philippines on Christmas Day, kept us at sea. Ah…the life of a sailor. Continue reading

A History Lesson in the Solomon’s

It is surprising how little I knew about the Solomon Islands before we arrived.

Part of this is because I had such high expectations for Vanuatu that were mostly unfulfilled that I kind of purposely didn’t do a lot of reading. As it turns out years of waiting to arrive and months of fantasying about all the wild, undiscovered places we’d visit just made the real experience in Vanuatu a little “less” than I wanted it to be. I wasn’t about to make our time in the Solomon’s a repeat performance.

Steve mainly plans passages and researches anchorages so I was full of confidence that he knew what we were getting ourselves into. At least as far as boat safety and general sailing timeline were concerned. I figured if I just showed up I would see everything with fresh eyes and an open heart and our time here would be all the richer for it.

Not long after we arrived in the Solomon’s my lackadaisical approach starting causing a little friction between the two of us.

Continue reading

Halo from Hazy Honiara

We have officially crossed back into tropical weather having crossed the 10*S line on the chart on the way up to the Solomon Islands. Things here are sticky and overwhelmingly hot, at least when you are walking around the city in the midday sun with bags full of groceries. But even while sailing we’ve been keeping the middle section of the bimini up so that we have a little shade to cower under while on watch. Not only is the sun hot but it is high overhead, it is all pop bright mornings and quick sunsets at 1800.

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Sailing into Honiara at daybreak

I can’t say much about Honiara, we only spent four days here, but thankfully we had the opportunity to stop at a few other places before arriving. If this was my first impression of the Solomon’s it wouldn’t be a great one. The city is very dirty; the streets scattered with trash and every river clogged with plastic. The harbour stinks like a sewer and the water is so murky you can’t see bottom even right at the shoreline. We stopped landing the dinghy on the beach as we didn’t want to have to put our feet in the water and risk a small cut or bug bite get infected.
Continue reading

The Great Escape

May 18th, 2014

So, here we are, working on week three of being back from vacation in Australia (yes, yes I see your eyes rolling and hear the gasps of “your life is a vacation!”, but it is not, really).

We escaped Vuda Marina relatively quickly. In just over a week we had put all the running rigging back up and canvass back on, replaced two more through hulls, put the boat back in the water, did a rig check, filled the fridge, freezer and holds full of food and threw off the dock lines.  I was giving my self pats on the back and puffing out my chest when people complemented us on being so organized; all that hard work while Steve was away working hard paid off. We could simply splash and get out to enjoy sailing around Fiji after three long years in the country.

And we did.

Well, kinda. Continue reading

Hello from Soggy Fiji-

January 29th, 2014

The rains finally started this week, long awaited by those of us who have been in Fiji for the tropical summer before.  We have had very settled weather so far this season with light rains on the occasional evening and a few fantastic electrical storms but no nearly as much heavy rainfall as this time last year. And I remember this with great detail as we were in the middle of trying to paint the boat and were severely hampered by the wet. So I thought I would take this “snow day” (what this Canuck still calls the days trapped inside on the sofa by rain) to catch up you up on the goings on around here.

We had a threat of cyclone Ian coming our way a few weeks ago but after it stalled to the east of us for several days it picked up momentum and hit Tonga with a vengeance. It is sad to think of the damage it unleashed in the Ha’apai islands which are low lying and remote. The few people that live there are mostly subsistence farmers and fisherman living lives that are not easy during the good times. Our thoughts are with them, especially since we spent so much time there earlier this year.

Steve is still working, but through the magic of modern technology we are able to chat almost every day briefly so although it is still very apparently that he is not here at least it is a little less lonely when I hear his voice.
I have been keeping myself busy, tackling the ongoing project that is the renovations of the head. Still not finished and as of yesterday when I was sanding to start painting the walls has been extended further by the discovery of yet another shitty fibreglass patch job and some wall rotting away nicely behind it.  Since it started raining yesterday and is predicted to continue for a few days as a tropical low sits over us the work has been halted until the weather clears and all the smelly sealants and dust making sanding can resume with ports and hatches widely opened. I also managed to finally get the cover made for our dinghy and a few other small sewing projects done and have contractors working on some small repairs and warranty touch ups to the paint.  Yes, as my Mother always says if you want something to stay looking new, then don’t use it. Alas, we put a few scratches on her in Tonga, thankfully nothing that can’t be polished or patched.

I have also been trying to get away from the marina life as I find it a little stifling to me watched and monitored and talked about constantly, as always happens in a small community. So having met and been introduced to some expats living here, there is sometimes more than one reason to head to the bar at the end of a hot, sweaty work day,  I have been able to take a day of Indian cooking lessons from a local lady and spend a very enjoyable evening celebrating the life of Robert Burns with a bunch of others with like-minded ancestors from Scotland. A big shout out to my Mother for making sure that I always have a little Nova Scotian tartan with me wherever I may roam and so I was able to proudly wear a sash over my dress and represent New Scotland for the evening.  We had the pleasure of having the British High Commissioner at the head table and enjoyed haggis, bagpipes, Scottish dancing and a wee dram of Scotch…or three.

I have been plunking away on the writing front and have another article appearing in the upcoming February issue of Blue Water Sailing Magazine about our time here in Fiji last year.  If anyone finds it one a news stand I would love to hear how it looks! Unfortunately they do not publish the magazine in full online but you can check it out at http://www.bwsailing.com and see my name mentioned in the ‘Current issue” section.

I will be updating the site with photos as the day progresses and power permits. For now I think some dhal soup and fresh bread is called for. Besides catching up on emails and curling up on the sofa with a book days like these inspire me to spend time in the galley, something that without Steve here I have been pretty slack about. Unless you count the jars and jars of mango chutney and pineapple/passion fruit jam which I have been churning out.

I hope you enjoy your day, don’t forget Friday is Chinese New Year.  2014 is the Year of the Horse, my birth year, so it is meant to be an auspicious year for me. I am looking forward to seeing what’s in store as our current plans are pretty vague and as Steve always says are written in sand at low tide!

Love to hear what is going on in your part of the world,

Love,
H&S