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

Pressure Cookers; A Galley Essential?

Almost everyone will tell you that a pressure cooker is a ‘must have’  in your galley, but is it really?  Sure they are economical, a great way to save time and very trendy right now but like any cooking technique pressure cooking does have it’s limitations.

This month in my Blue Water Sailing column I explore pressure cookers; how they work, what they cook and do you really need one. Plus there is a scrumptious recipe for my Curry Chicken Cassoulet!  If you missed the May issue on news stands you can find the article HERE.

Love,

H&S

Column 11, Pressure Cookers

First Impressions; Philippines

We’ve been in the Philippines for almost three weeks now, which for me is just enough time to start to get comfortable in a place. After a few weeks I’ve finally stop comparing our current destination to the one we just left. After a few weeks I have gotten past the shock and awe factor that always comes with exploring a new place and instead I let the everyday happenings inform my opinion about the country and its people. And so after three weeks what do I think of the Philippines?

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Kate on anchor in Surigao City

It’s amazing.

There are 7107 islands that make up the Philippines, so even though we had 13 anchorages at 10 different islands so far we haven’t even scratched the surface of getting to know the country as a whole. That said everywhere we’ve been the people have been friendly. We are greeted with big smiles and enthusiastic waves and since we try not to frequent the tourist spots, so those smiles are genuine. We feel welcome. Continue reading

Goodbye Palau, Hello Philippines

After what seems like endless delays we are finally underway to the Philippines!!! The passage from Palau to Surigao, our first port, is about 500NM, so with any luck and some good winds we should be in the Philippines in 4-5 days. As always we will be dropping a GSP waypoint daily via our SPOT. You can follow along on our Facebook page or HERE.

Until we see you on the other side, Safe Sailing!

Love,

H&S

TBT: What it is Like to be On Passage?

We are preparing to to set sail to the Philippines in a few days. Meals are cooked, cabin in stowed and we have a keen eye on the weather. But it is always a little difficult to prepare for passage because you’re never really sure what lies ahead.

As we ready ourselves for sea I thought I would post my notes from our passage from Kavieng to Palau. While underway I keep a daily dairy; a page of notes that sums up the events, conditions and feelings of the past 24 hours.  If you want an idea about what being on passage is really like this should give it to you. These are not well-groomed or thought out notes, just reflections and reaction about the goings on as we are experiencing them. Here’s an excerpt:

Dec 15, Day 8: We managed to sail all night, but the winds lightened up after midnight and things got wet before day break. Morning watch was a boisterous ride. Grey all day, just impenetrable walls of grey. Winds NW-NE 10-30kts. We have been able to sail a more westerly course between 275-300◦. Close hauled all morning, of course, but making 6-7kts. The winds were fickle for Steve, abruptly changing direction and turning off as if someone flicked a switch. I made a hot lunch of “Steve Famous Gumbo” from cans and leftovers in the fridge. Rains increased during the afternoon and I sat my watch reefing and furling, seeing the boat speed eek to 8kts. Soaked to the bone and cold by 1800 we were both happy to be putting some miles under the keel. Winds continued through Steve’s evening watch and the rains finally stopped, brighter skies and moon light for me! Cold still, foulies and fleece on tonight despite being at 3◦N. Hoping we have made enough ground north to find the NE trades and progress to Palau can be made in earnest. Dahl for dinner. Port window leaking onto the bunk. Everything feeling clammy after a week of hot bunking. No shower today. Fresh veggies finished.”

If you’re interested in reading the complete blow-by-blow of our 20 day passage you can find it HERE.  Safe Sailing!

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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First Impressions Palau; Conveniently Inconvenient. 

Within the first week of arriving in Palau a friend asked me how life was closer to land. I blurted out the phrase “Conveniently Inconvenient” and then wondered if I was making a snap judgement about the place.

I try and reserve my first impressions for at least a week when we arrive at a new destination. A week gives me time to kinda get to know the place, to work out what are it’s short comings and what are my own. And so we been here for close to close to 3 weeks now I haven’t said much about Palau other than “We are here.”

Truth is I wasn’t that impressed in the beginning. Continue reading

Passages, Super Typhoons and Christmas at Sea

I once read that humans are incapable of remembering pain. That is to say that although we recall that an event was painful we cannot actually evoke the physical sensation of pain that we experienced. This surely explains why women are will to have more than one child; birth, I am told, is right on the top of the “Holy F#@K that was painful!” scale. I also believe this is why sailors are always keen to haul up anchor and put to sea.

Our passage from Papua New Guinea was a rather long drawn out affair. Since we were crossing the equator this was somewhat expected, in the beginning. We were assured, by everyone who has sailed that route before us and our Weather Router (a service that we employed for the first time this passage) that once we got over the equator and through the doldrums the winds would fill in. Being good little sailors we believed and sailed due north out of Kavieng, hoping to find the shortest line though the windless zone as possible. And sail we did for the first three days, although the wind was out of the NW and on the nose the sea was calm and the ride was comfortable. Continue reading

POV in PNG

One of the things I like most about living on a boat is that it gives you the ability to change your point of view…literally. Sometimes it is just the wind swinging the boat around a little while resting on anchor, offering you a slightly different angle on things. Sometimes you to move to a whole new neighbourhood and all the problems and tensions of the previous week suddenly come into perspective.

Although we enjoyed our time in Rabaul I didn’t realize how much being “in town” was stressing me out until we left. While we were there I was enjoying trolling the second-hand clothing/book shops, the interesting rides on the cheapo buses, the hum of the crowd at the local market, the faster-than-we’ve-had-it-for-a-long-while internet. Despite all the stories we’d heard about PNG we felt safe in Rabaul. In fact we felt safe enough that when Steve had to go away on business for 10 days I had no hesitation whatsoever staying on board by myself.

OK, I had a little hesitation but an audible motion detector in the cockpit (that scared the bejebus out of me when I got up to check the boat in the middle of the night and totally forgot it was on) and a baseball bat in bed seemed to soothe me.

But when Steve came home he knew something wasn’t right. He made it back for Hallowe’en but I hadn’t even mustered enough enthusiasm for my self-professed “favourite holiday” to even search the market for pumpkins. In fact I hadn’t even mustered all that much enthusiasm for his home coming.

I figured I was just completely drained. I had spent my time alone on board writing and completed two long articles and a solid proposal while he was away. Intense bouts of creativity like that often leave me feeling empty and I thought I just a needed a couple days to recharge. But almost a week came and went and I couldn’t find the reset button. I seemed to be falling further down the “difficult mood” rabbit hole, causing all sorts of troubles between us as I plummeted.

With the boat fully stocked and all the online work done we dropped our mooring and pointed the bow towards the Duke of York Islands, fully expecting to motor the 18 or so miles as there had been no wind for a week. But a light breeze filled in and we put up all the sails and suddenly were trucking along at 7 kts. Which felt ridiculously fast because we haven’t had enough wind to make more than 4kts in a very, very long time.

I felt myself lighten, slightly.

Continue reading

Rabaul and the Rascals

I am constantly amazed at how different each country that we visit is, especially when we only sail to the islands next door.

So far Papua New Guinea has been a VERY pleasant surprise for us, particularly considering that it was never our intention to stop in Rabaul. After three weeks here I can’t even fathom why we would have sailed right on by. Oh, right, the “rascals”.

Rascals is the local term that quaintly describes violent and unsavoury characters such as thieves, vandals, drunks who like to fight and machete-wielding crazy men that show up in the middle of night. PNG has a bad reputation about rascals.

It seemed everyone we talked too over the last year had bad experience in PNG. Normally we take such stories with a BIG grain of salt, after all there are bad places everywhere and many such encounters are a wrong place/wrong time scenarios. But these horror stories didn’t seem particular to one small area.

Everyone warned to stay away from the “mainland” which is the large island of Papua that PNG shares with Indonesia. That was a no brainer- decades of political unrest have peppered that islands history with seriously violent outbreaks. Port Moresby is still considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world for tourist. But we spoke to people who had problems at other islands. Let me tell you it is one thing to read stories online about being boarded and threatened but when you met the guy who suffered a broken arm and 16 stitches while defending his wife from a local man who had a machete held over her head you tend to sit up and listen. Carefully. Continue reading