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"Tiger Balm" N46#60 - Gordon Millar

Dolphins at Borcay
Dolphins at Borcay

June 20, 2006

We are now 2 months and nearly 1200nm into our cruise on Tiger Balm and so far so good. We set off from Hong Kong in late April and arrived in Subic Bay in the Philippines exactly 77 hours later, having made the close acquaintance of a solitary whale swimming on the surface, some dolphins who seemed to really enjoy playing around the flopper stoppers, and hundreds of flying fish!

Subic proved to be the first step up on the cruising learning curve, or more precisely, it redefined cruising as, "fixing boats in exotic places". To be honest Subic is not terribly exotic; however, it does have a lot of available support without which our planned stay of 2 days would have been extended much longer than the 19 days it took to finally move on.

Tiger Balm is 7 years or so old, so I guess equipment failures were inevitable - what we did not expect was the domestic appliances to start playing up all at once. In the 3 months prior to sailing we had replaced the washing machine, the Norcold 12v fridge/freezer in the forward stateroom, and repaired the trash compactor; however, in Subic the new washing machine refused to rinse or spin, and the galley Norcold fridge freezer gave up completely. The fridge we replaced with is a domestic appliance running off the inverter. It was trying to locate a drain pump for the 2 month old washing machine that took us to the 14 day point - we could have left then, but for the arrival of a super-typhoon! In fact, had we not had the appliance problems, we would have been 100nm south of Subic in Puerto Galera, and been faced with riding out a direct hit from the typhoon at anchor - so I kind of like the new fridge/repaired washing machine a lot.

Strangely enough it was, what I thought would be the major problem discovered on arrival in Subic, which was repaired quickest. When I was cleaning the boat after arrival I noticed some soot around the ventilation grilles on the sides of the stack. Turned out the muffler inside the stack had rusted through at the base - I only found out when it was removed, that it had a drain bolt located at the base....... Anyway a friend in Hong Kong suggested we contact Lyle Forno, a Subic based specialist metal fabricator, and to my delight he turned up 2 hours after I phoned him, spent an evening and a morning removing the old muffler, and 5 days later returned to the boat with a /stainless steel/ replica he had built in his workshop all at a cost of under US$800 - it fitted perfectly first time and is working beautifully - and it too has a drain bolt, only I will use this one!

We left Subic and sailed to Maya Maya Yacht Club and Spa - a boutique marina and resort - just South of Manila. We spent a very pleasant few days on a mooring outside the marina, reading, swimming. Then it was off to Puerto Galera (PG) at last.

 Sunset PG
Sunset PG

There is quite an active expat community in PG so we were welcomed into the PG Yacht Club, and took up a Club Mooring. The plan was (and still is) to use PG as a base and cruise the Philippines. It was quite difficult to set off again- friendly company in PG, inexpensive, good food, and beautiful weather conspired to keep us moored longer than we had planned. In fact Colette was concerned, as she seemed to meet people in the Yacht Club who had come for 2 weeks, and were still there many years later. Nonetheless we stuck to the plan and set off on our first mini cruise. Next valuable lesson in cruising - if you have researched and planned a trip - take other people's advice to change your plan with caution. We were targeting a sail round the large island of Oriental Mindoro stopping at various islands/resorts en-route. We were nearly talked out of it by a well meaning "yachtie" who perhaps did not appreciate the advantages of a power boat! Anyway we made the planned sail, stopping at Maestro de Campo, Boracay, and San Jose, before moving across to Coron and Sangat Islands, and finally El Rio y Mar Resort in North Basuanga. We returned to after 15 days. The plan had been to stop at APO reef on the journey from Busuanga to PG, but a large ocean swell made that impossible so instead of a 5 hour trip we made 17 hour mini passage, and entered PG at night. This is definitely not for the faint hearted as the GPS positions, and actual postions in the Philippines can be different by quite a long way - but having been there in daylight, and kayaked around the bay, and with a good radar picture it was relatively straight forward. Perhaps the most stunning and memorable incident on the 15 day trip was sailing through a dolphin "feeding frenzy" just 10 miles North of Boracay. We came on it suddenly, and in a matter of minutes were surrounded by literally hundreds of dolphins and tuna jumping around the boat - at times we counted up to 11 dolphins swimming on the bow although the camera could only catch 7! The good news is only routine maintenance for the entire 15 days - although interestingly I noticed that 2 of the bolts holding the rocker cover on the Lugger 668 have sheared off - I knelt on one of the bolt heads when I was doing a routine oil check! Looks like they may have been faulty, or over torqued. As I write this there is no oil leak and we will replace them once I have the spares from Alaskan Diesel.

We left PG yesterday and are now back in Maya Maya Yacht Club, in the Marina this time. We plan to leave the boat for about 4 or 5 weeks as we have to return to Hong Kong, and the UK for personal business. My boat insurance, does not allow the boat to be left unnattended in a typhoon area unless in a Marina, which seems sensible to me, and at US$12/night very affordable.

On our return to Tiger Balm we plan to spend a few days getting her ready for sea again then back to PG before cruising Coron and Palawan in the South West Philippines. We may winter in the Philippines or move onto Kota Kinabalu for Christmas - the great thing is we have no time table to meet, and there are no final or urgent destinations!

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