Finally we set sail! We are ready to begin the voyage to Davao, one month after the boat was launched. In the meantime, we have been on a river outside the city of Tagbilaran waiting for our masts to be extended. An unexpected job, but it had to be done. Our masts were too short, or the sails too long, depending on how you look at it. We’ve had enough to do though, with a bunch of small projects, but now it’s time to get out on the sea and in the direction of the goal for this season.
Away we go!
The first part of our voyage is the toughest. We have to go against the wind for a couple of days before we can let the wind push us in the right direction. Either we use the engine or we have to tack back and forth. I have followed the weather since we arrived in the Philippines and I know that it is important to choose the right weather window. After we finally got our masts back, we waited for good weather while we made the final preparations for the voyage. Things always take longer than planned, but so did the wind. On Saturday things seemed to calm down and we were ready to set off!
It was so nice to get started! We had a short sail on the first day because we had to wait for high tide to get out of the river. At the first anchorage I checked the weather forecast again and I notice a change. The problem with weather forecasts is that the weather doesn’t read it and usually chooses to do something different. It’s forecasted slightly stronger wind the next day than planned. Well, nothing we can’t handle. Onwards!
We had quite a bit of headwind the next day, but our little 9.9 Yamaha coped well. Even in waves it always pushed us forwards. The sailboats I have sailed on before have had flat bottoms with keels and often struggle in small, steep waves, but our boat with its long and deep V keel has no problems with the waves. It is when the wind creates too much air resistance that it starts to go slowly. 9.9 horsepower is not much when the wind starts to really push against us.
We anchored outside one of the many sinking islands in the area. An earthquake in 2013 caused the seabed to sink and many islands sank with it. When there is high tide, it is not unusual to wade with water up to the ankles in the houses and at school. But even though the people on these islands have been offered to move to the mainland, they have refused. Instead, they find ways to adapt. We really wanted to visit, but the wind prevented us from getting ashore with the dinghy.
The next day we decide to sail the first bit before we have to turn our noses directly into the wind again. But this time we chose to tack against the wind instead of using the engine. We had good wind and good speed. It was almost as fast to sail as to use a motor. With increased winds comes larger waves, and our boat is designed to let the waves in instead of keeping them out. It may sound a bit strange, but it is to avoid additional stress on the structure. Plus it is a traditional Polynesian sailing canoe and it’s part of the design. When it was lunch time we took refuge behind another small sinking island before continuing.
After lunch the wind had become stronger. Fresh breeze means we have to reef the sails to have control of the boat. We continue but progress is poor. The boat slips sideways now that the wind is so strong. The waves grow and everything gets wet. The wind continues to increase in strength and I feel we have too much sail up. I choose to take down the mainsail and continue under the reefed mizzen sail and jib. Now it’s building to a strong breeze.
We don’t get upwind to where I want to anchor for the night. We could turn around, but I don’t want to lose the precious progress we’ve had. On the map I see a large coral reef. Maybe we can anchor there? I’m heading there and hoping for the best. A mile away I have to turn on the engine, because the last bit is straight into the wind. Just the engine is of little help here, but together with the sails we manage to tack up to the reef. When we get closer, we see that it is a small sandy island with lots of reefs around it. With the satellite image on the chart plotter, I manage to make our way between the reefs and into protected waters. It is 10 meters deep and looks like sand on the depth finder. We drop anchor, with lots of rope, and it holds! We are safe.
We suddenly find ourselves in a small tropical paradise in the middle of a stormy sea. A small deserted sand island and we are anchored right next to it. Everyone is excited and the whole crew jumps off the boat and swims ashore to explore. I stay on board to make sure the boat is safe. The next day it was my turn to explore, first with the drone, then on foot. The drone shot tells the best story here. This emergency harbor we found in bad weather is perhaps the nicest anchorage I have ever had.
Soon we will be done beating into the wind. Only 5 nautical miles more and we have reached the northern end of Bohol. Here we can turn off the engine, let the sales do the job and relax on deck in protected waters and sun. The rough sailing is soon forgotten and we enjoy life on the water. But it doesn’t take long before we dream back to the day we fought against the elements and found a small deserted island that we had all to ourselves.
Now we only have the rest of the sail left. 3-4 weeks and many more adventures to come!