Welcome to the Philipines

captain alex

29 January 2011 | bocas grande island

The good winds of 20 knots kept us moving along nicely and at supper time we all got some good laughs when Ben went to powder his spaghetti with parmesan in the cockpit and instead coated Kirk who was dining on the leeward side. Later that night I saw what looked like a missile coming down to earth as a big bright blue ball with a tail of neon orange embers and it took me a while to realize I had just seen the brightest shooting star of my life.

For some reason Kirk not only attracts parmesan cheese but also monsoon rain squalls for as soon as his shift started at 11 we were pounded by one after another, each with leading edges of 30+ winds that knocked the wind vane off course and left its toll on Bubbles. All said and done I’m happy with the amount of spares I haul around the world for just on this passage alone I have had to replace the furling line, a block for the furling line, a shackle on the main sheet, a stay that popped when one squall hit (the scariest of the damage cause it could lead to losing the mast), and the impellor for the engine that was shredded. It wasn’t just the high wind of the squalls that caused the damage but also the lack of wind the next day that caused the sails to flap leading to the lost mainsheet shackle (nearly lost a finger putting that bit back to together).

As we approached the PI I noticed we were directly above the Philipino trench (second only in depth to the Mariana trench just 1000 miles to our northeast) which weighs in at a whopping 30,000+ feet in depth. I tried to imagine what monsters and never-before-seen creatures lurked in the depths beneath us and wished I had a submarine to go explore the massive crevass. About that time I noticed a small fishing vessel in front of us (surprising since we were still well over 50 miles offshore). As we approached I noticed another then another then another. As I now scanned the horizon I saw that were completely surrounded by these small two-person open aired canoes with bamboo outriggers on either side. I climbed the mast for a better a view and counted no fewer than 14 around us. Some came close and welcomed us to Philipino waters showing us the fish they had caught. They were quite colorful with names painted down the side like ‘white rose’ or ‘jennifer’ (names showing the American colonial impact). I decided to offer them a beer and as we surfed side by side down 8 foot waves in 20 knots of wind going 7 knots I threw them an Asahi Blue. Of course once this started and the other fishermen saw they all wanted one and out there in the middle of the Pacific Ocean a line of canoe outriggers formed behind Bubbles as each waited their turn to be thrown a beer (but never stopped fishing in the process). One canoe (and we have this on film) was picked up a by a wave and smashed into the side of Bubbles but bamboo is surprisingly strong and no damage was done. We learned that these fishermen would be out there for two or three days at time with no protection from the elements besides their straw lamp shade shaped hats and t shirts.

9 hours sailing later we had reached the island of Bocas Grande (a name showing the Spanish colonial impact) but by the time we reached the cape where the lighthouse sits it was dark. There was a storm fast approaching and we needed shelter so we went into the bay around the corner as cautiously as we could, there being no charts for this area, but still only managed to barely escape collision with two massive rocks. We finally found anchorage in 40 feet with a sand bottom and reef and rock not far on either side. We high fived each other. Bubbles had just completed the last leg of a Pacific Ocean crossing and we had arrived safely in the Philipines.

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