Watercaves and Whirlpools

captain alex

31 January 2011 | hinatuan pass

The plan was to wake in the morning and continue on towards Cebu, but a monsoon rainstorm had hit and with visibility near zero there was no chance of navigating the islands and reef so we decided to stay put for the day to wait it out. The morning was spent replacing a stay and taking apart wenches and by afternoon we decided to head into land. On one side of us was three island two of which were white sand and palm trees while the other side was steep jungle leading to rolling peaks. At the end of the bay was a village built on stilts and we dingied over in the rain and were greeted by about 20 smiling children who followed as we visited the local church and school laughing all the way. After a full day of stormy rain we hoped the weather would change and went to sleep dreaming of sunshine.

I woke at 4:30 to the sound of Bubbles banging on land. I rushed to the deck and in the darkness and rain it was hard to get any bearings but after getting a flashlight out was able to see that were washing up onto a beach (luckily all sand bottom). I called for all hands on deck and we scrambled to save the boat and get to deeper water which we somehow managed, but in the darkness and knowing there were many rocks around I had no choice but to take us out of the protected bay into deeper water. We took turns on watch as we drifted in the waves and by morning light we had several Philipino fishermen checking to make sure we were all right.

We raised sail and headed for the pass to Cebu but with high winds, choppy seas and blinding rain I knew navigating in such conditions would be Bubbles suicide so turned back to Bocas Grande to find shelter. By noon we were in another protected bay but with no shallow water for anchoring we almost turned back before finally finding a shoal to anchor on. We were immediately greeted in canoe by a local man named Burt who lived on the idealic palm studded beach in front of us. I invited him aboard for a beer and boatmade chili soup and although he couldn’t speak English we got along quite well he seemed to enjoy flipping through the magazines on board liking the pictures of Rolling Stone much better than the articles of the Economist.

Burt seemed to want to show us something on land and with the rain subsiding the five of us piled into the dingy and were off. We went a couple miles to round the next cape which opened up to a jungle fjord. We rounded corner after corner and were soon lost in a maze of mushroom shaped islands (similar to what we saw in Palau) and Burt motioned me to drive the dingy towards a cliff face that only when I got closer noticed was a cave entrance. We had to duck our heads to avoid the the stalagtites (or is it stalagmites? I always get the two mixed up) which opened to a cavernous room where we could then see light coming from the opposite side. We followed it out in the dingy (having to all duck our heads again) and found ourselves on the other side of the island! We continued on finding cave after cave to go exploring in and not another soul or sign of civilization in sight. It was truly a water wonderland only imagined dreams.

When we got back to Bubbles Ben found an octopus under the boat and as I went to join him on his discovery I noticed a sailboat on the horizon. I got on the radio and was surprised to hear the familiar voice of our friends on Wyspa Szczesliwych Dziezi (try saying that one on the VHF) and they saw us and were coming our way. Shannon baked a carrot/apple cake and when they arrived we joined them on the red schooner catamaran for some cake eating. I thought we made good time by completing the passage from Palau in 4 days but being caught in the storm we had been hiding from they were blown over 500 miles to the Philipines in just a little over 2.

We woke the next morning to less rain but still grey skies but enough visibility to make the Hinatuan Pass and were off towards Sirigao. The recommendation is to go the through the pass at high tide when the water is slack but I wanting to see one of the whirlpools that forms in the rip so I decided to take us through at max flood. Bubbles hit a new record of 12.2 knots as we flew through the pass with 6+ current and we saw many whirlpools of three to four feet in diameter but not the monster whirlpool Im looking for. I guess I’ll have to keep looking…

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