First Sail and Still Alive

paul turc

14 February 2011 | romblon island, philippines

I arrived around midnight in Cebu City absolutely exhausted due to a 26-hour travel day from Las Vegas. I told myself in the plane that I would be going straight to sleep upon arrival in Cebu. Alex had other plans. He greeted me at the airport with one of his Filipina things in tow, and of course a beer for his weary friend. After cracking the bottled beers on his teeth, we decided that we would be going out on the town. We hit up a local karaoke bar (they are huge down here) and we joined a private room with a few Filipina girls. They welcomed us and tolerated our renditions of Bryan Adams, Journey, and a few others. They later joined us in Mango Square where the Captain and I danced the night away with the lovely local ladies. I contemplated luring one or more of them back to Bubbles, but a local man pulled me aside and warned me that most of them were prostitutes. I decided to play it safe and we headed back to Bubbles around 5:30am, just in time to set sail for Port Carmen and even though we didn’t bring back any prostitutes we still had 4 Filipina girls aboard.

Port Carmen is a quiet and unremarkable place, aside from Zeke, the owner of the local bar. He is an American and alleged Vietnam war vet. The guy has a few loose screws but he gave us some beers and cranked some Jimmy Buffet so that we would all feel welcome. Unfortunately, Zeke became a bit temperamental after his sixth glass of Carlo Rossi wine. The stuff is so putrid that you can barely get it into you, but it will get you quite drunk. The sun was setting anyway so we left Zeke and headed north. This was my first night sail and I stood watch for a few hours during the night. It was smooth sailing all the way with steady but calm winds and thousands of stars above lighting the passage. I thought to myself: “I could get used to this.”

After spending a few hours exploring an unpopulated island, we set sail for Donsol, which is a sleepy little fishing town that has recently boomed due to the presence of whale sharks off its coast. En route to Donsol the seas were ideal and I had no trouble convincing the crew of Bubbles to pass around a bottle of rum. After drunkenly arguing with Ben as to whether or not the Filipino people are truly savages, Ben retired to the bow of the boat to pass out on the inflated dingy. Kirk and Alex passed out shortly thereafter as I was left to stand watch for the first portion of the night sail. Thankfully we didn’t run into any trouble since the entire crew was incapacitated and the only sober person aboard was the useless Canadian.

The people in Donsol were tremendously friendly, which seems to be a theme here in the Philippines. The culture seems very primitive and almost tribal. It is a poor country for the most part, yet I got the feeling that people are happier here than in New York, Los Angeles, Vancouver or Toronto. There is something to be said for a simple life. After spending the day trying to recover and sleeping in the sweltering sun, Alex announced that he was going to climb Mt. Mayon (the largest volcano in the Philippines) at night. I was tempted to join him, but my better judgment told me not to. I’m sure he will tell his own tales about the Mt. Mayon experience, but let’s just say that I’m glad he is still alive and well.

From Donsol we decided to set sail overnight to the island of Romblon. I had experienced a night sail aboard Bubbles prior to this one and I loved it. The peaceful ocean, accompanied by the moon and stars, was so perfect. The sail to Romblon, however, was a living nightmare for a hick from Canada like me. The winds at one point got up to 30 knots and they seemed to be coming from all directions. Mother Nature was manhandling Bubbles, throwing it from side to side. This went on for the entire night, and I did not catch a single minute of sleep as the random wave would come over the side of the boat soaking everything. My eyes were wide open as I asked myself what I was doing out in the middle of the ocean. The only thing that kept me sane was the calm demeanor of Captain Rust; I knew I was in good hands. At one point I thought Ben might fall into the water. I was sleeping in the cockpit since the boat was far too rocky on the inside and I didn’t want to puke everywhere. Ben came outside to take a piss over the side of the boat and his tiny French frame got tossed around by the wind. He didn’t seem too worried about the conditions and he returned to sleep without incident. It actually doesn’t seem like Ben worries about anything at all, which explains how he has been able to stay aboard Bubbles with the enigmatic Captain Rust for four months. In any case, I can’t express how relieved I felt when the sun finally came up the next morning. I thanked God for saving me from what I thought was a near-death experience. Alex, Ben and Kirk all told me that it was “just another day” out sailing, and that it didn’t come close to some of the conditions they faced en route to the Philippines from Palau. I love being out here on the water with my good buddy Rust and the rest of the crew, but this Canadian is definitely better suited for land and a warm bed at Caesars Palace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *