24 February 2011 | borocay, philippine islands
We arrived just after sunrise into the island of Romblon and after barely missing the unmarked reefs that weren’t on the Garmin charts (kirk saved us from the first and benito from the second) we caught a mooring in front of a massive marble quarry. After tying the dingy to a marble post we stepped out of the sea on 30 foot wide marble steps and by the looks of the rural area we were in it felt as if we were part of Odyssyus’s crew stepping onto an ancient greek island reserved for the gods. We learned that Romblon provides marble for all of the Philippines and walking through the small town a couple miles down the road with a Spanish fort perched atop a cliff overlooking the bay we were solicited by marble artisans and peddlers alike (for 80 cents I bought a smooth polished whale carved of white marble) while also enjoying the larger life -size marble statues of mermaids, lions and mothers suckling their young.
With Wyatt Turc leading the way with the bottle of Tanduay rum it didn’t take Doc Rust long for a little adventure to kick in and we soon found ourselves standing in front of the pad locked fort entrance where I quickly climbed up using some vines. No sooner was I at the top than the gatekeeper showed up and instead of yelling at us or enforcing his authority he simply unlocked the gate and gave us a private tour despite it being Sunday and not allowed to be opened. Afterwards looking for more excitement we found most of the towns male population gathered in an uproar of commotion at the local cock fighting arena (Sunday is cock fighting day) with concrete bleachers that seated more people than the towering local church. The crowd stirred to a frenzy as bets were taken before each match and two referees and a panel of judges and announcers kept the situation in check while served fresh on the grill just outside were the losers of the days battles.
Back in the streets we caught the local tricycle transportation that is a 125cc dirt bike with a welded steel cabin with an extra wheel bolted to it. These are in every town and city throughout the Philippines and always decorated and painted bright colors with names across the front like ‘Princess Jasmine’, ‘Rise Up’, or ‘the Enriquez Family.’ They look to fit three people but we never have any trouble (or hear any objections from the driver) about loading it up with 10 or more with three fitting inside the cabin, one with the driver on the bike, two hanging off the back, one or more on the front and in Cebu even rode an additional two on top the roof hanging on for dear life as neither the erratic driving skills of the driver nor the unruly traffic adjusts for any type of safety. Also not uncommon is for a family to pile into an already full tricycle and I was once handed a small child to hold as one of the older kids jumped onto my lap. With a full trike they still somehow design the cages to still fit huge speakers which always either blast club dance music or the cheesiest romantic song you could think of making every ride a party or potential make out session depending on who you are riding with.
Back to the boat by sunset we sailed overnight reaching the tourist party island of Boracay with just enough morning light to avoid another reef and ashore the two day party began for the departure of two crew , Benito the comic artist and round the world bicycler who had been on Bubbles for over four months and Turkey the French-canadian diplomat who was just wrapping up a 10 day consultation of the finer things in life to this captain.
A quick ode to Benito, first meeting the 24 year old Frenchman in Vanuatu the initial agreement was a two week sail to the Solomon islands which was then extended by a month then another month then another. We became brothers along the way through experiences that ranged from riding out lightning storms to getting adopted by chiefs to navigating the mighty sepik river to the grueling equator crossing en route to palau. He was always willing to take that graveyard shift when I couldn’t keep my eyes open and no one is better with tribal natives as he with his quiet tactful style of sketching a drawing of locals then presenting it to them or sitting with the elders for hours exchanging stories of folklore. No one can cook up a finer tuna burger and his culinary skills kept me more than healthy. Even after we took all his gear off of the boat in Cebu he continued on with us another 250 miles until Borocay which was the last place to catch a ferry back to begin his long bicycle ride through the Himalayas and all way back to France (he trained for this by biking up and down the Andes of South America) . We put a wager on who would make it home first, me with Bubbles back to the Carribean or he with his bike across Asia back to France but promised to make it to each others round the world completion parties. You will be missed Benito. May your ride be downhill and your breaks always work.
Also departing the boat in Borocay was the resident rat we had picked up in Palau while tied to a rat infested island. We didn’t know how big he was but by the chunks of bread he ate and the hole he ate out of one of kirks shorts we figured big. After a cartoon like chunk of cheese on a glue trap didn’t work it was Wyatt Turc who’s diplomatic cunning came up with the peanut butter trap and after a long night out in Boracay we came back to the boat to find our foot long rat squirming in the glue with peanut butter on his nose. In our current state we could think of nothing better than make a live offering to Neptune and so after some words, pictures and videos our boat mate of nearly two months was released to the sea with yet another chance of survival.
With the two cowboys on their way out the next morning I realized it was time to pick up a third crew and with perfect timing in walked the lovely Valentine (just one day after valentine’s day and another 22 year old frenchy) in a black dress to where us heathen men were dining on the beach and after a short conversation she was off to cancel her flight and instead would sail back towards her base in Thailand as crew aboard Bubbles.