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Friday, April 16, 2004

April 16, 2004-Apo Reef

April 16, 2004

Cruising the Philippines has variety.

Tonight we are anchored at Apo Reef. Apo Reef is one of those places where it seems like you just anchor in the middle of the ocean with nothing at all around you, just ocean in all directions, a flat horizon, but the water is shallow because it is a coral reef, totally submerged, and you can't see it, but it is there. It is a strange sensation to stop in the middle of an ocean (in this case, the Sulu Sea) and drop the anchor in 60 ft of water. The reef around us breaks the swell, so it is calm, still, it makes us nervous to be anchored with no visible protection, no harbor, but Apo Reef is known for great diving, lots of colorful coral, and fantastic fish life. That is one reason why we are here. Tomorrow we'll try some snorkeling and see for ourselves.

We last left you when we were in Port Bonbonon. Bonbonon, with its fine harbor and interesting expat community, was great, and we loved every minute of our stay there, from the walk among the rice paddies, Water Buffaloes, and clacking and creaking stands of bamboo swaying in the wind to our ride to town of Dumagete on the Habbel Habbel. These Habbel Habbel's are standard 175cc motor bikes with a home-made seat extension, extra rear springs, and a platform on which passengers put their feet (to keep them out of the rear spokes, I guess). You have to ride a Habbel Habbel because no other form of taxi will pick you up or drop you off out at remote Port Bonbonon, with its rough and twisting dirt road. They can carry just about anything on a Habbel Habbel, including all your shopping bags, and even 4x8 sheets of plywood.

Dumagete is also a nice little city by the sea, with a pleasant Malecon, good shopping, and fine restaurants. We ate lunch in a Mexican place there called Coco Amigas and drank tequila shooters at noon. But we needed to leave Bonbonon, we wanted to move towards Manila, where we will meet Carol in May, plus, there was a typhoon prowling about, Sudal, and we didn't want it to catch us in Bonbonon and keep us tied down for another week, so in Dumagete we shopped for needed provisions, and then we readied the boat for a passage across the Sulu Sea, and a week ago Tuesday, we left Port Bonbonon bound for Coron, on Busuanga Island, sailing off the anchor and gibing out the "S" shaped channel under mainsail at 8:00 AM. By 10 AM that morning we were heading west across the Sulu Sea with classical music on the stereo, and the morning was filled with the joy of going to sea on a nice day.

For two days and two nights we sailed to the northwest, bypassing every stop along the way, going directly from Bonbonon to Busuanga, to make sure we got there ahead of Sudal.

Both nights the wind blew sweetly, and we reached under a moonlit sky across the flat inland seas. During the days we had to motor, but still, it was a nice passage.

When we reached Busuanga Island we anchored off Coron Town in a wide bay surrounded by tall mountains, and we watched the weather maps to see if the typhoon would come our way, in which case we would have moved to nearby Port Uson, for better protection, but it didn't; Sudal turned north and bypassed the Philippines.

The Philippines seems filled with nice little towns, and Coron is yet another. It is nestled along the water below tall hills, and much of it is built on stilts over the water. There is a market, back-packer hotels, shops, and internet cafes. A family from Seattle has a very nice resort there, called Sea-Dive, also built over the water, and we ate meals there, drank Philippine beer and rum there, and watched CNN on satellite TV. Some British friends, Peter and Katherine, on the yacht Kokiri, showed up, surprising us with a radio call one morning, "Wings, Wings, this is Kokiri!", and we had a nice reunion with them.

Now we have left Coron and arrived at Apo Reef, and after a day or two of snorkeling, we'll move some more, still on the way to Manila.

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, The Philippines
12 deg 41 min N, 120 deg 26 min E

We had a photo, but there is nowhere here where we can send it.

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