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Friday, March 17, 2006

March 17, 2006-I went Sailing on my 60th

Anchored after a good Day's Sail

It is Saint Patrick's Day. I turned 60 today. We went sailing.

Tonight we enjoy a calm anchorage in Corong Corong Bay, near El Nido, in Palawan,
after sailing from Maricaban Bay on Busuanga.

Since it is my birthday, and we've just had a great sail, we are celebrating. First we have a few Welcome to Corong Corong Bay drinks on board, then Judy says to call Su Ying and get the lowdown on getting to town from here, but I say I dont want to call Su. The only woman I want lean on is her. Judy starts to sing Lean On Me.

I look up that song in my music catalog and find I have a copy of the Bill Withers track, Lean On Me. I play it. Judy dances around the cabin.

That's what two beers and two gins after a great sail will do.

We were sailing out of Maricaban Bay (or El Rio Y Mar Resort) yesterday at 13:30.

We slip the mooring, motor upwind to clear the reef, then hoist the main. When we have room to bear off onto a close hauled course the jib goes up and we sheet in the sails. Wings heels to the breeze and we kill the engine. The American flag is flying on the backstay and we sail past the resort, and we know we are looking good. The phone rings and it is Tequilla Mike, telling us so.

One tack and we clear the bay, and head west, for Palawan. Goodbye Maricaban, nice stay, wonderful people.

We have elected to skip the islands between Maricaban and El Nido, choosing to sail the whole way in one hop. During the night we sail offshore, off the shelf and off soundings. It makes the sailing more relaxing when we know the bottom is down 1000 meters, instead of just 18 or 12.

Tequilla Mike said the wind would go light after Pinnacle Rock, and it does. We drop the sails and motor slowly, on the autopilot, charging batteries and running the watermaker.

At 02:30 a light Easterly fills back in and we turn off the motor and set sail again. It is an easy beam reach in 10 knots of wind. By 08:00 we have 15 knots and at 10:00, as we approach El Nido on Palawan Island, it is gusting 30. Now we have our hands full. We still have a full main and the #4 jib and, with a wind shift, we are now on a close reach. Judy pulls on the main outhaul, flattening the bottom of the sail. We ease the vang, allowing the top to twist off. Still, with these powerful gusts we are hitting mid eights. I have disconnected the windvane and I am hand steering. When a puff comes I pull on the tiller, the boat heels sharply, the deep blades of the keel and rudder bite, and they turn the wind in the sails into pure speed. We accelerate.

It is wonderfully exciting sailing, going this fast in this flat water, and we sit on the high side, watching the water speed past, far below us, but heading for an unknown anchorage with poor charts takes some of the gloss off the sailing. We are slightly nervous; on high alert.

The harbor of El Nido is an unprotected lee shore in this wind and we are storming into it. There is supposed to be an exit past an island to the west, but we don't see it. What we see is spectacular scenery with high cliffs and lush jungle foliage, all under heavy grey skies and there is dark water and white caps all around us, and a dead end. Then the gap opens up to our right and we turn and sweep through at 8.5kts; kids on the shore whoop and holler at us.

We peel around Ipil point and here the chart plotter is useless; our position is uncertain and the charts have little detail; we have to eyeball our approach to Corong Corong Bay. We drop the jib and sail slowly upwind with just the main. Twice we have bail out and spin around, reversing our course as the depth sounder unwinds with an alarming suddenness that betrays a reef under our keel. Finally we find our way in and drop the hook in 30 feet, sand, and it bites immediately.

We are here and it is a gorgeous place. We are surrounded by tall limestone islands, lush vegetation, and blue seas. The anchorage is excellent. We'll send photos as soon as we can, but right now, there is another cocktail waiting.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, El Nido

Corong Corong Bay is just south of El Nido, Palawan province, The Philippines.
It is located at 11deg 10.7 N, 119deg 23.2E

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