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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

March 29, 2006-The NE Monsoon Loses its Power.

Jibboom Bay

It is springtime and the Central Asian high pressure zone, formed each winter by bone chilling cold of northern Asia, is losing its power. Created by heavy cold air descending over the Mongolian Plateau, the high weakens and then dies when sun moves back north of the equator and again warms the Asian Continent.

The Northeast Monsoon, the cold and strong winds born in the high and formed by that cold air sinking over Asia and then flowing out onto the South China Sea, by April no longer threaten sailors voyaging on the coasts of China or around the Philippine Islands. The Northeast Monsoon no longer carries the punch it had during winter.

For the crew of the sailing vessel Wings, cruising south through the Philippines towards Borneo, the death of the NE Monsoon is met with mixed emotions. On one hand, we relish the clear skies and calm nights in the quiet anchorages which are common during the transition months of April and May. We have long since tired of the howling nights that were the norm while the monsoon blew. But sailing is not the sure thing it was during the NE Monsoon. The reef lines have been cast off and the heavy weather jib remains stowed. If we want to sail we need the light air sails and patience.

Today we started out, as we do most days during this time of transition, motoring. That was OK; we charged the batteries and made some water. By noon we had a bit of wind from the Northwest, some onshore flow into the Western Philippines. It was not predicted by the weather computers in North America or by the weather minions in Tokyo or Taipei, who dispense each day their assessments of the weather situation in the Western Pacific by weatherfax, all of which we religiously monitor, however, we expected it; we saw it yesterday and the day before.

Calm Day

So we watched the NW wind slowly build. When it got to 9 knots we took down the sun awning and rigged the sails; full main and 3/4 oz spinnaker, the old one, which is expendable, not any of the racing kites which are stowed securely below deck.

At 11 knots of wind we stopped the motor and set sail. It was a bit of a struggle most of the time, hardly enough wind to keep us going, but occasionally we got 13 or 14 knots of wind and then the boat came alive, 7 knots. Otherwise we were barely going better than when we were under motor, but at least we were not using diesel, and the cabin could cool down once the motor was turned off.

At the entrance to Port Barton we looked at the clock and decided to carry on. We hardened up and kept sailing.

We also bypassed Boyan Island, with its harbors and coves. Still too early and we are sailing, so, lets keep going.

At 16:00 we approached Jibboom Bay. One comment in the guide book said, Nothing Special about this bay. But another said it had charm. We turned in as an afternoon thundercloud over the hills to the east shut off the wind. We dropped the sails.

Jibboom Bay was quiet and calm, and the hills, with their heavy forests of old growth Philippine Mahogany, gave a fragrance to the air. We slowly motored in and looked for an anchorage,

During the transition months, between the NE Monsoon and the coming SW Monsoon, the nights are mostly calm. We felt that we could anchor anywhere. Protection from the wind was not needed, or if it was, we didn't know from which direction we should seek cover,

So we found an attractive hillside covered with huge trees and footed by small sandy beaches and a few palm trees, and we set down our anchor in front of it.

We poured the last of our gin and sipped it as we watched the sun go down,

Tomorrow we will repeat the exercise, only without the gin, its all gone, heading on south.

Fred & Judy, S/V Wings, Palawan

10deg 21 N, 119deg 00E

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