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Old 05-24-2007, 09:23 PM   #15
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I just LOVE telling stories!

We spent about four months in Ecuador before heading across the Pacific, with our first stop Easter Island.

Ecuador is a beautiful country, but a bit corrupt and a bit poor. When we arrived in December we were told we had to pay the annual "lights" fee (navigation "lights"). It wasn't an enormous amount of money, perhaps $35.00 or so, and although there were absolutely no navigation lights where we arrived and anchored, we had no objection to paying it (of course we didn't! We had no cboice!).

In March, shortly before we were scheduled to leave Ecuador, our friends told us that the Port Captain wanted Peter to go ashore and pay the annual lights fee. Peter commented to our friend, "but I just paid them!" "Yes," said our friend, "but that was for LAST year. You now have to pay for THIS year." Sometimes Peter refuses to do something that he thinks is wrong; but he doesn't argue, he just ignores the issue. So it was with visiting the Port Captain's office.

Most Ecuadoreans outside the cities and tourist destinations speak little if any English, and Peter can't speak a word of Spanish. I did all the interpreting and translating. The timing of the fellows in the Port Captain's office, when they came out to where we were anchored, was terrible. I wasn't there those few times, and when they spoke to Peter, Peter couldn't understand them (though he had a pretty good idea of what they were saying.) He would say, "no, no, not today, I don't have any cerveza (his only word of Spanish, which means "beer"), Jeanne will be back tomorrow, come back then." Which they didn't understand, except for the "no, no", and so they'd leave, frustrated, and not come back until, it seemed, the next time I was off the boat on an errand of some sort (shopping consisted of taking a bus to Guayaquil, 5 hours round trip).

When we finally left, I asked Peter if he was going to finally go into the Port Captain's office and pay the lights fee in order to check out. Peter said no! Okay, he had his heels dug in, arguing wasn't going to make it better, so I just shrugged and told him, "if the navy comes after you, I don't know you!"

We checked out of Immigration, which is in a different city than the Port Captain, made a small contribution to the fellow's "daughter's operation fund" (sure), hauled anchor and left, looking over our shoulder the entire time.

Because we hadn't checked out of the Port Captain's office, we didn't have a Zarpe, the clearance paper to our next port.

When we arrived in Easter Island 19 days later, about five officials boarded our boat. I'd be surprised if even a dozen foreign yachts stop at Easter Island each year, so checking us in was a bit of a "happening." I had lots of forms to fill out, Agriculture, customs, immigration, and who knows what else. Then they started asking me questions (in Spanish), such as, "do you have a Zarpe from Ecuador?" I'd wrinkle my forehead, and say apologetically, "no-o-o-o", to which they would say, "that's okay, that's okay, don't worry". Then, "do you have a deratization certificate?". again, "no-o-o-o" and their "don't worry." Several more questions, "no's" and "don't worries" and we were finished. No fines, not even a stern look. As Peter said, "what were they going to do, make us leave and sail around for a couple months?" And we were free to wander around their beautiful island.

I think that the officials in Kudat were as sweet. Probably the most honest officials we encountered were those in all the ports we visited in Malaysia. I miss SE Asia!
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Old 05-25-2007, 03:29 AM   #16
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Every port in the world is corrupt in one way or another. Some are worse - some are better.

When we last checked-in into the Philippines (in Dumagueti, Negros) the uniformed port official said "now you must pay another $20 and you are done."

To which I replied "I do not have to pay you any more money, Officer Rodriguez (he was wearing a badge), because it says right here that I've just paid you everything required... and I think you're trying to take advantage of me."

I was pointing to a copy of an official document listing port fees & procedures which I had in my hand.

He started smiling and said "Oh - you misunderstood me, captain... I said you may pay me another $20... for contribution"

He was obviously trying to squeeze another twenty bucks out of me and took another tack when I showed him that I'd done my homework!

I've had the pleasure of two extended visits, by boat through the beautiful, affordable islands of the Philippines and getting stung by some sort of jellyfish was the only REAL problem I ever had throughout the months I've been there. The sailing was delightful, the food tasty, the people hospitable, boat parts available, great for provisioning, waterfalls, beaches, pretty smiles, cold San Miguels & Tanduay Rum... what's NOT to like about cruising the P.I.?!

We (my wife and I) had a great time everywhere we went in the Philippines despite the 7000 reef strewn islands, un-reliable charts, tales of past piracy, hideous lack of ammenities & infrastructure, having to swing at anchor while my asset depriciates while trying to deal with the stress and overhead of bringing our boat there... and all the other headaches spelled-out in a previous post.

That guy will probably find a lot to complain about when he reaches the Caribbean, too.

I'm certainly no expert, but... at the end of the day - it all boils down to how you choose to remember that day which you've just lived.

I choose to focus on the good things that come my way every day I wake-up alive and choose to brush the B.S. aside... no matter where I drop my anchor.

To Life!

Kirk
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Old 05-25-2007, 04:49 AM   #17
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Kirk
Pulllllleeeeeeeeeeze.
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Old 05-26-2007, 02:44 AM   #18
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Hello all,

I cruised the PI three times on my own sailboat and lived there full-time aboard a mates big motor yacht for six months and might be able to offer a few suggestions for getting around. All this is from memory so please don't take it as gospel and it's only my view/experience. Also, please read through this completely before jumping the gun on responding. There are plenty of others who know the ropes in the PI far better then I.....

Clearance issues - Subic and Manila are well known 'rip-off' stops. The cruiser grapevine will tell you not to bother unless you really need to check in there. Even if you need to go to Manila you're better off taking a flight or cheap ferry to shop/get stuff. The harbor outside Manila is nasty and the yacht club is far from welcoming. Travel within the PI is incredibly easy and cheap and fun to boot. You do not need to show ID docs...just a ticket.

Puerto Galera - I think the guy's name for immi is Rudy. He likes to play a little mild hardball for extra fees and friends that live there said he can be a bit of a nuisance at times. He charged me around 2,000peso to clear in with two people total and we did have the 59day visas already. He wanted 2,500 for an outward clearance so we opted to ignore it.

Cebu - 2,500peso to the Quarantine guy and another 2,500 to immi to clear in. I don' tknow how they react to pressure on the fees personally, but one good mate tried raising hell and wasted his time to end up paying the above amount. The quarantine guy will give you a single photocopy receipt and for me he folded his 'copy' into his back pants pocket. Customs was voluntary at the time I was there, but you are 'supposed' to go. Immi will not process you with out that photocopied receipt from Quarantine though. I did see a newspaper article at the yacht club hinting Customs was eyeballing the game to combat 'drug-trafficers'. Ask the people at the Cebu Yacht Club when you sit down at the Marlin Bar for a drink.

Dumagette - whislt there two yachts cleared in (don't know the fees), but another guy said he tried to clear out but they couldn't provide an outward clearance. Check with Nigel, Bruce or any of the semi-resident cruisers there if you stop-over.

Puerto Princessa - 400peso in and 400peso out with immi. People avoid Customs there for some reason, but this immi department is the most professional and friendly from what I've seen and heard several others say.

Boracay - you can get visa extensions here from Ms. Yap at immi. I can't recall if she can do clearances. Ask around.

You can get into Malaysia via Kudat without a clearance. Just tell them right up front why. The Customs, Immi, Harbor and Marine Police of Malaysia are the most professional and truly helpful people I've met outta the 40 countries I've cruised. Hands down. And all for free! This goes for the folks down in KK, too.

At one time I found the clearance fees online at a PI gov't website, but now can only find the visa fees at the official PI immigration website. Most immi offices and most independent agents will charge or try to charge you more for visa extensions. I had this happen with Cebu Immi and fortunately the fees were posted right where I was talking with the guy. Just act moderately stupid and point to the fees slowly adding it up and sit down when he goes back to talk with the 'boss'. Do not make eye contact...do not appear impatient and generally make yourself look like your content just to sit there forever. Shortly your receipt with the extension and appropriate fees will come out. The louder you are the longer you wait. Period.

You can usually find someone to get an extension for you (travel agencies). They don't tack on that much more and it's worth the measley ten or fifteen bucks extra....and don't panic if your visa is over. Another small fee is added and all is forgotten about (this goes for outward international air travel in Manila too - just go to the immi booth to the far right first off and tell them you're over and ask how much...I was three or months over and it cost the same as getting the extensions anyway). No dramas.

If you go into the PI hell-bent to get everything on the up-and-up you'd be better off staying home. Ain't going to happen. Now, that said, it works to your advantage in many ways. Try over staying in the USA or Oz and see how helpful the by-the-bookers are. Try getting outta of minor traffic ticket slipping 5 bucks to your home-town cop. Try cruising for a wee bit too long of a time before checking in elsewhere and see the reaction you get from the authorities. For the cost, the PI is a steal (no pun intended!).

If your first mate is a raving feminist she ain't going to like seeing white grandpa with marginally legal Little Brown Girl. This takes some getting used to, but I soon learned whom is using whom. Real, genuine ex-pat Filpino relationships (by our western standards) exist and are in abundance. Get to know them and ignore the rest.

Also, despite rumors, Filipinos are just plain great people overall. They have a fantastic sense of humor and personally I don't know how so many do it with so little on a day by day literally hand to mouth existence. Genuine friends await you in the PI. You'll pull your hair out plenty, but if you can laugh about it later you'll fall in love with the place. The PI is still free for people like us (that cruise).....if you don't feel comfortable being free and on your own resources a bit the PI may not agree with you.

* Cruising areas.....

Cebu is down-right disgusting on the waterfront. Turds, diapers, muck, condoms, dead cats/dogs/pigs will bob around you most of the time (for fun go dive the unknown mooring block). Tankers may decide to dump hundreds of gallons of oil passing through and stain your pretty paint. But, despite all that, it is still fun and convenient. You can hole up in or off the Cebu Yacht Club and provision very easily. The people at the CYC are interesting, helpful and enjoyable company and yachties are always coming and going. Btw, if going to Cebu stay at the yacht club....you're asking for a break-in anywhere else there.

Manila is the worst I've seen. Sewer for a harbour (rumor has it a prior politician re-routed the stinky drainage into the yacht club 'cause they wouldn't give him a free membership). Black soot will grace your deck and dust your lungs daily (damn, had to almost quit smoking living there!). But it's a neat city, but check out the other transpo options for going their.

Sanmar, Suarigao/Surigao, Buswanga, Apo Reef, Bucas Grande, Dinagat, Negros, Palawan, Suluan, Mindanao, etc, etc all have pristine, beautiful areas. Just gotta look and get your head out of the cruising guides...and maybe off the charts a bit (which, btw, are very accurate except for near mid Palawan - and we've done many a stupid-blind-night approach into dodgey anchorages and survived). You need to get into the water alot to suss out the nice areas of coral and fish. Fishing is not good overall, but mahi, mackeral, tuna and big cudas do still live there. Sharks are rarely seen compared to other tropical destinations.

Don't let the poverty get to you. Ignore it in the sense of appreciating what you do have and realize these people will find their own way. I see a small yet upcoming middle-class mentality/lifestyle emerging there (albeit slowly). Be fair, but being a sucker is degrading to these proud folks.

Land touring is, again, fun, cheap and easy. Get off the damn boat and look around. Leave your boat somewhere safe (like Port Bonbonon, Cebu Yacht CLub or Puerto Galera) and forget about it.

Expect little bancas filled with guys wearing black masks to come zooming right up to you....maybe asking for something or maybe just looking on their return from a day's fishing. You go sit in the sun all day and you'll soon be sporting the same get-up. Expect 'park rangers' to show up demanding money 'cause you anchored in an unmarked 'protected' area....and expect dynamite fishermen to be doing their thing around you while this is going on un-noticed. Expect company and chatty drunks repeating the same one-line English phrases over and over again to you when you're anchored all by your lonesome in a more remote place. Expect these things, but realize it is not the norm and part of the annoying fun.

Apologies for the length, but my first impressions of the PI were similar to some of the above until I looked around more. Thanks god I did and I'm looking forward to the next stop-over there.

Happy cruising!

J
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Old 05-26-2007, 09:44 AM   #19
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Welcome aboard "Tankgirl".

Thank you for a great post and for sharing that info.
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Old 05-28-2007, 07:08 AM   #20
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Hi , Monday 28th May 2007

Here's news of Tenacity II's passage from Kota Kinbalu to the Philippinesvia via Balabac.

We had a nice sail from KK to Teluk Usukan and anchored at 06:21:90N, 116:19:95E in mud..forgot to make a note of the depth but I think it was about 7m. From Teluk Usukan we anchored in a beautiful little bay of Tk Agal: in 4m of sand .04:49:40N 116:19:95E. Nice sandy beaches, good people ashore. Bought Fish from the local fishermen...they wanted to give it to us but we insisted on paying. This was a really nice bay and I would've liked to have stayed more than a day. After Agal Bay we had a contrary current and began to make quite slow progress against wind and current (of course we were a little too early). We pulled into Clarendon Bay on the SW tip of Balabac and anchored in 7m mud at 07:48:99N, 117:01:32E. Be careful if you go into the bay at high tide as the reef rises up really sharply at the end of the Bay ...this reef is exposed at low water. We were greeted as we arrived with some green mangoes and gave a reciprocal gift of 2 small tins of curry.

The Sulu Sea, we have found in the past, to be a conundrum of unpredictable strong currents..running up to 3 -4 knots. As a rule of thumb the currents seem to run in a clockwise direction each time we have been there (October and May). Near the passes east of Balabac the sea is shallow and the currents run WNW. Once passed the Tabbatta reefs there is a deep sea valley and here the currents ran strongly SSW. We only noticed the effect of a tide as we closed Negros island.

The reef on the approach to Bonbonon is now buoyed with small white drums. Head to the shore till you can pass the first easternmost buoy to port and keep all but the last one to port on entering. The last buoy marks a sand bank and reef and you should pass this on your starboard side

We went into Dumaguette a couple of days ago to clear. Peter is still there, his office is much more organised, everything is now on a computer ..but of course you still need 2 photocopies of your passport main page, with the photo and your boat registration papers. He charged us 1,000 pesos for the two of us...for 21 days. (46 -49 Peso's to the dollar, depending where you change and 36 pesos to the Australian Dollar). He informed us of the following future fees.

Visa for a 38 day extension after the initial 21 days............................................P 2,020

Visa for 2 months after the initial 59 days.............................................. .............P3,790

Visa extension for the 5th and 6th month............................................. ...............P1,820.

After 6months you have to do the next extension through the immigration offices in Cebu City

Visa extension for the 7th and 8th month............................................. .............P3,230

Visa extension for the 9th and 10th month............................................. ...........P1,820

Visa extension for the 11th and 12th month............................................. .........P2,130

After 12 months you have to leave the country, your boat can stay but not you.

As I said, Bonbonon is full of yachts....but many are simply on moorings and the people are living ashore. The moorings are laid and run by Nicky who s the husband of Arlene, owner of the restaurant here. I don't know how often they are checked. We met the people on S/Y Silver Lining (Frenchman Gie and NZ wife) who sailed up from Papua New Guinea, S/Y Soularity (Jack and Laura from Texas) who sailed from Palau and of course Diane and Bill on the yacht Pillar. Diane and Bill arrived a week before we left 7 years ago and have stayed to set up a small school with computers and things for the local kids. They have been living ashore for a while. There is a local boat (bangka) run by a German man Peter, with his Filapina wife. There is another French couple...but I don't know his boat's name and of course Mark, re-building a boat he bought from the local Frenchman Eric...so not a lot of yachties. Bonbonon is much the same. There is no WIFI, there is a mobile tower for the SMART network and GLOBE network. Mobile phones cost 65 pesos for the SIM card and then you add values of 200P, 300P or 500P. International dialing using the networks is more expensive than Malaysia where it costs only 20sen per minute to phone overseas by mobile. Here it costs 25 pesos per minute. There is an internet cafe at the local town here (15 minute motorbike taxi ride away) but this is said to be expensive and slow. The internet cafe in Dumaguette that we tried when we checked in cost us 25pesos per hour but wasn't particularly fast. Dumaguette is one and a half hours away by motorbike and bus. Best to have Pactor and winlink/sailmail ...unfortunately we don't. I will investigate the use of a mobile phone to connect to the internet when I next go to Dumaguette and let you know..

The sun gets up at about 5.30 here so I usually take Wags for her early morning constitution before the net and if we are back by 8.30 will give you a call on the radio as at the moment propagation is quite good...if the QRM and QRN is low.

Keith and Marian (VK4FLE)

S/Y Tenacity 11
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