Monday, April 25, 2016


The winds are fair and the sea calm as Slow Dance glides across the turquoise surface of the Puerto Galera pass. The new day holds promise of continuing our adventure, and I feel inspired to return to the blog. More then a year has passed since my last post, but after setting sail, I would like to express the beauty due the Philippine islands.

The Chef and the Stewardess, Gigantes Islands, north and south

Sebang, near Puerto Galera
We arrived last April 2015 to Subic Bay and stayed landlocked there for nearly a year. A trip back to Los Angeles for 6 months, then when we return, we hauled out Slow Dance in Manila. The haul out proved to be difficult on many levels. After the new year, a few short sails to Berretta would be the scope of our Subic Bay cruising experience. This left us all lifeless and more than a little disappointed. A good friend had asked Ron why would anyone want to go to the Philippines? There was no good answer and after our time in Subic Bay that question was weighing on our mind and the answer seemed to be, cost of living, thousands of pretty young Filipino girls searching for old white men to support them and their family, and an endless array of girly bars.
Old gentleman's paradise. Sexy girls on the floating bar assist with the sunscreen 
After the stress of the haul out and the stress  of Slow Dance nearly selling twice, Ron took the boat off the market and we made a sail plan.

The Philippines disarmed more than charmed, but as we began to peel back the skin of the country, there were treasures to be found. Diving is awesome, you can swim with whale sharks, venture into rain forests, visit remote hill tribes, party the night away on Boracay, or just laze around on sandy white beaches. A quirky place where there are secret potions and healing lotions, guys named Bong and girls named Bling, grinning hustlers, crooked politicians, graffiti covered jeepneys and really cheap beer.
Tri-cycle mode of transportation
Ron strolling up the jungle path 

  The adventure begins anew but I must take you back to the beginning, to Palawan Island, Coron, and Borocay. From the Philippine sea to the Sabiyan sea, all the way to the Visayias,  to wonderful new friends, amazing acquaintances, and the loveliest people in the world; the Filipinos.

The Winds of Passage: 
The “amihan” winds from the north-east were very strong and the sound of it was fierce and relentless as it pressed against my eardrums. The wind was funneling through the narrow Linapacan straight and blowing hard out to the southern reaches of the Luzon sea. Slow Dance was surfing down the seas, with oncoming waves which were 9 feet high. The wind was on our nose and we were digging into the trough, causing the tops of the waves to break off, sending cascades of white water crashing over the bow. We had sailed from Singapore to the lovely Tioman islands. Then through pirate territory in the open sea above the Natuna and Amabus islands. The real concern set in as we entered the Sulu sea, coming from Borneo in east Malaysia to the Philippines. We turned off the radar and AIS, instruments, took down the American flag, and slipped quietly through the night with lights off.  The first stop was Balabac, on Palawan island, a primitive village with a small Coast Guard station. We opted to make it our first anchorage to feel some semblance of safety. 

 Palawan is the long island stretching from north to east to south-west on the western fringe of the Philippines archipelago. 2000 km of craggy coastline in which about 1800 smaller islands, rocky coves, beautiful beaches are clustered about. After Magellan was killed off the coast of Cebu in a tribal encounter, his ships continued westward to search for a route home. When they landed on Palawan they named it “Land of Promise” as the island kept them from starvation. Palawan has been voted one of the best islands in the world by National Geographic and Conde Nast Traveler. Jacques Cousteau described Palawan as having the most beautiful seascapes in the world. Palawan has it all.

Bon Bon Beach, Romblon
We had decided to sail up the east coast of Palawan and clear into the Philippines at Puerto Princessa.  The passage up the coast was rough all the way as the NE winds were directly on our nose. The main sail was up but only as a means to steady the boat. Our next stop was a sheltered bay in Rio Tubba, a rough mining port full of cut throats and drug runners. The entire town is built on stilts up a river. We went ashore to purchase sim cards for our phones but did not find any. We decided to pull up anchor and get out of there at first light. It did however, serve as a calm overnight anchorage, but we kept watch through the night. Then it was back into the wind and waves. Fortunately, there were many lovely deserted bays and inlets in which to find calm sheltered anchorages for the night.
Balabac Island

Ninie, Maan, and Hendri

We had gained a new captain in Langkawi, Malaysia by the name of Vadim. A really happy agreeable Russian from Kazakhstan. Vadim was fresh out of British sailing school having obtained his open ocean captains license and thrilled to be aboard Slow Dance as his first paid captains’ assignment. In addition to Vadim, we had taken on Maan, a young man from Nepal, with a round moon face and perpetual smile. Maan had completed his coastal captain license from the same school as Vadim. Ninie, our Malaysian stewardess was obtained in the same port of Langkawi island having come to us purely by chance as a temporary and ending up as a permanent addition to Slow Dance. A social butterfly, who within days of arriving at any location knows everyone and they know her. Hendri, our Indonesian first mate, was recommended by a neighboring yacht in the port of Johor, just on the other side of Singapore.  Hendri traveled from Sumatra to join us. A shy person and a man of few words, until you get him drunk and then he makes up for that silence in very poor English.
Ron and Vadim in the wheel house  

Underground caves, Palawan

Hendri and Ninie

After clearing into Puerto Princessa, we spent several uneventful days exploring the town and obtaining technology for our devices. We did a few very touristy things, such as trip to the awesome underground caves and look around the west side of the island, which confirmed our choice to travel up the east side as the west coast was more wild, windy, and fierce in the NE monsoon.

Captain Ron and Hendri at the helm

Ron and Vadim decided to employ a new strategy and become one with mother ocean, rather than oppose her. The northern tip of Palawan was on the horizon and a turn of Slow Dance heading brought us into a following sea. We were all much more comfortable as we began to surf down the large waves. The wind and the seas began to calm as we neared the islands in Busuanga. The water was completely flat and blue as Paul Newman’s eyes. We could look down 50 feet to see the colorful coral beds which we anxiously wanted to snorkel over.  We dropped the anchor by the coral reef just outside a small fishing village. The scenery was breathtaking. Mountains all around us and many calm turquoise lagoons. The agony of the rough passage was replaced by the ecstasy of our calm and scenic anchorage. The sea was like a lake as we arose and the sun was warm and delicious on our skin. The smell of the mountains and beaches surrounding us was fresh and earthy. Ninie’s coffee beckoned and soothed us as we gathered on deck around the table to plan the day.

Hendri enjoying a swim in the Crystal clear water
Two floating picnic tables with thatch roofs drifted nearby, belonging to one of the remote resorts ashore. We packed up a cooler and our snorkeling gear and headed around the reef in the dingy to one of the tables. We tied up and claimed the table for the day. Not a soul in sight except for the two young boys who rowed out to collect a few Pesos for the use of our floating paradise. We spent a wonderful day frolicking on the reef, swimming, eating and quenching our thirst with ice cold beer. The reef harbored some of the best coral I have seen in a very long time. Alive and vibrant with color.

Now we come to the end of one year plus exploring the Philippines. Slow Dance is off to new places with a few new faces Captain  Majj our newest member from Brazil  and his lovely strong sailor wife, Sufiyo  from Germany. Majj and Sufiyo  have been sailing the world in their lovely boat Zazen. A stout little vessel that packs a huge surprise once aboard. All the modern technology  in reduced size. A fragrent  herb garden, lovely  orchards  of many colors , and two boy cats .

We all ask the universe to manifest a perfect arrangement. Majj and Sufiyo  to find a boat to work and make money; Ron to find the right captain to allow him for once, to be an owner. So, Zazen went up on dry dock in Subic and our family grew by two. 

In two hours we sail away from the last of the Phillipines  islands and out into the open Western  Pacific. Destination, Palau and the Federated Islands of Micronesia. Fair winds and following  seas as a  new chapter of the Slow Dance adventure unfolds .
The Slow Dance family

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Malaysia-Land of Friendliness and Hospitality

Telaga Harbor
Although we have made stops in east Malaysia on route from Singapore to Thailand and the occasional overnight sail to Langkawi for duty free supplies, we had only scratched the surface of this amazing country. From the ashes of the riots in 1969 the country has forged a tolerant multicultural society, as evidenced by the coexistence of mosques, Catholic churches, and Chinese temples.

Telaga Marina
You would think that 99 islands dominated by Langkawi would have been over developed by now. The islands are breathtaking; knife-edged peaks floating in dark green vegetation in contrast to the ocean blues make this place an undisputed tropical paradise.  Refreshingly Malay, the east coast peninsula’s coast is an entirely different experience from the mobile phone-obsessed, traffic –clogged, touristy island of Phuket.  Colorful headscarves, skullcaps and hauntingly melodious call to prayer are as ubiquitous here as the white sand beaches that fringe the jewel like islands.

Change is the only constant.  Walk down your street and on the return walk notice that things are not exactly as they were before.  And so it was with Slow Dance. When one door closes another door opens, often for the better.  We left Phuket for Langkawi and completed a rough overnight sail to Telaga Marina, a beautiful lush place surrounded by mountains and complete with a boardwalk lined with shops and restaurants. Everyone you pass has a huge smile and a big hello; a very nice change from Yacht Haven Marina in Phuket. 

Although our boats have fabulous galley's, we opted to cook on the BBQ for New Years Eve. This is Mamet, wife of the captain on the large power boat docked next to us. She cooked lamb, fish, and chicken. We combined our goods for a quiet delicious feast.
We had said farewell to Thailand and set out for Langkawi. The mood was sour right from the start because it is difficult to have people on board who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. There is no perfection in life, only progress. The wind was blowing 25 knots and gusting up to 30 knots. We nearly lost our dingy boat as it was not secured properly. Our new mate Tim was in foul temperament prior to leaving and during the passage, which did not help matters. (A bad trip all the way around).  After settling into a nice slip at the marina we had a few days to prepare for Ron’s son Todd, who was coming for a 10 day visit.  It had been four years since Todd paid a visit to the boat, so Ron was very excited and wanted Todd to have a great time. It was at this time Tim, who had been with us less than 30 days announced he was leaving the boat and Vanessa, who has been with us nearly 2 years, was leaving with him. Vanessa had been dating Tim for approximately 6 months and that is how he came to join Slow Dance.  To make matters worse, Nikka, Vanessa’s sister who had returned to Cebu, was sent a ticket to rejoin us as stewardess but the Philippine government would not let her leave the country. 

So Sorry Nikka. We wish you good luck for the future.
Dinner at Ni-yang Beach, with Tim and Vanessa. The last nice time before the storm.
We were not surprised to hear that Tim and Vanessa were leaving based on Tim’s uncalled for angry outbursts during the voyage. It was evident that Slow Dance was just too overwhelming of a boat for him.  So, with a three hour notice we lost our crew and ended up with a much better crew!  
Our new crew, Vadim and Nee-nee
Vad, who turned out to be an excellent marine mechanic.
  Vanessa talked to a captain that had a lead for a temporary stewardess to assist while Todd was with us. Her name is Nee-nee and she is amazing! It seemed that Nikka would be irreplaceable but as our good luck would have it Nee-nee has joined Slow Dance permanently as our new stewardess. Nee-nee comes with lots of experience having worked on several 120 foot plus charter boats over the last 7 years.  We are lucky to have her and she is thrilled to be on Slow Dance. 

Nee-Nee, Me, and the tree
Welcome Vadim; an excellent marine engineer who has systematically repaired everything big and small in just one week! The northern lights generator purrs, the water maker doesn’t leak, the lines on the boat are coiled correctly and the alternator is properly installed.  In retrospect, Tim leaving was a God send as given time he would have damaged the boat rather than improved her. Ron and Vadim are as Forrest Gump would say, “Like peas and carrots”. They are laughing and enjoying all the repair work 

Ron with Vadim. They smiled and laughed as they repaired things. Refreshing after dealing with Tim.

So Todd arrived to a happy boat and we set sail for the surrounding islands.  We had a week of glorious sailing and delicious meals. We spent Christmas day anchored on a white sand beach. I soaked the turkey for 12 hours in salt water. It’s called brining and produces a very moist bird. I roasted her breast down for 2 hours and then flipped her over. This insures the legs are cooked to the right temperature and the breast is browned and juicy! 
The Bird

Christmas Dinner; Homemade banana bread, Pumpkin, Mash Potatoes, Gravy, Cranberry relish, and salad

Todd carves the bird
Oh yes, Homemade Apple Pie. Ron's favorite
 Todd, Ron, and Vadim took a dingy exploration ride and came across a Muslim couple from Saudi Arabia vacationing in Langkawi. The couple had been dropped off for a two hour stay on a deserted beach, but unfortunately their boat had forgotten to pick them so they were waving frantically for the guys to rescue them. The wife quickly put her Berque on as the dingy approached. Ron helped them onto the boat but the wife nearly fell into the water as she is not allowed to touch another man’s hand other than her husband. Ron grabbed her anyway. The wife spoke English but her husband did not. Ron told her she was being rescued by two Jews and a Russian. She whispered this into her husband’s ear and he looked worried. Ron dropped them back at the tourist dock and we all had a good laugh over dinner that two Jews and a Russian rescued Muslims on Christmas Day!

The unhappy stranded couple

Oh God, we are in the hands of Jews and Russians!

Todd enjoying the delicious water
Captain Ron and son at the helm
The Captain, the Cook, and Todd

The Bird

Todd on a dingy adventure. We discovered this awesome waterfall.

Vadim and Todd. It was Vadim's Birthday and I made a feast complete with my famous flour less chocolate cake.

Thai dinner; Pad Thai, Panang beef Curry, and Morning Glory

These were in the water at the marina. Also, Todd and I had jumped off the boat for a swim when we were anchored near an island. Just after we climbed aboard I spotted two of these jellyfish right where we had been floating around! A sting from these guys would be most horrible and would leave a scar.

Came across this beauty while cursing on the dingy.Very old beautiful wooden girl.

This maiden head was on the Bow Sprit. Gorgeous!
Wha Wha was trilled to be on the dock again.