The Incredible Sinking Boat
Except a day a sea in nasty weather. These last few boat rides have started to shake my enthusiasm. I don’t know, maybe its something about escaping the jaws of death on a daily basis that’s starting to be a bit exhausting.
The biggest boat I was on in the Philippines was the famed Joe’s Boat that plies the waters between El Nido and Coron. For US$50, you get all the food you can eat and an 8-hour boat ride in good weather.
But we were not having good weather that week. In fact, the schlep between islands had been cancelled the last 2 days because one of the boats pulled up to dock missing a bit of plywood from its hull. Never a good sign.
So the Philippine Coast Guard cancelled the sailings. But on the third day, we were good to go. The Coast Guard came aboard before we left the dock and checked that we all had on life jackets. All 32 of us passengers sat primly in our wooden pews, sweating beneath the orange vests. The official was satisfied and we were given clearance to sail.
At this point, I’m a pro at navigating treacherous seas (read: My Sea Coffin about my boating adventure in Indonesia last month), and I knew the safest place to be: up top, middle of the upper deck. By a stroke of luck, there were 3 plastic lawn chairs roped together up there and I immediately planted myself in the middle one with a life jacket wrapped around my shoulders. My small backpack occupied the chair next to me with its own life vest acting as an extra layer of protection from the sea spray.
And we did get some sea spray up there and at least 1 rogue wave that hit a French couple in the back. On this trip, there was only a half hour of thinking that this may be “the end” – and that was only when we got out of range of what I considered swimmable to shore. All in all, a pretty good day on the water.
The day before we were sailing in a smaller boat that was taking 9 of us tourists island hopping. Unfortunately, this boat didn’t have enough life jackets. In fact, it only had 5 jackets and the captain grabbed one as we were heading out to sea. Very inconsiderate of him (and a little disconcerting).
Remember this was on one of the days that the larger boat excursion had been canceled. But not our little tourist boat! The US$16 each of us paid was too good for this crew to pass up, so out to sea we went. Heading for the premier snorkeling spots of Large Lagoon, Small Lagoon and Secret Lagoon — all well worth the shadow of a doubt lurking in the back of my mind.
That shadow started to darken though when we picked up some extra passengers from a dive boat that didn’t fare so well that day. All the boats in that region have two catamarans on either side for ballast. These very important stabilizers are made of bamboo and tied together with plastic. No really. That’s considered the sea-worthiest construction.
But this particular diving boat slapped a wave too hard and broke a ballast in two places, so they pulled into Small Lagoon for repairs. They attempted to fix the boat by taking a tree branch and using fishing line to tie it to the broken bamboo. I kid not.
Needless to say, when we got back from our snorkel, we had 4 additional passengers and only two additional life vests. The numbers were going in the wrong direction. Luckily I convinced a young Canadian guy to “share” his life vest with me. I thought in a pinch I could take him. He was kinda of skinny.
The littlest boat I rode in was a private boat I hired to take me from Discovery Island, off the town of Coron to the island of Culion, part of the Calamian Islands. The boat was tiny – just big enough to fit me, my luggage (practically another person), my escort and the boat man.
This was our vessel for the 1.5 hour ride across the open waters. The proprietors at Discovery Island Resort were there for my send off and to take pictures as we loaded up. They were laughing and I was asking them to be sure and send my last portrait to my mum. Ha ha – so funny! Not.
Anyway it was time to shove off as I was eager to take advantage of the calm seas and daylight. They gave me a plastic trash bag for my pack, which my guide secured with a rope to the bottom of the boat. I then wrapped my raincoat around my precious backpack and off we went into the wild blue yonder!
So we were tut-tutting along during the late morning and I have to say we had a lovely ride. The water was an unbelievably clear aquamarine green, there was little sea spray and we had a canopy to shade us from the sun. Divine!
There was only about 10 minutes when we were out in open water that I thought it might get a bit dicey, but that was it. In fact, I had such faith, I hired the same boat to take me back to Coron in 3 days time. Let’s hope my luck holds out!
This entry was posted on Saturday, April 9th, 2011 and is filed under Asia Pacific.