Tropical Sailing During The Winter With Selene Yachts
You might be sitting by a warm winter fire, boat all put away for the winter, dreaming of a tropical paradise. While ten thousand miles away, a happy trawler-style Selene yacht family is actually in the place of your dreams, living your fantasy.
The 7600+ islands that make up the Philippines' archipelago (only around 2000 are actually inhabited) - a place often skipped by, sometimes maligned and falsely feared - provide some of the finest cruising grounds on Earth. So, let's take a look at some of the intriguing and unique places we cruise aboard a Selene 49 Classic Explorer.
Out Of Subic Bay
All our adventures start and end at Subic Bay Yacht Club where we find secure moorage during the "Rainy Season", July to December. When the Christmas bells toll, it is time for fun and adventure here.
Puerto Galera Cruising Hub
The first stop will be the historic Puerto Galera, once home to gold-laden Spanish Galleons and conquistadors. Today it is a yachties Mecca and home of the Puerto Galera Yacht Club, the most active yacht club in the country some say. We are greeted on the VHF radio (VHF Channel 68) and directed to one of the club moorings.
Puerto Galera sports some fantastic restaurants, ranging from elegant to the oh-so-popular yachtie hang out, the Rock "en" Roll Bar where a dollar will buy you a beer. We often hire motorbikes for local exploring. A visit to one of the area's tropical waterfalls is a must.
Unique Apo Reef
After provisioning and bidding our old friend's adieu, we take the ninety-five-mile jaunt to the World Heritage site, Apo Reef. Apo Reef is the world's second largest continual coral reef. We follow the accurate charts to find the entrance and drop the hook just inside the reef. A truly unique experience sitting in the open waters protected by the invisible reef, dead calm albeit 40 miles from land. We caught it at a full moon to add to the mystique, simply one of those wonders few will experience.
Adjacent to the reef is a tiny island; this is one of the Earth's greatest dive sites. We arise early, launch the dinghy and zip over for a dive, passing a pod of dolphins on the way. We grab one of the moorings set for dive boats, and drop in the 85-degree water. We are just in time to see a school of 30 or more, mammoth Bump Head Parrot fish lumbering along like underwater buffalo. Dropping down the surrounding wall we pass through massive schools of varied brilliantly colored fish. A large turtle comes by to investigate the intruders. We then spot, one, then two, then three sharks patrolling the wall. Divers can encounter several species of sharks here; lucky ones catch a Hammer Head or a Thresher Shark.
Diving done, up with the anchor and off we go. We weave through the coral reefs, often unseen but well charted, until we see the stunning site of Coron Island and its volcanic massive rock walls. We pull into a favorite anchorage, surrounded by geological wondrous sharp stone formations. A multicolored parrot like bird sounds an alarm announcing our arrival.
From this anchorage we can make the climb up to Kayangan Lake for a dip in crystal clear water. After the dip we dinghy over to the rickety bamboo dock by Maquinit Hot Springs. This is another of the gifts the ancient volcanic activity left us, a crystal-clear salt-water hot springs, oh so good for the old bones!
Beautiful Busuanga Bay
The next day we make the two hour hop to Busuanga Bay, another gathering place for yachties and divers. History laid a golden egg on this bay - a spectacular World War II battle where 120 US planes sank seven large Japanese ships now is one of the best and easiest wreck diving sites on the planet.
We grab a courtesy mooring provided by Marina del Sol Resort - a small family-owned resort that pioneered the area. A quick call to our old friend Gunther at D'divers Dive Shop and arrange for him to pick us up at the boat for a dive.
The bay is home to two of our favorite small boutique resorts, it is customary to patronize the bar and restaurant of places that provide moorings. After a scrumptious lunch at MDS we climb the short albeit steep path to Alfaro Resort, perched on a cliff facing west. The lofty swimming pool is a favorite place for sunset watching. Imaging frolicking in a swimming pool, enjoying a cocktail with a tiny umbrella and watching an epic sunset, life does not get better than that.
Within a short dinghy ride from Busuanga Bay one can find two small islands with brilliant white sandy beaches and picnic areas. The snorkeling there is superb.
For the next few nights and anchorages, we will be the loan boat, this is common here in the Philippines were there are few other boats cruising and so many places to be. One can cruise and anchor almost endlessly as a solo boat if desired.
Towering El Nido
Enough solitude and we head to another popular cruisers hang out, El Nido, on the northern tip of Palawan Island. This place is so loved that many never leave. The yachties have a vivid social life here. We drop the hook, launch our son, Priam's, small RIB and off he goes, to be seen in an hour with a boat full of kids. The Coconut-telegraph has been abuzz with our arrival, and we are quickly invited to a beach party on an isolated small cove. Coolers full, beach fire blazing and BBQ'd meat roasting away, we reunite with old friends and make new ones.
Our cruising season went on for another three months. We enjoyed endless serene anchorages adjacent to stunning white sandy beaches, often alone. We visited boater-friendly small boutique resorts and dined in luxury under the stars. Every where one goes there will be bright smiling faces of locals greeting you. Ask any visitor to the Philippines, they will rant about the beauty, the diving and the adventures but all will agree, it is the people that make the Philippines the wonder that it is. Westerners are often jolted by just how friendly and generous people who own so little can be so happy, it is a life lesson for sure.
More Islands To Discover?
We have been to many places and yet there are too many more to discover. Follow us aboard our Selene 49 Classic Explorer as we go further and explore southern Palawan, northern Mindanao and the rest of the Visayas over the coming years. But for sure, while you are avoiding the chills of winter we will be in our swimsuits enjoying Mother Nature at her finest . . . why not join us?
words and photographs by Brian Calvert