It’s amazing how things work out. We interrupted our passage down the east coast of Mindinao, a 260 nautical mile stretch of nasty head winds and a bleak leeshore of cliffs and rocks, to Davao when a ripping storm came in from the south. I fought three metre headseas for four hours before we could find a safe harbour.
We had no idea about the local community but, curious about the strange yacht that had come into their bay, they came out to meet us – and we met the amazing crew at Amihan sa Dahican, a surf camp that provides a safe haven and stable home environment for at-risk kids, teaches them about the ocean, gets them into school and gives them hope and a future.
Headed up by the awesome Plaza Brothers, George & Winston Plaza, and staffed with superstar skimboarders and surfers who compete at the national level, they fight tirelessly to protect the bay, which is home to creatures such as Dugongs and five species of turtle, plus its a migratory stop off for Whale Sharks and Sperm Whales.
They’re an amazing group and we decided to spend a few days filming their work. They’re just the sort of people I started the Voyage of the Labyrinth to find – and we found them all because a storm came in from the south.
We spent almost a week with them, filming them doing their beach clean ups, surf training and getting to know the Plaza brothers, who work tirelessly to directly protect their ocean as well as lobby the government to legislate protective laws and enforce sanctuaries.
Over the next couple of days the weather didn’t so much improve, as threaten to turn into an easterly which would have made the Mayo bay dangerous. Despite the conditions still being not ideal, I decided we had to leave now before things got worse. Roxanne’s injured toe was threatening an infection so she and James decided to travel overland to our next port of call, Davao.
We were just about raise anchor when one of the Amihan lads paddled up to Labyrinth. “Jason! A mama turtle laid her eggs last night – we are transferring to protected hatchery! Do you want to film?!” Most definitely!
Winston and George collected 90+ eggs from the beach where they would be vulnerable to people eating them or killing them with beach fires, and transferred to the Amihan hatchery where they will incubate safely until they hatch in 60 days.
Winston estimates that in the last 12 years they have protected 60000 turtles this way. Of course once they’re in the ocean they are on their own but at least this way they won’t be dug up and end up as somebody’s breakfast.
As I expected the last stage to Davao was far from ideal. We headed down the east coast of Mindanao, along a thirty mile stretch of cliffs and rocky shore. There is a south setting current about a mile off shore where the water gets really deep, which I would usually use to speed our passage. But we had strong northerly headwinds that turned the southern current became a churning mess of 3 metre waves.
To avoid these dangerous seas I had to crept inshore along the coast instead, where we were still battered with the wind but the waves were smaller. It got so bad that I was looking for somewhere to drop anchor and wait it out – but the coast was nothing but deep water, steep cliffs and black rocks.
At one point I saw a large cargo vessel in shore and thought they must have found a sheltered place to anchor. But as we got closer, I saw the waves were breaking OVER the ship. It was not anchored – it was wrecked! And recently.
Night fell, with storms, low clouds and no moon, the only light to be seen was our navigation lights, the glow of the GPS reassuring me we were on a safe course. We finally rounded Cape San Augustin and I breathed a sigh of relief as the wind was now behind me and we could enjoy a smoother passage north to Davao.
Except an hour later the wind spun around and hit us from the front again! Resignedly we plowed on into the waves, waiting for daylight so we could find a favourable place to anchor and get diesel. We had burned far more than I had planned fighting the relentless headwind.
Not long after dawn , we finally found somewhere safe to anchor, tucked behind Sigaboy Island, opposite a small village on the mainland.
After an hours kip, I dropped the rowboat in the water (as our donated Zodiac is falling apart!) and paddled into the village to find some diesel. Of course, it became an adventure.
I don’t know how you like to turn up at a random Filipino fishing village but what I suggest you do is row slowly through the anchored fishing boats, trying to work out the best place to land on a nasty beach filled with breakers, so everyone in the village has time to go “what the hell is this westerner doing?” before waving you into a particular bit of the beach where the waves seem less crazy than anywhere else.
Not that that mattered as, while doing your best Bondi surf rescue impression and timing your approach between waves, you completely stuff it up and get smashed by a freak wave which came out of nowhere, rolled the rowboat (recommend: dive for safety!), snapped an oar and dumps you unceremoniously on the beach where it seemed the entire village was running to help.
Then I suggest you jump to your feet, and in your best Englishman-in-the-Orient voice, say “Hello everyone! Bit rough today, eh!? Is there anywhere around here I can get some diesel?”
At least that’s how I apparently like to do it.
Unsurprisingly everyone thought this was great fun so I was quickly taken to the diesel store (while demonstrating great strength of character by ignoring the siren calls of “youhoo! I love you, come drink rum with us!” coming from a local bar), loaded up with full jerries and sent on my way again after the obligatory round of selfies.
We finally arrived in Davao, off OceanView Marina at 2100hrs – too late to come in so we anchored off until the morning, when we came in and moored. Finally, this stage of our journey was complete! And not a moment too soon; that evening a storm with 35 knot winds hit from the north and a yacht at anchor outside was hit by a lightning bolt that destroyed its electronics.
We intend to stay in Davao for a while as the endless delays and problems have gutting our project budget and mean we have missed our chance to go to Indonesia this year. So I’ve made the difficult decision to pause the Voyage here, to allow us to get our feet under us again.
James and Roxy have left Labyrinth to find diving work and get additional scuba qualifications and Jolene and I are focused on producing films from the three months of footage we’ve shot already in Borneo and the Philippines, as well as raising additional funding and getting Labyrinth back into fighting form, so we can continue on the Voyage of the Labyrinth.
So watch this space and you’ll be seeing some new films soon!
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