Monday, 9 March 2009

7 March 2009 - Hobie 21 in the Philippines

19 Nautical Miles

I was out visiting my son whose ship is in the Philippines, so decided to take him sailing for the day. I pre-planned this, but was particularly pleased to do so as Manila is so noisy, you can barely hear yourself think. Manila has a population roughly the same size as Cairo, but whereas Cairo is busier and more crowded than Manila, it is quieter and less chaotic. A day on a 21 foot catamaran is just the answer to such noise and chaos.

It takes approximately two hours by car from Manila to Taal Lake Yacht Club. I had found the site through Google and Ronnie, the secretary at the club, arranged the transport. I had decided to charter the Hobie 21, partly as its a bigger more stable and partly because I wasn't sure if Becky [Daniel's girlfriend] or Pat [current captain of the MV Doulos] might join us. As it turned out neither of them did, but having a large stable boat was what we needed for a really gentle sail away from the noise. Both the boat charter and the car with driver for the day each cost about 66 euros.

We left the Doulos at about 07:30 in the morning and wove through crumbling streets up to the volcano... yes, Taal Lake is a volcano.

As we came over the final ridge we were greeted with the most amazing sight of the lake. 150 square miles of gentle quiet water, with a lake within a lake. From the water the countryside almost looked elf-ish, save that the trees were too young for a truly elf-like environment.

The second lake on the volcano itself is slightly acidic, so there are warnings about not bathing too long in that water or it may damage you skin! You cannot quite see the second lake from this photo, although if you are there its somewhat clearer.

You can see more clearly on the Google Earth image above what I mean.

We wound down a winding road to the club and were greeted by Jose, one of the staff at the club. We signed the disclaimer, then Jose rigged us out with life jackets, got the boat in the water, explained about the vegetation problem [weeds growing in the water that make getting out and in more difficult] and then we were off.

Daniel liked the bigger boat than the Wayfarer I normally sail as you can stand up and walk around. The Hobbie 21 also has wing seats. The only thing missing was some kind of bimini for the sun.

The wind was very light and I found it more difficult tacking the Hobie with very light winds, even backing the jib there were a couple of times I had to skull her round with the rudders. When I say very light I mean by the middle of the day we were almost becalmed... doing 0.4 knots or less at times.

But, its a really beautiful place to be becalmed. The only thing we forgot was food. The club has drinks and we bought cold drinks and they lent us a cooler and ice to keep them cool, but I can tell you that by the end of the day Daniel and I were mega-hungry.

Helming was interesting for two reasons - firstly I was unused to a cat, but learnt how she handles fairly quickly, but mainly because the tiller extension is just sooooo long! You can see it in the photo going behind me.

When you go about the tiller extension has to go behind the main sheet. The technique I used was to put her about, then walk across the trampoline with the tiller extension almost vertical behind the main sheet. Felt very weird till I got the hang of it.

The other strange thing that took me longer to realise is how the main sheet and traveler worked. To start with I just locked the traveler in the middle and sailed on the main sheet. But the sail shape was not really good, since the Hobbie doesn't have a kicking strap. Eventually I realised that for tacking into the wind, you pull down on the main sheet, treating it almost as a kicking strap and then release on the traveler to get the angle to the wind you want.

Goose-wing running is also strange... the sheet for the jib is on a traveler which doesn't come for'ard enough to really get a good shape on the jib, especially since the battens in the jib also hold it somewhat strangely [for those who are totally unused to Hobie's that is].

In the afternoon, Peter, who describes himself as the 'benign dictator' of Taal Lake Yacht Club came out in a laser to see how we were doing. Yes, I like this... coming out in a sail boat... in other clubs it's a noisy rib with an outboard. He then gave a lesson to a couple on another Hobie and a third came out, so we were sailing around in a small fleet.

Apparently next Sunday is the last race of the season. Although you can sail all year round in Taal Lake, the reliable racing winds are only through the winter.

Finally we paid before leaving. There is immense trust in the Philippines over some things. We also paid the driver at the end of the day. I gave him the money, he didn't check it, just took it assuming I had paid the right amount. Apparently this goes all the way down to even trips in a Jeepni... the money is passed all the way along the passengers to the driver you puts it in a pot assuming you have paid the correct amount!

Second time on a multi-hull and am I converted to multi-hulls? Well, in light wind they will do much more in the way of speed than a mono-hull [we were nearly up to 10 knots at times] but no in general I still like mono-hulls better.

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