IJsselstein, Tuesday, 17 January 2006 04:50:33
Strolling along Alona Beach on Bohol, I noticed a palau (traditional Filipino outrigger sailing boat) on the beach. When we took a closer look at it, we were approached by a German speaking man with a dark-brown sun-tanned skin and seven-day old beard, who introduced himself as Charly, and who asked us whether we would like to join him for a sailing trip on this craft. Both me and Lyn were really tempted to go, but, since we had Joshua with us, a didn’t dare to bring a two year old child with us on a small sailing boat at open sea, with possible rough conditions, we declined the offer, and made an appointment with him to come back the next day -- so that we could arrange for somebody to look after Joshua, and also could depart somewhat earlier in the morning, and enjoy more of the trip. We also discussed where we would go; first sailing out at sea from Alona Beach, and then all the way to Balicasag Island, some ten kilometers away, passing a few more smaller islands on the way.
Not much later, some other tourists arrived, and decided to sail with Charly and his palau, so we watch them sail away, and continued our stroll on the beach, and spend the day relaxing. The whole day we had very nice weather, and only when dusk arrived, the sky also turned dark with clouds, and at night we had some rather strong thunderstorms and heavy rains.
The next morning, everything was clear again and we arrived at the beach a little before the appointed time, but nowhere could we find a trace of Charly and his boat, so we already feared he was washed away, but, since he might be making a small sailing trip, we decided to wait and relax -- Alona beach really isn’t a place to be in a hurry. After about one hour, we could descry a tiny blue sail near the horizon, which meant he wasn’t lost. Another hour later, he arrived at Alona beach, with the same people who joined him yesterday still on-board...
We asked him what happened, and he told us that due to the bad weather last afternoon, he wasn’t able to come back at night, and was forced to spend the night with his passengers on Pamilacan island. Since he was able to reach shore before the thunderstorms started, nothing bad had happened, and could safely return the next morning.
Not discouraged by this story, we still decided to sail with Charly. Before we departed, also a American-Chinese couple joined us on-board (The boat can carry six people, so place enough).
When you sail on a palau, you will get wet, so we had put on clothes that could get wet. We also brought some sun-block at the highest factor available, since, at sea, the sun burns at double strength, but the wind and water makes you feel cool, so you have a tremendous risk to catch a severe sun-burn without noticing it before it is too late. Further, we brought a set of flippers, diving mask and snorkel, and a camera, which we stowed away in a water-tight container on-board (so that, unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures while on-board).
Since the wind is coming almost from the direction we plan to go, we have go out from the beach quite a direction, and zig-zag our way to Balicasag. The wind is pleaseant, not too strong, but also not too weak, so that we can reach a good speed. Charly is sitting in the middle hull of the ship, while we sit on a net, stretched between the hull and the bamboo outrigger, and the other passengers sit on the other side, also on a net. Since we zig-zag, we are alternatingly at the high and low side of the palau. When we are at the low side, the wind pushes the out-rigger into the water, so that we get quite wet...
Charly has a lot to talk about. During our trip, he tells us that he has been living in the Philippines for seven years, making a living by sailing tourists around with his palau from Boracay (where indeed I remember seeing his boat a few years ago). He had just recently sailed his palau from Boracay to Bohol, a trip which took him about 10 days, with his Filipina wife and two young children on-board. We also discuss about the possibility of sailing all around Bohol. A trip I would love to make one day, even though it would take about a week to complete. We’ll not tell you all of his stories, which he loves to tell, even though he is still, after all those years, only really fluent in German.
Our trip takes about three hours, during which we pass along a number of small islands. We pass Gak-an island, which exists mostly of a large white beach, with just a single coco-nut tree on it. If you’ve seen the movie Muro-Ami, you will actually recognize it as one of the islands appearing in it. We also closely pass some islands which are merely sharp rocks sticking out of the sea, but finally we reach our destination, Balicasag Island.
On Balicasag Island, we are immediately approached by three women, trying to sell us all kinds of shells. Probably, they have seen us approaching the island for hours, and, as we are the first visitors to the island that day, are quite eager to sell us some shells. Unfortunately for them, we do not bring them business. Instead we pull the boat ashore, on a beach that consists mostly of rough pieces of coral, shells and stone, rounded by the constant rolling waves. Since there is a small resort on the other side of the island, we walk along the coastline for a drink at its small restaurant. After that we explore the inland of the island, on which a small community of mostly fishermen lives, complete with a small church, a primary school, and some houses with small fields and gardens. In the middle of the island, we inspect the old, now unused lighthouse dating from the American era, and the brand-new light house next to it, build with British aid, and we reach the shore after a short walk.
Here we find our boat, and get out our snorkeling gear. We swim out from the beach to study the underwater world. Balicasag Island can boast of some of the best diving sites of the Philippines, but most of these are somewhat further from the coast, and require scuba equipment. Closer to the coast, much of the corals have been damaged by typhoons and destructive fishing methods. Still we swim out a hundred metres and observe some nice corals.
After an hour of snorkeling, we set out to go back to Alona beach. The palau is pushed into the water, and within a few minutes we are on our way. This time the wind is almost from our back, and has also become a little bit stronger, se we go with a fantastic speed, surfing the waves. At times, a flying fish jumps out of the water just in-front of us, and we really enjoy the exciting trip. Within an hour we are back at Alona Beach.
At Alona Beach, we help Charly to pull his boat ashore, and unload our things, and have a concluding drink with Charly and our co-passengers. It was a day well spend! We promise to come back when we return to Bohol, and make some longer sailing trips.
If you want to make your own sailing trip, just go to Alona Beach in the morning, where you can find Charly’s boat at the northern end of the beach. If you look at his boat, he will probably approach you, or can otherwise be found in a nearby diving shop. Just ask around. His fees are very reasonable. For 300 pesos you can sail an hour, for 500 half a day, and for 800 a full day. If you are with few and can find some other people to join the trip, you can split the cost, as his boat can carry six people. You can go sailing early in the morning, and have a good chance of seeing some dolphins, or have a very romantic trip at a quiet moon-lit night.
Notice: Word came to us that Charlie has left Bohol with an unknown destination. Maybe he has returned to Boracay, or went to some other location.