Candeux is a brand new 48 foot aluminium catamaran which Ben, the owner, and first mate Hugh are sailing from the Philippines, via Malaysia to Phuket in Thailand. The voyage has encountered some challenges.
So far, we have voyaged from Cebu via Bohol and Negros Island to cross the Sulu Sea to Palawan Island. This has not been without its travails: nearly losing the skipper, our steering and ourselves in the Apocalypse Now world of Port Bonbonon and most recently, a grounding at our last port of Araceli.
That is all now behind us and we are on our way to Roxas (pronounced Roh haas), on Palawan Island. It is quite a big settlement and is built around a shipping terminal. We are not quite sure what to expect. In Araceli, a neighbouring catamaran crew with whom we had drinks, had a strange tone of voice when they said that we’d enjoy Roxas. Anyway, we do not plan to spend a lot of time there – just collect diesel, dump rubbish and get beers and dinner in the town. The entry and anchorage look pretty straight-forward. The town sits on a promontory within a bay. There is 3.7m of depth either side of the promontory, which shallows to a spit projecting seaward with charted depths of 0-2m. We hope to anchor in the 3.7m depth off the shore. We are told that there is a service station right at the beach edge where we can get diesel. Excellent.Coming in from the north, we are now close enough to see the shore structures on the north side of the Roxas promontory. We can’t identify a petrol station unless it is cunningly disguised as a coconut tree. We can see that the main commercial port is on the southern side of the Roxas promontory. This is the most likely place. We’ll go around.
Ben begins the port turn to take us out beyond the extending sandspit. He begins, but seems reluctant to turn sufficiently to provide good clearance of the 0.2m spit. Hugh wonders if Ben is suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome, where an individual’s loyalty shifts to their tormentor (shallow water). Could Ben, perhaps unknowingly, be intending to ground again in Roxas as he did in Araceli earlier in the day? Worryingly, there seems to be an emerging pattern.
Prior to Araceli, Ben had banged the rudders on rocks on the way both in and out of Port Bonbonon. And now that Hugh is thinking about it, was that loss of steering on a lee shore at Manucan Island really an accident? Could Ben, for reasons unknown, have intended to bond with the fringing coral reef?
Hugh pushes these thoughts aside and returns his attention to the chartplotter and depth gauge. We are now steering directly across the sand spit and the depth is 2.5m and falling, fast (even though our draught is 0.6m). With rising sense of: “oh, oh, not again”, Hugh says to Ben: “We need to turn hard to port to take us back to deeper water “. He adds, just to be clear: “We are heading into a sandbank.” Ben does not seem to share Hugh’s concern. We are now seeing depths of 2m, 1.8, 1.3… No change of course. Hugh says, with more urgency: “We need to turn to port, Ben. We are at 1m.” It is now too late to turn to port. “Ben, safe water is behind us” says Hugh. Hugh is now wondering if Ben has been taken over by aliens. Available options are: kill Ben and take command (given that an alien life-form is now inhabiting Ben’s body); sitart screaming at him; trust that he knows a secret passage across the sandspit; or go forward and watch disaster approach. Given that Ben has at least slowed the boat (whew!), Hugh opts not to kill him; and goes forward to inspect the weed and sand grains which are clearly visible. “BEN, I see sand and weed all around, safe water is behind us…….”. Thud. We have hit bottom. “Oh dear.” Well, the good thing is that it’s sand and weed and we grounded slowly; so, at least, we did not explode our very last sacrificial wood rudder block (noting that we blew-up the last one in Araceli early in the day); and Ben appears somewhat chastened; so maybe the alien possession is over. We must now try to force Candeux to port (again using our damaged starboard engine) through the sand and weed. We at last inch in.
Candeux into deeper water. Whew! Two groundings in 12 hrs. Is that a record? We now make our way well clear of the barely covered sandspit and head to the south side of the promontory.
At last we spot a service station sign just behind a sea-wall with steps leading up to it. We anchor in readiness for ferrying the diesel to the boat. But first it’s beer, diesel, then food; in that order. At least we’ve got our priorities right. Now if we can just sort out the alien possession.