|nonoctave.com / Rebel Yell / Part V / Chapters 3-4|
|Rebel Yell||Jason Scott||Part V - In Search of A Wayward Wind|
A reprieve from disaster and a lesson well
learned in exciting ways not to anchor.
Joe had arranged for us to take Ernie and two others as crew to Manila with the idea that, if they worked out well, a couple of them would sail with us all the way to the States. To the Filipino almost to a man their goal in life is to end up in the States. The possibility of being able to work their way there on a boat had a lot of appeal to men who could normally look forward to making less than a livable wage during his lifetime. The problem of getting them papers had to be worked.
Before casting off, Joe intoned them all not to sully the good name of the village. Goodbye was said with much tearful emotion, hugs and kisses for all. Chris gave Joe a parting gift of a pair of new tennies. Jeff had already given one of his extra pairs to one of the children. It was sort of a mark of prestige to be the only young boy in the village with shoes.
Brief instructions were given to the new crew. He started the recalcitrant engine, hauled anchor and headed out of the beautiful harbor on a compass of 200 degrees. It would bring us to a point off the peninsula at Linguyan. The winds were light sky clear and the barometer steady. The harbor was cleared at 1315 hours and we were on our way to Manila. Most of the problems with the boat were still with us but this time we had adequate crew and were on the final leg to a place where willing and competent help with our problems was available.
Full sail was set as soon as we cleared the bar under conditions of a bright sky occasionally dotted with puffy pure white clouds and a gently undulating sea.
The Filipino, being an island dweller, is a natural seaman. It didn’t take much to instruct the three in the fundamentals of sail handling, boatswain duties and helmsmanship. The best of the lot, Ernie, insisted on doing all the cooking and cleaning up in addition to his other duties. His sanitary standards were not up to the Admiral’s but at this point she decided to say nothing critical. Just relax and enjoy. As any cruiser will testify if you find someone who loves the galley and as long as ptomaine doesn’t set in one takes the easier course of sailing-by-the-way and belaying any unnecessary criticism.
In addition to his culinary willingness Ernie had the respect of the other men and it wasn’t long before he took charge of the crew as second in command. Under his direction they all went about their work in the same happy manner as they lived ashore.
We had not been able to find a marine turnbuckle in Vagan but were able to set full sail by temporarily substituting the broken one at the mizzen with one meant for a clothesline. The chance had to be taken that it would carry on satisfactorily until Manila under conditions of fair winds and reasonable seas.
The key which kept the engine and shaft operating together could not be jury rigged. The boat would have to be put into a facility where it could be pulled and a new machined fitting designed and built to replace the coupling. We’d have to sail with what we had and keep the rosary beads handy. To lessen the strain on the key the Captain would handle the gear-shifting. Most tenderly! As if these things were not enough another problem reared its ugly head.
Rojoe, one of the crewmen, was at the wheel and I was sitting in the hatchway idly looking aft at the passing scenery. Chris and Jeff were below and the rest of the crew were draped Filipino style in various positions on the foredeck and cabin. They sort of reminded me of a couple of Bassett hound pups making like two blobs of silly-putty melting in the sun. The wind was brisk and flexing the downhauls. As I watched the action there came a startling realization which brought me out of the reverie. FLEXING was right! The entire aft transverse seat in the cockpit was moving upward about three inches every time a force was put on the downhaul. This was not good! The runner to which the mizzen downhaul was tied was examined and it was pretty evident that it was about to tear loose and take the rest of the seat with it. It seems that those idiots at the factory had bolted the runner down to just the seat! The seat was not part of any primary structure. One good gust of wind and we would watch the whole thing fly off into the sunset!
If they had done something as incredible as that it was time to look at some other primary tiedowns such as the cleats for the sheets. Sure enough they had been bolted to the thin secondary fiberglass side structure and they too had worked loose. The builder had drilled holes in the cockpit side for the cleats. They he had drilled holes in the outside hull large enough to permit access to the nuts on the back side. No backup plates were used nor were either lock nuts or washers installed. The nuts were tightened initially then the access holes were filled in. This prevented either inspection or retightening. It was hard to believe! Other means had to be found to tie the sheets down until we reached Manila.
Fortunately on this leg the winds were moderate and the sea gentle.
It was a most beautiful sail just off the coast. The engine stayed off until we were almost abreast of Subic Bay. There the winds slacked to the point where it was best to motor sail.
It wasn’t long before the recalcitrant engine started overheating worse than ever. It got so bad that the diesel could be run for only six minutes at a time. Knowing that we were almost to a place where competent (and more important willing) help for our sick boat would be forthcoming kept us going. Wind conditions improved so the engine was shut down and REBEL slowly sailed on.
Subic Light was passed at 0900 and the thought was toyed with that our anemic gal could be brought into the US Naval Base at Subic as had other Yankee yachtsmen. Friends had told us that if an American yacht came in there with problems, the naval authorities would give such help as needed using any of the extensive facilities available to them at the base. The Phillipine government did not appreciate foreign yachts coming in there in lieu of the port of entry but would waive their objections if it could be shown that the boat was in distress. That criteria was of no concern to us. REBEL had been in some stage of distress from the moment she left the factory!
The breeze picked up favorably as we passed so the decision was made to forego Subic and continue our trek southward towards Corregidor and Manila Bay. Besides we were anxious to get into the yacht club at Manila for it was there that all our mail was being forwarded. Also we were running short of cash and the good old B of A had established a beach head there.
Early afternoon, just as we were making our eastward turn into Manila Bay, the winds shifted to due east. The rest of the afternoon was spent tacking back and forth across the mouth of the bay trying to make some headway against the now brisk head on breeze. Unless the engine was used we would never make land harbor before dark.
Use of the engine in conjunction with sail permitted us to keep a course much closer to the wind and therefore make better progress towards our destination. The problem with this mode was that, once filled with coolant water, the leak was now so bad that the engine would heat up to over 200° so fast that very little real headway was made.
Still, it was better than nothing. Considering this turn of events, there was no choice but to make for Mariveles, a small port city on the north side of the bay entrance just opposite Corregidor.
The worst decision which can be made is no decision at all.
It is not a good idea — to come into a strange port at night. Especially if you happen to be sailing a sick yacht! There are, however occasions when it is absolutely necessary to make the attempt. Of course one recognizes that many options are deliberately aborted when routine safety measures are, for any reason ignored. If you happen to run into multiple mechanical and meteorological failure, the danger of losing it all is certainly a real possibility!
The going was painfully slow. By dusk we were inside Corregidor just south of Mariveles Bay. The charts showed that we could line up with the light on Corregidor directly aft and sail towards a light from Mariveles. This would bring us directly through the safe channel and into the anchorage. It was dark before we made the turn and the wind was then off our starboard quarter beam at a steady 25 knots and freshening. We came flying in under working sail less mizzen.
The plan for anchoring was simple. We would drop the jib as soon as the inner harbor light was visible and come in under just mains’l for the final approach. The fitful engine would be started before making the turn into the wind. (After all, the engine would give us at least 5 minutes before it had to be shut down.) The procedure was to pass close enough to the pier to assure us a place to hang a stern line after laying the bow anchor and permitting the wind to help us set it by pushing us astern. The engine would be used for backup safety to power us into proper position for a good set far enough away from the pier to permit letting out a good scope before securing the stern lines to the dock.
Jeff was assigned the task of reading off the depths on the approach. The charts showed a clear way with nothing unusual about the bottom. It was a great plan to demonstrate good seamanship. Except for one little thing: Moi Fee again!
We were ghosting along beautifully and everything went as planned. For a while. A few things awry were noted. The harbor was not laid out as per the charts, depths were not per the charts and the approach light was green instead of red. (People who move in US waters are spoiled by the accuracy of our charts and good marker maintenance. One excursion into foreign waters will cure that complacency if you are lucky enough to survive! This is also the reason why the prudent mariner never comes into a strange port at night unless absolutely necessary.)
Neither the charts or sailing instructions (new from the States) prepared me for what was next. The dock which we were going to make was in a shambles. There was no way that a stern line could be layed on them with safety.
After seeing the dock through the glasses (a large moon was up) the decision was made to anchor out rather than tie stern to. By the time that decision was made we were close enough to the pier to verify what we had seen from a distance. Jeff was calling out shoaling at a remarkable rate. Down came the main and we turned into the wind. The engine was idling but once into the wind we discovered that about 2500 RPM was needed to move forward against it to a safe anchoring distance.
Then, it happened. There came the same horrible sound heard in Kaohsiung when the coupling between the engine and shaft broke.7 We were without power or sail and at the complete mercy of the wind. The boat was much too close to the derelict pier to set the anchor in time to keep us from or from hoisting sail again to keep from crashing into the pilings and rocks. The wind had swung us around and pushed us quickly (much too quickly) in the direction of the pier.
We were now sideways at the mercy of the elements and there appeared to be absolutely nothing which would keep us from crashing against the concrete pilings, half of which were semi-submerged. I was in shock. A crash was eminent. Perhaps everyone at one critical time despairs. This was to be my time.8
All I could think about was that in spite of great odds we had been able to bring REBEL through each adversity using good seamanship, logic and a lot of luck. Now, this!
Momentarily, I sat back on the seat beside the wheel and put my head in my hands. ENOUGH!
“My boat! My beautiful boat,” I wailed. “After all this, my beautiful boat is going to be wrecked!”
While thus indulging in self pity but for a moment,9 Chris kept her cool. She and Jeff had already pulled out the fenders10 and were trying to keep the boat from tearing itself to pieces against the pier.
“Florento! Ernie! Everyone grab the poles and hold us off,” Chris shouted. In my despair the 8 foot docking poles had been forgotten. Chris didn’t forget. Her action and voice brought me out of the self-imposed stupor. The crew was fighting a valiant but losing battle. A crowd of shore onlookers were running out on the pier towards the boat. Joining the rest of the crew in pushing off, I shouted to the crowd.
“Hey — you guys! Jump on board and help us hold the boat off.”
About 15 men leapt aboard and that added manpower was sufficient to keep the boat from floundering and beating itself to pieces until a small tug boat, which had been sitting close enough to hear the proceedings, could lay a line on us and give a tow to safety. No damage was suffered!
Finally, safely anchored, we all sat on the fantail in a state of mental and physical exhaustion. There was a failure on my part which would never be permitted to mold in the dusty archives of obscurity. To this day, it is the single most vivid description of our entire sail which Chris is willing to voice in public. I console myself with the thought that the crew had been well-trained enough to take over during the Captain’s malaise. There was a certain contentment in the knowledge that, always in the annals of sailing someone would rise to an occasion when things really got nitty-gritty!
“Have you looked to see what is missing from the boat?” said Ernie bringing me out of my thoughts. “I chased two men out from below before they were able to steal anything.” That possibility had not been considered in the intensity of the action.
A search revealed that anything which was not tied down above decks and which could easily be carted off by one man (such as hand tools) had been stripped. The only thing I really missed was the beautiful bone-handle Bowie knife which had been with me for years. All in all, the insignificant loss on deck was a small price to pay for saving the boat from utter destruction on the rocks.11 One thing for sure! The construction and design faults had to be fixed in a hurry. One of these times our luck would not hold out. God, how I hated that boat builder!
Mariveles was an official port of entry. The next day the family trekked to the local doctor who also doubled as Pratique Officer. With no questioning or examination whatsoever, he piled us into his custom made Jeepster and drove us to the Customs and Immigration office where we were officially cleared into the Phillipines. (Unless one has seen a Phillipine Jeepster, descriptive justice cannot be done. The good doctor’s was the epitome of Jeepsters. It was garishly painted with bright colors and abounded in chrome. Small metal statues of bull dogs, steers, horses, Packard swans and highly polished chrome pot metal decorative images were bolted all over the hood. The upholstery was carved and illustrated in real leather. All in all, it was really too much!)
On the return trip, the good doctor told us that if we had cleared in Manila there would have been much more ado about our unofficial landing and the cost would have more than tripled with the imposition of La Mordida (the bite), the Latin version of payola.
With the willing help of Dr. Morales arrangements were made (free of charge) for the tug to pull the yacht to the largest of the boat works in the bay: Bataan Shipyard. Chris agreed to stay and supervise the operation while I went to Manila on the SES (surface effect ship) commuter, picked up mail and got some money.
The trip over was fast (40 Knot cruise) and rough. The return trip was delayed several hours when the engines failed and the onboard mechanic spent half the afternoon trying to get it started up again. (We were lucky. Repairs were made in a couple of hours. Others have sat out in the open water for 24 hours waiting a fix!)
Chris was a little unhappy about my delayed return mainly because wind and a heavy chop had made a rough night’s sleep tied up to the derelict LST next to the pier in the boatyard.12 Jeff, however liked the experience.
“It was just like being on a roller coaster Dad.”
It didn’t take long for us (Ernie acting as chief haggler) to learn that we couldn’t afford the haul out at that shipyard. They were equipped to handle boats to the size of ocean liners and the cost of pulling out using that gear would have cost some $1800. They would inspect and repair the cooling system and jury rig a temporary fix on the prop shaft well enough to get us to Manila for $45.00.
We returned to the boat where 16 year old Rojoe was told that he was too young to go with us to the Med. (If you really want to have problems with immigration in foreign ports, have a teenager who doesn’t belong to you on board!) I paid his bus fare back to his Dad with a note explaining the situation.13
Chris was in a good mood. We had been invited to cocktails and dinner at the hotel overlooking the village. Dr. Morales, his wife and young son were our hosts.
The hotel overlooking the bay was laid out as a motel and was as modern as anything in the States. It sat on a knoll overlooking the town of about 12,000 souls. The town itself was not what could be considered very clean. It was more like a dusty prairie mining town in Nevada except for its close proximity to the sea. It was clutter-dirty, not the unsanitary filth so common in the orient. The view at night was a picturesque cameo of this historic village. Somehow when you look down at a settlement from a distance, you forget that close up it was just another dirty dusty place with the same human deficiencies as any other dirty dusty place. Even a hell-hole like Cacao looks beautiful from a distance.
Looking down at that sleepy village, it was difficult to remember that this place was the staging ground for one of the most inhumane acts in the history of man’s inhumanity to man: the Bataan death march.
Before returning to the yacht, Morales drove us to the monument which marks the spot where the march began. The place was steeped in mutual history. As we stood there in silence, we felt the presence of the ghosts of the past. There was a silent understanding of the existing genuine affection and brotherliness between our two peoples.
Sunday we cast off and cleared the harbor on a heading which took us directly into a 10 knot wind (is it ever any different?) The course was quickly adjusted to permit motor sailing tight into the wind on a long tack towards Manila itself. Most of the time the city itself can be seen in the distance, but in the morning a surface fog and haze obscures the view. The bay was without chop and the trip went without event.
The impressive skyline of this great city soon came clearly into sight as the sun rose and burned off the mist. The bay itself was deep enough to eliminate worries about banks or shoals. Cargo ships and freighters of all types and nationalities anchored out as far as 5 miles from the land proper. Unlike the small harbors we had been coming in to, the usual amount of garbage and civilization had to be pushed aside by the prissy nose of our ketch which had, after leaving Keelung, been used to moving through sterile seas. This was no place to hove to and enjoy a quick swim in the sea.
Upon being advised by VHF that we were coming in, the Manila Yacht Club sent out a service boat to guide us to our anchorage. The anchor was set amongst cruising yachts flying a potpourri of foreign flags. We had arrived safely and in one piece at the first official port we had scheduled. Chris, Jeff and I breathed a well deserved sigh of relief!
Second cleanest city in the Orient
The only major city in the orient which is any cleaner than Manila is Singapore. It was not always so in case of both cities. Manila stands as a phoenix rising from the ravages of several wars, revolutions and occupations. As long as one remains south of the river in Manila proper, the streets are wide, parks are many and the buildings are relatively new. Cross that river into the Chinese business district and you enter the usual squalid oriental disorder and dirt. There are two main business districts, Ermita and Makati. Ermita is the old district which lays along Roxas Blvd., the main thoroughfare running north and south along the bay. There the impressive American Embassy stands and that is where it was necessary to go to complete the documentation of the yacht as a ship of United States Registry. (The boat to that time carried a certificate of American Ownership issued by the embassy in Taipei.)
Registration of a yacht as an official vessel of the United States is absolutely necessary for world cruising if one wants to obtain what little protection the government can provide to its citizens in foreign waters. Unless a yacht is documented, official recognition and some rights are sometimes arbitrarily withheld by foreign countries. The documentation ritual (the format has come down to us from the archives of British antiquity) is performed by the U.S. Coastguard and involves a make-believe survey of the the boat to determine how much cargo space is available. (On a yacht, who cares?) It is a methodology called ad measurement which is as outmoded as building airplanes out of plywood and refuses to give way to a need which disappeared with the Clipper Ships. Manila is one of the foreign ports which has an official U.S. Coast Guard office through which this rain dance can be solicited.
People will advise you that foreign documentation is an impossibility but that is not so. The procedure must be initiated in the States before leaving, blessed overseas by the proper representative and consummated back in the States again. The recipe followed did give us occasion to meet and socialize with the delightful family of Coast Guard Attache Commander Gray who did the documentation honors for the first time in his career. That done, we turned to more pressing business . . . getting clearances and papers for the two crew Filipino crew members and bringing REBEL YELL up to sailing standards of seaworthiness.
The one thing every person who travels to foreign countries by yacht learns is that nothing comes easy if you have to deal with the government agencies. The main deterrent to elimination of the red tape is the ever present requirement for Mordida (bribery). Once you recognize that nothing will be done unless Mordida is paid it then becomes just a matter of haggling like any other business deal in the orient. It seems that every official from top to bottom extracts his price. Actual costs to get such things as passports or, in our case, seaman papers far exceeds the official figures. The amount of money passed under the table all the way up the line varies as to the importance of the official. The interesting thing is that the more minor the official the more money he demands to move you up to the next person in line. The real person in authority who can issue the final documents usually asks for nothing. The bottom line here is that it cost me $600.00 U.S. money to get seaman papers for two Filipino crewmen. (No papers, no permission to land in foreign ports.)
The last few days in Manila were spent provisioning from local stores. The canned goods (original manufacturing techniques installed by American technicians) were every bit as good as what we were used to at home. This was a pleasant surprise after the quality of goods we had experienced in Taiwan. Everything was available and at a cost considerably less than the States. In addition to the necessities, two cases of excellent local rum (85 cents a quart) and local Smirnoff vodka ($1.25 per quart) were put aboard. The rum proved to be good trading material, especially in the predominantly Muslim countries we would soon be visiting. (As it turned out, Muslims don’t drink because of their religion but they seem to have a helluva lot of infidel friends who do!)
I out now pristine loosing yacht was in better shape by far than she was at launch. All of the major problems we had discovered thus far had been repaired and reworked. The drive coupling had been redesigned to have a tapered pin running through both pieces to prevent slippage. The Sayes rig paddle had been received and installed. All of these things at a most reasonable cost. Things were looking up.
We were in the process of going from boat to boat in the harbor saying goodbye to cruising friends. Cruisers are a party bunch. During our stay we met up with a lot of world cruising yachtees and heard many wild sea stories. Some of the craft which had sailed the waters between Australia and Indo China (notoriously dangerous weather) were amazingly unseaworthy. It was good that the captains made up for the boat’s deficiencies with competence or sheer guts! (Maybe a little of both.)
One evening we saw a small sloop coming into the harbor under the one man sculling power of its skipper. It was Larry Pardy. He and his bride, Linn, were finally on their way home from their seven year world honeymoon cruise on their motorless, headless, 26-foot home-made sloop the SERRAFIN. They had barely settled down at anchor before Linn had a bevy of us over for cocktails and home made goodies. She is a genius of a shipboard cook.
Another interesting crew was Ron Amy and his American girl friend. He had designed and built what I considered to be the almost perfectly laid out and executed cruising yacht. They were in Manila for final preparations and provisioning for the trip up past Japan and on to San Francisco. After looking at that boat I knew that it was possible to get a quality piece of merchandise out of Taiwan . . . even if it were the only one! The only thing wrong with the concept was that it should have been at least 42 feet instead of 39. Ron subsequently did exactly that with his cutter rigged double-ender now being marketed as the Spindrift class.
Chris in her exuberant participation in the party-girl yacht set, did manage to take an impromptu bath, fully clothed, in Manila Bay before leaving. I pulled her out of the water after she had tried to step aboard from the service boat before it got to within 5 feet of the REBEL. It was the first and last time I was ever to see her in water deeper than a bath tub!
The evening before sailing, we sat on the porch of the Club going over what had been done and where we were going. A young Chinese, Joe Hom and his American girlfriend, Beth, overheard our conversation and came over to the table to introduce themselves. They had a small iron cutter rigged ketch sitting in the water a couple of boats in line from us. They had tried to go past Palawan on the western passage towards Borneo two times thus far and both times had to turn back. The last time they had been anchored in a cove overnight and found, the next morning, that their anchor had dragged, put them on a reef and inflicted a large gash in their side. (Shades of Hiscock! How can anyone sleep through something like that?) They managed to stuff the void with blankets for the trip back to Manila. They were so discouraged that they were planning on returning to Hong Kong and giving the whole thing up.
“Don’t turn it in now,” I admonished. “We’re going to pull out of here for Puerto Princessa. I’ve studied the charts and talked to the local Navy people. Everyone agrees that it is not advisable to go on the outside passage this time of year. The winds are either nothing or are coming from the south directly against you. The sea is also very rough and dangerous that way. Why don’t you join us and we’ll sail together in a two boat convoy?
Joe was rightfully concerned about the very real problems with pirates in the Sulu Sea. That is why he chose the western passage with all of its dangers. But if you miss a navigation point on the outside Palawan passage you end up in a great area west of the island which is marked dangerous and uncharted reefs. It was abound with shallow covered reefs and unknown islands. He considered that it was safer than facing the pirates. I had approached the very same problem another way.
“There is a cousin of the PI Coast Guard Commandant on board our boat as a crewman. He has assured me that they would keep trace of us and provide any escort through the pirate areas which were needed. You have had bad luck. Come on go, with someone who always has good luck. Providence, or Lady Luck, has always been with me.”
There I went, thinking positive again! But there was a method in my madness. It was to both of our advantages to have two sailing boats going together on any world wide passage. That way, if a problem occurs, the other is around nearby to lend help. The situation was a strode of luck for both of us. He decided to take me up on the offer and we spent the rest of the time going over the charted courses and sailing times.
The next morning a slim and trim REBEL YELL escorted a somewhat unkempt iron ketch SAGGIN' DRAGON out of Manila Harbor. We had hauled anchor at sunup and moved out under power on a glassy sea pushing whisps of sea fog which lay inches over the water. Jeff and Chris remained below sleeping as the town of Manila slipped quietly away from us in the gold and red haze of an eastern sky.
To me, it was routine life at sea once again. And, just in time too, for the typhoon season was upon us and safety lie south in the “land below the winds.” Why should we worry about little things which could not possibly bother us? Like Pirates!
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