Sailing Luzon – Taiwan – Ishigaki.

We are NOT going to Subic Bay. That for sure! After all the horrible reports by other cruisers on how corrupted most officials are, we just don’t have to go there to get a bad experience. So we are just sailing by, if weather is bad we may stop at San Fernando or anchor off some villages.

On our 3rd day out from El Nido, we had some rolly seas. Not quite made it to Luzon yet, so hove to for 6hrs or so. After that, we had better weather near the West coast of Luzon, maybe even the current was with us. We were motoring slowly at 1500rpm as the motor develop a knocking sound which Doug suspect is caused by the cutlass bearing damage. Still we are making 4kns or so. We are definitely very thankful that we had great weather most of the time and the rolly conditions didn’t last very long and wasn’t horribly bad… it could be worse..

Early morning activity at Pinget Island.

Early morning activity at Pinget Island.

We decided that we would like to anchor and rest for a night before crossing the Luzon straight to Taiwan. We anchored just inside at the North cove of Pinget Island, where it seem to be protected from the East and South… but we rolled some with the waves coming from West… it comes and goes, and although irritating, we just needed to rest… its better than being on watch… and I got Internet! Yippee… weather checked, email checked, FB checked…

It was dark by the time we were anchored, so we could barely make out the village…. we were much surprised the next morning… the village was buzzling with activity. Squid fishing boats fish at night and were coming back. Sure, they all did a detour to check us out… one of them approach to trade with us. A gallon bagful of fresh squids for a leaky old dive mask that Doug didn’t want. Win-win for all.

Dolphins ahoy!

Dolphins ahoy!

Not wanting to be harassed by more traders, we upped anchor and left in record time. It was a beautiful morning, calm and definitely a good day for the crossing. I was on the helm as Doug was processing squids into rings 🙂 … , when a big family of dolphins came up to ride with us. I ran down and grabbed my camera. Finally I have my own dolphins sighting evidence!

Dolphins riding our bow wake

Dolphins riding our bow wake

We had really good weather and tail wind helping us cross the Luzon straight quickly. We made it to Lui Dao on the 3rd day out from Pinget Island, just as we expected. It was quite rolly just outside the harbour and we need to refuel… Lang thought maybe go in for some protection and maybe rest for the night tied up to seawall, Doug think not and we should get going asap. .. okie, fine, so it was a little sloppy but we still manage to not spill while refuelling.

Lu Dao ... That's all we saw of Taiwan.

Lu Dao … That’s all we saw of Taiwan.

Every mile that we move NE, away from Lui Dao, the seas get bigger and bigger. Our SOG is down to 2kns as we roll up and down on 2m waves. On hindsight, we should have stayed at Lui Dao for the night, but after 30miles out we are not heading back.

I wonder what he wants?

I wonder what he wants?

We had a strange encounter with a steel Taiwan fishing boat… it came from behind us, to turn around in circles in front of us, then moving away and coming back to turn more circles. Finally it come really close, and we were really worried that in these big seas they are coming to ram us… but they stayed 30meters off and tried to say something to us… we could not hear them really.. but maybe they are suggesting for us to turn back..?? Then they left. That strange encounter kept us on more diligent watch thru the night in case they come back.

It was only 180nm from Lui Dao to Ishigaki, and we made it there in 2.5 day … 60hrs. I guess we had a strange current going against us, so we didn’t make it into port before dark. 2000hrs, Lang called Japan coast guard on VHF channel 16… no reply. Okay, so I call on my SG mobile .. maybe cost an arm and leg… but I had to make contact about our approach into their harbour. Seems like nobody in Ishigaki coast guard office speaks enuf English and they were panicking, finally they have me call Okinawa office and they conveyed the message to us that our route IS DANGEROUS!? What do you mean dangerous? … They assumed we didn’t have detailed chart showing the many reefs surrounding the port, ah… ok, so we have charts, but it was 10pm when we got into harbour and they instructed us to anchor outside the harbour for the night. okie…

Morning surprise at Ishigaki.

Morning surprise at Ishigaki.

So we followed the leading lights and weave thru the maze of seawalls, and anchored off a seawall where we thought was outside the harbour… it was really dark and we thought we had a really good anchoring spot to hop right in at 1st daylight… 🙂 Another morning surprise, Japan coast guard ships were our neighbours.. that is where they operate from… ooopps…

7am, we upped anchor and moved into fisherman coop wharf for check in and immigration to Japan! Now to face the notoriously difficult PAPERWORK for checking into Japan….

Calliste at immigration seawall in Ishigaki.

Calliste at immigration seawall in Ishigaki.

But it turn out to be not difficult at all. All it took was a phone call to the coastguard in the morning before we up anchor. In the 30 mins that we took to up anchor and move inside the harbour, the quarantine officer was already there to help us tie up. Seems like the coastguard office coordinates all activity that is necessary for us to check in. The customs officer came on board and went thru the boat, followed by the coastguard. So, they do look carefully at our medical kit, tools and cleaning fluids. Fortunately they found nothing offensive and took nothing away from us.

Yep, language was difficult, but the officials were patient, friendly and spoke enough English between them to help us complete our check in. They even had a appointed staff to drive us to customs and immigration office and back. In 2hrs, we are back on board and all cleared for a good time in Japan. Hah! We made it!

BTW, I hear that it is much more stressful to check into Phillipines and although language is not a problem, corruption is. And I haven’t found it to be easier in Thailand or Malaysia, except that they don’t come on board to search thru our stuff. I choose to handle the Japanese officials and paperwork anytime.


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Sailing 2015: Port Townsend(WA, US) -> Costes Island (BC, Canada)

Sailing 2013: Singapore -> Okinawa -> Kobe

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