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Pirates? What Pirates?
11/08/2008, Mindanao, Philippines

The Sulu Sea and the Celebes sea, both bordering west and south of Mindanao, have always been notorious for pirates. Every cruising article and news I read about Sulu or Mindanao, the word "pirates" appear and this generates feelings of fear. "Stay away!" is the general consensus about sailing Mindanao. However, if you read carefully, there are actually no news about pirates attacking pleasure yachts. If there are any attacks, which are so few, they were very localized and they were on fishermen, not pleasure yachts. You can verify this with the International Maritime Bureau Piracy Reporting Center at

One can say that maybe there are no pleasure yachts passing through. This is why there are no reports on attacks. True, and I cannot verify this for certain. All I am certain of is that the east coast of Mindanao and in the Davao Gulf, it is safe. Of course, you must take normal precautions against petty thieves and crimes, just like in any other areas. But, pirates? I don't think so. Halloween is just around the corner, and the only pirate you will see is "Captain Hook" going around trick or treating.

In the general area of Southern Mindanao, in particular the Moro Gulf, Basilan strait, Zamboanga, Jolo and Tawi Tawi, it is worthwhile to know that the U.S. have set up "forward operating bases" supporting the Philippine Armed Forces in their efforts to subdue the Muslim rebel groups in the area. This is probably one more reason why news of pirate attacks have drastically decreased in the last few years.

The Easterly Waves Are Here!!
11/07/2008, Samal, Gulf of Davao, Philippines

Davao, being near the equatorial belt, is typhoon-free. Winds are very seldom stronger than force 4. However, the effects of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) characterized by widespread cloudiness, occasional thunderstorms and precipitations are felt here. Typhoons generally originate in the region of the Marianas and Caroline Islands of the Pacific Ocean which has the same latitudinal location as Mindanao. Their movements follow a northwesterly direction, sparing Mindanao from being directly hit by the typhoons that cross the country.

The city enjoys a weather that remains balmy all year round. It is characterized by a uniform distribution of rainfall, temperature, humidity and there are no wide fluctuations of the barometric air pressure. There are two seasons - the NE monsoon season "Amihan" (October to May) and the SW monsoon "Habagat" (June to September). The beginning and end of the seasons are normally transition periods.

Northeasterly winds are predominant during the NE monsoon season and this will be the best time for cruisers when the weather is pleasant and the chances of being caught in the path of typhoons are minimal. During March and April, the northeasterly trade winds are established and blow dominantly, affecting the eastern sections of the country.

The SW monsoon is the rainy season. Winds are predominantly southwesterly, humid and warmer, especially during the months from July to September where heavy rainfalls affect mostly the western sections of the country.

During the first week of October, I started feeling cooler northeasterly winds. The Easterly Waves have arrived! Briefly, these are wavelike perturbations embedded in the easterly current. It is more frequent during the transition period.

Now, I look forward to the Christmas holidays.

New Boatyard in Samal, Gulf of Davao
11/06/2008, Samal, Gulf of Davao, Philippines

Construction of the slipway and boatyard is in progress (707.25N, 12540.36E). This will be the only slipway in the gulf and is capable of hauling out up to 250 ton vessels. The slipway is finished, but the boatyard will not be ready until the last quarter of 2008.

Wiskun, our floating home for the last 6 years, has been "sitting" beside the slipway under construction, since December 2007. For the past 10 months, it has gone through several layers of dust and UV rays whilst waiting patiently for the slipway to finish so it can be hauled out of the water. Now, the time is getting near and there is even a date set - November 12, the next high tide.

New Marina in Samal Island, Davao Gulf, Philippines
11/05/2008, Samal, Gulf of Davao, Philippines

Construction is underway for a new Marina in the Island Garden City of Samal (711.94N, 12542.74E). It is located in the very northern tip of the Island as part of a real estate development including a subdivision, condominiums, a resort hotel and spa facilities. The marina has a capacity of 108 yachts ranging from 9.76 meters to 20 meters long. It will be complete with water and power connections, showers, laundry area, a pump-out station and a convenience store. The plan also includes a one-stop check-in and out facility with Port and immigration officials within the marina. The target finish date for the marina is sometime in mid-2009. Further news on this article can be accessed here.

Davao City in southern Mindanao is typhoon free and winds are mostly not stronger than Force 4. It is a safe haven for riding out the typhoon season and for storing vessels while yachties fly home. There are direct flights to some southeast asian cities from here, or connections are available to anywhere in the world from Manila.

The Island Garden City of Samal is an island located in the Davao Gulf. The western coast facing the mainland is lined with resorts and hotels due to its nice beige-white sandy beaches. Here, village life is still enjoyed. It is tranquil and peaceful. However, should the need arise, city life, theaters, supermarkets and shopping malls are only a 10 minute ferry ride away.

We have sailed straight to Samal from Palau in December 2007. Currently, we are tied next to the slipway waiting for it to be finished so we can haul out. Anyone needing further information about this article is welcome to email.

11/05/2008, Samal, Gulf of Davao, Philippines

People have asked me why I have chosen the cruising life and I must admit that there are times I thought I am crazy to do this. I didn't know anything about sailing. I spent our year of preparation reading every book about sailing I could get. It never clued in to me how the sailing life really was until the time I lost sight of land the day we casted off from Vancouver. That was several years ago now, and I have not regretted it since then. As everything the word connotes, I have enjoyed the freedom, the ecstasy and the excitement of seeing different countries and meeting different people of varied cultures. The treasured memories will forever remain with me.

I started a website link to invite cruisers to come to my island paradise of Samal. Officially known as The Island Garden City of Samal, it is an island located in the Davao Gulf. Here, you can enjoy life's simple pleasures. It is tranquil, peaceful and full of unspoiled natural attractions. The island is only a 10 minute ferry ride from Davao. It is a safe haven for riding out the typhoon season and for storing your vessel while you fly home.

Off the beaten path, we chose to sail to Davao City to be closer to my family, but there are several reasons why we have not regretted coming here. Davao is typhoon free and winds are seldom stronger than force 4. It is considered as the largest city in the world but here, one can still enjoy a relaxing slow pace of life with amenities that are comparable to developed countries. The city is clean, the air is fresh and there is a wide abundance of fruits, vegetables and seafood at a fraction of the price you pay in America. It is no wonder why Davao is set to become a favorite retirement haven in this part of Asia. With its friendly and honest people, low costs of living, quality medical centers, huge shopping malls, vibrant nightlife, diversified cultures and security, I can only sum them all to one thing - quality of life.

ALT Samal chart

I have written articles to guide other cruisers as well as general information about Samal, Davao and Philippines, in general. Thank you for visiting.

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Who: Kjartan Sekkingstad and Ellen Lee-kwen
Port: Vancouver, BC , Canada
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