Open Water at Ulong
12 April 2009 | South Palau
The forecast has turned out to be fairly accurate. The man said mostly cloudy with scattered showers and that is just what we have had. It is also hot. It is amazing what a few degrees of latitude will do for your ambient temperature. In Yap we had nice sleeping temperatures but just a few degrees south in Palau it is a bit on the hot side. We are also having a dearth of wind which doesn't help.
Anchorage Report: This is not the best anchorage. The visibility in the lagoon is not good enough to see the bottom at 40 feet. The anchorage area here is pretty much 40 to 60 feet. There are some 30 foot spots but they are probably coral heads. Vis being what it is you have a hard time guaranteeing a sand hook up. We definitely head the sound of chain on coral last night as the wind and current shifted the boat into various postures through 360 degrees.
A mild, but sometimes annoying swell gets into this anchorage, bending around Ulong from the wind driven east. Fortunately, most of the time, the wind bends around the steep walls of the west side of the island, leaving you facing south, and facing the small swell. That said you will spend a fair amount of time facing other directions, and beam onto the swell, if the wind is light or squalls are about.
The anchorage is very pretty, facing the nicest beach on Ulong. A crescent shape is formed by the island and the reefs extending to the west from the south and north ends of the anchorage. These reefs require you to enter the anchorage from the west, standing well off of the island if you come in from the north or south side.
During a spring tide you will have over 6 feet of tidal range. At low tide the reef fringing the island will almost dry, making it tricky to dinghy ashore. At high tide during a spring tide, much of the sandy beach will be underwater, leaving a tree lined waterfront. The island is uninhabited but many of the local dive shops use the beach here for lunch breaks.
In summary, in settled conditions this is a fine place to stop. Otherwise the far more protected, but intricate, anchorages on the south side of the island may be more appropriate.
We spent most of the day working on Pepe's Open Water certification. He is going full bore through the curriculum and is on track to finish by Wednesday (4.5 days, not bad!). The genset is getting a lot of work, filling tanks, playing open water videos in Spanish, making espresso to keep us all going, etceteras.
The diving here in the anchorage is not great. There is not enough current from the sea reaching us to make things too clear but it is workable as the tide nears its high. The shallow sandy area near the beach is good for confined water skills at mid tide and up. Ulong channel is close by so we hope to get out there for a dive or two before we move on.
The Swingin' on a Star crew took a dinghy tour of Ulong in the late afternoon. It is a lovely set of rock island with interesting caves, coves and channels to explore. We even found Yapese stone money on one of the beaches.