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Date Posted: 09/26/09

Trudging through rough waters to Tablas Island (Sept 23)

By: Arturo Valdez

At 6AM we left Concepcion and by 6:30AM, we were in the open waters enroute to San Agustin, Tablas Island. Originally, we are going to pass Calatrava town on the western side of the island but strong southwest monsoon caused us to opt for the calmer eastern town of San Agustin. It was the longest travel about 48 nautical miles in distance for San Agustin. Immediately, the strong gusty wind of the southwest monsoon caught us in the open seas and by the time we were about to enter the narrow channel between Tablas and Romblon Islands, the crossing of currents, the Habagat and inclement weather caused me to seek assistance from the Philippine Coast Guard Search and Rescue Vessel (SAR) 3502 to bring us safely to the port of San Agustin. In spite of the SAR vessel, we barely left our existing post in the Balangay for fear of being thrown overboard. I ordered to don safety lines and I myself, can hardly leave my tight embrace of the main mast during the 6,5 hours of travel in one of roughest days of our journey, The photos in our gallery can attest to the rough ride we had been through.

In spite of the stormy and rough seas we had been subjected to, the Balangay performed excellently in terms of balance and stability. Even the skipper of PCG SAR 3502 made the observation that the “Diwata ng Lahi” is stable and graceful compared to his modern vessels. A few of the crew in the PCG SAR vessel threw up during the turbulent voyage to San Agustin. Not to be outdone, one crew member of the Balangay also got so seasick.

By the time we saw the port of San Agustin, we were all drained and exhausted but got a fresh shot of adrenalin upon seeing the shoreline filled with welcoming students and people.

The local officials together with PPA, PCG, DA and Dep Ed officials were on hand to welcome us to San Agustin. Upon check in at the port Felnor restaurant and lodging house we all fell flat on our back-asleep, including the Badjao crewmen. When we woke up late in the afternoon, PCG SOG Godoy and NAVY SWAG Mike Loyola undertake damage inspection to the Balangay. There were the usual minor repairs like broken pegs to the ribs which we readily fixed. Early that evening, the Balangay was all set to sail the next day.

The evening was filled with meeting local folks and visitors who paid their call to the crew. This also gave us the chance to bring home our message on the rationale of
the Voyage which they easily understood.

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