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Date Posted: 10/20/10

October 18, 2010 - Balangay Status and Update

By: Arturo Valdez

We are presently anchored at the Port of Sihanoukville since Oct 16 waiting for the seas to settle a bit. Our travel from Bangkok up to this point is a sample of the kind of turbulent seas ahead of us. We are still inside the Gulf of Thailand but we are having a taste of the kind of waters once we are exposed to the more open east side of Vietnam to  South China Sea amidst the changing monsoon wind of “Amihan”. We had a meeting yesterday with the crew and after a thorough discussion came out with the decision to forego traveling farther north to Hanoi based on the following considerations:

1. Hanoi is still 2300kms away from here. It is Oct 18 today and we have only 11 days left to make it and only reachable if we continuously travel 24 hrs on a good weather. Traveling at night is moving blind with no night sailing capabilities. We did not see the big swells that hammered us on the night from Pattaya to Kho Kut Island. Since we can’t see hence we can’t maneuver to lessen its impact on Masawa and Diwata. Just like us they absorbed the full brunt of the waves hitting us all broadside.

2. We will be sailing more among the islands to avoid the big swell in the open sea but our experience in Cambodia of having been accosted regularly by authorities finding strange boats in their environs will slow us down if not, detained until cleared, especially knowing the zealousness of the Vietnamese in dealing with outsiders compared to the Cambodians who are really friendly.

3. The monsoon wind has changed already with winds coming from the North. We are moving against the wind and waves for almost 2000kms. These will really slow us down.

4. I have Pastor surveyed the seas east of Vung Tau and Baclieu and talked to fishermen and seafarers including Filipinos in merchant ships plying the route. They strongly advised us knowing the kind of wooden boats we are using to avoid moving farther north. They themselves have to reckon with rough seas moving northward.

5. The rivers in Vietnam are all swollen now causing floods everywhere because the monsoon rain has arrived. If ever we reached the mouth of the Red River on a heavy downpour, we have to wait until the current slows down. Red River is notorious for its swift current.

6. The typhoon that comes late in the year that entered the Philippines already comes Northeast of Mindanao and will run through the Visayas and will exit itself straight to the middle of Vietnam or Hong Kong.

7. I can sense that the crew while silent and obedient preferred not to push farther, although, they will follow if I decide to continue, but already quite exhausted for the kind of continuous rough seas we have to endure as of late.

8. We missed the appropriate season or weather by at least a month to go farther North.
I guess, I can cite here a litany of reasons but the decision I made in consultation with the crew is borne out of having everyone-boat and crew- be able to go back home for Christmas with their families. We have gone this far on these pre-colonial boats, I told the crew - something we can all be proud of!

Definitely, we have been looking and preparing forward to have our President Aquino (such an honor) to join us in Hanoi during the Asean Summit plus having our friends especially from Butuan coming all the way to greet us which surely will inspire our body and spirit. But this time, the seas, rivers and the weather seems to conspire to make this difficult to happen.
We might go as far as Vung Tau for our immigration papers in Vietnam and if the seas and weather permitting will reach as far as Ho Chi Mhin city.

Then, time to Go Back Home.

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