Part One



Cheeseburgers and Typhoons







November 11, 2013

RBYC mooring: 7 20'.36N 134 27'.19E

Anchorage 202: 7 17'.77N 134 26'.20E


I didn't get the full meaning of Jimmy Buffet's song Cheeseburger in Paradise until we started sailing to far away tropical islands. There the most delicious papayas, pineapples, mangos and bananas can be had for a bag of sugar, rice or flour. Fish is abundant and lobster plentiful. But on a small sailboat with no freezer, cheeseburgers just don't happen.

So, when we finally make it to a first world country we don't even glance at sweet potatoes or rice. We head straight for a spot that will plop a juicy cheeseburger and fries down in front of us. And a beer or two. Ahhh....

It's an odd thing because I could go years without craving one when I lived in the US. And I absolutely abhorred them when I lived in Belgium. All that grease - yuck! But something happens when I'm sailing in paradise. Eventually, I've just gotta have a burger.

So it is with great pleasure that we are tied to the closest mooring to the restaurant at Sam's Tours and Dive Center and the Royal Belau Yacht Club here in Koror, Palau. Augustin makes delicious bacon cheeseburgers and, embarrassingly enough, we've had more than one.

Jim and I have been in Palau two and a half weeks now. We were just getting our bearings and settling into seeing other white people and other yachts when an interesting thing shows up on the grib files.

"Oh that blip," Laura on Zen says when we tell her we are headed out to a safe anchorage because of the upcoming weather. She has been here two years and weathered Typhoon Bopha that went through last December. For a split second we question our decision.

Our friends Duncan on Matsu and Brynn at Commander's Weather both send head's up messages to find a safe spot. But Tom on Toucan has already warned us. "That second storm forming looks a lot like Bopha did," he said.

Palau is a gorgeous archipelago with 26 larger islands and more than 300 tiny ones. It is the furthest W of the Caroline Islands of the Federated States of Micronesia, a few days sail E of the Philippines. Each island is rounded and crowded with dense bush. A place called the Rock Islands is especially enchanting as the small isles are clustered together and seem to float on the most beautiful mirror of turquoise. They are made of limestone and undercut by the water so leafy foliage overhangs the rock overhang. At low water they look like enormous verdant mushrooms. It is a spectacular place to kayak, snorkel and tie a boat up when a typhoon threatens.

9 miles and almost 2 hours of slow motoring brings us to a stunning, secluded, safe spot in the Rock Islands. We know it only as Anchorage 202. Nobody else is here and there are no houses, roads or tracks ashore.

We drop the anchor and I tie three lines to shore. The anchor is well set because Jim has to put Tenaya into hard reverse several times to give me enough slack to get a line around the windward tree. Our bow is pointing into the SW where the strongest of the forecast 40-60 knot winds will come from. We are near the tip of the crooked finger, but far enough out to catch a little breeze.

We are concerned that swell and wind will come from the NW where the hills are low and further away. Jim takes the Fortress anchor out in the dinghy while I feed out the rode. Once it settles we crank in the slack and it holds. We hope it holds when the wind kicks up the next night.

So now that Tenaya is snug as a bug in a rug we can relax and enjoy. I've been eyeing a small reef nearby and we get out our snorkeling gear and check it out. The walls of the islands descend as vertically as they ascend and they are covered in coral. Brain coral and other bommies are scattered in the shallow spot between two of the islands. It's all healthy and very pretty.


















With all the steep islands around, it is difficult to hold onto a satellite long enough to download new grib files. These are the maps that show wind speed and direction. The windbits (my made-up word) are shaped like arrows with the front pointing the direction the wind is blowing and the feathers showing the speed. One full line is 10 knots. One half line is 5 knots. Add them together to get the wind speed.

Our boat is the green thing near the middle of the circle. The flag on the purple windbit nearest to Tenaya means 50 knots. So that particular windbit shows that 75 knots will be coming over Tenaya shortly. On a scale of one to a shitload, our fear level is about to make our britches bulge.

About 5:00 PM the wind starts to blow from the N. About 7 PM it whistles and starts to rain. By 9 PM it is raining hard and howling, heeling us to port. Jim checks the wind speed. It's in the high 30s. How high will it go? There is nothing we can do. We're scared. We huddle together on our bed and I made deals with God.

As the night crawls on the wind screams through the trees. Jim is forced under the locker that hangs above his side of the bed. I stick to his other side.

At some point we realize the anchors will hold and we will not smash into the rock wall near the stern. We doze. The wind moves around to the E, SE, S and SW. The boat stops healing. We are more sheltered now. We sleep.

We wake up because the sun is shining through the hatch. It is plastered with leaves. We unfold ourselves and breath huge sighs of relief.

Haiyan passed in 12 hours instead of 24. It picked up speed and turned N just as it reached Palau so those of us in Koror missed the direct hit. Reports say the eye was over Kayangel about 45 miles north. The typhoon was still forming and would grow to monstrous proportions before it smashed into the Philippines.

Our hearts go out to the throngs of people who lost loved ones, their homes, everything.

The devastation is unimaginable, as are the feelings those who suffered through this horrific event had when the wind and water rose to such heights. I know how scared we were in 40+ knots not knowing where it would top out. I can't even begin to think how they must have felt.




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Go to November 2013 Part Two - Seoul, Korea, A visit with Corinne


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