Palau 23-25/12, Darryl

Heading back out to The Rock Islands I went below to grab some sleep while in passage to the island of Ulong. There is something about motoring through the calm waters of Palau's sheltered islands that just puts me to sleep maybe it is the rythmic thrumming of the engine, maybe it is the often stupifying heat, or perhaps it is the copious amount of beer the night before. Who knows. No matter what causes it the down shift in engine speed as we approach our destination never fails to wake me and I emerged grogilly into the cockpit to the ubiquitous stunning landscape of Palau.

We had returned to Ulong to visit some of the attractions that we had passed over the first time, that afternoon we were approaching Ulong beach and once awake I was stationed on the bow to watch for reefs I sat up there dutifully scanning the horizon for the telltale lightening of water that indicated coral beneath the surface but somehow Lars always spotted them from the cockpit before I saw them rendering my look out position somewhat irrelevant. Ulong beach itself is a stretch of pure white talcum fine sand with a nearby ancient stone village and petroglyphs on some seaside cliffs which were ostensibly visible from the dinghy.

We spent the night anchored off the beach and on the morning of the 23th ventured out in our intrepid 2hp dinghy to snorkel the Ulong channel which we heard a great deal about. It is meant to be a drift snorkel heading out into the channel in the dinghy and then riding the tide back in. After careful study of the tide tables we decided that the early afternoon would be the best time to head out, then we decided that we didn't want to wait that long and we would head out anyways and see what happened. Naturally as soon as we went out a large squall arrived and I made it into the water just in time to avoid getting lashed by the wind-driven rain. What was supposed to be a relaxed float back through the channel turned into a test of endurance as Lars and I paddled against the wind and tide and just managed to hold the dinghy in place. In the water the tide ripped at you and the waves attempted to fill your snorkel with water, above the water wind and rain lashed at you. The fish were quite nice though.

On the way back in from the channel we were all chilled from the wind and spray and I for one was anxious to return to the boat. First though we went on a short tour along the cliffs where the petroglyphs were supposed to be. These were not readily apparent and anxious to return to the dry boat, well stocked with beer, the less interested crew quickly proclaimed the glyphs visible right there and now that they were seen we could go, right?

As it was the 24th and the scandanavians are under the delusion that Christmas should be celebrated on that date we had a feast of a dinner. Kenneth provided the menu in French and it consisted of three courses paired to the most appropriate wines that could be found onboard. It was a quiet affair, well suited to Palau.

The next day (actual Christmas) I celebrated in as Canadian fashion as can be managed in Palau. A plate piled high in pancakes and drowning in syrup. We started the day quietly with a trip around the corner to some snorkelling in a sheltered marine lake. On the way back we spotted a beach that Jonathan and Charlotta swam over to. Jonathan asked if I wanted to join and seemed quite confused when I demurred. I was not wearing my glasses at the time and was confused in turn about why he was so insistent I should go. The reason became clear when he came back and explained the beach was populated solely by women in bikinis, a fact I missed without my glasses. I told him in no uncertain terms to be clearer about such things in the future.

Setting our sights on another channel we headed over to the nearby German Channel again eschewing the unecesarry complexities of tide tables and maps we started up our tiny engine and headed out. We did not manage to find the channel but managed some excellent snorkelling anyways spotting plenty of sharks and turtles and beautifully coloured coral. On our way back we did eventually find the channel and took it most of way back to the boat but as the channel angled away we were tempted across the shallows in a more direct line to the boat. Unsurprisingly this quickly led us into trouble and before long we were all out of the dinghy and I was pulling it through the dense coral carefully picking channels that were barely deep enough for me to swim in.

We moved Dawnbreaker from her day mooring outside the channel to a more sheltered spot for the night and enjoyed a dinner of fake turkey (chicken) in the bright light of the full moon.
Darryl.

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