Yo Ho Ho... and a bottle of rum

Mon 10 May 2004 10:06
10th May 2004. Across the Tropic of Cancer and into the East China Sea

Dear All,

Firstly, for those who want to send photos of babies or bumps, or letters,
or bills, or anything else at all, we have a post restante address with
Andrea in Tokyo. Post must arrive, by the end of May, to:

Peter and Katharine Ingram,

Yacht 'Kokiri'

c/o Miss. Andrea Rogers,

PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
International Assignment Solutions
Yebisu Garden Place Tower 14F
4-20-3, Ebisu, PO Box 5035
Shibuya-Ku, Tokyo 150-6014


We now have the Philippines well over the horizon astern and I am looking at
our first glimpse of the exotic land of Japan. We have made a fast passage
so far, laying in a couple of tacks up the coast of Luzon and rounding the
northern tip as the wind freshened significantly and eased us onto a broad
reach. We charged passed the Babuyan and Batan Islands and through the Bashi
Strait with the increasing weight of the Kuro Shio current underneath us and
on up the length of the coast of Taiwan, but are now motoring in a flat calm
through the Sakishima Gunto group of islands at the southern end of Japan.
All is very well and good, with a mahi mahi in the freezer and no sign yet
of the droves of Taiwanese and Japanese fishing boats that we were

But for now there is a moment to look back at the Philippines and remind
ourselves what a really great place it is. Before our arrival we had both
been anxious, having heard little other than stories of crime, piracy,
poverty and squalor. Our research couldn't confirm any of these but, even
so, the only first hand account we had of cruising in the Philippines titled
them the 'Sad Islands'. Not all that encouraging.

However, we found, and are keen to report on, some of the most wonderful and
entertaining cruising we have ever encountered. From our first sight of the
tiny one-man bancas fishing off the Pacific shore of Samar, to the last
glimpse of Amianan Island disappearing into the haze behind us, the islands
and their people have been interesting, surprising, jolly and beautiful. For
us, the change from the Pacific Islands obviously added to their appeal as
we have caught up on the trimmings of civilization that were out of our
reach for the previous six months; such as cities, affordable goods and even
privacy. But they are also utterly unlike any other place that we have ever
been to.

We have met only happy smiles and stunning views and have not encountered or
heard of any of the dangers that are more widely talked about. The poverty
is certainly severe in many places but the number of beggars was never more
than in the first world and, in general, only points out the benefits of the
cash-free economies of the Pacific islands where no one has any money. There
is widespread education and a fast-growing university educated middle class
is emerging. Democracy seems healthier and more abundant than in most of the
western world and the outcome of the elections will be interesting (but we
fear that Ping Lacson, who is obviously our favourite, might not become
president). We saw no corruption at all, though I'm sure it does exist, and
it is certainly the only place in the world where customs authorities have
given us coffee and cakes.

The cities are thriving places, public transport around them in the
brilliantly decorated jeepneys or motor-tricycles costing around four pence
per ride, and the shops are plentiful and stunningly priced. We bought top
quality clothes that would sell for £40 in London for £2, video CDs for
£1.50 (the whole JB boxed collection is finally mine on CD for £30!) and rum
is £0.40 per bottle (which is a travesty compared to the £25 per bottle
prices that we were paying in the Solomons and PNG). The islands, reefs and
oceans obviously suffer (in terms of abundance of wildlife and rubbish) from
the large population that the Philippines supports but again, less so than
in Europe.

We were unfortunate to have spent the bulk of our time there in the hottest
and most windless season, but the potential for typhoons at other times of
year rather dictates a schedule. One third of all our motoring since leaving
Nelson has been among the islands and it is a great relief now to be out of
the tropics and heading for the cooler north.

But, to coin a phrase; "Nowhere is perfect, but the Philippines leave very
little to be desired"!

Lots and Lots of Love from us both, and with hopes that you all one day
manage to visit the Philippines,

Peter and Katharine