For seven years, I have been dodging typhoons, those pesky little dark circles on the satellite images found in the tropics that can destroy your dreams. We followed Hurricane Jemina into Mexico and saw the carnage in 2009. We kept to the rules of below twenty degrees south after November 1 crossing the Pacific. We narrowly missed a whopper, Yasi, in Australia as we headed south just before it hit. The marina we had been moored in Brisbane flooded down the river.
Then we entered the serenity of the no cyclone area of Indonesia and Thailand for a few years. Ah no little brown circles on the weather sites. Our first trip into the Philippines followed another monster, Yolanda, one that broke records and hearts. We got there a month after the destruction, man I do not want to be in one of these, I exclaimed.
Since being in the Philippines, where typhoon watching is a national pastime, I have learned their ways and habits, mostly. The season is fairly predictable, late summer to mid-December. Most of the early disturbances scoot north barely touching land here, we had three like that this year. It is only when the Northeast winds blow hard that the little circles bend westward, the tail of the season.
There are two ways to avoid any danger; get out! Which we did most years going far south into Indonesia or hide, which we did this year. We stuck out the wet stormy season in very safe protected and rarely hit Subic Bay, snuggly tied to a dock. We watched as three typhoons made their way north and landfall far from Furthur, giving us 3 to 4 days or torrential rain, no more.
With the storm season past, we thought, and great weather we left out cozy dock and headed back to Puerto Galera, where we would tie to a solid, typhoon safe mooring. Not bad but no my best choice. All was well until someone said, hey look at the weather! there it was the dreaded little circle.
By the way, a hurricane, cyclone and typhoon are all the same thing, the names change with location. Here they are typhoons. Call it what you want there it was, a few hundred miles off shore and growing. Another interesting factoid, such storms rotate clockwise south of the equator and anti-clockwise to the north, which is what we get.
So we all went into full metal jacket typhoon watching mode. There are many resources and great weather sites here, like I said it is a national pastime. All the wizards do computer models and estimate the tracks and strength, there are five different entities drawing colored lines on the chart, NOAA is my best guess with the Filipino site an option. The Northwest winds were strong so all agreed this one was coming home.
So I had a decision to make, stick in Puerto Galera or race back to Subic Bay. All the tracts showed it crossing right over Donna’s family home—they all do. And heading north to Manila and right to Subic, so I chose to stay put while our friends in Subic readied for the storm. Now understand at this point you can watch them real time on the computer, amazing. We had our Christmas cheer dampened a bit when the pesky little circle turned more west but we were still out of harm’s way, top gust predicted was 50knots, mid-day. Oh so glad it would not be at night.
Christmas passed in sun and calm, eerie calm winds. The next day I expected some wind as mid-day approached so was a bit taken to wake up to dark dark skies and 25-30 knots at 8 am. Bringing up the computer image, there is was, Typhoon Nina, in all her glory just 20 miles away and closing.
Back to typhoon 101; picture a circle of wind, anti-clockwise, it is calm in the middle the 12-3 oclock quarter is blowing northeast, as you go around the wind picks up so the 9-12 quarter is where the wind is the strongest, as it spins it drops. We were in the 6-9 quarter so the wind was blasting out of the west but would turn to the south and drop. As it passes we enter the 3-6 o’clock quarter and the wind will shift out of the south. The entire storm was moving at about 15 mph and only effecting a fifty-mile strip at most.
We all monitor channel 68 here and the radio chatter picked up. We were on the end of the mooring field, there were a few boats anchored far up wind of us. During the night, a fleet of ferry boats and larger ships came into the bay for protection, again far from us. There are two mooring fields, one a mile away and that is where the trouble started. We heard the panicked German voice pleading for the coast guard to help as a large ferry was headed his way. The CG did not respond, so Donna called them on the phone, classic Filipino response “sorry we cannot help, please pray and be safe” we all got a chuckle out of that advice haha. The chatter went on for about an hour as the wind picked up. Now hitting high 50’s on Furthur and higher in less protected places.
There was a complete white out at times with torrential rains hitting the demon like sea spray. I sat comfortably in the pilot house windshield wipers on high, only leaving a few times to secure the bimini. The rain hit so hard I could not see, and tied knots with my eyes shut, I should have worn my dive mask and readied it if I had to go out again.
Through the white out, I saw on large Ketch pull and reset its anchor over and over, this time it coming right at us. Not any too soon they got the engine running and dashed to the right, healing at 40 degree heel and straight for a huge reef. They disappeared into the white wall and I told those on the radio I was sure the boat was lost.
No sooner than it hit the wind shifted, all the boats spun 180 degrees and bam the wind dropped off. Once sure all was well I took a short nap and awoke to sunshine and calm weather. We dropped the dinghy in and went exploring the bay. We found little problems on our anchorage and big ones in the next one over, mostly caused by that rogue ferry. One boat dismasted and one driven up on the beach. We visited our friends and heard their tales of woe. Miraculously the big Ketch was in one piece and safe, it seemed to have glided over the reef heeled over so far it barely scraped.
We made sure all were safe and exchanged tales and then to celebrate our safely surviving our first typhoon I broke out the new ring that we tow with the dinghy and gave everyone rides.
Make Your Dream Your Story
Capt. Brian Calvert