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Port Bonbonon

December, 2002

Entrance to Bonbonon harbor.
1. Bonbonon entrance
Bonbonon harbor.
2. Bonbonon
harbor (40k)
Ne-Ar-Ne Restaurant.
3. Ne-Ar-Ne
Restaurant (76k)
The dinghy dock at low tide.
4. Dinghy dock (60k)

Port Bonbonon is a magical place. The harbor banks are covered with lush tropical vegetation; the mountains to the north are covered in clouds, and the night sky is ablaze with stars. It is a narrow estuary, about 1 mile long, which extends inland roughly northeast from the southern tip of Negros Island. There are two small streams which empty into the harbor, carrying sand and silt which create a smooth bottom and murky water. There is no coral in the harbor. We are here during winter — the NE monsoon, and the dry season. Temperatures this time of year range from the mid-80's to about 90, with little rain. The wind blows most of the time at 10-12 knots, keeping us cool and free of mosquitos.

The entrance to the harbor (see thumbnail photo #1, at left) is a large S-curve, partially blocked by a coral reef at its seaward end. The reef extends from the west side, covering nearly 2/3 of the width of the entrance, and is not always easy to see during the approach. (We had small, breaking waves all along the entrance that made the reef nearly invisible.) Once beyond the reef, the estuary meanders around two more turns, with the deep water on the outside of each curve. The small fishing village of Tambobo is located just inside the reef, on the west side of the estuary. It is easily recognized by the many fishing boats anchored in front of the village.

Visiting yachts would anchor in front of the village, until big fishing boats began arriving there about 10 years ago. Today, the yachts mostly anchor in the upper bay (photo #2) at Palinpinon, a wildlife refuge. At this time, there are about 25 yachts here from around the world. We have met sailors from England, Ireland, France, Norway, Austria, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Korea, Japan, Australia, and the US. There are also a number of cruisers who fell in love with the place, sold there boats, and moved ashore. More are doing so at this time.

This is a very remote part of the Philippines. Electricity arrived about 10 years ago; there is no phone service; no internet, and the road is unpaved. All of the modern conveniences are available in Dumaguete, a University town about 1-1/2 hours away. We get out to the main highway by riding a habal-habal, a motorcycle taxi. Then we ride a bus or jeepney about one hour into town. Transportation is inexpensive, but a little scary sometimes.

The unofficial "yacht club" here is the Ne-Ar-Ne Restaurant (photo #3). Run by Nicky and Arlene (and their extended family), it provides a restaurant, bakery, sari-sari store, laundry, dinghy dock (photo #4), one-room hotel, book exchange, and Nicky's Yacht Services. They also collect our garbage for disposal, schedule habal-habal rides, and provide a place to dry out a boat for maintenance and bottom-painting. They even make excellent ice cream. All visiting yachts sign in on the board at Ne-Ar-Ne; we are number 89, so far.

As yachts began arriving here 10 years ago, Nicky and Arlene would swim out to sell bananas and fish that Nicky (a fisherman from Mindanao) had caught. Then Nicky built a jetty for the yachties to use and started doing boat maintenance; Arlene sold beer from a cooler in their home and cooked prawns the yachties had bought at the market. She learned to prepare foods that appeal to European and American taste, and so Ne-Ar-Ne grew.. The food is good, and the prices are low. We eat out a lot now. Wednesday is pizza night, then the weekly Friday Night Party, and occasional Seafood Dinners on Mondays. The services are still being expanded and improved as Arlene learns of products and services that the yachties want (she added root bear floats to the menu for Jim).

Bruce and Rowena host a great Sunday night barbeque, and invite the yachties to get water from their well. (Bruce is an American who sailed in many years ago, sold his boat, married, and moved ashore.)

There are also several European-owned resorts nearby, including the KooKoo's Nest, just outside the harbor entrance. It is a lovely little resort owned by an English couple, Jamie and Nicky. Nicky works half the year in Europe as a caterer for touring rock bands while Jamie is a "climber", a construction worker who in the US would be called a rigger. We have eaten at KooKoo's Nest several times, and Nicky's cooking is truly wonderful (thai fish cakes, hummus and pita bread, tandori chicken, mango chutney, etc.) We haven't visited the other resorts yet as they are a bit harder to get to. There is so much to do here, but we will see more as we have the time.

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