On the small island of Panglao, south of Bohol, in the middle of the Philippine archipelago, local fishermen have turned dolphin watching into an commercial art form, but when it comes to choosing a boat – let the buyer beware!
What began for us as a 3-hour tour almost turned into an episode from Gilligan’s Island. Seems the captain who a friend arranged for us had hit a 40-proof storm the night prior and forgot to fuel up before our departure.
As such, we were forced to hail a passing boat so the first mate could swim with a jerry can for petrol.
Alas, we never did see any dolphins but did manage to snorkel for a good bit and were blown away by life on the reef. Lunch of grilled tuna was grand as well, though that’s also when we learned the captain had been quaffing back ale during our swim. Ah, must be the Island way, says me as we headed for home. That’s when the tiller broke leaving us to wind our way back to port with the mate manhandling the rudder while the captain dozed in the cockpit
All things in stride, it was an awesome day! But for any of you dolphin lovers out there looking for a boat… here are my top 10 list when shopping for your ride:
- Do the eyes have it? (red eyes in morning, sailors take warning)
- How many other passengers are coming? (overloading is good business, but bad boating)
- How’s the construction? Solid carved hulls are better than plywood bottomed boats (they slice better)
- Are the decks clean and lines coiled?
- How’s the paint? (a well cared for ship means pride in ownership or a recent insurance claim)
- Is the gas tank full
- Are earplugs available? (single stroke engines are loud)
- Do life jackets cost extra?
- Is it a guaranteed trip? (no dolphin, no pay)
- Were all your questions answered with a, “No problem, man!”? That’s a problem.
By the way, we found a better boat the next day…
Fair winds and Godspeed to y’all!