Rescuing Magayon II

And wet-testing the electric motor

We wanted to get Magayon II out of the water before Christmas to do some renovations straight after the Pandan Island holiday in January next year and to prevent further vandalism. Some people had tinkered with the electrical outlets, ropes and stolen three blocks while she was anchored in the Bangcal river mouth. We had reserved December 17-20 for the action. 

Crazy Christmas Traffic. It took 5 hours from Los Baños to the Shell Residences close to the Mall of Asia in Manila.  I then left the shell residences at 22:40, after a overnight booking gone totally wrong, and picked up Mavic in Quezon City. We proceeded driving overnight North, again with stop and go traffic until way after Manila, and arrived at 6:30 in Iba. Almost 7 hours driving time, 12 hours total. Crazy. Since we did not want to wake up the kids we took a nap on the beach. Compared to the daytime temperatures it was actually a bit chilly with an Amihan breeze. 

Magayon II anchored in the Bangcal River mouth, with waves breaking at the entrance

Miriam had figured out that the waves were smallest at low tide, which was at 9:00. But to get Magayon out of the river we needed high tide, between 20:00-24:00. So this would have to be a two day action with overnight anchoring in front of the beach in front of Sundowners. Additional constraints were:

  • The weakened aft crossbeam, damaged by overloading the swimming ladder. 
  • Loose cockpit because all four aft cockpit locating blocks are damaged or missing.
  • No capacity to use the sails because of the stolen blocks. 
  • No FM radio on board.
  • Moderate wind (3kn) coming from easterly direction, which would blow us to the open sea if the motor would fail.
  • Relying on the electric outboard motor prototype that so far I had tested only twice, and for short time each time only.
  • One of the tillers was slightly broken, it was too low and hit the crossbeam when moving it.
  • A shallow river mouth with a very narrow section deep enough for passage and the waves braking just before it. We had gotten stuck there before at daylight.  
  • Local fishermen putting nets at sunset into the river making passage and navigating at night difficult.
  • Darkness with only a crescent moon and partially cloudy sky. 

But we had to move the boat. If not now it would have to wait until next year and then it might have further deteriorated and more vandalized. Also, a tropical depression had just made landfall in Mindanao, so potentially the waves could get much higher in the coming days. In addition, we had to pick up Kata from the airport on Wednesday, so there was no possibility to extend the trip and wait for better tide timing. So we came up with two safety plans:

  • Have the dive boat of Finn’s Dive of the Mead Foundation accompany us to give us a tow if the motor fails, with our own rope of course. 
  • Have both anchors on the trampoline ready for dropping in case the motor fails. The shoreline is quite shallow for around a kilometer out, so dropped anchor(s) should prevent the boat drifting to the open sea if the motor would fail. 

We loaded the boat at low tide at 8:00 on Monday on dry foot with motor, batteries, tools etc and made some minor repairs of the ropes of the trampoline, which had gotten screwed up by the Iba Vandals, and then went back to Sundowners for breakfast. 

We checked the site at 17:00, ready to go, but the boat was still grounded, so we re-scheduled raising anchor to 21:00 and also told the dive boat crew and asked them to come back later. When returning at 21:00 the boat was clear and we waded over to get on with the undertaking. The dive boat crew had cancelled, so our safety net was basically consisted of our two anchors. 

Getting Magaon II ready for launch at 21:00 with high tide approaching.

After wiring up the electric outboard motor and briefly testing it it was anchor up and we went on our way, with minimum speed, and Miriam and Regis on the bows of the hulls with flashlights to lead the way. Mavic was in the car illuminating the river with the headlights. We made it carefully to the river mouth without touching bottom or a fishing net and then first heard the waves breaking and increasingly felt them. We increase motor power to 50 percent to go against the waves. 

The first waves were OK, then, with full motor power, we steamed over two large breaking waves, the second one broke over the bows and soaked Miriam and Regis before, with 3kW electrical power, Magayon climbed upwards and then finally we were out in the open sea. Here we found long swells but no more braking waves. The aft crossbeam had bent scarily during the passage, but withstood the raw wave and motor powers.

A bit further out, now in the calmer water with only a swell, we changed course and followed the coastline southwards, using the map on a handphone as guidance. We dropped anchor around 200m off shore in about 4-5 m depth in front of Danacbunga beach at Sundowners beach villas, and also dropped the second anchor, secured all loose items and then swam back in the darkness to the shore, beating all the undercurrents that supposedly characterize the beach.

Danbacbunga Beach in front of Sundowners

The battery still had 51.5 Volts. Motor temperature was 50°C and controller temperature 60°C, all within design specs. 

The next morning at 7:00 the waves were much higher than anticipated and compared to yesterday, and breaking on the beach. We decided to go ahead with the beaching anyway, with the help of lots of people from the resort to get Magayon out of trouble quickly after reaching the beach. 

So after coordinating the helpers  and having a look at the proposed beaching site, right next to where the resort’s Hobie is beached, we swam back out again, wired up the motor and temporarily fixed the broken rudder with a big rope, since it had given us problems with steering last night. After discussing the best landfall approach we raised the anchors and converted the anchor lines so we could throw them to the helpers on the beach. 

Guided by the lifeguard of the resort, who often coordinates bangka beachings in the village, we then headed for the beach, first at low speed and then towards the final approach with full motor power to ride a wave as high as possible onto the beach. The helpers caught the ropes and pulled the boat quickly out of the water and further up the beach. 

Resort staff and other volunteers pulling Magayon II onto the beach

Of course we missed the target by around 50 meters. 

Next it was drinks for the helpers and breakfast at the Sundowners beach resto for us. During the morning I made an inventory of all the damages that need fixing. It became quite a long list. 

Distance traveled under motor: 3.3 km. At the end of the action the battery was still at an estimated 20% based on battery voltage, and we had not touched the second one yet. So the first battery would have lasted around 4km, both together 8km at the power mixture of this trip. At slow cursing speed further. This will be good enough for weekend sailing trips where we only use the motor for mooring and anchor maneuvers, and for cruising without rush. For longer distance we would need to add some battery capacity.

Rough track of Magayon II in Google Maps

I am quite happy about how the electric outboard motor project worked out so far. 

(Note for optimizing the motor: Distances covered at different power: Slightly above idle: 450m, full speed:  300m, the rest with around half power)

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