Report On Australia to Philippines Via Palau & PNG
I just did the trip from Philippines, over the top of PNG, round the east of PNG and across the Coral Sea to Cairns.
In PNG, the Milne Bay Area and Louisiades are great. I was however warned many times by locals not to anchor off the mainland coast north of Milne Bay due to trouble with "rascals". Madang (clearance port) was the only recommended place for a "safe" stop after Milne Bay (formalities in Alatou) on the mainland. We ended up going through the Star Reefs in the Solomon Sea to keep away from the mainland.
The Hermit Islands to the north of Madang make a great and safe jumping off point for the trip East in the Pacific. I recommend breaking the trip to the Philippines in Palau (lets you stay south of most of the typhoon tracks) but the weather in that part of the Pacific was boistrous to stay the least. (Do your trip in the SE monsoon Nov to April and your chance of tail winds is high and typhoons is low).
Palau: We were not ready for this when we left, but Palau Customs charges a $20US per head departure tax! Apart from the $20 per head shock on leaving, we had a great time in Palau. The people at Sam's Tours, RBYC, were great hosts and a few weeks cruising the Rock Islands was just what the doctor ordered after a couple of years in the Philippines.
From Palau the closest way into the Philippines is through the Surigoa Str but watch the tides in the narrows the current gets up to 6 or 7 knots at its peak. Formalities in Cebu are OK, the usual money goes in the pockets (as it does in most ports in that country). If you go into the Cebu YC Marina, they give a good rate on the first 2 weeks or so and it is the best and safest place to clear in and park the boat in Cebu City. If you enter the Maktan Channel from the North the Cebu YC is on your left about 500m before the first bridge.
Note: I think The Japanese are switching off their HF weather fax early this year and they do the weather in that area east of the Philippines.
We met plenty of Australian boats in Borneo who had come up through Indonesia and had had great trips on their way. I have done the trip from Borneo to Philippines both ways and had a great time doing it. Palawan has plenty of nice cruising to be done in day hops on its north west and south east coasts and formalities are easy in Puerta Princessa.
If I had my choice I would go through Indonesia to Borneo and then back to Philippines through Palawan. The legs are shorter and the sailing I would say might be easier. You only need Indonesian papers if you want to stop there!
If you go to Sandikan (Borneo) sleep with your outboard motor in bed with you!