Notes on a trip from Sorong , West Papua, Indonesia to Subic Bay, Philippines

An account of one cruiser’s trip through the Basilan Strait from Sorong to Subic Bay.

Published 6 years ago, updated 4 years ago

From 27 January to 5 February, 2017.

Total of 1290 miles

The Keinvor is a 70 feet, 100 tons full displacement, steel Motor yacht.

By Remi Epstein.

First, we are happy to report that clearance out of Indonesia has improved drastically. Now the authorities, at least in Sorong, no longer accept cash, but one has to go to the bank and show a proof of transfer! A first in that county. Total mooring charges and clearance out of Indonesia, including quarantine, Immigration, Customs, and Harbour Master, was less than US $50!

The trip could be divided into three legs:

1. From Sorong to Morotai

270 miles

Pretty much plain sailing, with little wind from the North East.  Beautiful cruising ground part of Rajah Ampat for the most part.

2. From Morotai to the Basilan Strait

455 miles

We decided to sail North West up to the Mindanao coast, making landfall around the longitude of General Santos, before turning west, to avoid getting anywhere close to the East of Basilan island, given the recent repeated attacks in this area.

Weather was good, with 10 knots of wind from the North East. On the other hand, we had a 1.75 knot current dead against us, as is announced in the Admiralty pilot chart. Hoping to get the Westbound current, we went North as close to 15 miles from the Mindanao coast, but we never found it.

About 30 miles East of the Basilan strait, we were considering turning off the AIS, not to advertise our position to unfriendly folks, when we received a call on the VHF from the Philippines Navy.  They were obviously tracking us. They asked detailed questions about the yacht, our route, crew, origin, and destination with ETA. They keep an eye on the traffic, maybe especially yachts. We found this quite reassuring and we would definitely recommend keeping the AIS on.

3. Basilan Strait to Subic Bay

550 miles

Turning almost due North after passing the strait, the weather changed dramatically. We had taken the latest weather report from the Iridium which indicated North East winds at 5 to 10 knots, but actually, it was blowing at between 30 to 35 knots steady with gusts way in excess of that, and with a nasty steep sea. We took another weather report and it announced exactly the weather we were experiencing for the whole next 7 days. A bit late too do anything, short of turning back to the strait, which was not an option really.

There was no other choice but to power our way through the weather for the whole passage, which while not dangerous, was really not fun.


All in all an uneventful trip, but pretty uncomfortable from Basilan Strait to Subic. I believe that the danger in the Basilan strait is overrated, if one makes sure to give the East coast of Basilan Island a wide berth. Coming from the West in the sea lane, there is also a lot of commercial traffic. It seems that the authorities keep an eye on pleasure craft and that feels good.

On the other hand, it is advisable not to do the trip during the North East Monsoon as the leg between the Basilan Strait and Subic can be really challenging in those conditions. In our case, the weather forecast was actually totally misleading.

Remi Epstein
MY Keinvor

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