Philippines: Six Months in Subic Bay

We are avid users of Noonsite for cruising information so thought we need to finally contribute about our experiences as cruisers in Subic Bay as there seems little written about it. We certainly would have appreciated some of this information prior to entering and would have been forewarned about the costs which seem to be very high.

Published 3 years ago

After spending six months in Subic Bay (June – December 2020) we offer some of our experiences to inform other cruisers of Subic Bay.

We arrived in Subic Bay after clearing into San Fernando, La Union several months earlier. Our prime reason for going into Subic Bay was to haul out for repairs to our daggerboards. The only yard that could haul out our 45 ft catamaran was Asia Pacific Marine (lat 14.8004, long 120.2949) on a trailer.

Clearing into Subic Bay:

For all cruising yachts entering Subic Bay you need an agent or the Subic Bay Yacht Club (SBYC) to manage clearances in. Asia Pacific Marine (APM) were our agents to manage the bureaucratic process of clearing in and out of Subic Bay.

As our arrival coincided with the Covid lockdown restrictions in effect in mid-20, boats were required to wait at the quarantine anchorage in the bay to be processed by Quarantine, Customs, Coast Guard and the Subic Bay Management Authority Seaport.

We arrived during the height of the lockdown and were charged USD650 to clear in/out. USD200 of this fee was for Quarantine – which included an officer coming to the boat to check our temperatures, nothing more. Other cruising boats arrived after us and all appeared to have had different Quarantine fees applied.

Clearing out of Subic Bay:

Clearing out of Subic Bay Management Authority (SBMA) was expensive and cost USD1250 for staying at anchor/mooring buoy in Subic Bay. This final fee comprised a daily Harbour Cleaning Fee (US$10 per day) and then USD60 pilotage. None of these fees had been advised to us by our agent and were an unexpected expense to depart Subic Bay. Additionally, visitors should be aware that the SMBA invoice in USD and sets their own (unfavourable) currency conversion rate.

Asia Pacific Marine (APM):

We spent five weeks on the hardstand at APM and rented and Air BNB apartment in town employing a local taxi driver to take us to the boatyard. Taxi’s are cheap, readily available and more cost effective than a hire car at USD35/per day. Subic Bay is an easy place to live during boat repairs.

The management at APM were very accommodating and the yard workers friendly and helpful. When the work on the hard stand was completed, we were able to anchor outside the boatyard while waiting for additional work to be completed and then spent several months on a APM mooring buoy when this became available.

Moving within the Harbour:

During our time in Subic Bay two typhoons passed over us which necessitated us moving from the APM mooring buoy into SBYC – a distance of 1.5NM. During this period, and at the time of writing, all harbour movements require Coast Guard approval who then seek permission from the General Manager of Seaport so advance notice is required.

Subic Bay Yacht Club (SBYC):

SBYC advertise on their site as welcoming foreign yachties – in our experience this was not the case.

While the staff were friendly, the non-members berthing rate is three times that of members’ rates – with an additional USD950 security deposit required. It is worth noting that the security deposit must be given in cash or the amount is charged to your credit card. We did not think the fees were very ‘welcoming’!

Despite being told by SBYC members that various berthing rate options were available to visitors for temporary membership and extended duration berthing, repeated requests to the yacht club to investigate these options were ignored and refuted. 

There were no club facilities available during this period unless you wanted to gamble in the casino. On departing the marina, we were advised the security deposit takes five days to refund to a bank account. After several emails SBYC agreed to pay the deposit in cash as they could not refund to our credit card. We received the refund seven days later. We are not sure how the refund would have occurred had we been departing Subic Bay permanently?

Notwithstanding the apparent inflexibility of the fee structure, we very much appreciated the opportunity to stay in SBYC for short durations whilst the typhoons passed overhead.

Obtaining Marine Supplies:

The large marine retailer, Broadwater, is located in Subic and is well stocked – but can be expensive for foreign sourced supplies. For general handyman items there are two well stocked ACE Hardware Stores and a range of DIY stores in the Harbour Point Mall in Subic Bay that are worth checking out. In Olongapo (just outside Subic Bay) the Goodyear Hardware quickly become a local favourite along with Ho Tee Hee which has a good selection of stainless steel fixings at reasonable prices.

Shipping spares ourselves from the USA was the most cost effective and hassle free option via Johnny Air Cargo who provide an excellent service with orders arriving in Subic Bay within 2-3 weeks. We had some spares shipped under warranty from the UK and USA which incurred additional processing costs which ranged from USD50-100 into Subic Bay. After these experiences we then used Johnny Air Cargo exclusively for any warranty repairs, as no additional clearance/courier fees are charged into Subic Bay.

Ease and Choice of Provisioning:

There are four very large supermarkets (Royal and Pure Gold) that stock everything that is needed, so provisioning is very easy here – just factor in the long checkout queues and time taken to pack large orders at the checkout. These supermarkets all had an international section which carried a range of brands.

Additionally, outside of Subic By in Olongapo, there are two big SM local supermarkets which had a large range of items available.

Alcohol and beer are widely available in all supermarkets and is very cheap, wine being the more expensive drink.

Medicines:

Medical supplies are easily obtained, the prices differ widely between the branded pharmacies and the Generic pharmacies’ where pills can be purchased individually. I would recommend going to the Generic pharmacies (called Generic) first as they stock most of the same items at a lower cost. 

Conclusion:

While Subic Bay is a beautiful bay and good for provisioning the only reason we would return would be to haul out, as there are no other choices currently for our boat in the Philippines.

John Lovatt and Leanne Woon
SV Flying Kiwi (45 Balance 451 Catamaran)
New Zealand

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Related Reports:

Philippines, Subic Bay: Cruisers’ Views

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The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Noonsite.com or World Cruising Club.

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