59. Small Boats

Small Boats to Small Places: Even though they’re likely more dangerous than small planes, small boats feel much safer. That’s probably because we’re good swimmers or at least, as in the hot late afternoons with some measurably elevated blood alcohol level, good floaters. These charming outrigger boats – “banca” boats, locally – are usually noisy, filling with water, un-freshly painted and pouring out bitter clouds of oil smoke behind them, but boy! What thrills! They’re unavoidable while island hopping in the Philippines, as prolific as they are varied in their sizes and uses. The most elaborate of them are slick with new lacquer and ply huge waves like meringue, with whisper quiet engines. Elegant. The most dubious of them are held together with hope and desperation, powered by a fuel tank as elegant as a glass jar and some tired-looking plastic tubing. Some of them have tattered tarps for shade. Many of them have funny names. All of them have someone on board who can turn water into wine to keep them afloat while always moving in the general direction of land. And with wind in our hair and salt on our cheeks, they have all delivered us safely around this beautiful country, to beaches, volcanoes and other, bigger banca boats we would not have reached other how. Might have to bring one of these home, if we can work out the customs forms.


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