Last tours of Isabela Island, Galapagos

Monday, April 9.

We are still in Puerto Villamil seeing some sights and
preparing for the longest sail of our life. On Saturday, we
checked out the municipal pier and met out new neighbors in the
anchorage — Karyn (French) and Jean-Pierre (Swiss). They have
been circumnavigating for ten years but have only gotten as far
as the Galapagos. They have a beautiful Catana 471 (“Intiac”,
named after their grandchildren) and will be leaving for the
Pacific crossing about the same time as we will. Without
Laura’s French language skills we could not struck up this nice
friendship. In the afternoon, we took a taxi into the national
park and did some short hikes. The taxi (a pickup truck) took
us to each trail head and waited as we hiked. The landscape is
bleak vocanic rock that heats up incredibly in the equatorial
sun. We never seem to get an early start so it is pretty hot on
land once we get going. We hiked to the “wall of tears” which
is all that remains of a prison that had an atrocious reputation
in its years of operation. We also hiked up to a “mirador”
(viewpoint) on top of a volcanic hill, and to a lava tunnel
leading into the ocean.

Sunday we hired Gonzolo, a national park guide, to take us
up to volcano Sierra Negra. This involved taking his pick-up
truck up a very dusty dirt road for an hour and then hiking a
short distance to the second largest volcanic crater in the
world. It was impressive to see and hotter than hell. We had
lunch with Ozkan Gulkanak of “Kayitsiz”. Ozkan is a young
Turkish guy who is single-handing a wooden 28 foot boat of his
own design. He is a very gregarious character who, it seems, is
known by everyone on sail boats in the Galapagos. We asked him
how he keeps a safe watch when sailing alone and he said that he
is not worried about collision. When we returned to the boat
late in the afternoon, we saw our friends Michael and Britta on
“Vera” enter the bay and anchor next to us. Vera is the boat
that we met sailing from Bonaire to the San Blas Islands, and we
spent some time with them in Panama. To our surprise (and
theirs), an Ecuadorian navy officer came to their boat soon
after they anchored (on Easter Sunday), and said that they must
report to the Capitan del Puerto by 7 am. The reason is that
they were flying the German flag and the German boats that left
here on Friday and Saturday apparently did so without following
the check-in procedures and paying their fees.

Today, we found an internet cafe and tried to catch up on
email but the connection speeds were abysmal. We met Michael
and Britta and had a long lunch catching up on events since we
last saw them at Isla Grande, Panama. We asked them if they had
met Ozkan, the single-handing Turk anchored in front of us, and
it turns out they did. When approaching the Galapagos in the
fog two weeks ago, Ozkan’s boat almost ran into “Vera” while
Ozkan was asleep. Britta had to use her fog horn to awaken him.
This was the only boat that “Vera” saw on her crossing from
Panama. Small ocean.

After lunch, Laura and I took a wonderful excursion by boat
to “La Tintoreras”, the black lava shoals and islands and form
one boundary of the anchorage. We had an excellent guide
(guides are required) and were able to see Galapagos penguins,
boobies, marine iguanas, sharks, rays, sea lions and more. Part
of the excursion is a walk on paths cut into the jagged black
vocanic rock of “La Tintoreras.” There are long, deep fissures
in the rock filled with sea water and at least 50 white-tipped
sharks (known as “tintoreras” in Spanish). After the walk, we
snorkeled off the excursion boat and got to swim with sea lions.
Our guide had a fish chart with him in the water and would
point to fish and then to its picture and name in the chart as
we snorkeled.

This was our last tour in the Galapagos. Tomorrow will be
devoted to final preparations for our big sail to Nuka Hiva in
the Marquesas. The weather forecast is not very good — there
is no wind nearby and none coming anytime soon. We downloaded
a wind forecast as a GRIB file that has the tradewinds starting
south of 5 degrees south latitude. Other cruisers on the way to
the Marquesas have called in on the SSB radio to confirm that
they needed to motor past 5 degrees, one said as far as 8
degrees south, to get good tradewinds. It is a day and one-half
of motoring for us to get down to 5 degrees south. We have
plenty of fuel but we much prefer to sail. We expect to leave
on our 3000 nautical mile (3500 regular mile) passage to the
Marquesas on Wednesday, but might hang on here for another day
depending on circumstances. It will be the longest sail of our
lives and there will be just the two of us on Sabbatical III.

Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabella

Friday, April 6.

We are anchored in Puerto Villamil on the island of
Isabella. It is a very pretty anchorage although still a bit
rolly (although not nearly as much as Academy Bay was in the
last three days we were there). Sea lions swim by the boat
looking for fish, boobies dive bomb into the water looking for
the same, and this morning Laura was startled to find two
Galapagos penguins checking her our out while she dangled her
feet off the transom. Let me first update events since the last
blog entry.

On Monday we spent a few hours provisioning. It took us
less time than we thought because there was not that much to buy
in the stores, and we have quite alot of foodstuffs that be
bought in Panama, Bonaire, and the French Caribbean. At the
Mercado Municipale, we bought a huge stalk of bananas (we could
not resist the price — $3). They were all very green on Monday
but about half are ripe today and the rest will be ripe tomorrow
so we have some serious banana eating to do. We bought lots of
oranges, tomotos, peppers, and pineapple. The problem is that
we do not expect to start our Pacific crossing until Tuesday or
Wednesday next week, so that most of these will have to be eaten
before then. I spent some hours looking for a filter element
for a ZF Hurth gearbox with no luck. We had arranged to meet
our agent, Johnny Romero, on the boat at 3 pm to get our
clearing out papers and settle up our debts but he could not
make it. It was not until after 7pm that he sent Javier and
Manolo to the boat with our passports and documents, and not
until 8:30 pm that we got our laundry. Somewhat to my surprise,
at 5:45 pm “Macaroni” showed up at the boat to clean the bottom.
Macaroni runs a dive shop in Puerto Ayora, and Craig of
“Patriot” had spent some days trying to get him to clean the
bottom of Patriot and of Sabbatical III. He would show up and
say he would be right back with a tank of air and then not
return. You could never find him at the dive shop as we was
always taking tourists out for dives. But there he was just
before sundown ready to go. I had him change the zinc anodes
first and then as the sky darkened he went to work on the
bottom. I cannot imagine how he could see anything down there
but he said that he cleaned it well by touch. He had an
assistant with a snorkel clean the water line. They both worked
feverishly for 45 minutes and asked for $40 for their efforts —
an exceptionally good deal. (Just now, Laura checked out the
bottom and said is was very clean). That afternoon we had a
chat with the German couple (Uva and Beatrice) in the boat next
to ours and they said they were planning to go to Isabella as
well the next morning. They hauled in their stern anchor that
evening so that they could get an early start. As soon as they
did, their boat turned broadside to the swells and started to
roll in a most uncomfortable fashion. They later told us that
they could not sleep in the roll. We left our stern anchor in
for the night.

Tuesday morning was exceptionally cold and foggy. We wore
long sleeved shirts at breakfast and delayed preparations for
leaving because of the poor visibility. We talked with Uva and
he said that they did not want to leave in the fog and would
stay another day. The issue was not so much with leaving
Academy Bay in limited visibility, which is not very hard to do,
but entering Puerto Villamil. There are shoals of black
volcanic rock all around the anchorage and the charts are very
poor. The fog started to lift at 9 am so we quickly hauled in
both anchors and headed out. There was no wind the whole way so
we motored, The fog burned off after an hour and it was a very
pretty ride to Isla Isabella. We had a pod of dolphins with us
for a short while, plus big sting rays leaping into the air. It
was perfectly clear when we entered the anchorage at Puerto
Villamil and most of the other sail boats at anchor were boats
we recognized from Academy Bay, including a trio of Austrian
boats, and a couple of American guys from California in their
early twenties who many of us refer to as the “dudes” since that
word is such an important part of their vocabulary. We got a
ride in to the Embarcadero from Henry, who runs Club Nautico,
and then a pickup truck taxi into town to do our check-in with
the Ecuadorian Navy. We have done everything by the book in the
Galapagos. We applied for a cruisng permit months before we
arrived (they are issued in Quito), and paid every fee required.
This cost us many hundreds of dollar. It seems that some of the
other boats did not do this — they either just drop an anchor
and do not check-in, or pay something to the local port captain
even though a cruising permit is required to come to this
island. They live is fear that they will be told to leave
immediately, but that does not seem to have happened.

We have not done to much on Isabella. I have developed a
case of bronchitis — the first illness since leaving the USA.
I suspect that I got the bronchitis from “Capitan Cucharacha”,
the captain of the boat that took us to Isla Floreana one week
ago. He liked talking with me but was hacking and coughing the
whole time. Fortunately, my wonderful physician Dr. Warren
Licht had given me a big bottle of antibiotics on which he hand
wrote “bronchitis”. The other limitation is that it very hard
to land a dinghy here and the water taxis stop running at 6 pm.
At low tide a dinghy has to cut an extremely circuitous course
to avoid going aground on jagged black volcanic rocks, and then
there is no place to leave the dinghy ashore. As we anchored
in fairly shallow water at high tide, I was concerned that
Sabbatical III might get too close to the bottom when the tide
went out. In the morning I was pleased to see 2.0 meters of
water under the hull but then dismayed when, as the boat swung
ever so gently at anchor, the depth dropped to 0.0 meters,
meaning that we were touching bottom. I suspected that there
was a volcanic rock that we did not spot when we first anchored.
Laura and I rushed on deck to look over the side for a rock
and saw something black right under the keel. Then we saw a sea
lion dive into that blackness and emerge with a silvery fish in
his mouth, and then do it again. In watching more closely, we
realized that that dark spot was not a rock but a large school
of fish trying to hide under out boat. The seal lion was not as
easily fooled as we were. Another boat at the anchorage reported
the same thing.

Yesterday morning we visited the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center
which is not far from town. There are hundreds of juvenile
tortoises awaiting return to the wild and a couple of dozen
fully grown tortoises for breeding, with many more females than
males. The males grow larger, and fully grown male giant
tortoises are — well — giant. As Laura and I sat in the shade
next to a group of females, a huge male slowly plodded his way
over and mounted the first female he came to. All I can say is
that it was a pretty amazing show of slow motion sound and
action. Another male must have suddenly remembered what his
duties are at the breeding center, and sprung into action,
although he seemed a bit rusty. He mounted a female backwards,
which seemed to annoy her greatly, and as she tried to turn
around, she got it in the shoulder, before finally all the parts
fit. He was so energetic that he pushed the two of them
completely across the dusty pen six inches at a time.

There is a beautiful trail from town to the Tortoise Breeding
Center that passes three lagoons with brackish water and the
sulfur smell arising from volcanic activity. In one lagoon we
saw three pink flamingos slowly walking and using their beaks to
look for food in the mud. Where the trail hits the beach, there
is an enormous colony of marine iguanas. They are mostly black
and they rest motionless on the black volcanic rock, so one can
miss seeing them. But if you look more carefully, there are
dozens strewn about including some very large individuals the
size of small dogs.

Last night Henry arranged a BBQ at his Club Nautico for the
sail boats in the anchorage. We attended along with the three
Austrian boats and our German neighbors from Academy Bay who
arrived yesterday. The water taxi that took us back in the dark
at low tide kept banging into shoals but finally got us back to
Sabbatical III. I am feeling better today but am still a bit
rundown from my bout with bronchitis. This is Easter weekend so
I am not sure if the restaurants or stores are even open. It
does not matter much as we have plenty of food on board. The
wind forecast has improved a few of the 10 boats in the
anchorage will be leaving tomorrow or Sunday for the long
passage across the Pacific. The German couple, Uva and
Beatrice, just came over in their dinghy to say goodbye. We
will probably meet up with all of these boats in the Marquesas
in a few weeks.


Galapagos: Academy Bay

April 1, 2007 (Saturday) We are still anchored in Academy Bay, opposite the town of Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz, Galapagos. Thursday was boat maintenance day. We changed fuel and oil filters, of which we have quite alot (five fuel filters). We also took a taxi to “Mecanica Gallardo” to pick up a couple of cases of diesel motor oil and some degreaser. The degreaser was used by Manolo and his assistant on Friday to clean the hull. Our hull was covered in an array of black marks and smears of various origin. The oldest marks were from the old tires that were draped around the boat for it’s transit through the Panama Canal. Then came the tire marks inflicted by the ‘panga’ water taxis that have them attached to their bows. When they come to pick us up or drop us off from the boat, they come bow first to the side of our boat and inevitably they make contact with the boat in the swell even though we have five fenders out. The third source of black on the hull is oil that was spilled in the harbor by one of the larger boats during the night. There is no fuel dock in the bay and boats refuel from 20 gallon jerry cans brought out from shore on small boats, a process that is prone to cause a spill. The hull looks better now but is collecting a new set of tire marks from pangas. We also filled up with diesel yesterday delivered to us on a small boat but used a 220 volt pump and hose to move the diesel from the jerry cans into the tank. Nothing spilled into the water but I did manage to get some in the cockpit which I wiped up with paper towels. The occasional fuel slick in the bay means that we cannot run the watermaker here and hence have to ration water.

Thursday afternoon we hiked over to Las Greitas, a beautiful canyon filled with a mixture of fresh and salt water. The hike takes you by the Finch Bay Eco-Hotel (we could not readily discern what was “eco” about it), and some old salt pans. Friday we took a taxi up to the highlands to search for giant tortoises. At the first place we searched for them (Rancho Mariposa) we spent one hour in the broiling sun before we were told that they had all moved west. Our taxi then took us a few kilometers west and we took to the trails again. We found tortoises just strolling down the trails in the brush munching on leaves. The largest of them are quite impressive. We also had a look at the “Gemeloes”, which are huge collapsed magma chambers. A very impressive site.

Yesterday we did a one day tour to Plaza Sur Island and to Carrion Point. Plaza Sur is a small island less than one mile long and just a couple of hundred yards across and is home to 1000 sea lions and hundreds of land and marine iguanas. We were the only paying customers on the tour so the tour guide brought along her two small children. The tour involved a bus ride across Santa Cruz Island to the ‘Canal de Itabaca’ where we boarded a boat for the one and one-quarter hour ride to Plaza Sur Island. The small stone landing for the boat’s panga was strewn with the resting bodies of sea lions so the panga driver had to clap his hands and make noises to get them off so we could land. Many of the sea lions were juveniles who stay very close to shore to avoid getting taken by the sharks that cruise by looking for fresh meat. There were a few large males who bark and make a fuss to defend their territory.There seemed to be at least one marine or land iguana under every catcus tree. From Plaza Sur the boat took us to Carrion Point were Laura and I jumped in to snorkel. The water was murky at places but there were plenty of interesting fish to see, including four white-tipped sharks. One was about 9 feet long and gave us quite a start. Once back in town, we finally found the great bananas that Laura has been searching for.

Tomorrow we will provision for our Pacific crossing and do the formal check-out from Ecuador. Tuesday we head for Puerto Villamil on the island of Isabella, the westernmost of the inhabited Galapagos. It is about 50 miles to the west. It is a sleepy place without the facilities or tourists found here on Santa Cruz Island. We have a cruising permit from the Ecuadorian Navy that allows to stay in Puerto Villamil prior to setting off for the Marquesas in French Polynesia. We expect to spend about one week at Puerto Villamil.


First five days in the Galapagos

We have been in the Galapagos for nearly a week now and are loving it. The only way to really get to see the whole range of wildlife here is to join one of the organized tours. There are dozens of them everyday, and it seems that for cruisers like us, the best option is to join one of the many day tours that run out of Puerto Ayora where we are anchored. We did tours the last two days – and had a great time.

Our first tour was to the Island of Floreana which is about 40 nm away from us. We got on board a small motor boat along with 12 other people, our guide, and the captain for a two hour high speed motor to the island. Most of us napped along the way and the seas were flat and calm so it was a pleasant ride. Once there we had a very hot hike over a lava path to a beautiful bay where we could snorkel. The path was very easy except for the last 50 yards where you had to grip onto a hot black lava rock cliff face and inch yourself over the edge of the cliff onto the beach. If you fell you would just go into the water, but still, it was a bit hair raising. On the beach was a huge male sea lion who came roaring over to anyone who came too near. In the water were dozens of small sea lion pups, all frolicking in the water, and diving around us as we came in for a swim. Mark saw an incredibly huge manta ray in the water – and caught a glimpse of a big sea turtle as well.

Then we went back to the boat and motored over to the next spot – an area called the Devils Crown ,”Corona del Diablo” – a fallen volcanic crater which has some incredible snorkeling. Just before we got in they gave us lunch – a huge pot of rice and chicken. I guess they don’t know the rule about waiting after you eat before you swim. When we got there the tour guide suddenly stripped down to his shorts and told everyone to hurry, hurry, hurry. We had to all get in the water at the same time because the current was so strong it would just pull us along the Crown and he wanted us to be together. We all leapt into the water from the boat. The guide failed to mention that it was like being in a tidal wave. It just picked you up and swept you along for at least 500 feet. Along the way were more beautiful fish than we have seen anywhere else – along with a few sharks! It was scary, but very fun. When we rounded the side of the crown we were out of the current and could enjoy the incredible fish there. Some sea lions were sliding off the cliffs into the water around us as well. Then once again the tour guide was suddenly shouting directions:”Ok, now everyone swim across this lagoon very very fast – the current is very strong here!” Not everyone heard him since some people were a little far away, so it was really up to each person to figure out what to do. Mark and I swam harder than we ever have in our lives. It was exhausting. After that swim we were once again in a calm spot and we were treated to seeing 4 or 5 white tipped sharks swimming in circles under us (they are supposed to be vegetarians). When we got back to the boat we were absolutely exhausted. Everyone was laughing because it was just not the type of tour that they would do in the U.S. without signing legal consent forms. I guess they haven’t lost too many people yet! That night we were in bed by 8:00 p.m. and slept for 10 hours.

The next day we did another tour, this one a lot more sedate. We started out with a bus ride across the island of Santa Cruz which took about an hour. Then we got into a nice motor boat for a nice calm 1 hour trip to the island of North Seymour. This is an incredible island just filled with frigate birds, blue footed boobies, and marine iguanas. As someone on our trip said, it felt like you were watching a national geographic movie, but you were in it. The male frigate birds have these huge red heart-shaped sacks under their necks and when they want to attract the females they puff them out so they look like a huge red balloon heart just under their beaks. It is so beautiful. The blue footed boobies are incredible and we saw some of them doing their mating dance, an elaborate ritual which includes them picking up and putting down little pieces of straw in front of each other, and the males singing out and ruffling all their feathers out in a big show. The males and females have different sounds and the whole island is filled with the sounds of all the birds putting on their shows. Since it is mating season now for both of these birds we were able to see dozens of them strutting their stuff, incubating eggs, and we even saw a few baby frigates. The marine iguanas are a different story – silent and still – they sit on the rocks and in the bushes looking like prehistoric animals. After a couple of hours watching this incredible display we went back to the boat to motor over to our next stop on the tour. This time we had a very delicious fish lunch, prepared for us on the boat. Once again, as soon as lunch was over it was time to snorkel. The snorkeling was off of a beautiful white sand beach, Las Bachas, and was much less wild than the day before. The snorkeling was good, but the best show was over our heads. There were thousands of boobies and other birds on the rocks beside the beach, and they all decided to fly off the rocks together and dive for fish. Since the fish they were diving for were basically just a few yards away from us, it was quite a sight to see them all rise from the rocks and come flying over us in a huge mass- really beautiful – but also very funny as you know what birds tend to do when they fly overhead! Luckily we could just dive under the water to wash off.

Today we are just hanging out on the boat – attending to boat business. We will spend the afternoon at the internet cafe in town posting our pictures to the blog ( if the internet is working that is – it has not been for the past couple of days) and then have dinner with Craig (from “Patriot”), whom we met in Panama.


Safe Arrival in the Galapagos

It is now Saturday, March 24 (Hannah’s B-Day!), and we are spending some time on the boat today to organize ourselves, sort through 2000 photos for possible inclusion in our web page slide show, and finish administrative arrangements. Our agent, Johnny Romero, is due on the boat any minute with our passports and some tour information. We are anchored in Academy Bay, off of the town of Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz right in the middle of the Galapagos. Our location is South 00 degrees, 44.90 minutes, West 90 degrees, 18.40 minutes.

Our passsge to the Galapagos was faster and easier than we anticipated. It took less than 6 days from Balboa, Panama to San Cristobal Island, the eastern most of the Galapagos, and then a few more hours to Isla Santa Cruz. We arrived in Academy Bay at about 0920 local time on Thursday to crystal clear water and pelicans and other birds dive-bombing fish all around us. There was only notable event in our last hours of the passage. After being visited by the pod of whales, crossing the equator and going for a swim, and watching a stunning sunset, we had a strange encounter with two Spanish speaking men in an open boat about 40 miles northeast of San Cristobal. As soon as we turned on our navigation lights, a 25 foot boat with a large outboard suddenly appeared out of the dark and headed for our starboard side. I was down below when Annabelle called to me and I immediately came on deck and took the helm and powered up the engine to about 8 knots. The other boat ran parallel to us and told us a confused story about how their two compatriots had fallen overboard and they needed our help to find them. For some time, the seas were almost flat and there was no wind so it is hard to imagine how anyone could fall overboard, much less become “lost” to a highly manueverable small boat. Nonetheless, we wanted to provide assistance if someone was in danger. The men said they were fishing but I noticed that the boat had no fishing gear nor were the two men dressed like fishermen. I kept us at 8 knots as we conducted a shouted conversation in Spanish, with Matt translating. The other boat did not seem sufficiently distressed over their missing compatriots, was not interested in having us call the Ecuadorian Navy on our VHF, nor did they seem concerned that during our conversation we had moved at least one mile further away (in pitch darkness) from their lost friends. We asked if they had a GPS fix on the location where the men went overboard. They hesitated and then said they did, and then provided a location that was some distance away. They had a bright light on an arch, and if they knew the location of the men overboard, what help could we possibly render? They asked us irrelevant questions, such as what port we were heading towards for. They asked us to put our foredeck light, which makes us even more visible in the dark, and to follow them. We turned on the light and I said that I would follow, but with no intent of doing so. The whole thing seemed fishy to me and I had read that there had been “incidents” on this very route in which banditos had faked an emergency in order to board sailing yachts. The faked emergencies that I had read about were smoky fires set in barrels on small boats followed by a request to “rescue” the boat’s occupants from an uncontrolled fire aboard. This seemed like a new variation on that theme. After I agreed to follow, they turned in the wrong direction require to get to the location of the “lost” men in the water. After starting a turn to follow, we turned off every light on the boat, even covering the radar screen and turning off instrument lights, and I turned the other way at full power. We could see their light in the distance and it was hard to tell if they were trying to follow us. They did not have radar and in the dark it was very unlikely that they would be able to see us. If they did see us, they could motor at three times our speed and could be on us in a minute. Fortunately, it was a very dark night. We motored a zig-zag course at high speed and without any lights for about seven hours. When we arrived in Academy Bay we asked if there had been any reports of men lost overboard and there seemed to be no such reports. We were also told that outboard powered open boats would not be in that location at night. Moreover, we had monitored marine VHF channel 16 all night listening for emergency calls and there were none. We can only conclude that these the two men in this boat were up to no good and that we made the right decision to darken the boat and power away.

We had to spent most of Thursday on the boat waiting for clearance from the authorities. Thursday night we relearned to walk and have become pretty good at it again. We had a nice Ecuadorian supper and founds some phones to call home with. Yesterday, Laura and I checked out stores and chandleries, visited the fish market (which a center of activity with the pelicans, sea lions, and iguanas looking for fish gut handouts), and spent the afternoon broiling at the Charles Darwin Research Station where we saw huge tortoises, land iguanas, and Darwin’s finches in between trips to the kiosk for bottles of water. Fortunately, it is always cool on the boat. At night we need a light blanket when sleeping. Last night, Annabelle and Matt treated us to supper at the nicest restaurant in the archipelago. They leave the boat tomorrow for a three day tour that ends at the airport for their flights home. There is much more to say but that will have to wait for a day or two. We hope to post some slide shows as well very soon. We will be in the Galapagos for about three weeks before Laura and I begin the nonstop 3000 nautical mile passage to the Marquesas island chain of French Polynesia.


Passage to the Galapagos – Day 6

5:25 P.M. EST Position: North 00.00.00 (that’s no typo- we are
at the equator!) W 88 degrees 32.6 minutes

Yep, we are at the equator. Actually we just crossed it and are
now in the Southern Hemisphere. We crossed the equator while
listening to Neil Young’s great sailing song ” Southern Cross”,
then we turned the boat around and crossed it again. There is
only the smallest distance where the latitude actually reads
00.00.00. We decided to stop the boat and go for a swim just to
mark the occasion. There was some wind all day, but when we got
to the equator it was down to pretty much nothing, so the boat
just bobbled in the swell while Matt and Annabelle jumped in.
I decided to join them for a QUICK swim at 8,500 feet of depth
while Mark stayed on board to make sure the boat didn’t float
away from us all. ( Don’t worry we would never leave the boat if
it was just the two of us). The water was cool and it was
exciting to think about where we were. A couple of tiny
jellyfish found us in the water and quickened our exit. They
must have been excited and surprised to see humans out there in
the middle of their ocean.
Earlier today we had some more excitement when a large pod of
pilot whales ( we think) caught up to our boat and swam and dove
next to us for at least a half an hour. They were so beautiful –
very sleek and smooth in the water – each about 15 feet long.
There were at least 16 of them. Some of them swam under the boat
and then emerged right next to us, while others just swam next
to us in groups of three or four, blowing out of their
blow-holes before arching and dipping back underwater. It was
amazing. We hope we will see more tomorrow as we reach the
Just a note: Last night on the boat we were all freezing. I had
to wear a winter hat during my watch. The water temperature has
dropped from the mid-80’s in Panama to only about 70 degrees,
and you can really feel the difference. Tonight we dig out the
blankets. Not exactly what one would expect at the equator!

Passage to Galapagos – Day 5

Time: 6:00 P.M. EST, Position: North 1degree 15.3 minutes West
86 degrees 43.6 minutes. Heading 231 degrees

Here we are in day 5 of our passage already. The wind has
increased to a nice 10 or 12 knots, but since about 10:00 a.m.
today it has been pretty much in our face so we had to pull down
our sails and motor. We hope the wind will switch to a better
direction soon so we can put up the sails again. It is so much
nicer sailing than motoring. It is interesting to note the
weather changes – although we are getting closer and closer to
the equator it is actually feeling much cooler. That is because
the ocean temperature has been dropping steadily as the Humboldt
current brings in cool water as we approach the Galapagos and
the resulting wind blowing off the water is significantly cooler
than before. It felt comfortably cool all day long, and we will
have to put on long pants and sweatshirts for our night watches.
We have had some seagulls following us for the past few days
and we were enjoying their company until we realized they have
been using our deck for target practice. We also found another
squid on the deck this morning. I guess this is all just a
little bit of a teaser for the wildlife we are about to see once
we reach the Galapagos.
Last night we saw a few ships – early in the evening we went by
three fishing boats ( how and why they were fishing hundreds of
miles from shore is unknown) and later a big cargo ship passed
in front of us.
Our crew, Annabelle and Matt are great helps – keeping watches,
helping with sail changes, cleaning dishes and being good sports
about everything. Matt has a fantastic set of music on his IPOD
which will help augment the 17 gigabytes of great music I have
on my IPOD. We plan on listening to every note during the coming
months. Tomorrow we cross the equator! We haven’t decided yet
how to celebrate, but my guess is it will involve food.


Pasage to the Galapagos: Day 4

5:00 P.M. EST: N 2 degrees 48.0 seconds W 84 degrees
57.seconds1 Course direction 230 magnetic, speed 6.5 knots

We are now well into day 4 of our trip to the Galapagos. Had a
windless night and had to motor. It was as smooth as glass on
the ocean. Saw the Southern Cross constellation. This morning
the breeze picked up and we have been sailing all day. It is
very nice. We are not doing much – lots of napping as the heat
makes you very tired – plus the odd sleeping schedules. We all
like the watch schedule we are keeping with three 4 hour watches
between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. and 4 three hour watches
the rest of the day. Everyone gets a chance to experience
keeping watch at different times of the day that way. Last
night I had the 3:00 a.m. to 6: a.m. shift. It was really hard
to stay awake. We have only seen one boat in the past 3 days-
it was a huge tanker that passed us about 5:00 P.M. last
evening. Kind of shocking to see it there after so many miles
of completely empty ocean. This morning there was a good size
squid on the deck. I didn’t know they could fly up to the deck
of a boat. Maybe it was dropped there by one of the 3 birds
that was circling our boat last night. In any event the little
bugger kind of made a purple gooey stain on the deck. Yuck.

Keep watching our blog to see when we reach the equator….. we
are only 2 degrees north of there right now!

Another day sailing en route to Galapagos

5:00 PM EST: N 2 degrees 48 seconds W 84 degrees 57 seconds Course direction 230 magnetic, speed 6.5 knots. We are now well into day 4 of our trip to the Galapagos. Had a windless night and had to motor. It was as smooth as glass on the ocean. Saw the Southern Cross constellation.

This morning the breeze picked up and we have been sailing all day. It is very nice. We are not doing much – lots of napping as the heat makes you very tired – plus the odd sleeping schedules. We all like the watch schedule we are keeping with three 4 hour watches between the hours of 6 am and 6 p and 4 three hour watches the rest of the day. Everyone gets a chance to experience keeping watch at different times of the day that way. Last night I had the 3:00 am to 6: am shift. It was really hard to stay awake. We have only seen one boat in the past 3 days- it was a huge tanker that passed us about 5:00 PM last evening. Kind of shocking to see it there after so many miles of completely empty ocean. This morning there was a good size squid on the deck. I didn’t know they could fly up to the deck of a boat. Maybe it was dropped there by one of the 3 birds that was circling our boat last night. In any event the little bugger kind of made a purple gooey stain on the deck. Yuck.

Keep watching our blog to see when we reach the equator. We
are only 2 degrees north of there right now!

Passage to the Galapagos: Day 3

Passage to Galapagos: Day 3

The wind came up last night and we were able to turn off
the engine and sail. The wind is a bit on the light side now
but we continue to sail with two poled out head sails, doing
about 5.8 knots. We are still on schedule for a Thursday
arrival in Academy Bay, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands. It
is now 6 pm EST (2300 Z) on March 18, and our position is North
4 degrees 3.03 minutes, West 82 degrees 56.60 minutes. Heading
236 degrees magnetic. Winds are from the northeast at about
10-12 knots and there is a 2-3 foot swell. All in all, pretty
comfortable but a little slow.

We are eating well. Annabelle made shrimp creole and rice
last night. The night before Laura made her famous chicken
curry. We had tomato, cucumber, and feta salad for lunch, and
watermelon for a snack. And, of course, plenty of chocolate
(but. unfortunately, not that good European chocolate). We are
trailing two fishing lines but have had not luck so far. Fresh
tuna would be nice.


Passage to the Galapagos, Days 1 and 2

Passage to the Galapagos, Days 1 and 2

Yesterday morning (Friday, March 16) we completed
preparations for our passage to the Galapagos, including a
lengthy visit to the fuel dock to fill a 100 gallon fuel bladder
strapped to the aft deck. At 11:20 we left Balboa and headed
out the channel into the Pacific. The forecast was for light
winds and that is just what we have found. We motored until
about 5:30 pm and then found enough wind to sail at a reasonable
pace with the genoa set out on a pole to windward. By 9:30 pm,
we were back to motoring and have only been under sail for 2 1/2
hours today (Saturday). Having that extra 100 gallons of diesel
in the bladder tank is reassuring, as is the 40 gallons in jerry
cans. We have enough fuel to motor all the rest of the way to
the Galapagos if we have to. We have benefited from a favorable
current that added as much as 2 – 3 knots to our speed for most
of the day.

There was quite a bit of large ship traffic coming to and
from the Canal until early this morning. Now we are south of
where the big ships go and have not seen another vessel for
hours. Seas are quite flat with only a gentle swell but it is
very hot inside the boat and difficult to sleep except at night.
We have lots of fruit that is rapidly ripening in the heat and
we need to get busy eating it. The boat is more laden with
provisions, fuel, and water than ever before. Laura and I made
a last trip to the supermarket (“Super 99”) in Balboa plus added
a few cases of drinks at the Balboa Yacht Club. Much of these
provisions have to last us all the way to French Polynesia,
almost 4000 miles of sailing away.

At 5:30pm EST (22:30 Z) we are at North 5 degrees 55.5
minutes, West 80 degrees 57.9 minuted, motoring at 7.9 knots and
heading 238 degrees magnetic.