Day 19 – Passage to the Marquesas

Position 10.33 South, 137.04 West Heading 255 degrees at about
6 knots
100 miles to go!

It’s Sunday afternoon and we are cruising along – smooth seas
and gentle steady winds. Hooray. It’s about time we got treated
to a good sail. It was a bit rocky earlier today, but we are
getting a nice treat right now. We were contacted on the radio a
few hours ago by Afriki, a boat we met in the Galapagos, being
sailed by a single hander – from, of all places, Winnipeg! He is
just an hour behind us and for a while we could actually see him
on the horizon. I am sure we will see his lights once it gets
dark. That is the first boat we have seen for so long. The
island is only about 100 miles away, It is supposed to be
breathtakingly beautiful, and we are going to sail around the
whole island, going down the southeastern shoreline and then up
the western side to reach the anchorage. We hope to be at
anchor around noon local time. Very exciting.
Love, L

Day 17, Passage to the Marquesas

Friday April 27, 2007 19:00 UTC
Position: 09.35 south 131.36 West
Heading 250 degrees with winds 10-12 knots
Speed 6 knots
About 400 miles to go!

After 3 days of going nearly 8 nm per hour we have slowed down –
with both wind and waves decreased substantially. We are
getting hit on the side by small, but insistent waves, that are
making it kind of uncomfortable again. Apparently there was a
big storm south of us and we are just getting its last remains.
If we could maintain a speed of at least 7 knots we can arrive
in Fatu Hiva by Sunday late evening. If we go much slower than
that we will probably intentionally slow down even more so that
we approach the island at daybreak on Monday. It’s not like
driving a car where you can put your foot down on the
accelerator and achieve your desired speed. We are doing well.
It will be very wonderful to reach land, but kind of sad in a
way to be done with this part of the journey. Now if we could
just catch one single fish, we would be very happy. If not, it
may be time to open up one of our gourmet cans of French Canard
(duck) for dinner.

Day 16- Passage to the Marquesas

Thursday April 26th, 2007 18:00 UTC Position 09.08 South 128.33 West
We have been trucking along now for the past 2 days at about 8
knots – very fast. At this rate we hope to be Fatu Hiva by Monday!!
All is well on-board.

Day 14 Passage to the Marquesas

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007
Time: 22:00 UTC, Position 09.24.93 south and 123.08.86 West
Heading 270 degrees at about 7 knots

We are having a good sailing day. Seas are calmer, but wind nice
and strong. Still trying to catch fish.
Now that the moon is waxing and is about half full the nights
are really beautiful. The moon lights up the horizon and the
cockpit of the boat seems illuminated by a strong floodlight
until the moon sets ( right now it is at about 11:00, but it
gets later each night as the moon waxes). When the moon is out
you don’t see many stars, but after it sets they are brilliant
too. I have the 6:00 P.M. to midnight shift so I have been
able to do my night watch without it being really dark at all.
Last night I tried to read by moonlight, but it wasn’t strong
enough. Maybe at the full moon?

Day 13 – Passage to the Marquesas

Time: 23:00 UTC. Position :9.05 south, 120.46 west, heading 244
degrees at 6 knots.

We have not had another stormy day,but continue to have a lot of
swells which make the boat rock from side to side. The swells
are rolling in from the south, and we are heading west
south-west ( mostly west), so they hit us at an angle that makes
it, well, rolly. It is not terrible, just not the smooth,
effortless sail we were expecting. Apparently the sailing
conditions can differ by just very small distances depending
where on this huge ocean you are en route to the Marquesas- I
mean we have friends on boats just a hundred miles away who are
having strong winds, but smooth, flat seas. Other people, 100
miles away in another direction seem to having worse swells than
us. Since the conditions are constantly changing it is hard to
know what to do, except just to keepdownloading weather reports
and hoping that each day ( or hour) brings about the changes
that we are looking for. Today it seems to be pretty good. It
is amazing how used to it we have gotten – I mean we can read
and we can write e-mails- something I am sure we could not do
under these condtions a few months ago. We have a fun
relationship going on with another boat – Intiaq- with Karin and
Jean-Francois on board. They are a French/Swiss couple –
handsome, articulate, friendly a little older than us. They
have a big catamaran, a 47 foot Catana. A 47 foot Catana is way
bigger than a 52 foot Amel, by the way, because they are about
25 feet wide, whereas we are only 15 feet. Makes them a very
comfortable and roomy boat. Catamarans handle swells much better
than monohulls like us because of the broad footprint they have
on the water – makes them very smooth. Anyways, we met Intiaq
in the Galapagos and left from the same harbour in Isla Isabela
at about the same time on April 11th. We were in radio contact
with them for the first few days, but then they pulled too far
ahead of us to get reception. The other way to communicate with
other boats at sea is by SSB ( single side band radio). Intiaq
had set up an arrangement with a few other boats ( all French
speaking) to check in with each other twice a day – just to
report positions and to make sure no-one is in trouble. There is
something wrong with our SSB radio so we can hear them everyday,
but can not transmit to talk to them. Since we are in e-mail
contact with them as well, I wrote Karin and told her our
dilemna. So now, every day, after their standard SSB check-in
with the other boats – which I listen in to – Karin gets on the
radio and just has a one way conversation with me – telling me
the days news – how many fish they have caught ( many), what
they have seen ( a bird), how the weather is, what great food
she she prepared on board, etc. It is really nice. Then I will
e-mail her back some news from Sabbatical III. It is very
comforting to have another boat to talk to like this. There are
at least 25 other boats en route to the Marquesas who also share
contact information on the radio via SSB. We are able to keep
track of lots of other boats – some of them we recognize from
seeing them from other harbours even if we have not yet met the
folks on board. We know of three boats who are sailing
single-handed – one Turk, one Canadian and one Austrian who are
crossing as we do. Can’t imagine how they do it – it is a very
very long journey – and even with two people it is hard to rest
enough. I guess they must just close their eyes, cross their
fingers and go to sleep on and off during the day. We have not
actually seen another boat for 12 days now – but expect that as
we all converge on the same island in the Marquesas we will
start seeing other boats. That will be fun.

Pacific Crossing – Day 11

Saturday, April 21, 2007 Time: 23:00 UTC
Position: 08.29 South 115.26 West
Bearing 264 degrees at 7 knots

The big squalls that we had continued from Thursday evening
through Friday evening . Luckily most of them went away just at
sunset on Friday evening , with mostly clear skies, but
continuing strong winds and seas. It is infinitely better to
sail at night when it is starry rather than pouring rain. We
even have some moonlight last night to guide our way . Today,
Saturday, was mostly clear, with strong following seas and good
winds – 15 to 20 knots. We are not doing much cooking- not that
we are out of food, but simply because we have not had much
appetite. Today I plan to cook chicken as I think we are
getting too thin ( well, maybe I am just dreaming). We have not
even put a fishing pole in the water for three days because the
seas are too rough to start handling 30 pound fish – which we
are determined to catch at some point.

April 20th – passage to Marquesas.

Time: 22:00 UTC Position 08.23 south, 112.39 west. Heading 266
degrees at 7.2 knots – double reefed jib and mizzen ( no
mainsail set now)

We have experienced stormy weather for the past 20 hours. We
have had a series of squalls, one after the other, bringing high
winds, rough seas and heavy rains. We are fine, but tired. We
just had an hour respite from the squalls, but they seem to have
returned. We are hoping they will dissipate before dark.

In 5 hours we should be reaching the half-way mark to Fatu-Hiva,
our much anticipated first port of call in the Marquesas.

Day 7 Crossing to the Marquesas.

Time: 21:00 GMT, Tuesday April 17th. Position S 06.25 and west
Heading 240 degrees with winds 15-20 knots, 70 degrees off our
port side.
All is fine……. There is nothing out here but water, sun,
wind, some flying fish, and an occasional bird (who must be very
tired). About 2,000 miles to go.

Pacific Crossing – Day 6

Day 6 – April 16th, 2007 Time: 21:00 UTC ( 15:00 local time –
whatever local might mean given our circumstances)

Position South 05.55.77 West 102.18.17 Heading 255 degrees at 8

Sorry about the blog the past few days. I just realized I sent
it the wrong way and it will be filled with all sorts of 2=Hs
and other junk.
All is well on board Sabbatical III. We each did a 6 hour shift
last night which really helped us in terms of getting caught up
on sleep. Amazing what one can do for six hours in the dark to
entertain oneself: an hour of staring at the stars, an hour of
dancing with the head-set on to get some exercise ( while
gripping onto the captain’s seat to keep steady), a couple of
hours of serious music listening on the IPOD, and a couple of
hours of absolute zoning out will do it. We have not seen
another boat for the last 3 days, but you still have to keep
checking. Finally got some good wind today, which required
taking down the big head sail ( the ballooner), but now we are
whizzing along at 8 to 9 knots and making some progress. Only a
couple of THOUSAND miles to go.

Day 5 at sea – Ou est Intiaq?

23.30 GMT, Sunday, April 15th.
We ended up turning much farther south last night than we had wanted to due
to wind direction. Then this morning we set up our two headsails which
allows us to sail well downwind, but we had to head the wrong direction in
getting everything set up and by the time we were back on track we had gone
a little farther south than we wanted to – but still on a good track for
the Marquesas. Our position is South 06.05 and West 100.13. Very
light winds and we are having an uncomfortable day – lots of sloshing back
and forth in the swell as there is not enough wind to keep both of the
headsails full. We are sad that we are now out of VHF range of our friends
Intiaq – so I am sending them this mail as well, hoping they will send
me back an e-mail letting us know their position. They are probably
enjoying a gourmet dinner right now, while we are eating canned soup, old
stir-fried rice and chocolate covered bananas ( all of which were actually
quite delicious). Tomorrow I plan to cook a chicken curry- or if we
are lucky, some fresh caught fish.

Day 4 – Passage to Marquesas

Position: South 05.06.23 West 97.42.08 Heading 244 degrees at 6 nm.

We are doing well – have been sailing without the motor for most of the past 2 days.
Yesterday was gorgeaus – smooth seas and a nice wind has us
racing along between 7 and 8 knots for most of the day. We are not getting
long enough stretches of sleep to feel rested, but are continuing to figure
this out. We are part of two “sailing nets” – which are groups of
sailors who talk on the SSB radio at set times during the day to report their
positions, and current wind and wave conditions where they are. Both
of the nets are for sailors in the Pacific. 99 percent of them are on our
exact course, and we are all within a couple of hundred miles of each other.
It is helpful. We know most of the boats from having seen them,
and meeting many of them, these last few weeks in the Galapagos. We are
just about 20 miles from one of our favorite boats – Intiaq – a catamaran
owned by a French/Swiss couple. We are close enough to them to see their
navigation lights at night which is kind of nice. Not much else out.
here to see except lots and lots and LOTS of water.Saw some dolphins
yesterday, but they didn’t seem interested in us and just swam on by.

More later

Us at sea – April 12th, 2007

Day 2 at sea. It is 4:30 pm local time and we are currently at :
S03.17 and W 93.06, and have had about 14 knots of wind 80 degrees to
port since about 2:00 this afternoon. We are heading 235 degrees. Yesterday
was calm and beautiful, and this morning was awful with no wind and terribly
sloppy seas and big swells. Since 2:00 however we have been
able to sail, and the seas, although still going the wrong way, are quite
a bit more comfortable.
We hope to get some sleep as both of us are wiped.

On our way

On Our Way.

We pulled up our anchor this morning and set off for the
island of Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas Islands of French
Polynesia. We left at 10:40 am local time (same as Mountain
Daylight Time) and have been motoring through gentle swells for
the past seven hours. We had a bit of wind for a while and got
some extra speed from our sails, but there has been no wind for
at least the past 3 hours. As we left the anchorage of Puerto
Villamil, we were greeted by a large sea turtle who seemed to
crane his neck to have a look at us and wave goodbye with his
flippers as he dove. As we sailed past the southwestern beaches
of Isla Isabela we saw that the ocean was full of sea turtles.
Every 100 yards there was a turtle or a small group of turtles.
Perhaps they are going to that beach to lay theirs eggs. What
a nice send-off from the Galapagos.

Yesterday we did our final provisioning. First we went to a
small supermarket and bought 5 dozen fresh and unrefrigerated
eggs, a few canned goods, and some bottled water. We left these
purchases at the market walked over to the Mercado a block away
to buy fruits and vegetables. We bought a large stalk of green
bananas weighing 20 pounds ($2.50), 10 avocadoes, 8 pounds of
tomatoes, three pineapples, and a watermelon. We wanted to buy
oranges and grapefruits but they were all soft and many were
moldy. We then hailed a pick-up truck taxi and loaded our fruits
into the back. In her best Spanish, Laura asked the driver if
there were another place to buy oranges. He took us to a store
that we had not seen before. There we bought 45 hard green
oranges, a half-dozen grapefruit, and another watermelon. We
shlepped it to back to the boat and had it washed and stowed
aboard before 10:30 am. We had to hang the banana stalk in the
ocean for a half-hour in order to drown the numerous insects
living there — some seemed immune to a 10 minute dunk. We
spent the afternoon going through our checklist of departure

At 5 pm we took the water taxi into the Embarcadero to have
one last walk on solid gound, have a quick meal at Henry’s Club
Nautico, and pick up our order of prepared food. Earlier
yesterday morning, we asked Henry’s wife to cook up grilled
chicken and rice with vegetables and chicken for 9 people, and
left tupperware to contain it. When we got to Club Nautico, it
had all just been cooked and was sitting in the sealed
tupperware. We had a quick dinner of fish (they were now out of
chicken) and took a water taxi over to “Intiaq” . Karen and
Jean-Francois had invited us to talk about winds, waves, and
routing to the Marquesas over drinks on their beautiful
catamaran. They had two Italian couples from a nearby boat
over, and the men were bent over a computer screen with weather
forecasts. The discussion was all in French but I could follow
much of it, and Laura helped out with translations as well. One
of the Italian men had been a weather forecaster before
retiring. The question is whether to go directly south in the
hopes of picking up the tradewinds, or take a more northerly
course as routing guru Jimmy Cornell suggests. Jean-Francois
had made contact on his SSB radio with two boats that left the
Galapagos for the Marquesas three days ago. One went far south
and was experiencing very rough seas and no wind. The other
went less south and was experiencing calmer seas and 17 knots of
winds. This is extremely useful information and I have adjusted
our route in light of it. Over drinks and appetizers, Laura
engaged everyone in her brilliant French while I just sat there
smiling. We could not stay long as we had an invitation for
“sundowners” at “Vera”, the boat of our friends Michael and
Britta of Germany. It was certainly our big social night.

Laura is now listening in on Jean-Francois and his friends
at sea discuss condition (in French) on the SSB. Intiaq left
just 4 hours ago. A few other boats left today as well
primarily because the nasty swell from the south that we have
had for the past few days has ended. We are currently heading
208 degrees magnetic at 7.2 knots at location 1 degrees 39
minutes South, 91 degrees 29 minutes West. We had some dolphins
jumping near the boat just a few minutes ago. Soon it will be
rice and chicken for supper, and a night full of stars.


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.