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.