Posts Tagged ‘Galapagos’

Last Parking Lot…Galapagos

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise

The Galapagos – A Reality Busch Gardens !  The Galapagos doesn’t have free beer in any of the Gardens. Actually here it’s 4 bucks for a large Pilsner. And from what I understand neither does “Busch Gardens” anymore. What they do have are animals most of us have never seen, animals only slightly shy of humans, and often in abundance. The Galapagos also have parking lots for your boat. Yep. There is NO cruising here in the sense that you free to travel to harbors or anchorages you find interesting or comfortable. Here you have three and sometimes four harbors to visit; San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Floriana, and Isabela. If you choose Bolivar as an agent you he will not support Floriana and if you choose Ricardo you don’t have an agent in Isabela but you do get to stop there. Santa Cruz has to rank as one of the world’s worse anchorages. The town is quite picturesque, the people friendly, the two boat stores / hardware / electronic stores are better stocked than Panama’s;. but, and maybe I should capitalize this: BUT, the anchorage is the pits. In many respects the worst in our 6 years of cruising. Finally, at the last stop for us, Isabela, the agent indicated that the yellow buoys were put in for cruising boats as an experiment to see if they would be used. No one had informed us of that option in the other anchorages In Santa Cruz they had 2 boats that we saw, one was used by a cruiser and the other by a commercial boat. There were a dozen buoys laying about the shore either to be deployed or just for storage. I don’t know which. Obviously, those were not available for use. In Santa Cruz the harbor is open to the SE and the swell was rolling in; you guessed it, from the SE. We had to deploy a stern anchor just to barely tolerate the swell and Elysium is not really setup for using a stern anchor especially in 15′ of water. (It is on my list to make that change. In 30 or more feet it would have been easier.) Anyway, we finally had a stern anchor out and were all setup when another cruiser  came and anchored right on top of our stern anchor and settled about 30′ from us. There were more options but we must look safe because other boats anchoring too close seems to happen all too often. In Santa Cruz we tried to get a tour to Semour Norté where all the Boobies hang out and breed. (Don’t get any hopes up guys for these

Niji Wendy

Niji Wendy

boobies are birds). But just like in the Magic Kingdom or Bush Gardens some rides are closed; the entire week, all the tours to the Bird Sanctuary were sold out. With that nixed we looked for another tour and found a tour to the Highlands that looked interesting so we booked that with another cruising couple from Sweden. What a joy that tour ended up being. We visited two collapsed lave domes, a Turtle Ranch where they only maintain acreage for the turtle and have no impact on the lives or health of the creatures, and a rather

Lava Tube

Lava Tube

huge Lava tube. With our limited Spanish we were able to ask our guide questions and mostly understand him. His English was about equal to the limits of our Spanish but we all managed. The Highlands are nothing like the shore. Green; rich and lush looking they were the opposite of the shore. We had already informed Irene that we wished to leave Santa Cruz Thursday and needed to check out after our Highlands tour so we did some local strolling about the town before completing the paper work after which I returned to the boat and W/ went on a T-Shirt hunt. The boat had a full on for “Rock and Roll” party and W/ may have chosen the best alternative for the evening. Although we weren’t really rolling because of the stern anchor we were rocking quite a bit. The following day we woke up with a nice boat pitch (bow to stern) and facing the wrong direction. At least some of the boats were the wrong direction. We had stayed facing the harbor entrance because we had a stern anchor out but the wind had shifted and the skies were clearing up. Up early ( 6 ish) we had a quick breakfast and still decided to leave. First we needed to retrieve the two anchors; one anchor was with another cruiser almost on top of. Too; behind the stern anchor was the reef about 100 feet away. With a 40 boat that narrows it down to 60 feet which is to damn close in my book. I had initially planned on letting off the bow anchor; picking up the stern and then picking up the bow. But with the other boat so close that became problematic. I let up about 100′ more of chain off my stern anchor and slowly picked up the bow. Using the motor then W/ was able to keep us off the other cruiser while I gathered up the chain and the stern anchor. Eventually we made our escaped with no trouble and set about to leave this IMHO; nasty harbor. We were heading for a new parking lot. About 45 nautical miles (nm) away. To arrive it in daylight we needed to average 5 kts or better. W/ motored in a light rain with wind coming out of the NW. This wind direction just isn’t suppose to happen here. We are now in the SE trades and they; the trades, are to blow all the time from the same direction. But it is what it is and we use what we have. So we motored. I wasn’t into making 5 sail changes in a couple of hours as the wind shifts around from the mountains to the trades. And this time I was actually right. Inside of 3 hours we were sailing, then an hour later were we close to ghosting along at 3 its and about 30 minutes later we were moving between 6-8 kts making great time. For the rest of the trip we had one of our more pleasant sails and made Isabela well before dusk. There we settled in with a couple of other boats we’ve met off and on, tried to contact JC; our agent here, and after a few tries just hung it up for the day. He would be here tomorrow and we could complete the process then.

And by the way; we’ll be underway to French Polynesia today and not able to update our blog til there so enjoy a vacation from my ramblings.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Been Awhile

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Been here awhile. Two weeks. Tried to have a boat sewing project completed by a local. No good.  Couldn’t find anyone in either of the shops that we could talk to. Oh, there were some commercial machines visible through the windows but no one was ever around. So, we decided to do it ourselves. Thankfully we did purchase a Sailrite machine prior to cruising. That machine has come in handy on three separate occasions and we even used it prior to our cruise.  We had serious need of it in Cartegena, the San Blas,  and now the Galapagos.

After we arrived and had slept away the better part of a day or so, Pablo visited the boat and offered us a tour of the island for 40 bucks per person. Tony on sv Cetacea had been offered a similar tour for $65 dollars so we felt pretty good. But one never knows what is included and what not. I thought the ferry ride was included from the boat and back. NOT.  We actually found two other cruisers that had indicated an interest so the four of us Steve, Kim (sv North Star), W/ and I were on the ferry at 8 ish heading to town for our 4 person tour.

A Face only a Mom Could Love

A Face only a Mom Could Love

The tour was well worth the $49 bucks each we paid, including transportation and tip.  We stopped first at the Turtle sanctuary where they are attempting to restock the land tortoise supply of the island. At one time there were about 100,000 tortoises living on the island and past residents (people and animals) had dwindled that supply down to now about 3,000.  So

Baby Tortoise Numbers, Galapagos

Baby Tortoise Numbers, Galapagos

the scientists and their helpers dig up every nest they find and incubate the eggs, care for the young till they reach about 5-10 years of age and then release them into their natural habitation hoping to restore the existing stock.  Each turtle gets numbered, the younger ones with paint and the older ones with permanent etchings in their shells.  They; the turtles, are rather ugly, immense, noisy creatures chewing on the plants with nairy a thought about etiquette. Their mouths are reminiscent of the age of dinosaurs and they walk short distances then; BANG, down they go. Obviously resting. But as they do plop down one hears the sound of 250 lbs being dropped from 10 cm’s. There just is no grace in their movements. Anyway, none to our eyes.

Caldara Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Caldara Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

From there we traveled to the site of a volcano caldera that has filled with fresh water. On some days the Frigate birds will fly up there and clean their wings. The Volcano fills during the rainy season and has no egress from the walls. Only water removed by the Ecuadorians or nature is effecting the lake level. Why it is not like the great salt lakes I can only guess is that it is rather young; that is, in geological time. We hiked up without our guide he most likely feeling a needed siesta coming up and I walked down to the water level while W/ Kim and Steve hung out on the edge.

Front Steps to the Tree House

Front Steps to the Tree House

Upon descending we drove to one of the coolest tree houses I’ve ever seen. As children we played at a friends tree house and even I believe slept there one night, but compared to the tree house of our childhood, this was 5 star. Cooking, refrigerator, loft with bunks, easy chairs, couch, hammock and a good breeze. It was all yours for the sum of $20/ person per night.  In the bottom

Damn Big Tree

Damn Big Tree

of the tree house was a man cave. There again was a fridge, TV, and cot.  It also was cool. All of us marveled at the size of this tree not even coming close to circling it with all outstretched arms. We then viewed the accouterments of the Alboral Casa while savoring a Magnum Ice Cream bar.  My excuse; lunch was an hour or so away.

Next we stopped at ruins of an old restaurant but here there was a view of the Ecuador side of the Pacific and a view on the leeward side where were anchored off the harbor.  On to the South Beach we went; la Lobaria but we didn’t go to watch the Sea Lions, we went to see the Marine Iguanas. Here, as no where else in the world the iguanas swim out off the rocks and dive to the bottom feeding on the algae.  Obviously we didn’t get in the water and record this event; although Steve sincerely wanted (wants) to, but we followed a few around Sunning themselves and after tiring of them we piled back

Ok! Who will blink?

Ok! Who will blink?

into the taxi truck with our Guide and drove back to town for our traditional Ecuadorian lunch.

While it may be traditional it is not really for me. A soup with what ever the restaurant seems to have left over that day, a piece of grilled fish. some starch something and juice. While one would not starve to death consuming the plate of calories one would never describe the meal as a gastriointestinal delight. Survive yes; enjoy – not I.

There in we returned to the boat for an evening of rest. The following day found the 4 of us heading to the  Interpretation  Center  a short walk outside of town where we picked up a good dose of Galapagos history. Seems to have began after Darwin fell upon this magic kingdom and there in various nations and people put their hard labor into creating and selling it as a paradise. They exploited the land, the sea, and each other; all ending in what seemed to be often tragic deaths. These islands have difficulty supporting people with any variety of food sources. The islands are dry 8 months of the year and being of new volcanic origins they have very little fertile soil. They’ve imported Goats; not much meat there, and the goats ate a lot of vegetation that the turtles feed on adding to the declining turtle population. They’ve harvested Sea Lion pelts and I’m sure ate and sold Sea Lion meat as well as Turtle meat. As those populations dwindled and as the world began to see this ecological area as most unique in our floating spaceship the Ecuadorians  finally discovered the best way to exploit these islands. Tourism.

The Grotto

The Grotto

After our visit to the Interpretation Center  we hiked some of the trails and found a great vista of the Western side of the island where Steve and Kim began their Frigate bird hunt; but with a camera. Kim wanted badly to capture a picture of the male Frigate in full mating style with his blown up red crop that they wandered the trails on the cliff  edge for nigh on another hour while W/ and I descended to the gorge where others were swimming with the Sea Lions. Unfortunately we didn’t bring any  snorkel /swim gear but promised ourselves we would tomorrow.

The following day we  four gathered at the dock carrying bags of gear and snacks. I had expected to pick up water at the store on the beach on our way; my only snack I would carry. This should have been my fist clue that the day would not go as planned. It was closed. Kim indicated she would share her water as needed so we trudged on. We walked the trail to the gorge and over the rise our four faces showed disappointment. A young couple was sitting on the rock entrance chowing down some lunch watching the waves come crashing in. Young and bold they were, they told us they had gone in earlier and the water was so cloudy that the Sea Lions were not even interested in them and really, they couldn’t see anything. For once we chose to listen to the voice of experience and walked away. But not to be disappointed entirely my first order of business was to find a delectable snack; I was looking for the Magnum bars I love. Again wiser minds put me in my place saying that I need to find some “real” food first and then I could indulge in my ice cream fix.  So it was Ceviche followed by the Magnum bar.

ps  They don’t have any Klondike Bars here. 🙁

pps  After the couple of days being a tourist and not finding a place to sew our sail, Bolivar (our agent) not connecting us with anyone to sew our sail, we decided to repair it on our own. We spent one am pulling it down and roughly folding it on the boat. What a PITA!  It is amazing how big things are on the boat when you take them down and begin working on a  500 square foot sail in a 25 square foot cockpit.  We hauled it back to the cockpit where it sat out one day and the next while we arranged our

Stitchin the Yankee Sail

Stitchin the Yankee Sail

supplies from inside the boat. We discussed where to stitch it, what we would need. How much, do I need to cut some Sunbrella with the hot knife, etc?  In the end we had the inside of the boat a mess but we didn’t need to do much cutting of the Sunbrella and we discovered all we really need to do a lot is a lot of sewing. We sat the machine on the cockpit  seat and W/ helped me drag the sail so I could run the new stitching. I used the Tenear thread even though it is really, REALLY, expensive. I don’t like having to do things a second time especially when  I could have done it right the first time. We were lucky that day. I figured it would be at least a 2 day job as we had been getting some drizzle in the pm. But here Neptune and his relative Mother Nature decided to let us be. Twas a long day with lots of 40′ runs of stitching varying between straight and zig-zag. We tried to not go over a lot of the old stitching exactly as I didn’t want to weaken the sail at all and this sail is one of our work horses. By 3 pm we were finished and now it was time to put it all away. At 4 pm we were on the VHF calling other cruising friends looking for company for dinner. No way W/ was cooking as we had basically worked straight through.

Tony chose to join us and therein we talked him into a brief visit the following day to aid in hoisting the Yankee back up, send me up the mast to check out the rig there, clean the VHF antenna connection and hopefully assist W/ in retrieving me from the lonely heights. Paid in Oreo’s and beer Tony was a happy man.  He hauled my slightly overweight behind up the mast with a 28 volt angle drill and a wench bit. W/ tailed. And going up was much like traveling in an elevator.  W/ now thinks she needs to add one of those drills to our list of boat stuff as she’s been the one to hand crank my  hulk up 60′ above the water. She’s sold. And on and on it goes. We check stuff off the list, add stuff to the list. Check off places we’ve been and things we’ve seen and add some more to it. Now I’m wanting to see the Blue Footed and Red Footed Booby Birds. Next week, maybe.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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We’re Outa Here!

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Alright, I know my 8 readers are getting tired of waiting and as this is not the Game of Thrones I have doubts as to how much longer they’ll wait.

Some who follow on Facebook and others who keep in personal email contact will know we have traveled to the Galapagos.  So here begins the 3 part series on the trip.

Contadora, Las Perlas, Panama

Contadora, Las Perlas, Panama

We left Contadora, Las Perlas, Panama on Saturday, March 29th at 10 ish. We had some chores to do in the am before we upped anchor and with those completed we lead the way with two boats, Jean- Maria and us.

We traveled down the W side of the Perlas and there pointed S. Winds were fair and we traveled slower than our best but were comfortable enough not to be concerned. I had hoped to clear the S end of the Perlas before sunset and we did. As we approached the S end we passed a rather large turtle going the other way, just a foot or so below the surface. For the most part we flew under the Yankee Jib alone with our wind vane blocks and line yelling at us the whole way.

As we began to exit the Gulf of Panama the sea turned and the surface became a mess. That is the most accurate description. We had a fresh breeze pushing us along at 5-6  kts and the seas looked mostly like the surface of a frosted cake. However the surface also ended up with two patterns for the swell, one from directly behind and the other from the W. On the boat it felt like we were being tossed about in a wash machine.  Other than that we were fine with the wind vane lines and blocks talking to us the entire way.

The night was odd. We were cold. Here we are in the tropics and W/ and I found we were putting on layers to stand our watches. We had thought to try 5 hours on and 5 hours off having heard that if you can get close to 5 hours of continuous sleep you can mostly feel refreshed. But…..

I just can’t stay up that long. So both of us stayed up as long as we could; usually 2-3 hours then switched. During the day who ever felt like taking a nap did and after the first 3 days we were tired but not exhausted.  Then sometime on W’s watch I was

Old Lines Passing over Non Rotating Blocks

Old Lines Passing over Non Rotating Blocks

awakened with a big “BANG”!  W/ said to me something happened with the Windvane; she’s now calling it Oscar, and I wobbled out of my warm berth, donned my gear and added the safety harness to head topsides. There I found that one of the control lines had parted. Not to worry. We are after all an offshore cruising boat and I have more line. So I go to retrieve the new line, route it and then we connect the vane again and the boat begins to sail itself.  I head back to my short and blessed dream land.

The seas were so rough during the day that I never put out a fishing line. We had gone through many sail changes, poling out the Yankee, gybing, putting up the main, reefing the main, taking out the reef, and then working with the Yankee again I was getting tired of the constant wind shifts. Hell, we are in the Pacific where the wind is to blow consistently and the swells are to be far apart. On day 3 we had 10 – 15′ swells with about a 6 second interval. It reminded me mostly of Caribbean sailing.  And I am blaming it all on the Humbolt current and cold water upwellings. The Humbolt current is a  cold water N bound current that follows the S. American coast and upwellings are cold water that rise from many km below the surface of the ocean and are nutrient rich. Those upwellings are the heart of the rich fishing industry that inhabits this coast.

Sometime during the second day on my evening look around for problems I discovered that a bolt had disappeared from one of the blocks on the wind vane control lines. Into my fasteners locker I go to find a replacement and once found decide to move the block to a more favorable position.  That completed W/ heads below for her first off watch tonight.

However we are now out of Panama, out of the Gulf of Panama and well on our way to the Galapagos.

Life is good!

What value would life have if there weren’t challenges to overcome?

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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