Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Exploring Isabela, in the Galapagos (Los Tunneles)

Soon after we arrived at Isabela, we were approached by one of the lanchas that do day trips around Isabela... It turned out to be Fabricio, who was the guy who took our friends on Visions of Johanna on the Tunneles trip. We had heard this trip was 'the best in the Galapagos'. So when Fabricio told us he had a group going the next day, we agreed to go with him (cost: $60 each, we provide our own lunch/snacks and snorkel gear). Fabricio cell # 080927845.

He picked us up at 9am on our boat. It turned out that our group had swelled to 3 lanchas of about 6 people each. Each boat had its own lancha driver, and Fabricio drove one boat and was the official park-authorized tour guide. Fabricio was born in the Galapagos and has lived almost all of his 28 years on Isabela. He's a handsome enterprising young guy, and knows enough English to get by.

Los Tunneles are collapsed lava tunnels on the shoreline, about 20 miles south of Puerto Villamil. The lancha ride was about an hour over the open ocean, along the coast. There was big swell with a light chop on top. With twin 100-HP Yamaha outboards, our boat could fly when the waves weren't too bad. At one point we got to a place where there was obviously some current (the waves were steep and choppy), so we slowed down to negotiate the waves.

The entry into the tunnels area is very tricky. There is a small channel between breaking waves, and the driver has to time his entry between sets of waves. Once inside, all was calm. But it looked like a moonscape.

The first stop was a small islet, where there was a small colony of Galapagos Penguins. These little guys are only about 12-16 inches high. They are the only penguins found in the northern hemisphere (the north end of Isabela extends slightly over the equator, and there are some penguins there). They were cute and we could get pretty close in the boat.

Next, we progressed in the boats through a series of small lagoons. On either side of us were lava islands and arches. The boats stopped at a spot and we were able to get out and walk around a big pool of water. In this natural pool we could see sea turtles, sharks, Eagle Rays, parrot fish, and of course the odd sea lion, just swimming lazily by. There were actually multiple pools, all connected by natural archways. So the animals could swim, we could observe, and nobody bothered anyone. While scrambling around the rocks, we also saw marine iguanas and the famous blue-footed boobies (a bird with azure feet).

When everyone had their fill of the pools, we loaded back up in the boats, and moved to a spot where we could snorkel. This was similar in terrain... multiple connected pools. When all 18 of us got in the water, it was hard to see much. But Fabricio did his best to show us the things there were to see. He showed us a cave with a bunch of Galapagos sharks, resting. He showed us some large sea horses (there were 2 pair, each about 6-7 inches high). Then he pointed us toward a lagoon a little further on, and said "go swim with the turtles". For me, this was the coolest part.

I am not quite sure why, but there were 10 or more sea turtles in this little lagoon. And they weren't afraid of us at all. As long as you held still and weren't thrashing around, they'd swim right by you. I got well away from the other snorklers (who WERE thrashing around), and just hung out. In the Caribbean, you barely glimpse a sea turtle before they swim rapidly away. I even saw a couple of guy turtles nosing around a cute girl turtle.

Later, in the boats, we went around a small point to a larger lagoon, and in this lagoon there were literally a hundred or more sea turtles. Everywhere you looked, there was a giant sea turtle head popping up. This area may well be a mating area for the sea turtles. There were some really nice beaches nearby for laying eggs. (In San Cristobal, we saw sea turtle tracks all over the Puerto China beach, so we know it's the season).

On the way back, in the ocean, we saw a squadron of at least 4 big Manta Rays. These guys are huge--about 6' long and 8' wide.
At 1/27/2010 2:24 PM (utc) our position was 00°57.95'S 090°57.73'W

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Nice Daysail to Isla Isabela, Galapagos

Re: Sunday, January 17, 2010

Moving from Port to Port in the Galapagos: Even with a cruising permit (the Autografo), we have to check in and out of each of the 3 main ports. We had arrived in Santa Cruz on Thursday afternoon, and provided our paperwork to Bolivar's cooperating agent in Santa Cruz. Visions, who arrived at the same time, did the same with their agent.

When we decided what day we were leaving, we called our respective agents to let them know that we were leaving early on Sunday.

It turned out that we paid $25 more for the same paperwork than Visions did. Visions' agent checked them in and out on Friday afternoon. They paid only $12.48 for each, in Port Captain fees. This is paid to your agent who then gives you the bill (factura) from the Port Captain with itemized costs. OUR agent checked us in and out late on Saturday afternoon. So we paid double what Visions paid, because we were on a weekend. When we protested having to pay double for arriving on a Thursday, we got rapid-fire Spanish. We later talked with Bolivar about this, who didn't give us any satisfaction either. He knows we are unhappy with what happened, though. Next time we will know better.

Before we left Puerto Ayora, we had to get our stern anchor up. Last time Visions was in Puerto Ayora, they had bent their big Fortress anchor trying to get it out of the firm sand. So when we deployed our Danforth off the stern, we bouyed the heel of it, so we could trace the line and pull it out backwards. Since it had only been there a day, it wasn't that hard to retrieve. (The last time we deployed a stern anchor, Dave had to don dive gear and dig it out by hand)

We followed Visions out of the harbor, and had a nice 35 mile beam reach to Isabela. We motored a little longer than Visions did, and so ended up ahead of them. But once we turned off our engine, they easily caught up and passed us. This gave us a nice opportunity to take pictures of each other under sail.

The entry into Isabela was easy--we had 2 sets of waypoints... one set from the Ecuador Cruisers Guide and the other from Visions (who got them from someone else). And Visions had been in there before.

We finally had our anchor down about 5pm, at 00°57.90S, 090°57.74W. The anchorage is in a nice mostly-enclosed bay. Much much nicer than Santa Cruz. If you're in the right spot, there is a nice sand bottom about 10-15 feet deep. There are rocks and some shoals, so don't go in any farther than we are, without having good light and a good knowledge of the tides.

On the way in, Visions called the Port Captain on Channel 16 and asked if it would be OK for us to come in in the morning to check in with them. They said that was fine. So we did show up at the Port Captain's office in Puerto Villamil at 9am, and though the process was slow, we got checked in, with no agent (neither of our agents have a cooperating agent on Isabela). It cost us each only $4.01.

Within minutes of getting the anchor down, we had 2 sea lions playing around our boat, and a pair of sea turtles mating nearby. We can see a Galapagos penguin colony from where we are anchored. The town is a sleepy little place that reminds me very much of a out-island Bahamas town.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Touring in Santa Cruz, Galapagos

Re: Friday-Saturday 15-16/Jan/2010

Once we got the shopping done, Scott and Dave and I walked out to the Charles Darwin Research Station. This is operated by the Charles Darwin Foundation, which is an international not-for-profit corporation dedicated to research and preservation of the Galapagos as a World Heritage Site.

There we visited more turtles, including the famous 'Lonesome George'.

George is the last remaining turtle of his sub-species from a particular small island. They have been trying to get him to mate with females from other similar sub-species, with no success. They had a breeding program similar to San Cristobal, and also some land iguanas we had not seen before. A lot of their effort is based on trying to keep invasive species out of the Galapagos (and eradicating those that have already been established.). For example, the wild goat and wild cat populations, brought by former settlers, cause the turtles big problems. Likewise, non-native plants crowding out the native plants, are also very bad. So there were exhibits on those issues as well.

Next, we hired a taxi driver for $10 an hour to take us around to the sites in the highlands. These tours normally cost $50 per person, but with our Spanish, we made do with a spanish-speaking taxi driver who knew all the places. Over the next 4 hours we toured the cooler highlands of Santa Cruz. We drove through the towns of Bellavista and Santa Rosa and later, the tiny town of Camote.

First we stopped at Los Gemelos (The Twins), a pair of collapsed lava craters, interesting enough for a 5 minute walk and a few pictures.

Then we went to a 'turtle ranch' and Lava Tube place, at Rancho Primicias, near El Chato Turtle Reserve. We opted to pass on the turtle ranch--we have already seen more than enough turtles. But it was neat driving in, with giant Galapagos turtles hanging out on the side of road munching on grass. The lava tube was pretty cool, essentially a very long cave... where a shaft of lava ran... the outer shell cooled and the inner lava kept going, leaving the long tube.

Finally, we drove out to Garrapatero, which turned out to be just a nice beach with some marine iguanas, kayaks for rent, picnic tables, etc.

By the time we got back to Puerto Ayora, we had spent almost exactly 4 hours. So our 'highlands tour' cost us only $13 per person instead of $50. (Moral: Keep studying your spanish!)

We arranged with our taxi driver to pick us up at the water taxi dock in the morning, to take Scott across the island to Baltra, where the airport is. It is possible to do this trip with a short taxi ride and a bus, but Dave and I wanted to ride along to see more of Santa Cruz, and make sure Scott got to the airport OK. Doing it by bus would have taken us all day, so we opted for a $30 R/T taxi ride (about 45 minutes each way), with Scott paying half the cost. We left Scott on Saturday morning at the Baltra Ferry Dock--a short ferry ride and a short bus ride to the airport. It would take him 2 full days of traveling (with an overnight stay in Guayaquil) to get home to Austin.

On Saturday afternoon, we went with the crew of Visions of Johanna to see Las Grietas. To do this we took a water taxi to the Hotel Finch dock, opposite the town, and walked 3/4 of a mile over rocky terrain. We weren't sure what Las Grietas was... thought it was a snorkeling place, so we lugged all our snorkel gear along. It turned out to be a fissure, or grotto, filled with salt water, but not on the ocean. Kind of like the local swimming hole. A little underwhelming, but the price was right.

On the way back, we tried to stop at Hotel Finch for a beer and a swim in their pool, but they requested that we spend at least $10 per person, so we left without a swim.

There are a few more tours that are possible in Santa Cruz--and a lot of full day boat trip excursions. Plus some SCUBA diving. But the harbor is really rolly, boats are jam-packed in there (mostly live-aboard Galapagos tour boats). The swell forecast was still such that no one wanted to pay $120-$160 for a scuba trip. So we left with s/v Visions of Johanna on Sunday for Isla Isabella.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Santa Cruz Services for Boaters

We had one day for Scott to see as much of Santa Cruz as possible. But he also wanted to do some souvenir shopping for his wife and kids. So while he was shopping, we walked around with Gram, Jo, and Bill from sv Visions of Johanna and they showed us all the boat service places.

First, don't bother dropping your dinghy in the water here. Everyone uses water taxis. Call 'taxi aquatico' on Ch 14 VHF, or flag one down as they pass by. It costs $.60 pp during the day and $1pp at night (after 7pm). They will not only take you into the main water taxi dock, but also over to the docks for the hotels in the harbor.

As you get off the water taxi, right in front of you on the left is a couple of restaurants and a supermarket and hardware store. Being so convenient, these tend to be a little pricier than going further into town. But this supermarket tends to carry more gourmet stuff than the town market.

Orientation: The main street that runs along the waterfront is Av Charles Darwin. This has mainly tourist shops, travel agencies, and restaurants. The main street that runs up away from the harbor is Avenida Baltra.

Banks: The first stop was of course the ATM machines. There is an array of 3 different ATM's right on the harbor next to the supermarket. But if you need a real bank, there is a Banco Pacifico on the malecon street a couple of blocks from the water taxi docks. The BP has 2 ATMs in its building. There is also another bank up Baltra.

Boat Parts: Puerto Ayora is surprisingly well stocked. We haven't seen a store like Bodega Blanca in over a year... it was a combination of West Marine and Ace Hardware (with a little bit of Home Depot thrown in). For marine parts, they had everything from a marine toilet, to marine quality line, to stainless steel rigging parts, to anchors, to watermaker parts and supplies, to electrical stuff like amp meters, etc. They also had a reasonable array of dive gear. Plus all the tools and home building supplies you would expect to find in an Ace Hardware. Bodega Blanca is half a block up from the malecon on Marchena (a few blocks beyond Banco Pacifico).

The next store was Electronautica, which has a lot of boating electrical stuff, including battery chargers, VHF's and GPS's, dinghy and outboard motor stuff, and a lot of computer stuff, too. They also had a very good fishing and diving section, with repair parts for dive gear that I've only ever seen in a dive shop. Electronautica is on Calle Binford, half a block up from the Banco Pacifico on the malecon, on the left.

The third stop was Mechanica Gallardo, which is more of an electrical / automotive type place, with an in-house machine and welding shop. I noticed that they had batteries (so did Bodega Blanca). We bought a belt for our watermaker there, and Visions had some stuff welded. We noticed that they had 8D batteries, and other sizes too (sorry no 6v). They are on Av 18 de Febrero, about halfway between Marchena and Baltra.

We also saw a Setmabas office somewhere in town, which we know from Manta, they do liferaft and fire extinguisher servicing.

Laundry: Visions had their laundry done in town at the price of $1 per kilo, which is about $6 for a reasonable size laundry load, wash-dry-fold. We saw several laundries, but they liked one that was where 18 de Febrero crosses Baltra.

For lunch we went up Baltra away from the harbor, a couple of blocks to Charles Binford, a cross street that has a bunch of local eateries. Here, instead of the tourist lunches for $10 pp, we got a nice 'almuerzo' (soup, main course, juice) for $3 pp.

There are a LOT of restaurants in town, mostly on the waterfront. The only other place we ate in town was at El Penon, across from Banco Pacifico. They had OK prices, decent food, and good wifi.

Internet: You can get limited internet via wifi in the harbor. Look for the REDGAL signal. This seems to be free/open wifi. However, it is slow, and they also have a firewall that blocks Airmal Telnet, outgoing SMTP mail (but not incoming), and some websites. Access to one of our financial institutions was blocked, but others were not. In town there are a number of internet places, they are not hard to find, and usually cost around $1.50 to $2 an hour. We were looking for a restaurant with wifi, and ended up at El Penon, across from Banco Pacifico on the malecon road. They had wifi good enough for Skype. There is also a table in the back that has a wall plug nearby.

Groceries: Besides the one on the waterfront, and various small tiendas scattered around, there are open air veggie stalls up Av Baltra a few blocks at the corner of 18 de Febrero. The big new supermarket is Mega Primavera a couple of blocks from the veggie stalls down 18 de Febrero, and the 'Feria' market, held on Sat and Weds, is another block down 18 de Feb. If you've come from Ecuador, be prepared for a shock at the veggie market... the quality is marginal and the prices are high. We paid $2.50 for a head of lettuce and another $2.50 for a head of brocolli. Apples were 3/$1.

Visions also dug up 'Galadristribution', a company that services the live-aboard cruise boats with higher quality deli-type products, including good wine and cheeses. They are located on Calle Charles Binford on the way to Bahia Tortuga. The owner is Aussie and speaks English. 09-744367.

Note that the availability of ANYTHING in the Galapagos is very dependent on when the supply boats come in.
At 1/18/2010 12:21 PM (utc) our position was 00°57.95'S 090°57.73'W

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Galapagos Day 3 - We Sail to Santa Cruz

Dateline: Late Thursday, Jan 14

When we were planning Scott's visit here, we didn't know very much about the Galapagos. We knew, however, that there were 2 airports with direct connections to Guayaquil on the mainland--San Cristobal and Baltra. Scott opted to make his reservation for Baltra, which is connected to Santa Cruz. When we finally got here with only 4 days to see things, he tried to change his reservation to fly out of San Cristobal, but there were no seats on Saturday.

So our only choices were to take a 2 hour 'water taxi' ride from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz, or take the boat there. The water taxi option looked attractive, until we found out that the daily trip didn't leave early enough in the morning to get Scott to the airport in Baltra in time for his flight. So that meant we'd have to go the day before and spend the night. At a combined water taxi fare of $175 plus hotel, we decided
to take Soggy Paws instead.

So we had our agent, Bolivar, get us a zarpe to go from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz (cost: $10 to the Port Captain in San Cristobal, and $12.50 to the Port Captain in Santa Cruz). We originally requested to leave very early in the morning (like 6am), but the computers were down at the Port Captain's office, and we couldn't get our paperwork completed until the morning we left, at about 8:30am. (Note that the agents efforts on our behalf are all included in the $300 fee we paid for the autografo).

We had a great sail over from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz... the wind lightened up and Dave was threatening to turn on the engine, but I made him wait a little bit, and the wind came back, and we sailed almost all the way... making about 6 knots on average. We found that when sailing at 6 knots on a port tack, we can't run the watermaker. (We think) The flow over the hull makes too much back-suction and that's not good for the high-pressure pump. So we'll have to sail slower to make water underway! (or do it at anchor).

We coordinated with our friends on Visions of Johanna, who were coming from Isabella, to meet in Santa Cruz for a couple of days. They needed to provision, and we needed to get Scott off.

You are supposed to set a stern anchor in Santa Cruz. This is for 2 reasons... very tight quarters, and a large swell that rolls around the point. We don't like stern anchors. They can be dangerous in certain conditions, and they are a pain to set and retrieve.

Our friends on Visions anchored at the back of the anchorage, in a place where they felt they could live without a stern anchor. So we anchored next to them, also without a stern anchor. The wind was blowing pretty good, keeping us (mostly) lined up with the swell. (2 days later we finally broke down and set a stern anchor).

Tomorrow we do some touring of the island, before putting Scott on a plane home on Saturday.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Galapagos Day 2 - Kicker Rock Snorkel Trip

We would not normally be rushing around doing all this touring at once, but Scott wants to see as much as he can of the Galapagos before he flies out on Saturday.

So we signed up for a 'Sharksky' snorkel trip to see Kicker Rock. The cost was $50 each and this is a 2/3 day trip in a big outboard boat up the west side of San Cristobal, with several stops. This trip is also sold as a scuba trip for around $120 pp. But one of the dive shops we talked to said they were expecting large north swells, and the diving would be lousy.

They picked us up onboard promptly at 9am. The first stop was at Darwin Bay, where there is a big statue of Charles Darwin. This bay is supposedly where he first stepped ashore in the Galapagos.

Then we stopped at Las Tejorias, which is a Man-O-War bird nesting site. We could see the male birds with their big red throats.

The next stop was at Isla Lobo. Lobo Marino (which translates literally to Sea Wolf) is the local name for the sea lions. Isla Lobo is a Sea Lion breeding site, and also home to a bunch of marine iguanas. We got to snorkel along the island and swim with the sea lions and marine iguanas. Dave thinks he got some pretty good pictures of the sea lions swimming around us, and I might have gotten an iguana underwater, but our 'waterproof' camera took on some water, and we can't get it to turn on now. We have yet to find a reader that will read the proprietary Olympus chip, to at least get the pictures off.

After about an hour playing with the sea lions, we took off for our final stop, Kicker Rock. This is a huge rock sticking straight up out of the water, off the west coast of San Cristobal. If conditions are right, one can often see hammerheads there. On the way up, though, we saw a big whale jump. It turned out to be a mother and calf, swimming along. We never got a real good shot of them, but it was fun to travel with them for awhile. We're not sure what kind of whale it was... we thought at first it was a humpback, but they had tiny dorsal fins. While we were watching the whales, a manta ray also jumped out of the water nearby.

The conditions weren't great at Kicker Rock... the swell was large and crashing on the rock... the visibility was poor... the current was ripping... and the water was cold... But we went in anyway. We circled the rock in the boat first, and took pictures of the famous blue-footed boobies nesting on the rock. Then we snorkeled thru the big crack in the rock to the other side. It was a beautiful sunny day and nice to be out in the boat and snorkeling, even if conditions weren't perfect. We did not see any hammerheads (not necessarily a bad thing!).

We are doing so much running around that it's been hard to get enough internet to get our pictures organized and posted along with this dialog. We see lots of wifi signals on the boat, and there are rumors that there is supposed to be free wifi, but so far, we have not gotten any free wifi that worked. In San Cristobal, we ended up at the Mockingbird Cafe, up the street from Sharksky, that only charges $1.50 per hour for 'decent' internet. There are many other internet cafes, but that's the only one we found that actually had wifi.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Iguanas, Lobos, Tortoises, Oh My!

We spent the day on a land tour of the highlights of San Cristobal, Galapagos. We hired a taxi friend of our agent, Bolivar, for $80 to take us around the sights. Wilmer and his son Wilmer took us everywhere there was to go in San Cristobal on a road...

Our Taxi

We first stopped at La Loberia. 'Lobo marino' is the local name for the sea lions. On this beach we found the marine iguanas and many sunning sea lions. We saw mostly babies--the mamma's having 'gone fishing'. Wilmer Jr said the babies were about 5 months old. They were as cute as the marine iguanas are ugly.

Then we drove up into the mountainous area, through 'El Progresso' (a small town where there was once a sugar cane processing plant). The weather got progressively cooler as we climbed into the highlands (about 4,500 feet).

We stopped briefly at El Elecurio, the 'wind farm' for San Cristobal. This is 3 large wind turbines, which is supposed to provide 50% of the electrical needs of the island. One justification was to reduce the amount of diesel fuel needed to power the local generators, thereby reducing the probability of a fuel spill that would endanger the ecology. (This was after a large ship grounded on the reef and broke up just outside the harbor, causing much concern over the possible negative effects). We didn't actually get out of the car and see the turbines, but we got a picture of the sign.

Next was a brief stop at El Junco, which is a large crater lake. Since there were low clouds, we decided to defer the hike until later, hoping for more sun.

Then we stopped at El Tortuguero (more officially known as the Cerro Colorado Tortoise Conservation Center. Here they have a Visitor Center, a breeding facility, and an interpretive trail with real live Galapagos Turtles. We got to see an incubation rack, with fist-sized turtle eggs, and some turtle babies. We saw 'Genesis', the first hatchling to survive the 2005 hatchling program. And walked the boardwalk thru the scrub and saw semi-wild Galapagos Turtles in their semi-natural environment.

"Genesis", the first baby turtle

This center was created both to increase the survival rate of baby turtles, as well as proving a place that was easier for tourists to go to to see the turtles. Prior to this, it was a $200 pp boat ride to the north end of the island, to see Galapagos Turtles in the wild. Between 3 of us, with 3 digital cameras, we probably took 300 turtle pictures. Here's one:

The last stop on the road was Puerto China (China Beach). This is a nice beach with a little surf, where we went 'snork-surfing'. We had lugged all our snorkling gear all the way down the beach, only to find a fairly large surf. The snorkeling wasn't great due to the turbulence of the water, but the beach was nice, the body surfing was pretty good, and we did see 2 sea turtles swim past and at least one sea lion.

On the way back, we stopped at El Junco again, and this time trekked up to the crater lake, which was still shrouded in fog. There is a 1 hour hike around the crater lake, but we were a little bit on a schedule (and a little tired), so we opted not hike the rim. The cloud we were in was thick enough that we could just barely actually see the crater lake. It must be something when the sun ever shines.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We are In The Galapagos

Wow, talk about seeing dreams come true... here we are!! All the years of wanting to visit the Galapagos, and we are here hanging out in the same harbor as Charles Darwin... in our own boat.

We have managed to find an internet cafe and have a couple of pictures to post (not a lot of time to write text write now). I also recovered from 'technical difficulties'... all the posts I sent during the last 4 days were missing from the blog (I sent them to the wrong email address).

But we got cleared in with all the officials with the help of our agent, Bolivar Pesantes. A half hour after we dropped anchor in Wreck Bay (Puerto Baquerizo Moreno) San Cristobal, Bolivar brought the whole crew to Soggy Paws... The Port Captain and his assistant, the Medical guy, and the Agricultural guy. Thank God we didn't also need Immigration! Lots of paperwork. Lots of smiles and handshakes. Then they told us 'come with us, right now, to finish the process'. So we scrambled to get ready and took the water taxi in.

We haven't seen any Galapagos tortoises yet, but we do have sea lions swimming around the boat. Here's a picture of our first one.

We went swimming afterwards, and had a sea lion swimming with us. They are also all over the beach, the rocks, adjacent boats, the sidewalks, etc. The distinctive smell of sea lion poo is pervasive in places along the waterfront (though the town does a great job of cleaning up after them). We have already taken about a hundred pictures of sea lions... I'll gather the best together for dedicated sea lion post some time.

Tomorrow we have arranged for an all day taxi tour to see the various places accessible by road, including a turtle exhibit, etc.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Land Ho! (Galapagos)

Yesterday was another nice sailing day. However, in the evening, the wind lightened up, and we had to turn the engine on to keep from slopping around so much. We got a little rain shower--almost enough rain to wash the salty mess off the decks and cockpit windows.

Around 3am we saw the first lights on San Cristobal. Right now we are motoring along the south end of the island, and will be in the harbor in about an hour.

We emailed our agent, Bolivar Pesantes, to expect us this morning, so hopefully he will be watching for our arrival.
At 1/11/2010 12:33 PM (utc) our position was 00°57.47'S 089°37.11'W

Underway for Galapagos, Day 4 - 120 miles to go

We have been having trouble receiving email through the Panama Sailmail station. Not sure what the problem is, and we're not positive our outgoing HF email has been getting out. I finally got the Iridium connected up and working, to send this update.

We have been making really good time with pleasant sailing conditions--with a double-reefed main and a tiny genoa, we've still been making 6-7 knots, and sometimes we've hit 8 knots when the wind comes up. Mostly the wind has been around 10 knots on the beam, and very pleasant.

Yesterday was warm and sunny and very pleasant all around. We put the fishing line out and caught a nice fat tuna, which became sushi appetizers and 'seared tuna' dinner, with plenty of left-overs. With full sun yesterday, we didn't even have to run the engine at all.

Today, we have a typical Ecuador low overcast, so having to run the engine while the refer runs.

We expect to arrive in San Cristobal tomorrow morning (Monday). Scott, our crew, has reservations to fly out next Saturday Jan 16, so we'll let him control our schedule until then. Then we'll try to hook up with our friends on Visions of Johanna, who are hanging out in Isabella. And we are also hoping that Mike and Sue on Infini will arrive soon as well. Visions says there is only one other cruising boat in the Galapagos, as it is very early in the season for sailors. So we'll have the whole place to ourselves.
At 1/10/2010 3:42 PM (utc) our position was 00°46.86'S 087°37.20'W

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Enroute to Galapagos Day 3 - 275 Miles to Go

Our first night out was pretty 'boisterous'. Some of the crew got seasick, and we were all pretty miserable. Soggy Paws is a soggy salty mess. But we've all recovered now, and the wind has settled to a nice 12 knots on the beam. We've been sailing all night at around 7 knots, right on course for San Cristobal (Wreck Bay). The sun is out now, we've finally got the fishing pole out.

We are still not sure whether we'll arrive in San Cristobal late on Monday or early on Tuesday.
At 1/9/2010 2:40 PM (utc) our position was 00°35.68'S 084°58.57'W

Friday, January 8, 2010

Enroute to the Galapagos, 435 Miles to Go

We have had great wind (a little too much wind) and made good time all night. The crew is still getting their sea legs, but Soggy Paws is doing fine.

We expect the wind to ease up a little as today progresses.

We saw whales and porpoises yesterday, and a few fishing boats. Not much big shipping traffic.

We haven't been fishing yet--our freezer is too full for any fish.
At 1/8/2010 11:42 AM (utc) our position was 00°27.48'S 082°20.55'W

Bahia de Caraquez Photos

I finally (Nov 2011) got some pictures posted of our departure preps in Bahia de Caraquez. Fond memories of life around Puerto Amistad...

See our Photos

Underway for the Galapagos

We got underway this morning promptly at 8am. The passage over the bar at Bahia was no problem (it was a really high tide, calm weather, and we had Carlos piloting us).

At a reasonable sailing speed (5 knots), we expect to arrive in the Galapagos on Monday or Tuesday. The weather forecast is 8-10 knots on the beam for the whole trip.
At 1/7/2010 3:50 PM (utc) our position was 00°35.91'S 080°38.02'W

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Scott Cooks Breakfast

Scott Taylor, our crew, arrived exactly on schedule 2 days ago, via plane from Austin through Miami and down to Guayaquil. And then by bus to Bahia.

Of course, Dave being Dave, we put him to work immediately. He's completed the final 2 steps on the window leak project--sealing around the windows with aluminum sealing tape and then putting our window screens back up.

He also got assigned to be my 'coolie' for two grocery runs today, lugging 20 lbs of potatoes through the market and back to the boat. And he helped Dave all afternoon getting rigging things done, and hauling the dinghy up on deck.

But the best thing he has done so far is make gourmet pancakes for us for breakfast this morning. This is my kind of crew!

We leave for the Galapagos in the morning. We should be, as usual, able to post updates as we go, so keep your eyes peeled for more progress reports (but, unfortunately, while underway, no pics).

We expect to the trip to take about 5 days. The weather forecast is 10 knots on the beam, so we are really looking forward to... maybe... sailing on this leg!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Knot Tying Class

Victoria, the boat next to us, has twin 10 year old boys, Patrick and Thomas. Since they are far from home and without the benefit of things like Boy Scouts here, their mom asked Dave to give them a little taste of Boy Scouts.

So Dave gave them his standard 'Knot Tying Class' that he used to do with his Boy Scouts. It is actually way beyond just tying knots. Dave explains the types of line you'll find on a sailboat, and what each type of line is for. And WHY you tie particular knots.

They boys are really bright, and they were quick to pick up on everything. Since then, every time Dave sees them, he has asked them a question on the material. They keep coming up with the right answers. So I guess Dave did a good job.

We're going to miss Victoria, and all the boats here, when we sail away tomorrow. That's the saddest part of cruising... all the good friends you leave in your wake. But we hope to run into many of them in the Marquesas later in the year.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Chasing Leaks

We have spent a good bit of time over the last few weeks trying to make our boat as leak-proof as possible. The leaks have only been a minor annoyance so far, but we will soon be 24x7 at sea, in unpredictable conditions. It's bad enough having a little fresh water (rain) leaking in, but sea water would be unpleasant.

As everyone who owns a sailboat knows, some of those leaks are pretty hard to track down and fix. But ours are not too bad--known spots easy to get at.

First, we (finally) sealed up the mast where it goes through the top of the cabin. Dave taped up the bottom of the hole around the mast (there's an opening about an inch all around the mast), and mixed up some Walmart brand rubber goo (the same stuff that's in brand name product 'Spar Tite'). He poured that into the area and let it set up. Then we finished off the top inch or so of this plug with silicone seal. Once everything had harded up, we tested it by pouring water over it. Not a drop. Then I made a new sunbrella cover for it--keeps out the big water and also keeps the silicone out of the sun.

The other leaky spot has been our big windows. Dave re-did these completely in the past, and cured most of the leaks. But we still have a couple of drips when it rains really hard. So we have taken them all off, cleaned things up, and used silicone (to try) to make a better seal around the bolts and around the whole window. We have poured water over the windows, and so far they are leak free.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year, Happy New Blog

We had a fun New Years Eve, but we're both still recovering from our 'fun' in Cuenca. Last night I felt like my cold had turned to strep throat, but this morning I'm not so sure. (We don't have time to be sick right now!!)

I have again split the blog, so you can find my old posts for 2009 here:

And for 2007 and 2008, here:

Dave is calling me right now to work on 'projects', so the links to the 2008 and 2009 posts from this blog (on the borders) have not been updated yet, but will be soon... hopefully before we leave for the Galapagos (Jan 7)!