Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wondering about Easter Island

We were planning to leave Monday for Easter Island. And in fact we have friends who are already enroute.

At the internet cafe at 1pm local time today, we searched for information, but only found the President of Chile's warning/fears about EI getting hit. Have not heard anything more since the.

We are wondering whether to get underway on Monday as planned.

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Tsunami Pics from Yahoo UK

Tsunami Alert!!

Whoo, thanks to Debi Ball who emailed me this morning about the earthquake in Chile and the possible tsunami. She didn't give any details, but it helped to know what was happening when all the water started draining out of the basin we are anchored in.

It was crazy for a half hour, and is still a little strange here 2 hours later.

The water receded about 5' in 5 minutes, and then came back in in another 5 minutes. And the cycle repeated itself a few times over the next hour. It was really strange seeing the rocks grow out of the water, and the current was really really strong, about 6-8 knots, in an out, with some eddies thrown in. We were actually scared to death. As we saw the water receding, we were also getting worried that we might end up on the bottom at some point. Fortunately we started out in about 15 feet of water, so even with a 5' drop we still had plenty of water under our keel.

We got the engine going and ready to get underway, but the current was so crazy it would have been suicidal to get underway in those conditions. We also had a boat coming in from offshore, and they hung around outside watching for any big waves.

On the morning radio net, we heard that the port captains in the other Galapagos ports had rousted all the boats in the early morning hours and made them go to sea. They were all milling around outside in deep water this morning. The same in Panama and the boats along the Central American coast that we talked to every day on the radio.

We keep watch on VHF 69 (a nice quiet frequency) to be able to talk to our friends, but didn't have Ch16 on. So we are not sure if our Port Captain tried to tell us to leave. There are no other bigger boats in the harbor here this morning, but that's not unusual for a Saturday morning (they are all in Santa Cruz normally on Saturday changing passengers). The two fishing boats tied to the big yellow mooring ball are still there, however.

Anyway, we are safe. Hopefully there are no more earthquakes in Chile (or anywhere else nearby).

(2 Hours later... we are still seeing the water in the 'basin' sloshing about. But still no problems. The town at Puerto Villamil was evacuated to the hills, so when we went ashore to send some emails, we found nobody there! But the townspeople are coming back now, so I guess we're out of the woods).

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Last Mojito

Or... hello old friends, goodbye new friends...

Our friends on s/v Infini, whom we last cruised with in the Bay Islands of Honduras in early 2008, have FINALLY caught up with us, after 2 years. Hello old friends!

It is so nice to see Mike and Sue again. They have shared our dream of going to Easter Island, for the last 3 years. We have been planning for months to meet in the Galapagos and sail to Easter Island together. They ran into some late electrical issues in Panama, so we've been waiting here in the Galapagos for them. Now that they are here, we plan to leave together in about a week for Easter Island... 2000 miles... 15 days.

Our new friends on s/v Visions of Johanna... Bill, Johanna, and Gram, whom we have now shared 4 anchorages together over the last 5 weeks, are FINALLY (6 weeks later than planned) pulling anchor early tomorrow morning, heading for Easter Island.

Sue on Infini brought a big bundle of fresh mint from the market on Santa Cruz, so we have had Mojitos for the last two nights at Happy Hour. Last night a 'Hello Happy Hour' for Infini and tonight a 'Goodbye Happy Hour' for Visions. Bill on Visions is a primo 'Mojito Maker', and we've all had a great time sharing stories and planning information for Easter Island and French Polynesia.

We did another 'fuel caper' today (in the rain)... 9 plastic jugs of diesel, in the dinghy, up the dock, into a taxi, to the 'gasolinera', back to the dock, back in the dinghy, back to Visions, and into their tank. This is the ONLY way for any boat on the island to fuel. There is no fuel dock here. While we envy Visions' nice boat and nice systems, we don't envy their 2-3 gallons of diesel a day consumption (they have a generator and no solar panels). To contrast, we have used 1.2 gallons of diesel (for making water) and a couple of pints of gasoline in 2 weeks.

We also did a 'propane caper' in the last few days... You can't fill American tanks from the Ecuadorean fill system...there is no standardization in the connection (anywhere in the world)... and there is no fill system on Isabela anyway.

So we cobbled together a 'pigtail' that connects one of their tanks to one of our tanks, and procured a local 32-lb tank, and filled our tanks via gravity feed. Gram on Visions did most of the filling... he hoisted the local tank on their dinghy davit, and drained into our tanks on their stern. For $10 in propane and a little capital investment in the pigtail, we filled 3 of their small tanks and topped off 2 of our 20-lb tanks. 2/3 of the pigtail will be reusable when we need to do the same thing, but with a differnt end fitting, in French Polynesia.

It sounds easy... 'procuring a tank'. But you guys wouldn't believe how much effort went into THAT. Where the tanks are is out of town... we have no transportation... we can't do a deposit... etc. Finally Luis at Danielitas (the local grocery store) got us a tank. But it took about 3 days and 4-5 phone calls to make it happen. (you guys back there in the U.S. don't think about all these things, do you??? You think we are hanging out sipping Margaritas all the time... but instead we are spending all our time 'procuring' stuff)

We are now good for 5-6 months worth of cooking, with our 2 20-lb tanks.

Anyway, Goodbye, Visions!! We hope to see you in Easter or French Poly!!

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Galapagos Pengiun!

These little guys live in the rocks a couple hundred yards ahead of us. They are only about 12-15 inches tall. They swim around the anchorage in pairs, looking for fish. They make an "awk" sound when they come up. I think that means "no fish here"!

They are fast and shy--so hard to get a picture. But I finally got a good one of a pengiun swimming by.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

We are Whole Again!

The parts we had made in Quito (thanks again, Rick!) came in on schedule, with only a minor delay on our end.

Dave called the shipping place promptly at 2pm and asked (in his best Spanish) whether there was a package there for him. The lady said 'yes' and he told her he'd come to pick it up. Well, because yours truly hadn't had lunch yet, he didn't actually get ashore until about 2:45. The office was closed. Why didn't she tell him that he needed to be there before 2:30?

He waited around until 4:45 and they still hadn't re-opened. So he gave up and went in early yesterday morning. But the entire 'air freight' shipping from Quito only cost $4.

The pieces are beautiful--nicely made shiny stainless steel.

In about an hour we had the first one installed--the easy one, on the backstay. We had lunch and then solicited help from our friends on Visions of Johanna--we needed a little muscle to get the forestay one on. Dave also replaced one at the bottom of the forestay with a spare that he already had. He has re-tuned the rig and we are now 'good to go'.

We still have some projects that we are working on--and we are waiting for Infini to catch up. They are in San Cristobal now, and will do the same routine we did--daysail to Santa Cruz, a few days there, and a daysail to Isabela. We are hoping to go out for a 'sea trial' on the day they come this way from Santa Cruz, and meet them.

Other maintenance issues we've been attending to... more leak chasing. We are happy to report that all the leaks we stopped before the Galapagos passage, mainly around the mast and the big windows, are nice and dry. Now we are down to minor deck fittings that need to be pulled up and re-bedded. We just had a big rain yesterday, and those didn't leak, so we're feeling quite dry.

Dave also tightened up the packing around the rudder post. It doesn't leak at anchor, but was leaking quite a bit with the movement underway. (one reason for the 'sea trial' in a few days, to make sure he's got the leak solved).

I've been doing some sewing--Sunbrella covers for our diesel jugs, a Chilean flag, and some screens. There are flies here. I made a 'drop screen' for the companionway hatch, but it's not holding up. I used regular window screening we bought at the hardware store here--a flimsy fiberglass kind, and it just isn't up to the coming and going. After only 10 days of use it has holes and is starting to rip. So I'll have to re-make that one out of some other screening I have.

There are now 3 cruisers in Isabela, and 2 that we know of in San Cristobal, and a couple on their way. The World Cruising Rally, about 25-30 boats, is supposed to set sail any day now from mainland Ecuador to San Cristobal, so it should get pretty crowded around here. Time for us to get going!! (C'mon Infini!)

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

I got published

Hey, I just found out that I'm published on the Women & Cruising website. Check the article out here: Women & Cruising

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Toggle Update

Thanks so much to all of you who wrote us with offers of help and advice with our toggle. The big problem with buying it in the U.S. and shipping it down is:

1-As best we can tell, it is an odd size and not available off-the-shelf from any rigging manufacturer we checked. It is longer than normal for the pin size it uses, and both dimensions are critical to us.

2-Shipping into Ecuador is not really an option unless you have lots of time. I know that UPS and FedEx will quote you 2-3 day delivery to Ecuador. What they don't tell you is that that time frame refers to 'arrival in Ecuadorean Customs'. The officials here sit on the incoming shipments for 2-3 weeks before releasing them--even super-high priority overnight shipments. No amount of whining, pleading, or muscle seems to do any good. Even the Ecuadorean Navy stated that they could not help. And when they release it from Customs, there is a duty... sometimes as much as 80% (ie $250 item, $75 shipping, $200 duty = yikes!!)

Note: This is "by design" I think, because there is a big government push to "buy Ecuadorean", and we do understand the reasoning. It is hard for the local businesses to compete with American quality and economies of scale, even with their inexpensive labor rate. And, without the Customs barrier, it would be much easier to get something shipped in from the U.S. than locate the business that produces a similar item in Ecuador, and get it to where you are. The road system here is atrocious--much quicker to fly it in from Miami than bus it from Quito in many cases. But they will never get out of the third world if they don't manufacture their own goods.

That said, we have again generously contributed to the local economy.

Due to the efforts of a friend, Rick Nelson, in Quito, our needed parts were fabricated in Quito, of better quality stainless steel than the originals. Rick started out as an acquiantance--he's an Ecuadorean/American living in Quito, with aspirations of going sailing some day. He contacted us by email a number o fmonths ago to see if we or any other boats were looking for crew to the Galapagos. We have since met him a couple of times, once in Quito and once in Bahia. We haven't been successful in finding him a ride to the Galapagos. But he graciously jumped in with both feet when we called and asked for help.

Rick ended up driving all over Quito with our part and specs, and finding a manufacturing company to make us 2 toggles and 2 pins in 2 days. They were finished yesterday, and Rick personally picked them up and put them on an air freight flight to us yesterday afternoon. We should have the parts in hand by Monday, and be 'good as new' (or better) by Tuesday.

Meanwhile, we've filled our last few days trying to help our friends on Visions of Johanna get their new propeller hub from England. This is a saga all of its own, and best handled by reading THEIR blog at

But we did call a few of our bachelor friends to see if any of them could break loose and fly the part down from Miami. We almost had a free trip to the Galapagos for Dave's USNA roommate, Jim Neale. But Visions had another friend step up at the last minute, and he will be flying down from Vermont with the parts (and a couple of ours, as well--nothing like West Marine overnight shipping).

At a low point in their ordeal, Bill on Visions looked over his plan for this year--which started out an ambitious schedule, and is now running about a month behind--and almost decided to abandon his Pacific crossing this year. "Not enough time to do what we want." Fortunately, a good night's sleep and an alternate solution has him smiling again and reading up on Easter Island. They hope to finally be underway for Easter by late next week, and we hope to be close behind them.

On another front, our friends on Infini finally made it out of Balboa and are 2/3 the way to the Galapagos. Right now they are in the ITCZ and weren't having a fun time this morning when we talked by radio. But I'm sure they'll get here eventually.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Our Broken Toggle

Or... let's all sing the same old song "Working on boats in exotic places..."

In an inspection of our rigging yesterday, Dave found a key component of the rigging broken. It is called a 'toggle', and it connects the backstay to the mast. It is a machined stainless steel part that is very important to keeping the mast up. It would have been a disaster for this to break at sea. And we can't even move out of the harbor here without locating a replacement part. For now, we have a couple of extra halyards helping to hold the rig up.

Needless to say, there is no West Marine in Isla Isabela. And even West Marine wouldn't have this part in stock. So we've been brainstorming several ideas to try to get a replacement. Here are some of the options we've thought thru

1. Have it made locally in Isabela or Santa Cruz. Problem: Need the correct stainless steel bar stock, not likely to be off-the-shelf here

2. Have a friend in Panama, headed this way soon, try to get it made in Panama. Problem: timing issues

3. Gram from Visions of Johanna, anchored next to us, is flying to England to get a new Autoprop (theirs has a manufacturing defect and they need an immediate replacement--due to logistics of shipping stuff into Ecuador, they have opted to go get the replacement vs trying to have it shipped here). Problem: he will only be on the ground in England for a couple of days, probably not enough time to get his own stuff done, much less get parts for us fabricated.

4. Get someone in England to get it fabbed and get it to Gram before he leaves. We have contacted another CSY owner in England, and he said he'd check with his rigger.

5. Have a guy we met in Quito get it fabricated there, with Gram dropping off the old part and bringing back the new part. We met a really nice guy who lives and works in Quito. He is checking with a couple of machine shops to see if they have the right stock and if they can get it done in time. This is our current most likely prospect.

Dave thought he had spares, but it turns out the spares he had don't fit the two big toggles holding the headstay and the backstay. So whatever we'll do, we'll try to get 2 made, and use the unbroken one currently on our headstay as a spare.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Don't Name Your Boat Odle

Since sitting in this nice quiet anchorage, and getting ready for a big passage, we have been participating daily in the Panama Pacific Net every day.

This is a sleepy little net--hard to keep going during the off season, because everyone has either left to go across the Pacific, transited through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean side (which has it's own net), or are sitting in Balboa Panama, or Golfito, Costa Rica (both are 'black holes'), or have stashed their boat in Ecuador and are off traveling.

But it's almost Pacific Crossing Time, so boats are starting to move. There's a whole slug of boats waiting out Tehuantapeckers and Papagayos (areas of strong winds on the Pacific coast of Central America), trying to come south and see a little of Central America before they 'jump' into the Pacific. There are a bunch of boats in Bahia and Balboa, also getting ready to go. So the net is starting to perk up from 4-5 check-ins to 10 or so. In March, there will be 30 or so boats out moving around every day.

Yesterday I was 'net control' and two new boats checked in from Nicaragua... Fugue and Odyle. They are far away and light (hard to hear) anyway, but when you hear a boat named so screwily, as a net controller, you just have to work through it.

"I heard something like 'Oh-dul', could you please come back and spell that phonetically?" Because they were hard to hear, and kind of new, so they weren't good at phonetics, it took several times before we really got it. (Odyle, as they pronounced it, rhymes with yodel--could someone have really named their boat that?)

On this sleepy little net, many of the net controllers don't listen on the net when it's not their day for net control. So these guys will have to repeat that every time they check in for the next week or so. And on every other net they ever check in on.

Sheesh, can you imagine?

The same day, we had a boat named Fugue. (pronounced Few-zshshz) Another sheesh.

But we are one to talk, I guess. We have had to spell our boat name for net controllers, too. And people tend to remember the Paws part, but not the Soggy parts. We often get called Salty Paws, and even once, Slappy Paws.

(For those of you not familiar with boat radio 'nets'... A net is a gathering of boats in a semi-organized fashion at a particular time of day on a particular frequency. In the harbors where boats tend to congregate, we have VHF nets daily to pass information among boats in the harbor. The VHF is limited range, though--good only for 20 miles or so. So most cruising areas also have HF nets, where boats can talk with each other across longer distances. The Panama Pacific Net covers a pretty wide area--we are currently handling check ins for boats from southern Mexico to Peru, and out to the Galapagos, and into the Pacific for a couple of hundred miles beyond the Galapagos.

A 'net control' is one person designated to run the net for a half hour or so... asking for 'check ins' or 'traffic' and letting the boats come in one by one to call their friends or share weather information or ask questions about the next port they plan to go to.

There is another net that we will pick up once we get a little further west, called the Pacific Seafarer's Net. It covers the whole Pacific Ocean!)
At 1/27/2010 1:45 PM (utc) our position was 00°57.95'S 090°57.73'W

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Rain? Rain!!

After sitting in dry coastal Ecuador for nearly a year, what a blessing it is to finally get some real rain.

It has been raining now for the past 24 hours, off and on. It's not the heavy downpour that we are used to in Florida, but a nice, steady, drizzle.

Though we are no longer stressed about water, because of our hefty watermaker, it is still nice to finally have abundant water. It has literally been more than a year since we have experienced rain like this.

Dave spent most of the afternoon out playing in the rain--scrubbing down the decks, the cockpit, and the dinghy. We have filled our water tanks, and captured some extra in buckets to do laundry with.

OK, now we're ready for it to stop.
At 1/27/2010 1:45 PM (utc) our position was 00°57.95'S 090°57.73'W

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Sitting on the Sidewalk with my Computer

One of the 'joys' of 3rd world living is that nothing is ever on a schedule. At least not on OUR schedule.

In spite of being in South America for over a year, we still have yet to get used to their mid-day break. Every place in town closes down about 12:30, and stays closed until 2 or 3pm. The best (cheapest, fastest, and with A/C) internet place in town is closed between 12:30 and 3pm. It is 2:45, Dave came into town on an errand, and I want to snatch some internet while he's in town.

I know EasyNet will be closed until 3pm, so I stop at the other internet place--one that is a little more expensive, not air conditioned--but open more often. The sign says 'Open', the windows are open, but the door is locked and nobody is there. Hmmm. Another internet place on the way, that usually has a big 'Internet' sign out front, is also closed.

Well, it IS a hot, sleepy day, and there are almost no tourists in town right now. The town gets busy Mon-Tue-Wed when the live-aboard tour boats stop here. But the last one left at noon today, and there won't be another until next Monday.

So up I go to EasyNet, hoping maybe someone will be there. I can hear the A/C running, but the sign says closed and the door is locked.

So now I am sitting on the sidewalk in the shade, the ants running around my feet, and wondering when they might open. It's now 3:05 pm.

Stupid Gringo that I am...I will sit here and swelter instead of taking a siesta, like everyone else in town.
At 1/27/2010 1:45 PM (utc) our position was 00°57.95'S 090°57.73'W

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