Life is good aboard At Last after 1200 nm and 7 days
March 12, 2012, 9:23 am, 07 08.9'S:109 32.0'W, 1800 nm from the Marquesas Islands
This brief posting is just to let everyone know that Janet and I are doing well and are in good spirits. The boat is fine and we are in very good sailing conditions and good weather. We have only had to use the engine for 10 hours since we left the Galapagos. So no concerns about fuel yet. Winds are usually 15-25 knots from ESE pusihing us along between 7 and 8.5 knots. Good trade wind conditions.
Caught lots of fish lately (flying fish landing on the deck). Even had 2 squid hitching a ride. Janet is making cinna buns for breakfast. Love the smell of the boat when she bakes. So far, this leg of the trip is meeting our expectations as a memorable event (what do I mean by that?) and we have plenty of stories to share and will find the time to post them to the blog soon with some pictures. Hope everyone is well.
Getting ready for our longest passage of the trip
March 4, 2012, 5:56 pm, 0 44.7'S:90 18.4'W, Puerto Ayora, Bahia Academy, Isla Santa Cruz Galapagos Ecuador
We arrived in Puerto Aroya Santa Cruz on 2/29 after sailing through a volcano. That is right. (see the photo gallery). Many of the World Arc members are calling it a bustling metropolis and compared to the other islands of the Galapagos, it does appear that way. I was convinced of this when I ordered a vino blanco (white wine) at the restaurant for lunch and the waiter asked me if I wanted chardonnay or pinot grigio. I have not had a choice of white wines since the British Virgin Islands and many times in the Galapagos you could only get beer, no wine.
We spent the next several days working the to-do list to get ready for the three week passage to the Marquesas. Mark and I are doing the passage on our own as are a few other World Arc boats. We have discussed strategies for successfully managing the long trip with other double handers. Again, I have precooked all of our dinners for the trip and they are in the freezer. We spent the next three days getting fuel, LPG gas for cooking, gas for the dinghy, and some miscellaneous supplies. We handed in our laundry and it was done in one day with all items accounted for. We made a trip to the rather small and pricey grocery store. I went to a farmers market on Saturday morning at 6:00 am which was very interesting. I wish I took pictures of the fresh meats and fish sitting out in the sun and covered with flies. But there was a good supply of many items and I was able to get fresh local fruits and vegetables including apples, cilantro, basil and pineapples.
Refueling here is quite an experience for boaters. Fuel is closely regulated so the World ARC needed to secure a permit from the Navy to purchase the fuel for all of the boats. Then the World ARC hired an agent who contracts with a local to buy the fuel from the fuel depot and deliver it to your boat. They do not have a fuel dock here so the fuel is delivered to your boats on a launch in plastic jerry cans (one is 35 gallons, one 25 and the rest are about 10-15 gallons). It is syphoned out of the plastic jugs from the launch that is tied to your boat. Did we mention how rocky/rolly the anchorage is? It is difficult it to get the fuel into the tank without spilling it on the deck.
Like most other schedules here, the fuel deliveries are always later than planned; lots of waiting around. Because of the lack of wind on the last passage, many of the boats used all of their fuel and now about 30 boats need on average 100 gallons each. It took three days for all of the boats to refuel. We were the last of the boats that got fuel. You prepay for the fuel you think you need to just fill you tanks. If you buy too much, you cannot get your money back and launch drivers sell it a second time to another boater (under the radar). There is no gauge to measure how much fuel you are getting. You have trust the guys on the launch to honestly represent that the jugs are full and that the volume of each jug is accurate. We paid for 140 gallons of fuel @ $5.91/gal. I believe we received about 20 gallons less than what we paid for but cannot prove it. This is consistent with almost all of the other boaters. The World ARC staff worked hard to monitor the agents a nd fuel delivery guys. But moments like this happen on the trip and one has to learn to accept them as part of the experience. We are guests in a foreign country with little recourse. CanĂ*t imagine what it would have been like without the help of the World ARC staff.
On Friday night there was a rally party at the hotel Sol Y Mar with prizes awarded for the leg to the Galapagos. s/v Glamorous Gallah won a prize for sailing one of the faster times. When they accepted the award they read a funny poem they wrote about the fleet. Click on this link to their blog to read the poem, it is worth a look.
We have been without internet access for two weeks and finally found some reliable hot spots here in Santa Cruz. So we updated the blog, uploaded most of the photos and called most of our family members using Skype on Saturday. We had to check out of customs this morning so Mark planned to finish the blog, upload more pictures and call his daughter, Grace, when he went into town. He was able to check out of customs as planned but he could not use the internet to call his daughter or finish the blog and uploading pictures. The power in the city was out. This is a typical example of things that foul up one's plans, especially with internet access. Even worse, I asked him to pick up some diet coke because we are out and I forgot to buy some at the store. He looked all over town and there is no Diet Coke on the island. I am going to go through withdrawals.
We left today, Sunday 3/4/12, at noon local time (same as central time) for our three week trip to the Marquesas. It is more than a 2980 nm trip to Hiva-Oa Marquesas French Polynesia following the route suggested by Jimmy Cornell (the author of the book World Cruising Routes). Assuming a 10% deviation from the route due to human/weather factors and the planned distance is about 3300 nm. We have enough fuel to motor about 1/3 the distance (wish we had that additional 20 gallons). Based on our boat going about 6 knots on average for the trip, our expected arrival time in French Polynesia is 3/27/12. (23 days). Based on the forecasts, we plan to motor west/southwest for 3-4 days in light winds until we hit the trade winds and then should be able to sail most of the remainder of the passage. We will blog along the way to let everyone know how we are doing. I am actually excited about the passage and anxious to get sailing again.
Though it was a long 2 weeks without internet access it was great to see the emails and comments on the blog when we finally connected. Thanks for keeping in touch. All of our photos, well most of them, are posted to the gallery and we hope the pictures do this exotic place justice. We will have to invest in that underwater camera. Supposedly the internet access in French Polynesia is good. We will see.
Isabella, a Magical Place
March 2, 2012, 2:10 pm, Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabella, Galapagos Ecuador
We arrived on Wednesday 2/22/12 after a 35 nm trip motoring all the way - again no wind. We anchored in the shallowest water in two months - 9 feet at low tide. Having gotten used to anchoring in forty feet of water suddenly we became concerned that nine feet was not deep enough.
We quickly discovered that iguanas are even more abundant on Isabella than they were on San Cristobal. In fact, there were many times that you needed to shoo them away in order to get through a walkway. They are not very pleasant looking but otherwise were no bother.
The animal life and sea life is again very abundant. It seems magical when you are able to see penguins, sea turtles, schools of small tuna, numerous types of other fish, sting rays and sharks right off your boat. I can say I was not anxious to swim off the back of the boat after seeing the shark.
We also took several tours while in Isabella. We took a tour of the Sierra Negra Volcano (the second largest active volcano in the world) and the Chico volcano. The trip started with a 45 minute bus ride followed by a 45 minute horse ride and finally an hour hike then you had to do this all over again on the return trip. We had 14 people on the horse ride and the horses were quite feisty. There were times when the trail went from six horses wide to one horse wide and all of the horses wanted to be first. Mark's horse amused himself by biting the behind of the horse in front of him. While we also had several horses who liked to kick. The horses also were very happy to veer off the path into the brush from time to time. Luckily, everyone was in good spirits about it and we spent much of the horseback ride laughing at the antics of the horses. Once off the horses we were at the Sierra Negra volcano which is approximately 10 km by 9 km wide with a two km deep lava dome. The view was incredible. After we saw this volcano we hiked through lava flows to reach the Chico volcanos. The volcanos are still considered active with the last eruption in 2005. We were able to put our hand in one of the holes which was generating an incredible amount of heat and steam. The craters and rock formations were amazing to see. The lava rock was very colorful in places and the overall view of the island at the end of the hike was breathtaking. It was interesting to see cacti and a ferns growing next to each other. It was not an easy hike and after two hours of hiking some were even happy to get back on the horses.
We also took a snorkeling trip through caves and bridges created by the volcano eruptions. The formation of the rock was very interesting and provided many a place to swim with sea life. The sea turtles in this area were huge. I swam with one that was almost as big as me. It was again less than five feet away from me and didn't seem bothered by my presence. We also snorkeled into caves where there were sharks. They were about three or four feet and came within a couple of feet of us. Our guide enjoyed stirring them up so they would swim out of the caves and come close to us. We also saw a native Galapagos lobster which was strikingly different from the lobsters we are used to seeing back home. We also swam with several sting rays which were several feet big. We so need an underwater camera!!!!
We again had no internet access on Isabella. Mark was able to skype his sister to wish her a happy birthday by standing in the middle of the street which was the only place he seemed to be able to get access. The call lasted five minutes before he was cut off. We are so frustrated that we have been unable to blog but are beginning to feel that internet access will become more of a luxury as time goes on.
We have posted our pictures of our time spent on Isla Isabella to the photo gallery.
We are leaving Isabella on Wednesday, 2/29 for Isla Santa Cruz the major port and hopefully it has internet access!
Animals and more animals everywhere
February 21, 2012, 2:00 pm, Bahia Baquerizo Moreno, Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos, Ecuador
Within an hour of getting to San Cristobal, our boat was boarded by four customs, immigration, health and tourism officials along with our hired agent representative. Our agent worked with us to develop our travel plan and logged this plan with the authorities. The health agent inspected every drawer and cabinet in the galley of the boat. They confiscated our oranges but there were no other issues. They are concerned about fruit flies entering the islands. The inspection lasted about 30 minutes and saved us hours of time if we had to individually visit each authority ourselves. Being part of the World ARC certainly has its benefits when entering places with complicated traveling issues. It is essential to have an agent representative to organize the officials and cut through the red tape. If not, it can take days to check into the Galapagos and you have to stay on the boat until the process is completed. We met some other boaters who can attest to this.
We suggest you Google the Galapagos for more info but these islands are made from volcanoes and have an abundant and diverse animal population. Unless you have been here it is hard to describe. The islands were discovered in 1835 when the young scientist, Charles Darwin, arrived aboard the HMS Beagle. After returning to England he later published his evolution theory based on natural selection which he based on many of the samples he took back with him from the Galapagos Islands.
The authorities are very concerned about controlling the impact of tourism on the ecology while maintaining an adequate economy for the local population. Gas is subsidized on the island to the locals at $1 per gallon. We pay $5. On many of the islands a non-residents cannot buy gas. There are 8 major islands in the Galapagos. Only 4 are inhabited and can be visited by boaters and you can leave your boat at only one port on each of those islands. Your travel from island to island is closely monitored by the customs officials and you have to file a travel plan with them and check in and out of each island with the port captain to get a clearance form called a Zarpe allowing you to go to the next port. You must also purchase a tourist permit for $110/person to visit any of the national parks. And all the sites to be seen are national parks. In addition, you must hire a nationally certified guide and arrange for transportation to visit many of the sites. The cost of most of the tours can be $50 to $100 per person.
There are sea lions and iguanas all over town in San Cristobal. You have to watch where you sit because the sea lions leave a mess or you may be under a pelican sitting on an arch or tree who could mess on you. Many of the World Arc boats had close encounters with sea lions. Most days we had one or two on our swim platform. One boat had seven in their cockpit one morning while another had two on their bimini. It was interesting to see the methods people used to deter the sea lions. Chairs were common tools used to block access.
While we were in San Cristobal we took several tours to see the sights of the island. We took a trip to five finger rock which is a frigate bird colony, then snorkeled in Isla Lobos bay with sea lions, sea turtles, iguanas, and sea rays and then snorkeled at Kicker Rock with sharks. And when we say we snorkeled with these animals we mean that they were often less than five feet away from us. The small sea lions were particularly fun because you almost felt like they were playing with you. Mark did get a little too close to one large adult sea lion who did not want to play but rather wanted to move Mark along and move Mark did - rather quickly.
Another day we took two cabs with 14 people total from the World Arc to visit the volcano and the tortoise breeding center. The Galapagos have quite a few tortoise breeding centers as a result of the tortoises almost being brought to the point of extinction on the island. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day near the volcano and we all got soaking wet (the taxis were pickup trucks and half of us were in the back of the truck). We visited the tortoise farm in the pouring rain which caused the tortoises to go and hide. We did get brought to a local family's farm, Comedor La Amancay, for lunch by our taxi drivers and had a very fresh meal made only from things they produced on the farm. They only served meals on Sundays and catered to family gatherings of the local people. They were thrilled to have "tourists" join them. The food was delicious and many of us ate several things that we had never eaten before. It was an incredible experience. When we got back to the boat, we discovered that it had never rained at the boat while we had spent the entire tour in the pouring rain.
We tried desperately to get internet access throughout our stay in San Cristobal but we were very unsuccessful. We would get internet for a few minutes and then lose it despite sitting in what was called an internet cafĂ©. It was terribly frustrating. I continue to eat a lot of fish and I am actually getting to the point of enjoying it. Mark has improved his Spanish speaking immensely because he has been getting a lot of practice repeating phrases over and over everywhere we go.
Dos grande cervesas por favor!!
We tried to leave San Cristobal on Monday but had difficulty picking up our laundry. Most of the stores are closed for siesta from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Also, while we were in San Cristobal they had their annual celebration of their independence from Columbia which lasted for three days during which time many stores, banks and other services were closed. This gave a whole new meaning to the term "island time."
We finally did leave on Tuesday 2/21 for a 60 nm trip to Floreana. There was no wind and we motored the entire way there. We arrived as the sun was starting to go down with plans to stay overnight and head to Isabella the next morning. Mark had quite a shock in the morning when he found a rather large sea lion in our cockpit. For some reason we had dismantled our sea lion deterrent system which was basically multiple fenders on the swim platform and across the steps onto the back of the boat. Well, sea lions are smelly and messy and they shed worse than any dog. Mark spent much of the morning cleaning up sea lion hair and sea lion oil off the cushions in the cockpit and the deck. As a result of this, Mark no longer cares how cute I think the sea lions are they are not welcome on our boat at all!
We have posted more pictures of the passage to the Galapagos and our time in San Cristobal on the photo gallery.
A Toast to Neptune and Welcome to Las Islas Encantadas (Galapagos)
February 15, 2012, 3:00 pm, Bahia Baquerizo Moreno, Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos
We arrived at this port of entry in the Galapagos this afternoon safe and sound. First, the details of the trip; we traveled 865 nm in 6 days and 3 hours. We only sailed without use of the motor for 300 miles. The seas were like glass most of the time and the wind was insufficient to sail after the first 36 hours.
But the good news is that Janet and I worked the sails trying to get every bit of speed we could and learned a lot about light wind sailing. Big Al (our spinnaker - the big bright colored sail that is flown off the bow of the boat) got as much use on this leg as he has in the past 4 years.
We crossed the equator at 11:59:25 eastern on Valentine's Day. I timed it just right. We toasted Neptune and asked for his blessings and assistance for the rest of the trip. The three of us shared a glass of wine together (Neptune's was dumped into the ocean which is customary). Janet and I talked about this adventure for the next hour and then I went to sleep as it was Janet's watch.
As we approached the Island of San Cristobal, the sea lions came out to greet us and a huge manta ray jumped out of the water and did a barrel roll about fifty yards off our bow. We are anchored in a pleasant bay with the 30 World ARC boats and about 50 others from around the world. The seals and sea lions are swimming all around us and you can hear them on shore. The customs agents are on the way to board our boat and inspect it. Hopefully we will pass. We will be exploring the islands for the next two weeks and posting the blog with plenty of photos and stories. So stay tuned.
Ok, Just how dull are the Doldrums?
February 13, 2012, 11:06 am, 02 01.1'N:86 01.9'W, Doldrums on the way to the Galapagos
The Doldrums are so dull that if it were a chick flick, Janet would be bored watching it. Can't relate? Janet never saw a chick flick she didn't like, and she has seen them all.... several times each. Still can't relate? How about this, the Doldrums are so dull that it makes my speeches at work seem exciting and inspirational. That's right, it is that boring.
The first 36 hours after leaving the Las Perlas islands were perfect for sailing, 20 knots downwind with a two knot current pushing us. We flew "Big Al", our asymmetrical spinnaker and our jib together for about 8 hours making over 9 knots. We hit 10.7 over ground at the high point. Then the bottom fell out as we entered the Doldrums. We have been motor sailing (using the engine and sails together) since Friday at 9:00 pm. The winds tease us constantly increasing just enough for us to take out the sails including the spinnaker (no easy task) then dying down and letting us flounder, bobbing around in the 1 foot seas. With no wind to cool us off, the sun is so intense you can feel your skin sizzle and it is a sauna below decks. But that's what this trip is all about, it's like a visit to the spa on a beach. Yep, know all about that from St Lucia.
We have had some exciting up close and personal sea life encounters, giving us a taste of things to come. On this leg alone we have seen two whales, four sea turtles, several pods of dolphins swimming in a bow wake, and a stubborn free loading sea gull who decided to catch a ride to the Galapagos. He would not leave the boat despite all of our efforts. I know it's a nice boat, and that's exactly why he should not have treated it the way he did if he wanted a free ride. It seems that sea gulls don't mind using the bathroom where ever, or rather everywhere.
At our current (no pun intended) pace, we should arrive in the Galapagos about 4 am on Wednesday. If so, we would "hang" off the bay of Baquerizo on the island of San Cristobal until daybreak. No problem, we are getting good at bobbing around in the water. There we will have some internet hot spots to upload the pictures of the start of the rally from Las Perlas and our passage. By the way, everyone is fine and in good spirits. Despite the heat and lack of sailing, we are having fun.
Fresh Fish on the Barb-b, Finally!!!
February 4, 2012, 9:48 am, Isla Pacheca, Las Perlas Islands
We left Panama City a day later than planned due to the need to get about everything we need for the next six months. This may be a slight exaggeration but we have been cautioned that the next time we might see a real grocery store, hardware store or liquor store will be when we hit Australia. If we do find these stores in French Polynesia they will be quite expensive. So we have been stocking up on so much I am again reminded about how difficult it is to store everything on the boat.
When we arrived at the anchorage today after a five hour sail (we actually motored and had not wind for the first time in quite a while), there were only two other boats there. By the time the sun was setting there were only two. The other boat flew a French flag and as I settled in to make dinner, two french men from the boat came motoring up in their dinghy offering us fish. They had gone spear fishing and had more than they could eat. They wanted nothing for the fish and seem pleased that we were grateful to have it. As Mark took the two fish aboard he was surprised that they were still wiggling around. One of the men said, "Yes, very fresh fish." Once they left we took out our meager fishing supplies and I went and got the book titled Salt Water Fishing Made Easy. I began to read the book as Mark followed my directions. Every once in a while I would get engrossed in the book (which was infinitely more pleasant than what Mark was doing). Mark would say keep reading, aloud please. Mark was a trouper and within an half an hour "we" had filleted the fish. The larger fish was huge and we decided that we would freeze 75% of it and eat the rest for dinner. The dinner I was going to make transformed itself into a fisherman's stew with the meat from the smaller fish. A portion of the larger fish was wrapped in foil and cooked on the barb-b. As we ate the fish that was absolutely delicious, we could only think how much better it would have been if we had caught it ourselves. It's only a matter time!
Appended By Mark
We leave for the Galapagos Islands at noon on Thursday. We will be crossing the Equator and will be making an offering to Neptune as sailing tradition dictates. We have to decide what is worth throwing overboard. I think Janet might want to pick me for the offering. I should be on my best behavior for the next few days.
It will be a 6 day trip and we will be motoring most of the way through an area known as the "Doldrums". The winds are 0-5 knots and variable so sailing will be difficult. We have enough fuel to motor about 900 miles at 6 knots. That is about the distance of the trip. So fuel conservation will be important and we may be bobbing around waiting for the wind. Wish us luck.