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CETUS TALES
After leaving Gig Harbor, WA in 2009, we spent 3 winters in the Sea of Cortez then sailed to the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia up to Hawaii, then to San Francisco Bay. We're now heading down the coast on our way to La Paz.
7 days
05/20/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

With plans to set sail for the Gambiers on Monday, May 28th, we are down to our last week here in the Galapagos.

We took advantage of the overcast skies yesterday and did a long hike out to some nature sites that we saw on a taxi tour at the beginning of our stay and wanted to look at again. The best part of the hike was seeing a new flock of Flamingos in one of the ponds along the way. This group of 14 birds were larger in size than the ones we'd seen previously and more brightly colored.

Today we're topping off our diesel tanks and will pick up some more provisions in town. Even though we don't want to leave this lovely spot, we are getting excited about the up coming passage and seeing new sights.

We've seen some big changes in the temperatures here in the last 2 weeks. The heavy rains that we had when we first arrived have gone away and the outside temps are more moderate. The water is cooling by the day as the Humbolt current re establishes itself -- a welcome change to much of the sealife, especially the penguins which thrive in the cooler water.

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The Free Stuff
05/18/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

So I talked about all the costs associated with cruising in the Galapagos, but there is a lot you can do without spending a dime, too.

There are great nature trails that you can walk without a guide and even a nice snorkeling spot near our anchorage that you don't have to be accompanied to go to.

Our favorite trail here on Isabela starts right at the outskirts of town and it is a boardwalk over some ponds where you see marine iguana, ducks, wading birds and even Flamingos as well as all the interesting vegetation on the island. There is a prickly pear cactus that as it grows it forms a regular tree trunk to protect it from the tortoise that like to eat the cactus leaves.

At the end of the trail you come to the tortoise breeding center where you see the giant tortoise of all ages. They bring them there to breed and then return the young to their place of origin to help restore the populations that were destroyed through the years.

We've also enjoyed kayaking around the anchorage and walking the beautiful long white sand beach studded with black lava rocks and fascinating tide pools. And then there have been hours of entertainment right from the deck of our boat (or swimming in the waters around it) where we see everything from penguins, sea lions, sea turtles, pelicans, frigate birds and blue footed boobies.

Being able to live in this magical spot for the last couple months truly has been priceless.

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It's the Galapagos -- pull out your wallet!
05/18/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

That's a saying we've heard from other cruisers -- and it is true, in a way. Some say it in a rather disgruntled way and we can't tell if they regret coming here or if they are just grumbling. We have no regrets, and as I've said before we've found it an even better experience than we'd expected.

That may be partly because we had read about the costs involved so were mentally prepared for it to cost to visit here. And it was also because this was a dream of a lifetime for us and we'd decided that the cost was worth it to us. We really weren't sure how much it would be in the end -- there were a lot of unknowns such as the price of food or dining out, water, diesel, laundry and other services plus the tours we would take.

We were pleasantly surprised at the cost for our tours -- we thought they could be as high as $200 per person. But since we are only taking day tours our costs have ranged from $10 per person for taxi trips to the highlands and wetlands seeing things such as the farm, caves, tortoise and Flamingos in the wild and the Wall of Tears. Our two all day snorkeling trips to the Tunnels were $60 per person for a 5 hour trip where we snorkeled with sea turtles, white tipped shark, rays and lots of colorful fish in a beautiful setting formed by broken down lava tunnels that turned into a magical setting of caves and archways. The tour to the volcano Sierra Negra was also $60 per person and can only be done with an official National Parks guide. The only other tour we've paid for was to the islands that form the boundary to our anchorage and that was $40 per person for a guided tour on land and a short snorkel. We do have one more trip that we're hoping to take if the tour agency can get enough people and that would be an all day boat trip to another side of this island for snorkeling and seeing some wildlife we haven't seen yet such as the flightless Cormorant. That will be the most expensive of all if we get to do it at $165 per person.

Food has also been at a good price. You can have a great breakfast for $5 which includes juice and coffee and dinners at our favorite restaurant range from $10 to $15 per plate. We even had a very special dinner out with Vicky and Jeremy before they left and had lobster for $20 per person. Prices in the grocery stores seem reasonable, though more expensive than Mexico. And of course, the selection isn't very good compared to Mexico.

Diesel is another mater. We had to pay $6.50 per gallon to have it delivered to our boat in Santa Cruz. That wouldn't be so bad if we didn't know that it's subsidized for the locals and they get it for only $1 a gallon! It's very regulated and we had to purchase it through our agent and the port captain.

We can buy water to fill our tanks at either $1 for 5 gallons or $2 for 5 gallons depending on who you buy it from. Laundry is $1 per kilo.

So for those of you who have been wondering what it costs to cruise through the Galapagos on your own boat -- that will give you an idea. Right now we think we will have spent about $5000 on this trip including our agent, all of our entry fees, tours, food, water, boat supplies, diesel, dinners out taxi's etc by the time we leave. It may sound like a lot, but when you consider that that was our living expenses for the past 2 months it comes down to about $80 a day -- and we weren't just "living" we were enjoying the vacation of a lifetime and getting to sleep in our own bed every night. Priceless.

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Another Big Countdown
05/14/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

We have exactly 2 weeks left here in the Galapagos, so the big countdown has begun.

In the next two weeks we will complete all the boat projects we've listed, do our provisioning, top off fuel and water and prepare for the 2,800 mile trip to The Gambiers in French Polynesia.

But most important we will enjoy every minute of the time we have here in the Galapagos. We will hike, snorkel, kayak, walk the beach and just enjoy the beauty of this place and the unique animal life. We looked forward to going to the Galapagos for a very long time and we have not been disappointed, in fact, it has been even better than we anticipated and we really don't want to leave.

.

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Kayaking with the Sea Lions
05/09/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

We finally got the kayaks out and enjoyed an early morning paddle around the anchorage. We had several cute small Galapagos sea lions that had fun swimming around us jumping and playing. The penguins and pelicans were always nearby and I was able to get up close to a blue footed booby for a pretty good picture.

I've been waiting a long time to kayak in the Galapagos, so another dream fulfilled.

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Fair Winds Inspiration at Sea!
05/08/2012, Isla Isabela, Galapagos

Vicky and her new crew Jeremy will hoist anchor today and set sail for French Polynesia where they have plans to meet up with her daughter - and his girlfriend - Melanie mid June. We are sad to see them go, but we are happy that we still have a few more weeks to enjoy this wonderful place and look forward to meeting back up with Inspiration at Sea in Tahiti in July. Vicky will be looking for new crew to sail through the Tuamotus and up to Hawaii once Jeremy and Melanie fly home, so if you're interested and have some time, drop me a line and I'll pass it on to her.

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Master and Commander
05/06/2012

Hiking yesterday one of the guys mentioned the movie, Master and Commander, because in it they go to the Galapagos, so last night we pulled it out and watched it. It as great as usual and a lot of fun to see the sea lions and iguana of the Enchanted Isles. If you haven't watched it in a while, pick up a copy and enjoy!

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05/06/2012 | Jack and Joan
One of our favs on the boat.
Vulcan Sierra Negra
05/05/2012, Isla Isabela

Happy Cinco de Mayo!
We celebrated with a death march to the local volcano. It's one of the big tours on this island and everyone we talked to said it's worth it, so we gave it a try and it was great -- though sometimes painful. It was about 10 miles round trip -- you can do a shorter version where you only see the big caldera (2nd largest in the world) but Julio, our National Parks guide asked if we wanted to go on the other nearby peak, Volcan Chico. We were glad we did because the view and lava tunnels were just beautiful, but it did make for a longer hike with more up and downs, but since I survived it I would say it was worth it. We were very lucky as we had some overcast weather today, so we didn't suffer from the heat and we didn't even get rain.
So now that we're happily back home aboard Cetus, we'll have a Margarita to celebrate one of Terry's favorite holidays.

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More Galapagos Pics!
05/03/2012, Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz

My internet time here in Puerto Ayora went way too fast so I didn't accomplish all I wanted to -- but I have put together a few more albums in our gallery -- enjoy!

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What's next?
05/01/2012, The Galapagos

We've had a few people asking us now that we've reached the Galapagos what's next on our agenda. And until we reached here we weren't really certain, because from here we could head SW to French Polynesia or E to Panama -- both were intriguing, but we only like to make plans one port at a time.

It seems we're planning on sailing to the Gambiers when our time is up here. They are a part of French Polynesia that is a bit off the beaten path, as most boats go from here to the Marguesas. Well, we've been to the Marquesas and even though they are farther south, the distance to the Gambiers is about the same -- infact a couple hundred miles less.

So that's the plan (for now) and after the Gambiers we will go to Tahiti and then into the Tuamotus until our 90 days is up in French Polynesia. Then it will be up to Hawaii to wait out the South Pacific cyclone season which runs from November through March. Our friend Vicky, on Inspiration at Sea will be leaving the Galapagos for French Polynesia sooner than us, as she will be meeting her daughter there in June. We plan to meet back up in Tahiti shortly after that.

So those are the latest plans we've been writing in the sand.....

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05/02/2012 | Susan Rabe
Sounds like you two are having a great time. Enjoying life on the Pacific.
Wildlife of the Galapagos
04/29/2012

I finally am able to upload pictures -- it's a slow process with this internet connection, but I'm not complaining!

My first album is Wildlife of the Galapagos and features the Flamingos, Penguins, Marine Iguana, Tortoise, Sea Lions and other wildlife we've been enjoying on these islands.

In the next few days I hope to add more albums showing the towns, highlands, underwater and more.

Enjoy!

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Internet at last!!
04/29/2012, Isla Isabela

WiFi has been nearly non existent to me since we arrived on Isabela, which has been very frustrating to me since our boat neighbor, Vicky on Inspiration at Sea has been able to pick up the intermittent signals from the government supplied WiFi, redgal, since we got in.

The reason she could get it and I couldn't was she had a WiFi antenna that extends her range. Well, I too have a WiFi antenna but it has been useless with the new computer because the drivers that came with it don't work with Windows 7. I knew this before we left Mexico, but in my mad rush to get the computer working with the ham radio systems for our passage, I ran out of time to get new drivers for the WiFi antenna and a few other systems I want to get going.

I've been too busy to worry too much about getting WiFi, but yesterday evening I went over to Vicky's, used her computer to locate the new driver online and loaded it on a memory stick and today tackled the problem. It took me the better part of the morning to get it all set up and working, but it finally is and we have WiFi! It may be slow and intermittent, but we'll finally be able to have a link to the outside world.

But best of all I will finally be able to post some of the pictures we've been taking the past few weeks!

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Settling in on Isabela
04/27/2012, Puerto Villimil, Isla Isabela

When planning our cruise to the Galapagos we relied heavily on advice from our friends Roy and Winona on Saucy Lady, as they spent 54 days here a few years ago. One of the last things they told us was to clear into the country then make your way to Isabela to spend your time, so that's what we did -- and are happy we did.

The other ports we entered, San Christobal to check in and then Santa Cruz to pick up Joni were nice and the towns interesting, but this spot is ideal for a long stay. It's more protected than the other anchorages and less traffic from tour boats, so it is calm and the scenery is beautiful and the water inviting to swim right off the boat. There is a great dinghy dock ashore with garbage and recycling bins for us and it is a short walk to the cute little town of Puerto Villamil where we can buy supplies or have a meal out.

And there's nothing more delightful than waking up to penguins and the small sea lions swimming around the boat! This isn't the most beautiful anchorage we've ever been in -- the Tuamotus and even the Sea of Cortez offer more pristine and isolated anchorages, but we both agree this is the best back yard we've ever had.

So we've settled in here and don't plan to leave this spot until it's time to prepare to leave the Galapagos. Our permit expires on May 20th, so about a week before that we may move back to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz (the big city) to do our final provisioning and check out of the country. So for now, we're happily at home on Isabela.

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Boats, Planes and Automobiles
04/25/2012, Puerto Villimil, Isla Isabela

Joni's two weeks in the Galapagos flew by and yesterday we took her to the airport to begin her flight home. We needed to get her to Santa Cruz because the airport is on the small island of Baltra on the north of Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz is about 45 miles from where we are on Isabela.

We all decided that rather than spend time traveling there in Cetus, we should take the inter island "ferry" that runs daily between the two islands. That cut the travel time from about 10 hours in Cetus to 3 hours. We had to be in to the dock to catch the ferry at 6 am and were surprised to see it such a bustling place at that hour. Lots of people going to Santa Crus and they had two full boats . When we started out on the rough ride we thought it was going to be a very long 3 hours, but we actually made it in two so it wasn't so bad after all -- but it was nothing like a ferry at home, It was really just a 40 foot cabin cruiser -- sort of a converted sport fishing boat with padded benches for seating. Ours had a capacity of 24 people and there were 24 of us crowded in there.

Since the boat got in early we were able to sit down to a nice breakfast in Puerto Ayora before continuing on to the airport for her 12:30 flight. After breakfast, the next step was a 45 minute taxi ride (you can take a bus, but we wanted to go as efficiently as possible) to the north of Santa Cruz. Once at the top of the island you hop on a small foot ferry to cross the narrow canal that divides Santa Cruz from Baltra. On the other side there are buses waiting to take everyone to the airport -- because that's the only thing on Baltra.

So two boats, a bus and a taxi ride later (about 4 hours travel time) we got her to the airport and checked in for her flight. We then hopped on a bus, then the ferrry and a taxi and returned to Puerto Ayora and enjoyed the town a bit before we had to hop on the inter island ferry at 2:00 to return to Isabela.

It was a long travel day, but as always it was an adventure!

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04/25/2012 | jack
sounds like your friend had the vacation of a lifetime...what's next for Cetus...how's Rosie?
Snorkeling and more
04/23/2012, isla Isabela

We had a long busy day yesterday starting out with a great snorkel in a nearby cove -- no guide required. In addition to an abundance of fish we saw a great big ray, but the real delight was all the marine iguana that would swim right by us! What a hoot.

Then after a short lunch break at the boat we loaded up our gear and took a tour boat out to the Tintoreras -- small islets just off of town (and the anchorage) that you can only access with a National Park tour guide. It was an interesting tour and we once again saw lots of marine iguana, and sea lions, blue footed boobies etc etc. The only drawback to the whole tour was on our earlier snorkeling trip I seemed to have a reaction to the anti fogging spray we used in our masks (thought we'd see if it worked better than spit) and I couldn't see! At least not well -- everything was blurry, much like being near sighted and not wearing glasses.

After much flushing with saline solution and even using my antibiotic eye drops, I could see again when I woke up this morning and they quit hurting. I have to admit it was a bit scary, but I couldn't imagine something used in a dive mask could have a permanent effect on your eyes -- but we did read on the bottle some people are irritated by it and to keep it out of your eyes. Guess I will go back to spit!

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04/23/2012 | Dave C.
Learned in Hawaii: A couple of drops of Dawn dishwashing liquid mixed with water and put in a spray bottle will keep your mask from fogging. Works! Love reading about your adventures! Thanks for sharing and I too can't wait to see the pics! Hi to Rosie!
04/25/2012 | Amy
We use a drop of baby shampoo, rub it around, do a quick rinse and you are ready to go.
Los Tuneles
04/21/2012, isla Isabela

We took one of Anna Maria's highly recommended tours yesterday and had an amazing day despite the terribly wet and squally weather. We boarded a local tour boat and took a crazy 45 minutes boat ride through rough seas curlminating in a turn that looked like we were going directly into the surf, but our driver, Roberto, safely navigated the pass that we couldn't see into what I can only describe as a fairy land.

The Tuneles, or Tunnels, is a rocky labyrinth formed from rivers of lava that reached the sea and solidified forming countless cracks and tunnels. It formed a beautiful land/seascape and we were greeted at the entrance by blue footed boobies sitting on a rock followed by a couple penguins doing the same. Roberto continues to wind us around the shallow channels and we oohed and ahhed at the beauty of the place. Then he stopped the boat in the heart of the maze and we donned our snorkel gear and he then led us through going under bridges and tunnels of lava rock and seeing brightly colored fish, rays, and even a couple white tipped reef sharks.

Next we piled into the boat to head back out through the surf and then back in to another protected swimming area which is home to many sea turtles and we were thrilled to swim with many of the giant creatures. They were beautiful and graceful and just fascinating to watch.

It was a magical day.

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04/22/2012 | Diana and Dale
Can't wait to see pictures
The Highlands
04/19/2012, isla Isabela

We weren't sure what to expect with our tour to the highlands -- it's not something in the guidebooks for this island. But Louis, our driver, thought this would be something we'd enjoy and he was right.

There seems to be only one road that heads out of town and if you follow it long enough you get up to the closest volcano -- but that's a tour for another day. So our highlands tour took us up a ways and Louis took us to one of the farms up there. The country side is extremely lush as you gain elevation and the views were spectacular.

Then he pulled into a lovely little family farm and we got to go around and look at everything and pick out what ever we wanted to buy to take back with us. They grew small amounts of everything you could imagine from tomatoes to papaya and even coffee beans! It was just beautiful and we came back loaded with green beans and peppers, giant papaya, pineapple, limes and a big hand of bananas. It was a wonderful trip and fun to get all the good fresh produce.

On the way down we stopped at one of the tourist sites where one of the many lava tunnels on the island opened up forming a deep cave. Tomorrow we'll go on a boat tour where we will see another lava tunnel and snorkel with the variety of fish that gather near the entrance.

Today we're enjoying a relaxing day on the boat -- it's Joni's birthday so we started it out with our favorite on board breakfast of Spam and pancakes and will just decide what to do as the day goes on.

It was the first day since our arrival in the Galapagos that we didn't have to get up and rush around to travel or do something ashore and it felt great to catch our breath.

The internet on this island is very slow so I'm not going to try to take my computer in to the Internet Cafe to up load pictures -- that will have to wait till we get back to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz.

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Flamingos! And more!
04/17/2012, isla Isabela

Our first day on Isabela was spent with a lot of time at the Port Captains office getting cleared in to this island. It would have been a lot quicker, but they had computer problems so we had to come back three times to see if it was up and running, and each time meant a long wait in the very small standing room only waiting room. We started when we first came in shortly after nine, had to check back at 2, and then finally completed the process at 5 pm. It was the usual $5.16 cent fee -- you pay it when you check in to an island and then again when you check out.

In the meantime we wallked and took in some of the local sites and checked out the town for the small tiendas (stores) and other services. Had a nice lunch on restaurant row and the best part of all is we met Anna Maria! She is an American living and working here right now, and we were told of her by some good friends back home -- she's a friend of their family and was a roomate of their daughter's in college. She's traveling and living in different countries and just happens to be here on Isabela right now. She's working in a tour agency and was able to set us up with a taxi driver that takes people on tours around the island.

So today we set off with Louis, our driver, and Anna Maria joined us and we went to Isabela;s tortoise breeding center and saw tortoises of all ages and sizes. Then we went to a pond where we were thrilled to see a flock of 9 flamingos in the wild! A real treat and one that Jonii has been looking forward too. We went on to see the Wall of Tears built by prisoners when this was a penal colony and we're excited to see several tortoise in the wild. it was a very good day.

Tomorrow morning we will meet Louis again and he will take us on a tour to the highlands -- can't wait to see what's in store there!

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04/18/2012 | jack
Great reading Heidi..I know the Galapagos were high on your bucket list...I can image that your time there will seen to fly by...enjoy! One question...are flamingos indigenous to the Galapagos..if so how did they make the flight.....
On our way to Isla Isabela
04/15/2012, traveling through the Galapagps Archipelago

We left the big city behind when we pulled up anchor at 6 am for the 45 mile trip to Isla Isabella -- the largest island in the Galapagos chain. It promises to be the most interesting of all the islands that we're allowed to anchor in boasting penguins and flamingos in addition to all the usual critters -- tortoises, land and marine iguanas, seals and sea lions, and of course all of the other birds.

We plan to base ourselves there in the anchorage off of Puerto Villamil, the smallest of the 3 towns in these islands, while we explore not only Isabela, but take tours to some of the nearby islands that we can't visit on our own boat. We will stay about a week, until its time to sail back to Puerto Ayora for Joni's flight out on April 24th.

Look out penguins here we come!

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Tortuga Bay
04/14/2012, Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz

We survived the 45 minute hike to Tortuga Bay and were rewarded first with a gorgeous white sand beach with tourquois breakers, then a bit further down a protected pool bordered with black lava rocks where we snorkeled and in addition to the many fish we swam with a marine iguana! Wow!

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