10 April 2012 | San Cristobal, Galapagos
Ben & Larry swim across the Equator!
April 10, 2012
Or should I say, “Land Hot!” It is SWELTERING here! Couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that we’re right by the equator, could it? We just spent five hours exploring the little town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, clearing into the country, and enjoying lunch, after anchoring around 8 AM this morning on the first island in the Galapagos, Ecuador and I don’t think I have sweat this much in a year! What a sight to behold though, the stunning rugged shape of the island of San Cristobal after seven days at sea, slowly coming into focus as the sun rose. Next thing we know, our good friends Carl and Cristina on Bamboleiro are hailing us on the VHF! So good to hear their voices! Our agent Bolivar Pesantes has made the whole process of stopping here a piece of cake and we now could stay three months if we wanted for a total of $1200. Worth every penny in our eyes, yet we are only planning to spend around three weeks exploring the three main islands here.
So, let me back up here and catch you up a bit. The last few days getting out of Panama City was VERY stressful. We had our canvas man on the boat working until 8 PM several days in a row trying to get the bimini cover to fit properly and installed. Our woodworker, who really did turn out to be very ill, was still finishing Ben’s bathroom an hour before we weighed anchor. However, in spite of all of this, and as painful as it was to say goodbye to some of our cruising friends, it felt really good to pull out.
All in all, we had a very benign 945 mile crossing (our longest yet!). More wind would have been nice, as we only sailed about twenty hours of the seven days it took to get here. Boy was it nice to turn the engine off when we finally arrived and hear….sea lions? Yes, there are sea lions EVERYWHERE! They are sooooo cute…but oh so smelly! And they are not shy at all – truly trying to act out the saying, “Mi casa es tu casa”! One of the vessels here, a catamaran named Whiskers who pulled in around the same time as us, fell asleep their first evening with the cabin door open. When they awoke the next morning they had a huge sea lion peacefully snoring on their cockpit table. Turns out it had had a whole tour of the inside of the boat at some point during the night. No tuna cans or beers were opened as we did have to ask that question!
So, what was it like to be at sea for so many days you ask? Not bad…not bad at all. I still feel myself getting a bit apprehensive as the sun sets in the evening and the darkness envelops you like someone pulling a blanket over your head. Kurt Russel’s famous line from the movie Captain Ron, “If it’s gonna happen…it’s gonna happen out there!” plays over and over in my head. But, after a glass of wine and hopefully a little snooze before my 11 PM – 2 AM shift at the wheel, the next time I step up into the cockpit the moon is shining, the weather has decided what it would like to do for the evening (generally – but is always open to change!), and I really do enjoy the alone time I have on watch. The nicest thing about this passage is that we didn’t really have to worry about hitting anything. All of our other travel has been coastal cruising, meaning lots of fishing vessels, long lines, the random rock that grows up out of the ocean, the occasional piece of land that sticks out, other pleasure craft like us, and of course the gi-normous freighter/container ships. Traveling at 15-20 knots, they can go from just over the horizon to hitting us in about fifteen minutes, if we and they are not paying attention. Now we did have lots of squalls to contend with, and lightning, when even if it is off in the distance it makes me uncomfortable. But like I said before, we had a pretty easy ride here.
Catastrophe did strike the second day out however, when the TV satellite – that has faithfully carried us here all the way from San Diego finally met its demise. I was trying to sleep and all of a sudden I heard Ben scream, “It’s movie time!” and I knew exactly what he was talking about. We had finally sailed out of range of the satellite TV signal. I thought we would get a huge portion of his homeschooling done underway but…sadly no. It would be the equivalent of studying in the car as you were being driven on a really bumpy mountain road. Doesn’t make you feel too good after a bit if ya know what I mean!
On an exciting note, of course Ben had his fishing lines out everyday not catching a thing. By the third or fourth day he was really discouraged. Suddenly he gets a hit on one of his poles and we have never seen line taken out so fast! He couldn’t slow it down and we both just stared at the pole knowing that when the line all pulled out the pole would probably get yanked into the ocean. It all happened so fast – we were in total shock! Well the pole didn’t pull out and the end of the line just snapped off like a little twig, then we saw it…a big, beautiful marlin…and boy was he mad! He obviously did not like the feel of a lewer in his mouth and dragging many feet of line behind him. He did spectacular jumps out of the water for a good five minutes, trying to shake it out to no avail. I felt really bad. Ben of course assured me that the hook was already rusted and would fall out soon. Oh, did I mention Ben likes to talk a lot? I mean A LOT! If you ever feel like your teen is not communicating with you, take him on a boat alone with you for a week. The three of us had the most meaningful conversations and some really good laughs. I wouldn’t trade these times for the world.
Crossing the equator is a big deal in the cruising world. We officially are no longer pollywogs and are now shellbacks – meaning we have crossed from the northern hemisphere into the southern hemisphere. We celebrated with an official ceremony (no we didn’t shave Ben’s head in the traditional way!) instead we covered him in shaving cream, held and charged him in King Neptunes court, offered up a healthy shot of rum for the sea king and yes folks…Ben and Larry swam across the equator in a mere 7450 feet deep water. No way said I! Someone had to make sure they got back on the boat!
Our second day on San Cristobal we went on a boat (of all things!) for a snorkel tour to swim with sea lions, marine iguanas (I believe this is the only place in the world they have them), sharks, rays, and turtles. It was fantastic and we saw all of the above. We could have played with this one sea lion for hours. Boy are they fast in the water! Kickeroo, this spectacular pinnacle like island that juts straight up and has two different narrow canyons that you can swim through. It was extreme snorkeling to say the least, but awesome. It was the closest thing we’ve done to a wall dive, and the wall just went on forever down into the deep, deep blue. This is where you could see the shadow of a ray or a shark (Ben saw a hammerhead!) go under you. What an experience, and that is when I decided that so far this is the most spectacular place I have been to in the world as of yet. The people here are warm and friendly. No one is shouting at you trying to sell you something and the town has such a safe, easy going feel. The restaurants are nothing to rave about but oh well – you can’t have it all.